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EU Travels Blog Series 2022 - Ljubljana, Slovenia

23 Jun 2022
"Through international cooperation, this project empowers older adults to overcome obstacles that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, through increasing digital literacy, strengthening psychosocial support for individuals and communities, and highlighting how storytelling can help promote positive wellbeing, creativity, and cultural exchange" - Giuliana Peña, AONTAS Project Officer

While on a study visit in May 2022 with the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education (SIAE) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, AONTAS Project Officer Giuliana Peña visited a library in Šmarje pri Jelšah, which co-hosted the “Stories Make Life Better” project from Lithuania and the Czech Republic. Read on to find out more about Giuliana's trip! 

As a member of the Communications Team at AONTAS, I help with the annual Adult Learners’ Festival. Similar festivals take place across Europe, such as the Lifelong Learning Weeks (LLWs) in Slovenia. This celebration of learning is delivered by SIAE, the umbrella organisation for various adult education partnerships in Slovenia.

My study visit centred around participating in the LLW, meeting different LLW Coordinators, visiting different education centres, and attending LLW launch events in various local communities in the Kozjansko region.

As part of this, we visited the Knjižnica Šmarje pri Jelšah library, which is the central cultural institution for the Obsotelj and Kozjansko regions. It was incredible to see how they effectively involved members of the community of all ages in their activities and events. When you walk through the library doors, you immediately feel it is an inclusive environment, filled with smiling faces and colourful folk tales from all over the region.

I observed how effectively they engaged with their community throughout the pandemic. The library achieved this by taking activities typically hosted in person at the library and making them into accessible videos on their YouTube channel, for example, book readings brought new life through narration and animation.

While participating in the ‘Stories Make Life Better’ project, I was able to attend a variety of events and visit different learning centres across Slovenia. Each of these visits was tied in with a story relating to that town or municipality. It was an immersive experience, steeped in folk tales imbued with pride for their local communities and rich heritage.

Among these visits was a tour of the Olimje Monastery in Podcetrtek where resident Franciscan monks have continued to look after the apothecary and medicinal gardens. In Kozji, we visited the zmajeva jama— meaning ‘dragon cave’ – to hear the legend of the dragon and learn how the town received its name of ‘goat’ in Slovene.

I also had the opportunity to visit the Rogaška Slatina School Centre, which specialises in training opticians and glassblowers, who are in high demand at the moment. Their centre is one among very few that trains young people and adults in these trades.

SIAE’s main goal is to connect the ministries, libraries, and other centres or partnerships for adult education, especially through the LLW, which is run in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. This year’s learning festival was carried out by 40 coordinators spread out across the country. Each year of the festival, there is a national launch. The location changes each year. I saw this as a wonderful way to include local communities and highlight the work being done across the whole of Slovenia for adult learners.

I asked how the LLW attracts immense local engagement each year. They told me that their main strategy was reaching out to local partnerships who are deeply interested in the local area. Their success with the LLW derives from centres that are part of the fabric of local communities. And the centres are headed by passionate community leaders.

LLW coordinators help bring events to life, ensure the local events are accessible on the national calendar, act as the contact point with SIAE, and help secure funding for local events. Additionally, consistent funding for the annual LLW helps to encourage local participation. This is achieved through involvement from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture for the LLW. The Ministry also hosts an LLW exhibition that travels across the country, helping to promote the value of lifelong learning in all communities.  

LLW Coordinators work with Thematic Coordinators, who help raise awareness and act as local advocates of SIAE. Together, these two roles help highlight the importance of adult education, encourage educational events in the community, and bring awareness to areas for change in adult education.

The approach of immersive story-telling to promote learning and connection has inspired me to think of new ways of promoting Learner Voice across Ireland.

I am also looking forward to next year’s Adult Learners’ Festival so that I may implement some of the strategies used by LLW Coordinators and SIAE.

This study visit took place as part of an Erasmus+ KA1 Mobility project called Build Action Mobilise (BAM). For more on AONTAS’s EU Projects, click here.

Check out a blog on Giuliana’s visit in the new SIAE Newsletter.

 For more information, contact our Ecem Akarca, AONTAS EU Projects Officer, at: eakarca@aontas.com

Photo credit to TVU - Tedni vseživljenjskega učenja