Márta Mihályfi / János Sz. Tóth / Imre Trencsényi

This paper was written under the aegis of the joint Danish, Hungarian and Slovenian Phare-Lien project on "Basic Adult Education as the Path Back into Society", carried out in 1998-1999 in Central and Eastern Europe with the support of the Hungarian Ministry of Education, the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education, the Danish Workers’ Educational Association, and the Hungarian Folk High School Society (HFHSS). Using the example of the Roma, one of the most disadvantaged ethnic groups in Hungary, the authors give an overview of the background to the project, its implementation, aims and outcomes. – The text is taken from the anthology of the same name, published by HFHSS in Budapest in 1999. The authors are all members of HFHSS: Márta Mihályi is Director of the project, János Sz. Tóth is Executive President, and Imre Trencsényi is the editor of the journal Culture-Folk High School-Society, and other publications.

Márta Mihályfi / János Sz. Tóth / Imre Trencsényi

The Only Chance is the Involvement of Those Concerned

The social and cultural situation of the Gypsy population in Hungary is a special subject which arouses both enthusiasm and aversion. What is the reason for this? The "Gypsy issue" became a neuralgic point in the course of political transformation as this population is one of the social groups that had been the hardest hit by the changes. At the same time the Gypsy population, which is itself divided, was used as a new toy in the rivalry between certain non-Gypsy groups of the political elite. The lack of or confusion about national identity created in the decades of socialist rule was used as an additional weapon in the arsenal of modern political warfare in order to induce animosity on all sides. This led to the further division and helpless exposure of a Gypsy community riven by contradictions. The chance of establishing tolerance, cultural pluralism and a multi-cultural social approach in shaping and strengthening the public opinion of the majority society towards Gypsies diminished in this atmosphere over-dominated by politics. In our opinion, conventional, attempts at integration made by the majority of society concerning ethnic or linguistic minorities are doomed to failure in a world undergoing globalisation.

The other reason why we were attracted to this subject is the fact that it can be best demonstrated from the perspective of the most disadvantaged social groups that sustainable development, competitiveness, economic growth, the development of democracy and other goals set before us are endangered by growing social divisiveness, which must be reduced in the interest of society as a whole.

Our third motive was the fact that we continuously witness that the system of formal and non-formal adult educational institutions is currently unable to reduce functional illiteracy and to counter the deficiencies of basic education. Apart from assertions that these problems should urgently be addressed, hardly anything has been done in practice. We are convinced that the fact that the motivation of the Hungarian Folk High School Society rested on this conceptual foundation was the token of success when the staff of the Hungarian Folk High School Society and their Danish and Slovenian partners started to plan this training project in 1996–97, which was implemented in 1998–99.

Basic Adult Education as the Path Back into Society

The pilot training project developed in cooperation with our Danish and Slovenian partners in 1996 was aimed at the social and labour market re-integration of the most disadvantaged ethnic minority, the Gypsy population, and at the elimination of functional illiteracy among this population. Our project proposal, having been approved by the selection committee of the PHARE-Lien project office in Brussels, received support in 1997 and work commenced in August, 1998. The Slovenian Institute for Adult Education (SIAE, Ljubljana) and the Danish Workers’ Educational Association (AOFEC, Give) were the cooperating partners of the Hungarian Folk High School Society in this twenty-month programme. Our cooperation was based on the experience of the three partner organisations gained in the course of many years in general adult education, in programmes launched for functional illiterate groups and in job-generating activities. However, this project was the first formal cooperation between us that was based on mutual interests and expertise gained in the field of general adult education and job generation.

The Background of our Project

According to data collected in Hungary in 1996, the estimated percentage of functional illiteracy among the adult population reaches 25%, most of whom live in sparsely populated areas of Hungary or come from socially disadvantaged groups such as the unemployed, ethnic minorities, the physically handicapped or other groups at disadvantage. However, no uniform and comprehensive training programme for adults has been developed in Hungary by 1999 that would combatfunctional illiteracy.

The Gypsy population is the largest minority group in Hungary, with people of Romany origin constituting 5% of the total population. In general they are less educated, have lower incomes and life expectancy than the average. Although unemployment is a severe problem in the entire Hungarian society, the Gypsy population is especially hard-hit with an unemployment rate reaching 70%, which is six to seven times as high as the national average.

Due to various conflicts, social tensions and discrimination, countries neighbouring Hungary (Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) are also more and more characterised by increasing economic and social inequalities between Gypsy minorities and the majority of society. The project plan implemented with the support of the PHARE-Lien programmes intended to find a solution to the problems outlined above. At present, these problems seriously endanger the social and labour market integration of the adult Gypsy population not only in Hungary but in the Central European region as well.

Selected Locations and Target Groups

The programme was implemented in three regions: Nógrád, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg counties with the Sréter Ferenc Folk High School Association, the Folk High School Association of Sárospatak and the Folk High School Association of Nyíregyháza as respective local coordinators, and about 40 people were involved altogether in the work on a national level. The locations we selected are the counties where the Gypsy population is the highest in Hungary. In these regions Gypsy communities live in isolated areas where they have little, if any, access to education or vocational training. As a consequence only 33,6% of Gypsy youth receive secondary education and merely 0,2% (!) of the group over the age of 15 receive tertiary education. Lacking basic education and qualifications, they are socially excluded and due to this exclusion they do not have new educational or employment opportunities. Long-term unemployment among the Gypsy population is at least 40% higher than the national average, and this rate reaches 90-100% in certain settlements populated by Gypsies. The high rate of unemployment among the Gypsy population implies that family allowance and unemployment benefit constitute the main sources of income for families.

To meet the objectives of the project, we have developed and organised basic functional literacy courses (focusing on reading, writing and calculation as well as on the acquisition of social communication skills) and general adult education courses adjusted to the social situation of the Gypsy population in order to facilitate the elimination of their social marginalisation. We have developed job-generating activities for them and provided information and guidance about the system of public work, appropriate job-finding strategies, the lawful rights of employees and opportunities for further education.

The Components of Implementation

    1) In all the three locations we had conducted surveys to reveal the present situation of the Gypsy population. As background material, the summary of these surveys helped the organisers, teachers and experts involved in the project to understand the situation, problems and characteristics of the target group so that the complete programme, including contents and methods, could be adjusted to real needs and situations, and the results of the programme could be used in the future as well in the development of general adult education for the Gypsy population. The findings and analysis of the surveys were also published in a book during the programme.

    2) At the same time the development of the learning material of the pilot project commenced in the pedagogical workshops, where all the experiences gained and the teaching materials used so far in public education were gathered and evaluated. In the course of the workshops various adult education approaches suitable for the training of functionally illiterate Gypsy adults in Hungary were examined. Learning materials were compiled, tested and after the necessary changes, published. The students’ book and the compendium as related material came out in 1500 copies each, and 250 copies of the teachers’ manual were published.

    3) Before the actual implementation of the pilot training project, 5 teachers per county were selected, thus altogether 15 teachers received 4 four-day training sessions in how to provide basic functional literacy education. Teacher training was conducted by Slovenian adult education experts.

    4) Nine labour market trainers participated in the labour market training sessions held in Hungary and Denmark with the aim of acquainting them with specific measures and initiatives necessary in the field of adult education and job-generation and enabling them to employ this knowledge in the course of the programme. During their training they were able to learn about the present demands and opportunities in the local labour markets.

    5) Their preparation for providing special labour market training was conducted by Danish experts in Hungary. According to the original project plan, our "labour market teachers" would have held ten one-day "labour market seminars" for unemployed Gypsy adults in each of the three locations with the participation of institutions from various sectors in order to promote cross-sectorial cooperation and networking (between the representatives of folk high schools, adult education and labour market institutions, trade unions and the representatives of the Gypsy ethnic minority). Each of the seminars would have been attended by 20 unemployed Gypsy men and/or women who would have been acquainted with the most important questions of the labour market, and with the involvement of the private and state sectors, and would have been informed about local employment opportunities, job-seeking strategies and about the most significant implications of labour legislation. However, it became obvious in the preparatory phase that this programme element should be modified in order to achieve greater efficiency. Instead of holding ten one-day seminars for several hundred participants (the aims of which could be attained at the forums organised for civil organisations, which will be discussed later), we designed special labour market training for the students participating in the basic literacy course and added it to the pilot training programme. Following the basic literacy courses, participants had 15 hours of labour market training, where they learned job-finding techniques, appropriate conduct at labour centres and were informed about employment opportunities and relevant legal regulations. The results proved that we had made the right decision, which will be discussed in the summary.

    6) The pilot functional literacy programme was launched in six settlements. In each location two eight-week courses were held for 72 participants altogether, who had three teaching hours of intensive education three times a week. After the pilot programme had been completed, participants and teachers prepared a written evaluation of the teaching material and methods employed in the programme.

    7) We organised one NGO seminar in each of the three project locations on different dates. The seminars were attended by the representatives of non-governmental organisations involved in providing general adult education for Gypsy communities in Hungary and supporting initiatives aimed at cooperation between ethnic minorities. In addition to the representatives of the Gypsy ethnic minority, the seminars were also attended by the representatives of labour market institutions, trade unions and local government.

    8) As this issue affects the entire Central European region, we asked for written case studies from neighbouring countries already at the start of the programme. An anthology was compiled of these writings, which was published in Hungarian (1000 copies) and in English (2000 copies).

    9) After the completion of the pilot training programme, a two-day international symposium was organised, which was attended by ethnic and civil organisations from the Central European region (Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Macedonia, Slovenia). The symposium dealt with the most disadvantaged groups of ethnic minorities living in the region in order to share the experiences concerning initiatives in the Central European region, with a special focus on adult education and job-generating methods.

    10) To conclude our project, a one-day final conference will be held (after this manuscript has been sent to press) with the attendance of the representatives of relevant educational institutions, civil organisations, public authorities and other partners. The results of the twenty-month project activity will be discussed here and proposals will be made concerning the direction that should and can be taken in the further development of functional literacy education. On the basis of experiences gained in the project, and with labour market demands strongly taken into consideration, the possible ways of transforming the pilot programme into regular training to be provided for the functionally illiterate population in Hungary will also be discussed. The final evaluation of our work will be published both in Hungarian and English.

Project Results

Quantitative Results:

  • In accordance with the project plan, 72 people successfully completed the training, and although it was not the direct aim of the project,
  • 17 students passed examinations and entered a higher grade in their elementary school education; another three people passed the same examination one month later.
  • After the basic literacy course, thanks to the support received from the local labour centre through applications, 15 students had the opportunity to be trained as social workers and nurses, which also guaranteed them one year of employment.
  • Also through applying for funds, 8 people were able to obtain "B" category (normal) driving licences and were guaranteed employment.
  • 55 people wish to continue their studies.

Quantitative Results:

  • significant improvement in communication skills and cultured conduct
  • acquaintance with Gypsy culture and the development of personal identity
  • recognition of the importance of learning

Students expressed the opinion, which is also shared by experts participating in the project, that 72 hours of education were not sufficient, and that the course should be extended. At the evaluation training for the pilot project, the working group of the PHARE programme decided that it was necessary to extend the training programme by providing 150 hours of literacy education and 30 hours of labour market training, and the learning material was finalised accordingly. In addition to the range of learning materials originally planned in the project, a special labour market training manual was also produced along with a comprehensive compilation of andragogical methodology based on the written contributions of the Slovenian experts.

Our Long-term Objective

It is the conviction of our Danish and Slovenian partners too that by overcoming several risk factors in the course of implementing the project, we have gained such experiences and results that can be utilised when similar initiatives are undertaken in Hungary or in the neighbouring countries. We believe that the project results will contribute to the implementation of innovative, cross-sectorial measures that will promote the social integration of minority groups living in the region as well as to providing appropriate and new educational and employment opportunities for the least educated Gypsy adults in Hungary.

The importance of our activity is indicated by the fact that the solution of the issue of the Gypsy population is prescribed as a special condition in the EU evaluation report concerning Hungary’s accession. From the design stage through the transfer of knowledge and expertise to the authentic application of methods adjusted to local conditions, the activity conducted with PHARE-Lien support is a good example of international cooperation that has enabled us to gain far-reaching experiences and to greatly increase our personal knowledge and organisational capacity.

Development of Curriculum and Learning Materials

The PHARE-Lien project accurately defined what sort of written materials were to be produced for the pilot programme. After having been selected by the regional folk high school organisations, the authors of the learning materials started to design the students’ book, the compendium and the teachers’ manual on the basis of project requirements and very concise recommendations, but they mainly relied on their own rich pedagogical and somewhat scarcer andragogical experiences. The working copies had to be produced for the first teacher training session, where they were debated.

Although the 72-hour schedule of the pilot programme seemed to be too tight, the authors thought that the "path back into society" would be best paved for the target group if adult learners were enabled to acquire (or in more fortunate cases to brush up) knowledge that they had failed to learn in elementary school and was essential to their everyday lives.

After discussions with future teachers and Slovenian andragogical experts, the authors (a teacher, a remedial teacher and an adult educator by profession) had to face completely different requirements. Their "traditional" or "school-bookish" approach was strongly criticised and as a consequence they tried to re-think and re-design the learning materials in accordance with the "interactive" and "true to life" approach outlined in the course of training for teachers and authors. When the courses were started in the spring of 1999, teachers received teaching materials that were somewhat "two-faced". To a certain extent, the students’ book preserved a structure determined by the school subjects taught in the higher classes of elementary school, but, some interactive, project-type didactic methods adjusted to the target group were used within the given subjects. The compendium, some of the poems and prose works in which, mainly written by Gypsy authors, were illustrated by the prominent Gypsy painter, István Szentandrássy, was less criticised. The teachers’ manual (which was finally compiled by the authors of the students’ book) tried to draw the attention to local characteristics and to the importance of flexibility on the part of teachers.

Discussions with teachers and authors suggested that the role of printed materials would be of less significance than the handouts prepared by teachers. For this reason, in addition to the learning materials, all the teachers received a collection of task-sheets and exercises related to school subjects and to personal development activities that had been accumulated and offered for mutual use in the course of training sessions.

Piloting Stage

It was already obvious before the two-month pilot teaching was started that 72 teaching hours could only be sufficient for a sort of labour market training rather than for providing literacy skills to functionally illiterate people so that they could become a literate workforce. (In the meantime it turned out that courses with similar aims were held in 150 hours in Slovenia for example.) The 30-hour labour market training was attributed as much significance as the literacy course in this pilot programme.

The efficiency of basic literacy courses is indicated by the number of jobs found in the labour market as a result. Obviously, this can only be one of the indicators of efficiency, as experience shows that basic literacy and employment are not necessarily interconnected. However, the personal contact established between the unemployed and labour experts can only improve employment opportunities. However, the programme cannot be regarded as unsuccessful even if people find no employment after completing the course. Entrance into other forms of education is also a measurable result in the evaluation system of the PHARE-Lien projects; furthermore, the psychological impact of being successful at learning, being at the centre of social attention, and the creation or reinforcement of community spirit and relationships cannot be neglected either.

After the completion of the course many of the participants summed up their experiences in this way: "I have learnt appropriate conduct. I have learnt how to make myself understood and how to make others accept that I am a human being just like anybody else."

In addition to the question of how to measure efficiency, at the stage of planning it was also an undecided question what qualifications participants in the same group should have and to what extent we wanted to improve their education. No uniform standpoint could be developed in this respect before the start of the courses. In practice it turned out that the majority of participants had seven or eight years of elementary education in most of the locations, but some of the groups were attended by functionally illiterate people as well.

In reality this mixed composition of the groups posed fewer problems than anticipated. This, of course, meant that teachers did not give their "lessons" according to a fixed, official timetable, but worked in pairs: one of the teachers worked with the majority of the participants, while the other helped students with lower education to be able to keep up with the others as much as possible. This was a method that became generally used in the project work. By June 1999, when the six groups in the three counties completed the pilot training programme, the retention rate turned out as planned as the rate of dropping out was compensated by initial over-enrolment (some of the drop-outs found employment in the meantime).

As the "emotional continuation" of the courses, participants made friends with one another and generally got to like learning itself, but continuation became possible in organised forms also as all the organisers considered basic literacy courses to be only the foundation stones for vocational training. As a result concrete vocational training and even employment plans were made in several of the locations.

The educational goal achieved by some of the groups is also encouraging. In two locations, the majority of participants passed a so-called grading examination that allows them to enter a higher grade or class in elementary school. Some of those who had passed the examination that allowed them to enter the eighth grade decided to take an examination that would give them elementary school leaving certificates, and teachers did not consider their plans to be over-ambitious. This result is significant not because it is measurable but because it indicates that despite long-term unemployment, our target group does not completely refuse to accept the cultural values of society that are based on the work one performs.

However, we must keep in mind that the participants in these courses were mainly young adults who had some positive experiences of school. What’s more, through their children they have very good contacts with the teachers who organised the courses and recruited participants. In such an environment, it is no wonder that participants volunteered and were willing to take the "role of students" and were not deterred even by the prospect of taking an examination.

Obviously, the "idyllic" motifs mentioned above cannot be generalised. Different methods need to be used to establish contacts and to attain educational aims in an environment where the relationship between the local Gypsy community and school (and the dominant society) is rather chilly, distrustful or even conflictual for social and/or ethnic and linguistic reasons.

The Lessons we Had to Learn

One of the main lessons we have learnt from this project is the fact that there is no universal recipe or method to be followed. In all cases we had to adapt to the most concrete local characteristics and capacities. Even the students’ book had to be designed in a way that would mainly provide examples of how to solve complex, true to life, local problems. At the same time the students’ book had to serve a double purpose (in accordance with local needs): on the one hand it had to promote the accomplishment of the "self-management course" defined by the PHARE-Lien project "Basic Adult Education as the Path back into Society", while on the other hand students wishing to advance in the system of formal education had to be provided with concise and well-prepared "learning material". Furthermore, when the curriculum of the pilot training courses was evaluated, it turned out that the learning material should meet not only two but three requirements: it should enable young unemployed adults with elementary school certificates to brush up their knowledge and to help them with their career orientation. (We should emphasise once again that the training includes 30 hours of labour market training, and the labour market training manual is also part of the learning material.)

The compendium was particularly successful, which indicates that in addition to practical knowledge it is also necessary to show intellectual value of "eternal validity". Gypsy participants of the literacy courses whose mother-tongue is Hungarian were greatly inspired by the treasures of Gypsy culture (rendered in Hungarian) and were especially interested in ethnographic knowledge. In the course of evaluation, it was stated that the proportion of ethnography in the students’ book should be definitely increased by the developers of the learning material.

Even the most carefully planned work processes may contain some unexpected elements, but the designers of courses for Gypsies cannot be too surprised if artistic talent emerges. The "culture of poverty" induces people to try their hand at art as one of the "breakthrough strategies" even in families where artistic skills are not passed on from generation to generation. (These attempts can mark the beginning of the career of a genius or a naive painter, or lead to the production of kitsch.) In our case the young people from Huszár-telep (the former hussar/cavalry camp) in Nyíregyháza started to copy the paintings of Van Gogh from a magazine and the pictures of Szentandrássy from the compendium. Their teachers’ appraisal seemed to lend wings to their visual self-expression. "Authentic" works were produced even through copying, but the best products were inspired by the visit (an extension of classroom activity) to the village museum in Sóstó. Living in the remains of a classicist building complex of Huszár-telep, these young people who where just becoming conscious of their abilities had never seen anything like the Gypsy hovels preserved in the museum, which inspired them to create genuine works of their own. (It is a question of good luck whether they can make use of their talents in the future.)

Good luck is a leading motif in the life of all the participants in the courses called "The Path Back into Society". We ourselves as well as the participants should be aware that these basic adult education courses only allowed them to glance at the "timetable". Whether they will catch the "train" or just shake their fists at the train leaving them behind depends not only on them and us but also on a lot of other people they will meet by good or bad luck in the course of their lives, and whether they will be empowered to dare to address these people.

The Balance of the Pilot Project

Beyond the formal and well-defined objectives, one of the most essential results of the project activity is the fact that a change in attitude, which might have already developed in individuals, was effected and reinforced informally and on a community level. What are the elements of this change? A positive approach to the culture of ethnic groups: it is not a problem or burden to the majority of society but an advantage and added value. Social marginalisation, exclusion and deviation cannot be understood if we only look for scapegoats, but by looking for the reasons and by objective analyses they can be explained and partly eliminated. The development of self-confidence and solidarity and the ability to identify with the situation of others are the preconditions of all communication, in which we should express not only our expectations but also our personal responsibility. The intellectual work done in the workshops did not end with the mutual development of the mainly "hidden" values mentioned above, but was continued with learning and practising practical professional procedures and techniques, with the analysis of results and making improvements. The number of Gypsy people in the target group and the extent of the activity are not too large, and the results of the courses are good (retention rate, motivation, satisfaction, achieved goals in studying), but the output of the courses that cannot be measured is at least as important for the given target group. This includes the strengthening of identity and self-confidence, improved communication skills and cultured conduct, the recognition of the importance of learning and education as a positive experience and the local development of a positive inter-ethnic social atmosphere.

The Working Group

The working group set up by the project leaders consisted of three coordinators, fifteen teachers, four authors, four researchers, and nine labour market trainers recruited from the six project locations situated in the three different counties. A group of teacher trainers from Slovenia and a group of labour market trainers from Denmark and two coordinators from the respective countries contributed to the teamwork. As one of the objectives of the project was to develop the competence of the Hungarian Folk High School Society as an organisation, we shall first of all deal with the activity of the Hungarian working group. People with different professions, teachers and social workers formed a team which became a cohesive, integrated working group in the course of project activities. By getting acquainted with the approaches used in adult education and in open or project learning, the participants became aware of the characteristics of community adult education and of the significance and content of methods and techniques that greatly differ from those employed in normal school education. The teachers acquired special competence in dealing with functional illiteracy in the ethnic group of Romany people characterised by a disadvantaged social position. In the course of the teacher training, participants learnt a great deal from one another through the discussion of particular problems and situations that had to be faced in different settlements and learning groups. In the course of practising adequate professional skills in basic adult education, the relationship that developed between teachers and later between teachers and the target group was characterised by a high degree of empathy and commitment. This was the most significant intellectual and moral output of the basic adult education development programme. Teachers found themselves in a new situation in another aspect as well. Unlike in formal institutions, in this project they had to develop a more open and responsible "out of classroom" cooperation with coordinators, the authors of learning materials, labour market trainers and various organisations in the environment of the target group. The motivation of teachers was enhanced by the fact that they could contribute to the production of something new, they could be the co-authors of the teaching materials and the entire programme as well. The teachers also had to get accustomed to the conditions of international cooperation and learning together.

Results on an Organisational Level

In the professional field the Hungarian Folk High School Society was able to develop its organisational and professional knowledge and capacity in a comprehensive way in three regions. On the conceptual basis of lifelong education, out-of-school community education in the framework of folk high schools was successful at overcoming former frustrations experienced in schools, animating general basic adult education and ethnic identity as a way of social adjustment and building up self-confidence, which could be combined with training aimed at integration into the labour market as a precondition of vocational training or retraining. On a small scale it was possible to work out an appropriate answer to the most significant dilemmas in the basic education of the adult population. Formal adult education institutions and labour market training organisations are unable to do so. Of course, folk high schools could not have managed all this on their own. It is one the advantageous features of non-governmental organisations that they are capable of solving complex local problems by being locally present, non-formal and able to build up an open network with other types of organisations.

The project was a challenge in terms of developing organisational management skills on local, regional and national levels since the quality and efficiency requirements defined by the objectives implied concerted planning, organising, cost planning, accounting, evaluation and feed-back not only between ourselves, but also with our international partners in the course of our (distance or on the spot) work done together. Finally, the capacity of the Hungarian Folk High School Society to take part in international cooperation was improved by being able to bridge differences deriving from cultural backgrounds, accumulated professional experience and expertise, to overcome language barriers and to establish "common consciousness" through work- and efficiency-oriented communication, to create the framework for the professional interpretation of similarities and differences. All this could not have been achieved without the empathic, and committed professional approach of the Slovenian and Danish partners. The integrity of the entire working group of the project is proved by the fact that all the differences in opinion and disputes that necessarily arise in project activities were always related to functions and tasks taken on by people in the working group regardless of nationality. For example, vehement yet productive debates developed between teachers and the writers of the learning material, or about the difficult question of how to combine basic literacy education with labour market training.

The Hungarian Folk High School Society benefited from the programme on a social level too. The Society established close ties with other non-governmental organisations, mainly with Gypsy civil organisations in order to explore demands, reveal tensions and assert interests jointly. As Gypsy minority local governments received positive feedback from participants, they came to support the programme locally. The representative of Gypsy folk high school initiatives aimed at providing basic adult education became more competent to conduct talks with both local and county governments and labour centres concerning the exploration of labour market opportunities and gaining further support for programmes. We also managed to win the support of the media and we had to learn how to articulate the same ideas repeatedly in different and simple ways in order to communicate the social significance of the subject to as many people as possible.

The results as well as the publicity of the programme going beyond local communities enhanced the social recognition of the Hungarian Folk High School Society on the public administration and political level. As a result the intention to grant government support was expressed, which facilitated the fulfilment of our cofinancing obligations. The personal interest first expressed by the representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs, and then by the Ministry of Education, and their personal participation in certain events increased the chances of gaining more permanent support for the continuation and further development of the programme. The recognition of the programme was reinforced by the fact that the report on the monitoring visit of the independent expert from the PHARE-Lien office in Brussels as well as the analysis of the external evaluator commissioned by the Danish partner were both positive, and the EU delegation in Budapest also expressed interest in the programme. All these are very important as the programme will receive real value if the means, methods and competency developed in the workshops can be extended and further developed.

We can read a lot of project evaluation reports, about a lot of exciting, innovative solutions, but what happens to them later? Can the individual projects be integrated, and can the results of the individual programmes be sustained and extended in such a way that palpable transformation in social practice and socially effective development are achieved? We have also asked ourselves this question. In our opinion the Brussels administration has to develop its own practice in this respect and, by getting better acquainted with locations and the implementation of small projects, modify the present line of providing large bureaucratic project funds. This would be a more efficient use of project funds.

The Further Development of the Programme

We consider the further joint activity of the professional working group to be the most important element. The members of the working group have expressed their willingness to participate in the dissemination of the experiences and practice of the programme in organised forms such as inservice teacher training and the training of project organisers. On the basis of experiences gained in practice, the working group has modified and extended the contents and duration of the original basic adult education programme, and identified three main directions to be taken according to the existing knowledge and aspirations of the target groups:

A basic literacy training

B preparation for grading examinations necessary for entering a higher class in elementary school

C basic adult education combined with vocational training

At the final conference, participants in the teacher training will be awarded a certificate issued by the three partners on the basis of their diploma work written about the training. The Hungarian Folk High School Society and the members of the working group have signed a contract concerning the extension and further development of the programme. Although the involvement of other communities and regions in this work has mainly been initiated within the organisational framework of the Hungarian Folk High School Society, the organisation is ready to cooperate with other institutions as well. Negotiations have been started with the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education about the utilisation of the project results in their medium-term government programme aimed at the social advancement of Gypsy communities.

As functional literacy education and labour market reintegration training are needed not only by the Gypsy population in Hungary, the working group proposed that the learning material and teaching aids of the basic adult education programme should be further developed to address the needs of functionally illiterate social groups of non-Gypsy origin as well. Steps have been taken in order to have the programme formally institutionalised. The working group would like to have the programme accredited within the framework of adjustment programmes provided by labour centres. In our opinion, there is also a possibility of putting greater emphasis on basic literacy and adult education programmes and obtaining accreditation and support for them in the new act on adult education being prepared now. We intend to utilise the results of the project in higher education as well (teacher training, training of adult education experts). The main task of the Hungarian Folk High School Society now is to extend and further develop the activity started in Hungary two years ago. At the same time both international partners have agreed to share our results with other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. We have considered various ways of implementation: the complete programme can be introduced by means of training a similar working group in a given country, or experiences can be exchanged with the involvement of relevant organisations from several countries.


Individuals and organisations that decide to make the voice of those heard who are not empowered, to involve those who feel excluded, to enable people to use and actively practice the right to lifelong learning, which are the fundamental objectives of folk high schools, will have a long life on this earth and a great deal of work to accomplish. We have done a very small part of this job. What has been achieved is barely more than getting to know each other better and to respect the human values we personally believe in, and making us, and perhaps others, even more aware of the necessity of continuation.

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