Our first day in The Netherlands was mainly made up of traveling and settling into our hotel – and of course experiencing some of the wonderful culture in the country. Getting excited by triple decker trains and in awe of how the country’s public transport system runs like clockwork!
Our first visit of the study trip was planned for the 2nd day when we would be jumping on buses and trains yet again to visit the city of Utrecht to meet up with our hosts for the trip at Learn for Life.
Learn for Life is a is a network organization for local, regional and national organizations that are active in the area of non-formal education. It is also a platform for the exchange and deepening of experiences in the field of learning for adults, from the perspective of the European lifelong learning policy.
At Learn for Life we had the pleasure of not only meeting and hearing from the organisations staff but also of meeting learners whose lives had been transformed because they got back into education. They were more than happy to share with us their inspirational stories of how education changed their lives and also to share with us some of the work that they are doing to promote Lifelong Learning in the Netherlands.
Foundation ABC is a peer led organisation whose aim is to encourage adults to start learning again.
Test Panels: Test Panels are made up of learners with low level reading skills who test read documents from organisations such as Local Authorities, hospitals, doctors surgeries, to check for readability and help to translate of they are not. This great idea is a service that is paid for and so creates an income for the group!
Test Panels also help organisations ‘find’ their illiterate workers who may have become ‘expert’ at hiding their low skills and so are able to offer them support and training.
Ambassador Training Programme:
All learning Ambassadors are offered a 7 day training programme to prepare them for their role. Topics include presentations skills and public speaking – the programme is delivered by Ambassadors to Ambassadors. This is carried out twice a year as part of their CPD
Personally I was really inspired spending time with the people at Learn for Life – in particular when we went out for a meal where one of our cohort, Mark, really connected with one of the Dutch learners because they had shared a similar journey and empathised with each other’s struggles – it was clear to see in these two people not only the power of Adult Learning but also the potential power available through the Ambassador programme. It was fascinating watching them communicating using their mobile phones using a translation app.
It turned out to be infectious – as all of us were soon downloading the app and trying it for ourselves at the dinner table – informal – fun – experiential – digital literacy – communication skills – perfect!
They also make placemats for restaurants with learner stories on and contact details for people to get in touch if they are inspired to do so – this is a great idea!
The House of Language is based in the Public Library in Lelystad.
The Dutch language is taught in a very informal style by a team of volunteer tutors using a range of techniques that are very user friendly and based upon relationships between tutor and learner – the use of a wide range of learning aids such as picture cards and letter cubes means that learners can learn some simple everyday words and build upon them in their own time with help from the tutor – it appeared very effective and enjoyable.
It was fantastic to watch this approach and we were also lucky enough to have a short lesson and an exchange of Welsh – Dutch phrases!
In North Wales we run a Community Café called “Sit and Stew” where we have decided to trial a similar method to the Language House. We are currently looking to recruit some volunteers who will set up a table with a range of resources and try and engage some of the participants in both Welsh Language learning and Essential Skills.
Our next stop was at an event put on to celebrate and reward volunteers. The event had some key note speakers and live music afterwards where musicians from a local centre for refugees performed.
The ‘Digi-Ouders Project
This project aims to improve the communication between the school, teachers, parents and children and is specifically aimed at parents who have low literacy skills.
These parents might struggle to read letters from the school – they might be relying on their children to communicate (honestly) information. This project therefore bridges that gap.
At the event I talked to a lady from an organisation that has set up a fantastic project to help parents who have low literacy levels using digital tools and technology.
On the last day of our trip our organiser from the Learning and Work Institute had arranged for us to visit, Urbn Village, a project for young people – a project that is very similar to the one that my organisation runs in North Wales, Youth Shedz Cymru. The model and ethos at Urbn Village is very similar to our own – young people led and organically grown to meet the needs of the young people involved – all decision making being the responsibility of the young people themselves. We were able to have a look around their project as they prepared for their launch.
As a result of this visit we were able to make some great connections and to this day we are developing our new relationship and are looking at the possibility of an Erasmus visit between our two organisations in the near future.
Already a couple of our young Youth Shedderz in Wales are communicating via Social Media and planning future collaboration!
A fantastic end to a fantastic trip where yet again – we experienced a new culture, developed new relationships and learned a little bit more of how things are done in Europe.
As a result of this trip we have yet more great ideas to try at home to improve the learning experience of our learners and hopefully we will go on to develop the relationships made between organisations.
This case study has been written by: Scott Jenkinson, founder of 4:28 Training and former Inspire! Tutor Award winner