Report on the international conference "Czechia as an education village"
Brno, 26 June 2023
"It takes a village to raise a child", says an African proverb. It is based on the fact that successful education requires the cooperation of the family, the school, associations, companies, professional departments... in short, the whole "village". In December 2022, the international conference "Do we belong together? Region as an education village" attempted to set up and deepen partnerships of this type within the South Moravian Region in Brno. On 26 June 2023 the same organisers, the National Institute of Education, Festival Meeting Brno and the Education Institute for Moravia, jointly took the next step in the direction proposed by the Global Education Pact. The international conference, entitled "Czech Republic as an education village", took place as part of the eighth edition of Festival Meeting Brno, which opened a dialogue with Czech and Slovak Presidents Petr Pavel and Zuzana Čaputová. Thus, a platform was created in the period between the end of the school year and the beginning of the holidays, where influential players in the field of education gathered to evaluate the significant phenomena of the last months and emphasize the importance of leisure time.
The morning programme at the headquarters of the Moravian Institute of Education offered expert panels with international participation, reflecting on the phenomena of the past months - the integration of Ukrainian pupils and students, the upcoming revision of the curriculum framework, the reflection on the successful Czech EU Presidency, the application of the concept of "education village" in regional conditions and more.
Hans van Mourik Broekman, principal of Liverpool College, the UK's most successful school, in his paper "The New Curriculum. Transfer from Paper to Practice" pointed out that we often fail to ask three fundamental questions: what is practice rather than theory in an educational setting's curriculum implementation, the conflict between responsibility and compliance and the conscientiousness that curriculum must be primarily a human relational journey. He stressed that pedagogy is an anthropology of learning and offered three pedagogical ingredients that correspond to our human structure and that are necessary for implementation:
1. A knowledge curriculum only makes sense in relation to meaning. Show the connection between what is studied and the whole: the search for meaning.
2. All curriculum begins with the experience of the student. Make the students see concretely how what is being studied has to do with themselves, with their concrete experience.
3. Realism means the object studied determines the method of reasoning, the engagement with the subject studied. Model, emphasize, educate toward a seriousness in the use of reason and the method of knowledge proper to a discipline. Avoid educational scientism.
Hans' assumptions were confirmed by the head of curriculum reform at the Slovak Ministry of Education, Martin Kríž, who drew on his own pedagogical experience at two poles of the Slovak educational scene: an elite foreign-language grammar school in Bratislava and a primary school in Gelnica in eastern Slovakia.
The second session was dedicated to the evaluation of a new type of school support: the joint project of the Czech School Inspection and the National Pedagogical Institute PILOT 14, which was presented by the Director of the Inspection Tomáš Zatloukal, the Director of the Institute Ivo Jupa and the responsible regional manager Lenka Burganová. PILOT 14 means more intensive work with the results of inspection activities, which becomes the basis for setting up effective interventions in school management and pedagogical leadership. Necessary innovations are introduced "tailor-made" in the school under the supervision of experts in the quality of education and methodological support of schools. Schools thus quickly get exactly what they need. Close cooperation with schools also transforms the priorities and methods of the inspectorate and the pedagogical institute themselves.
The integration of Ukrainian pupils and students with the stories of Ukrainian teachers deserved special attention. Czechs have received the largest number of war refugees per capita since the beginning of the Russian aggression in Ukraine. The introduction was provided by the projection of a documentary film on these topics "The Journey". The system of support for children/students of foreigners in compulsory pre-school and school education and related activities of the National Pedagogical Institute were then presented by Halka Smolová Zázvorová. After that, Oksana Stupak presented the results of her research within the SIRI project. According to her, most of the children feel anxiety and fear for their loved ones and relatives who remained in Ukraine, they dream about the end of the war in Ukraine and returning home. Problems at school are linked to lack of understanding and language barriers. Most of the children have friends, but among Ukrainians, because they feel difficulties in making friends with Czech children. Most of the children have a fairly balanced emotional state, but feel the need to communicate and are shy to express their feelings. These conclusions were echoed by the experience of a teacher in a Moravian village, Tetiana Miskevych, and the Polish experience of helping Ukrainian war refugees, as performed by the star of the Oscar-winning film The Schindler's List, Oliwia Dabrowska.
The panel "Education without Borders" concluded the expert part of the conference. Sofia Carozza (USA) from Cambridge and Harvard Universities, valedictorian of Notre Dame University and author of the podcast The Pilgrim Soul, evaluated the benefits of her study and volunteer stays in Milan ("Be open to surprising encounters"), Paraguay ("Follow authoritative presences"), St. Walburga Benedictine Abbey ("Seek the universal through the particular") and Cambridge ("Be critically loyal to tradition"). Michal Uhl, Director of the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research, documented the contribution of the Erasmus+ programme in crossing borders in education and suggested that next year's conference should focus on the theme "Europe as an education village". At the end, the journalist and scout Jiří Zajíc recapped the whole programme with his characteristic wisdom and wit.
The afternoon session in the exteriors of Spielberg Castle first presented the outputs of the morning programme and reminded us of the innovative contributions of Liechtenstein through the Honorary Consul Daniel Herman. This was followed by a dialogue and a festive evening meeting on the summer terrace of the castle.
Deputy Ministers Martina Běťáková and Klára Laurenčíková, together with education expert Bob Kartous, discussed the current challenges for Czech schools. In a relaxed and humorous atmosphere typical of the festival, the Minister of Education Mikuláš Bek, his deputy Jiří Nantl, State Secretary Ondřej Andrýs and Director Ivo Jupa looked back at the past year and presented their plans for the coming period.
The event then turned into a free festival celebration of good endings and new beginnings. Thus, the tradition of international meetings at the end of the school year was born to be further developed. We look forward to seeing you at the international conference "Europe as an education village" on 24 June 2024!
If you were unable to attend the international meeting in June in Brno, please take the opportunity to watch the event from the recording. Speakers' presentations are also available.