Non-formal Education as a tool for Integration of Socially Excluded Groups

Modern education is the main precondition for successful career and welfare of people. By summarising the results of discussions and workshops and presentations about the non-formal education methods applied in partner countries, the major work directions and the best methods applicable in each individual case were identified through this project.

“Only the teacher who is not afraid of changing himself and who is learning over his whole lifetime is able to teach and to encourage others to be creative, entrepreneurial and responsible”, - this was the slogan under which Nordplus Adult Education Program Project No.  NPAD-2014/10170  “Transforming losers into winners” was implemented over the period from 1 September 2014 to 31 August 2015. Latvia was represented in the project by the association “Education Innovation Transfer Centre”.

How did the project idea emerge?

Modern education is the main precondition for successful career and welfare of people. Working and learning is closely interlinked, as learning helps to maintain, improve or gain new knowledge or skills. Taking into account the basic principles of the life-long learning, non-formal learning could become the main tool for integration of socially excluded people, for example, immigrants, persons with disability, long-term unemployed persons, single mothers, persons at the pre-retirement age or youth on the labour market. Non-formal education provides opportunities for gaining required skills and experience which is necessary for finding a job or becoming a qualified worker/ employee.

On the other hand, learning is not possible without teachers, i.e. the teaching staff. Therefore an idea emerged that it would be necessary to collaborate with adult teachers from other countries, to gather experience and to identify the best practices that can also be used in other countries, thus improving the skills of the teaching staff for working with socially excluded groups contributing to the improvement of their social and economic life.

Project implementation and major results

Within the project 16 teachers from Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden and Iceland improved their competences about the integration of various excluded groups on the labour market. Considering the profile, the participation and the experience in the area of adult education of partner organisations, teachers had an opportunity to get acquainted with various work principles and to master new non-formal education methods. During mobilities participants analysed the legal basis, the labour market situation, the education systems of the partner countries, the provision of social services and the general situation of socially excluded groups (women subject to the social risk; disabled persons; persons at the pre-retirement age; youth and immigrants).

By summarising the results of discussions and workshops and presentations about the non-formal education methods applied in partner countries, the major work directions and the best methods applicable in each individual case were identified. In the result a colourful manual “Integrating Socially Excluded Groups by Using Non-Formal Education as a Tool” was developed. This manual and the partners’ presentations are accessible by following this link:

Project participants in each country had an opportunity to meet and to speak with people who have been able to avoid the social risk by finding a job or by establishing own business. These success stories are summarised in the video “11 minutes of success”:

Meeting in Latvia

The meeting in Latvia took place on 9 – 13 March 2015. During the mobility the methods of non-formal education applied in partner countries for integrating persons at the pre-retirement age as well as the external and internal reasons why persons aged 50+ are outside the labour market were identified and evaluated.

On the second day the mobility participants went to Ventspils where they visited the Family Crisis Centre "Paspārne" and the Women Association "Spārni". Discussions on the possibilities of the third generation universities were organised and the experience of Lithuania in the organisation of such universities was presented. Vivita’s success story “From a housewife to the director” was also presented.

In Jelgava a workshop on the exchange of experience regarding the principles of working with adults and social services in Latvia was organised with the participation of representatives from JCI Latvija, Jelgava Disabled Women Organisation ZVAIGZNE, the Development Centre “Dzīvo gudri” and Jelgava Association of Disabled Persons. During the visit the participants were welcomed at Zemgale Regional Centre of Development of Competences and met the employees of Jelgava branch of the State Employment Agency.

Getting acquainted with the culture, people and traditions of the host country is an indispensable activity of mobility projects. During this visit participants were invited to the opera performance “Figaro kāzas” which turned out an exciting experience. A swedish colleague was touched to tears.

 It should be noted that the visit in Latvia took place at the time when Lithuania celebrated its 25th Anniversary of Independence.

Project contribution

The project contribution should be evaluated on both the individual, the organisational and the regional level.

The major contribution on the individual level is demonstrated as improved competences about working with various social groups. The project participants mastered methods for overcoming/ minimising risks that they encounter in their daily work, i.e. the lack of motivation and self-respect of their clients; exchanged the best practices and gained broad knowledge about the tools for integrating adults from various socially excluded groups on the labour market.

As regards the organisational level, the establishment of good partner relationship should be mentioned as the most important gain enabling joint learning, exchanging of the best practices, studying the situation in other countries and thus ensuring the adult non-formal education offer of a higher quality.

The contribution on the regional level – non-formal education is an indispensable part of the life-long learning which ensures that youth and adults maintain or master new skills, capacities and attitudes required for adapting to continuously changing circumstances. Outside the framework of the formal education non-governmental organisations are the ones that encourage adults to participate in non-formal education and implement various measures contributing to the self-respect of people, improving capacities and skills required for successful integration on the labour market.