Part of the VET leaders conference organised in Brussels by Network of Networks, the learning café consisted of 10 tables to deal with 5 topics of extreme relevance for vocational education:
- Inclusion and excellence
- Sustainability and digitalisation
- Lifelong learning
- and the future of Network of Networks
In approximately 2 hours, VET leaders had the chance to go through each of the topics and exchange with their peers the situation on their own colleges, their plans and their wishes.
Inclusion and excellence
To achieve excellence, several ideas were shared. The importance of international exchange and the development of international competences/mindset for everybody was at the centre, together with the creation and reinforcement of alliances and multilayer cooperation (among teachers, students, VET leaders or companies). Although going abroad was not seen as essential, international visits for teachers deserved particular attention.
The recognition of small steps and of any progress was essential to keep motivation, especially for those students at risk of drop out. In this regard, counselling was considered very important but not only focused on career skills but with a stronger focus on life skills.
Stronger cooperation with companies and sending lecturers to industry was highly supported to get updated skills but also to develop a higher capacity of adaptation of the VET system to global changes and challenges.
All VET leaders shared a common vision on how international activities are vital to promote innovation, seeing things in different perspectives and rethinking college´s own local, regional, or national approaches.
Better communication to students of the opportunities of internationalisation, stimulating their curiosity and using role models and social media were mentioned, as well as including the parents in international activities and/or in the promotion of international activities.
Strong focus should be put on internationalisation at home activities, as not every student and teacher can travel abroad because of different reasons, but this should not jeopardise their opportunities to develop their international skills. In this sense, making use of the multicultural background of our own students is a way to be explored. Teacher exchanges among NoN partners and promotion and participation in international skills competitions and training are also vias to be further developed.
Sustainability and Digitalisation
The dual transition is a priority in the agenda of VET leaders in colleges part of Network of Networks. It is agreed that digitalisation can help sustainability, for example reducing paperwork and travel / commuting, making use of blended learning, which showed its possibilities during the pandemic. The use of VR can also have a double purpose, while making learning more attractive and engaging for students, can also reduce the environmental impact of working with chemical fluids, raw materials, or paper.
Sustainability is to be approached by the whole college, from the college management and strategy, for example promoting circular economy, to the curricula.
The agenda 2030 and the United Nation´s Sustainable Development Goals) have been assumed by NoN VET colleges, but an exercise to translate the SDGs into concrete objectives for the college would be of much help.
The discussion on lifelong learning mainly focused on lifelong learning of VET staff, in particular teaching staff.
One of the key points on LLL is on building awareness on LLL as part of life but also on building an environment in the VET school which promotes LLL as consequence of changes in life and carrier. Schools require professionals who will keep developing themselves, as in any other job.
As ways of promoting and accomplishing lifelong learning, going abroad and/or job shadowing in companies and in other schools is considered essential, as well as to involve companies in the design of VET curricula, materials and/or activities.
The future of Network of Networks
Network of Networks was born from a common vision on internationalisation of all the regional and national networks part of it. Although starting mainly involving international coordinators, there is an increased demand for a multilayer involvement and a grassroot approach to define the future of it.
The opportunity of getting to know people in real life and discover challenges shared and turn them into opportunities to cooperate was highlighted by VET leaders. Exchange and mutual learning on the implementation of international strategies and how to combine them with other strategies such as sustainability and digitalisation are the key success factors of Network of Networks to be further explored in the future.
Network of Networks represents the institutions and people behind and is considered the house of the VET colleges part of it.