Roma Vilimiene

In issue 54 of the journal we published several articles about Adult Learners Weeks which have been held in various countries as a follow-up to the UNESCO International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA, Hamburg 1997), where the “Call for a United Nations Adult Learners Week” set this movement in train. This is a report on the aims and outcomes of the first Adult Learners Week in Lithuania. Roma Vilimiene is Chair of the Board of the Lithuanian Adult Education Association. The article is a reprint from the journal “Baltic Sea ­Dialogue. Newsletter for Adult Learning in the Baltic Sea Area”, No. 1, 2001.

“Adult Learning – Right, Privilege or Duty?”

Adult Learners’ Week in Lithuania

Information from UNESCO Newsletter, Issue 1: “At the Fifth Inter­national Conference on Adult Education in 1997 a recommendation was adopted to develop an annual United Nations Adult Learners’ Week. A national and international promotional campaign was ­proposed as a pivotal tool for stimulating demand for learning and developing responsive adult learning policies. The global Adult Learners’ Week will be launched on International Literacy Day, 8 September, 2000”.

The National Adult Learners’ Week took place just a little later in Lithuania – September 25 to October 1, 2000. Following the initiative of the Lithuanian Association of Adult Education (LAAE) Lithuania took part in this world-wide project for the first time.

The idea of organising this event was born in Turku (Finland) during the EAEA Conference in autumn, 1998. Due to the fact that the Conference coincided with the start of the Finnish Adult Learners’ Week, the conference delegates were witnesses of this significant event in the country. The notion of speaking about adult education problems in the country loudly and widely appealed to us as an attractive and purposeful idea. The 4th Nordic-Baltic NGO Network Meeting at NFA (February 19–21, 1999) gave the second inspiration to organise this week in Lithuania (participants will remember the joyful discussion about the Adult Learners’ Autumn around the Baltic Sea! R.V.).

It is necessary to mention (with a big sense of gratitude!) one more source of inspiration and encouragement: our Nordic colleagues – Berit Mykland from the Norwegian Association of Adult Education and Eeva-Inkeri Sirelius from the Finnish Adult Education Centres Association. They shared their own experience and gave us great methodological support on Adult Learners’ Week ideology and organisational matters. That is why we started!

Goals of the National Adult Learners’ Week in Lithuania

Lithuanian adult educators understood that the Adult Learners’ Week could provide a good opportunity to consider the situation of Adult Education in Lithuania, to look for how to improve this situation and to explore ways of expanding adult education, to reflect individual, as well as social needs. We had great hopes that this event would offer a good opportunity to meet, to exchange information and to discuss important questions for Adult Education institutions, for the public and journalists, as well as politicians and everybody who was concerned with adult education problems. And our expectations were more than met!

Support from Organisations

After the first announcement of the initiative of the Adult Learners’ Week 33 adult education institutions expressed their intention to participate. This gave great moral support for the idea in the country. Talking about the course of the Week, we emphasised that the main events had to happen not in the big cities of Lithuania (Vilnius, Kaunas), but had to cover all of Lithuania. That is why only the Opening of the Week was organised in Vilnius Technical Library and the Culmination of the Week – the Conference “Adult Education: Situation, Tendencies and Solutions” – was organised in Kaunas Regional Distance Education Study Centre at Kaunas University of Technology.

Course of the Week

About 50 adult educators from different adult education institutions participated in the first meeting in Vilnius, where organisational matters of the Week were discussed. The draft of the main events was described, and the motto of the Week “Adult Learning – Right, Privilege or Duty?” was developed. At the end of the meeting, the participants signed an Agreement about their contribution to the forthcoming event. A network of ­co-operation among educators was established.

The most difficult task for the organisers of the Week was the financial issue. The Lithuanian Association of Adult Education applied with the Adult Learners’ Week project to five different institutions and funds in the country. Unfortunately, neither the state institutions, nor the different funds treated this initiative as a priority in our society. Financial support came from our long-term partners – the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association, the Workers’ Education Association in Kalmar County, Sweden, via the National Association of Folk High Schools in Lithuania, and our partner organisations in Lithuania – the Labour Market Training Authority and the Labour Market Training Association. Thanks to this support and the great enthusiasm of people (organisers and other adult education providers) Adult Learners’ Week took place!

The Lithuanian Adult Learners’ Week was opened in the Technical ­Library in Vilnius with a big exhibition of adult education institution ­activities in Vilnius region.

The culmination of the Week was a Conference on “Adult Education: Current Situation, Tendencies and Solutions”. This conference was organised together with Kaunas Regional Distance Education Study Centre at Kaunas University of Technology. Using modern technology, the conference connected people in seven Lithuanian regions. There were about 200 participants in the conference – 110 in Kaunas and over 90 in seven distance groups. The Conference was opened with a Letter from Valdas Adamkus, the President of Lithuania. The welcome speech was delivered by the Minister of Education and Science, and was broadcast by video link from Vilnius. We were pleased with the attention from the Lithuanian Government towards adult education. P. Jarvis, professor from the University of Surrey, UK, participated in the Lithuanian Adult Learners’ Week and his presentation in the Conference was a big ­honour for us.

Results

The first Resolution on adult education in Lithuania was passed by the Conference. It was sent out to politicians, ministries, adult education institutions, Regional Municipalities and the biggest NGOs in Lithuania. A special Conference issue of “Adult Education for Today and the Future” was published. All the material of the Conference was placed on the ­website.

A lot of events happened during this Week in all ten regions of Lithuania: regional conferences; days of “open doors” in adult education institutions, libraries and museums; meetings with regional and local authorities; consultation events in the countryside; performances by amateur groups; education service fairs; radio and TV broadcasts, etc.

We were very proud of the publications of the Week – three issues of a special Newsletter; a poster with the motto of the Week; postcards with jolly pictures and slogans, all with the goal of connecting education and personal development. A reference book “Adult education and Vocational Training” (230 p.) containing information on the laws connected with adult education, and introducing the main adult education institutions in Lithuania and particular programmes on andragogy, was greeted as a very important and beneficial publication.

Statistics of the Week:

  • There were 142 events taking place all over Lithuania.
  • 132 institutions participated.
  • Over 13.000 participants took part in different events of the Week.
  • 4 publications were produced.
  • On 42 occasions, various events of the Week were introduced in the mass media.

Evaluation

This was the first and a very successful step in this field. Lithuanian educators created a good sense of belonging to the same community. And even though state support was scarce, the most joyful disclosure of the Week was – that the spirit of voluntarism is alive in the country! With few financial resources we accomplished astonishing results! And as one of the conference participants said: “The Week itself was a great opportunity to learn. Organisers did such great preparation work and it became a great school for the future for all of us.”

contact address:
Lithuanian Association of Adult Education
Gelezinio vilko g. 12 - 432, 2600 Vilnius
Lithuania
Tel. 370-2-312309
Issa-vilnius@delfi.lt