Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik

The Lifelong Learning Week (LLW) has become a common constant of organisations and individuals working in the field of education and learning in Slovenia – be they those who enrich the knowledge of others or those who are themselves involved in learning. For the fourth year running, the third week of October (18–24 October 1999) saw people of all ages and from all walks of life involving themselves in learning. In a great variety of formal and informal environments, many different opportunities for learning and education were presented, the lifelong learning strategy was promoted, and the learning achievements and expressions of creativity of people of all generations were celebrated at a number of locations. – The text is reprinted from the journal NOVICKE, Winter 1999/Vol. VII, published by the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education (SIAE). The author is Head of the Information Centre at SIAE. For the last four years she has been involved in organizing the Lifelong Learning Week in Slovenia.

Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik

Fourth Lifelong Learning Week in Slovenia

The event was once again coordinated by the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education in cooperation with the National Lifelong Learning Week Committee at the Ministry of Education and Sport. A great variety of providers combined their enthusiasm and efforts in this all-Slovenia event – large and small, formal and informal institutions, associations, clubs, those for whom learning is the main activity and those for whom learning is merely the side-effect of another activity. The varied palette of providers who, judging from their responses, are already ‘friends of the LLW’, this year numbers 375. If we take into account the fact that the first Lifelong Learning Week in 1996 was only carried out by 54 providers, this year’s figures are indeed encouraging. Also encouraging is the structure of providers involved this year. They cover all generations and a multitude of areas of public and private life. Once again, societies and clubs, private educational institutions and folk high schools, secondary and primary schools and nursery schools, libraries, Universities of the Third Age, study circles, knowledge exchanges, energy and agriculture advisory offices, etc., represented the bulk of the participants. The now-established method of work was repeated, whereby coordination of the event was handled in individual localities and regions by municipalities or larger educational organisations, while the list of sub-providers of the Week was surprisingly long and varied.

The National LLW Committee’s recommendation that certain events of the Week should be themed, given that this year we are celebrating the International Year of Older Persons, met a response from many providers. They organised opportunities for young and elderly people to meet, and devoted several workshops to transferring knowledge of many different types from older generations to younger and vice versa. Thus, among LLW providers we find Universities of the Third Age and an old people’s home and society, and on the other hand a nursery school in which pre-school children have paid special attention to thinking about their grandparents.

We estimate that this year there were nearly 1900 events, which once again can be divided up into different groups. In order to present themselves to the broadest possible public and to the numerous target groups, many educational institutions, knowledge exchanges, independent learning centres and other institutions organised open days, presentations of educational programmes and projects, lectures, and so on. They tried to encourage participants to join in learning workshops and creative workshops and gave them the opportunity to put their knowledge to the test. This year again saw a large number of accompanying events such as exhibitions, cultural and social events, book presentations, visits, meetings, etc. An increasing number of providers offered information and advice and answered the questions of the public by phone hotline and over the Internet. It is particularly worth mentioning an activity which was carried out by a large number of providers for the first time this year: they gave away books, textbooks, and magazines, or organised book fairs and book sales with considerable discounts.

The variety of providers and events once again confirmed the fact that learning not only takes place in school but throughout our lives and everywhere. Visitors to the events were able to learn how to assert themselves in the world of business, how to change from being unemployed to being an independent businessperson, how to provide for their spiritual growth, to eat healthily and have a healthy lifestyle. The purpose of many of the events was to illustrate the efforts that are being made, and the possibilities available, for the preservation of our cultural, natural and technical heritage, the transferring of old customs from generation to generation, re-animating and preserving the identity of our towns and villages, and so on. Not just the gaining of new knowledge, but also training in how to use our formally and informally acquired abilities most effectively and assert them most successfully, how to use not only our intellectual skills but also our emotional intelligence, how to conduct ourselves, how to communicate… all of these were the themes of events during this year’s LLW; the emphasis was therefore not only on what to learn, but also on how to learn and what to do with the knowledge acquired later.

Once again this year the LLW spread beyond the walls of its organisers to shopping centres, shops and trade fair centres; many presented themselves on stands and with posters, others went into the field to study the cultural, historical, geographical and other beauties of their surrounding area. For the first time, some LLW events took place outside the borders of Slovenia, in neighbouring Croatia. In the future we hope to cooperate as much as possible with Slovenes living outside the borders and with the inhabitants of neighbouring countries.

Closing events have also slowly been establishing themselves in the LLW, and again this year providers dedicated them to a review of findings and experience and to the gathering of critical comments, but also to cultural events to round off the week’s events. The experience and knowledge gained by the providers at the local level, as well as the four years of experience of the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education in the role of event coordinator, will of course contribute to the planning of the jubilee, the fifth Lifelong Learning Week, in 2000.

We are currently preparing a report on this year’s LLW and on the basis of surveys we are analysing various aspects of this year-round project. As in previous years we will publish our findings in a special issue of LLW-Novièke sent out with the spring edition of Novièke. You will also be able to read about how Slovenia is to take part in the first International Adult Learners Week.