Dienstag, Mai 29, 2007


on the train again

Trains. I spend a lot of time on the train lately. I came to the conclusion that they are at the end of the day not so annoying as I have been preaching for the last years to my ESIB and YFJ colleges.
Going from Salzburg to Vienna by train functions as a debriefing for me. Slowly moving from family life back to working life - meter by meter; listening to the sounds of the railroads (just in the background because of the iPod), feeling the movement of the train, dozing my way to Vienna, ruminative. You might think I know the landscape by now, but no, actually I discover something new each time I watch the countryside passing by my window.
Usually I am mainly in cities and towns, where I do not really notice much about the specificities that the seasons have to offer. Now having a closer look at the rural parts of Austria I can see the differences in the vegetation and I am enjoying the different shades of green. I tell you, it is almost as relaxing as watching the foam on top of the waves at the seaside.

Dienstag, Mai 22, 2007


Challenges for Investing in Youth in Europe and Central Asia (ECA)

Let me illustrate the challenges in the ECA region by using a prominent but very average family. Lets imagine the family Simpson lives in the ECA region. Father Homer did leave school after lower secondary level and is an industry worker and an alcoholic, Mother Marge completed upper secondary level and since then is taking care of the children, 3 by now. Lisa, a smart, musical 3rd grader who is able to adapt to different situations and is well achieving in school, Bart a 4th grader who is a little nasty brat, low achieving in school but very creative and interested in experimental learning. And the toddler Meggie. The family is living in the small town Springfield in the middle of nowhere, they have a family disability of having only 4 fingers and their nutrition is really bad. If this family is living in the ECA region, what are the challenges that Lisa and Bart will face when trying to complete their education or transfer from education to work?
Statistics say that as they are coming from a workers family on the countryside, they are both likely to end up in a series of phases of unemployment and precarious work contracts and they will both never even reach higher educations.

Not only Lisa and Bart are facing difficulties, generally students from disadvantaged societal groups are more likely to drop out. There are several groups of people who are marginalised in education, and it is these groups that are more likely to leave school early or not to complete their studies successfully. These groups are: Students with inadequate high school preparation, students who are recipient of welfare or vocational rehabilitation program benefits, students from remote and rural areas, students who have the language of instruction as a second language, students who have a cultural heritage or lifestyle choice that is not sufficiently or accurately represented in the traditional curriculum, students with a non academic family background, women in courses who are traditionally perceived as male such as technical studies and science, students with disabilities, students with a lower socio-economic background and second chance or mature students, people with caring responsibilities, especially single parents, students whose wellbeing is endangered because they are discriminated against.

Drop out is way to often seen as a failure of the individual, whist it is a failure of the system. Unfamiliarity with higher education often leads young people from deprived neighbourhoods to enrol for inappropriate courses. Many students who were the first in their families to enter university felt schoolteachers, guidance staff and the careers service had poorly advised them. They often received little prior information and preparation for the courses they follow. In addition there is often a lack of encouragement from the teaching staff as well as from the families. A lack of money and financial security, which of course limits choice and the length of time they were prepared to stay in higher education before they look for a full-time job.

Youth Organisations play a vital role when it comes to reaching out to disadvantaged youth, when it comes to empowering them and enabling them to speak up for their own needs, and for integrating of reintegrating marginalised young people to society. We speak the same language and hang out at the same places.

So how can we address such challenges in the ECA Region to help Lisa and Bart?
Lets first identify which policy approaches do the countries in the ECA Region have in common?

I would say the most dominant policy complex and approach are the Lisbon Objectives of the European Union – to become by 2010 the most dynamic knowledge based economy in the world with more and better jobs and a greater social cohesion.

Why is this goal of the EU relevant for the ECA Region?

The member states
Well, firstly because 10 countries are members of the EU and have committed to achieve the Lisbon Objectives.

Accession countries and candidates

Turkey still under negotiation, as well as candidate countries to the European Union, which includes Croatia and Macedonia receive accession support measures through a number of specific programmes. However they are also expected to meet certain political, economical and fiscal criteria developed at the meeting of the Council of Ministers in Copenhagen in 1993 as well as they have to comply with the acquis communautaire.

Western Balkan and Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP)

The countries of the Western Balkan have a very specific political relationship with the European Union, which is called Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP). In addition to Croatia and Macedonia as candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Serbia and Montenegro are included in this process. These countries are granted access to the internal market of the EU and receive financial as well as political support in their internal political reform processes.

European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
Furthermore the EU has developed a so-called European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which encompasses countries in Eastern Europe as well as the Southern Mediterranean and countries in the Middle East. Through this programme the Ukraine, the Republic Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan receive partial access to the internal market of the European Union, favourable trade regulations as well as financial support under the condition of the implementation of democratic and economic reforms, the rule of law and the safeguarding of human rights in their respective country.

The political impact from the EU on the countries of the Western Balkans as well as Eastern Europe stems from the precondition for the diverse financial support measures and access to the internal market of the EU outlined above. So the Lisbon Agenda of the EU leaves its footprints in all of these countries.
Part of the Lisbon Process is also the European Youth Pact, which is providing a cross sectoral approach to youth policy.

What are the key policy areas that the Lisbon agenda is promoting?

5 key policy areas – all of them related to Youth Policies, the Lisbon re-launch and the Kok Report:

1. The knowledge society: increasing Europe’s attractiveness for researchers and scientists, making R & D a top priority and promoting the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs);
2. The internal market
3. The business climate: reducing the total administrative burden; improving the quality of legislation; facilitating the rapid start-up of new enterprises; and creating an environment more supportive to businesses;
4. The labour market: developing strategies for lifelong leaning and active ageing; and underpinning partnerships for growth and employment;
5. Environmental sustainability

Lets have a closer look at Education and Employment policies affecting youth, starting with Education, as employment can be seen as harvesting the fruits of education.

We are living in times of continual educational reform. Now, more than ever, the lines between education and commerce are being blurred. We are told that we have to be »competitive« with the American market and, that in order to achieve this goal, there will have to be “winners and losers”. These are the keywords used in promulgating the Lisbon Agenda and it seems to be also generally zeitgeist; these are the keywords used by people promoting the commercialization of Education in the name of achieving a »knowledge based society«.
The Youth Forum strongly disagrees with this reasoning. We believe that what is needed for a true knowledge based society is involvement of stakeholders such as youth organisations in all processes, increased accessibility to education and committed and qualitative governmental funding and support for education institutions and students, a diversification of the student body and the recognition of non-formal education.

And this is where Youth Organisations come in to remind governments about their commitments. Youth organisations play a key role in reducing the gap between where decisions about employment and education are made and where they are implemented. We do this by being there both when decisions are made and when they are carried out. We are engaged in opening up political processes at all levels, and making them accessible to young people. Our wish and ability is to contribute with a spirit of enquiry, new thinking and competence.

What are key concepts that become apparent when trying to become a knowledge economy?

Innovation is the key word in the policies surrounding this knowledge economy, according to the American researcher Paul David and his French colleague Dominique foray there are two ways innovation comes about. Firstly, research as a formal activity generates new knowledge. Secondly, individuals learn by doing and thus make discoveries, which can progress knowledge. Both approaches are central to the Lisbon strategy: producing marketable knowledge and educating human resources for the labour market. Since education and research are not primary responsibilities of the European Union the coordination of the Lisbon agenda works through management by objectives.
So for the Simpson’s this would mean Lisa would be better placed in a formal setting, whilst Bart would not function in a research institute and would for sure prefer experimental learning. But would anyone be ready to recognise Bart’s out of school learning experiences?
And how can we stimulate innovation also in the future whilst having negative progress in basic reading and writing skills in the ECA region as well as unpleasant figures for early school leavers and completion of upper secondary education?

So what are the shortcomings of this Lisbon agenda and the difficulties for the ECA region?

The problem of setting the agenda through diverse means instead of developing it with all partners involved on equal footing develops a problem of acceptance of and resistance to these policies. Non of the countries present here, with the exception of Italy, was EU member when the objectives were set for the Lisbon Strategy.

The meanings of terms like learning, knowledge and education are losing their emancipative character; education is mainly seen as an instrument with which to improve the global competitiveness.

With the management through objectives the democratic process often has significant shortcomings. For a long-term policy progress it is imperative to involve all relevant stakeholder in policy development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Fiscal and monetary regulations are often in conflict with investments needed to achieve greater social cohesion. Most countries argue that financial constraints keep them from implementing necessary reforms in the fields of social inclusion and employability.

Unless significantly more efforts are made in the areas of early school leaving, completion of upper-secondary education, and key competences, a larger proportion of the next generation will face social exclusion, at great cost to themselves, the economy and society.

The Lisbon agenda or more general – internationalisation is abused by policy maker as argumentation for unpopular and often short-sighted policy measures.

So how can these challenges be addressed in the ECA Region?
Where should the World Bank and the European Union work together to address the challenges mentioned so far?

Implementing national Youth Pacts with a real impact in the ECA region. As a cross-sectoral approach to youth policy is the only way to address the multi dimensional needs of young people.

Investing in education and training has a price, but high private, economic and social returns in the medium and long-term outweigh the costs. Reforms should therefore continue to seek synergies between economic and social policy objectives, which are in fact mutually reinforcing.

The creation of a European Qualifications Framework, and will also focus on increasing the quality of teacher education and on adult learning. When countries are creating them – and many have committed to do so through the Bologna Process, they must foresee from the beginning on the recognition of non-formal education.

The recognition of the providers of non-formal education is equally important as the investment in qualitative research on non-formal education.

Clear regulations for internships must be implemented. This concerns decent work conditions as well as the type of work, as not many get a decent job through a coffee cooking internship.

The inclusion of all stakeholders in policy development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies is key to their success. Youth Organisations must play a formal role in defining employment, education and citizenship agendas.

Governments have to recognise the category of youth as a progressive one, the one carrying development and democratisation, an investment in youth is an investment in the future of the country and its society and an investment in co-management and power-sharing based co-decision is a direct step towards the development of an open and democratic society with a sound basis for economic and social development.

Investment must be made in vocational training, civil society projects, fostering youth participation on local and national levels, development of civil society, human rights education and active citizenship.

The Youth in Action Programme, the framework programme for LLL, the PROGRESS program and comparable programmes must be given more financial resources to truly empower young people and reach out to the disadvantaged and to extend the programmes.

The Tempus programme funds cooperation projects in the areas of curriculum development and innovation, teacher training, university management, and structural reforms in higher education. It puts special emphasis on the mobility of academic and administrative staff from higher education institutions, both from the EU and the 26 partner countries.
Similar funding schemes are needed for primary and secondary education.

Create a funding mechanism for the development of access policies as well as retention and completion strategies to and to widen the participation in education and to diversify the student body. These policies must include multiple entrance and exit points to allow a life long learning approach and they must recognise prior learning experiences.

If these measures and similar ones are not taken, Lisa is very likely to be a teenage mum, she is at high risk of getting HIV/aids and she will despite her intelligence never get a well paid permanent job contract. Bart will soon start to smoke, binch drink and drop out, he will be a violent and unhealthy young unemployed.
If Bart gets to be active in the scouts and his sense for adventure and experimental learning is taken care of and if those experiences are recognised he has a chance. And if Lisa will get involved with Jeunesse musicales and she is finally rewarded for all her efforts and finds a place in the world where she can be who she is, her future will be bright.
So it is time to get started to move from policy to action.

thank you ingolf ;-)

Sonntag, Mai 20, 2007


my odd village

Living in a small town has its own flair. Most of the times I tend to agree with Lou Reed, when it comes to small towns. Especially as I am of the opinion that trees are evil and just make me cry. But there are also many odd things happening on the countryside.
I was at a electric shop to buy a new mobile phone with the credits I collected through the long term customer bonus program. And the shop assistant – wondering why I had so many credits, asked me why I have such a high phone bill and what I am working and how I got there and all of this. Never did anyone try to find out so much about me in a big store in Vienna.
The bank assistant ran out of the bank when seeing me on the market square to ask me something about my account.
At the super market the cashier asked me what I am going to cook with the ricotta, as she never saw anyone buying it and was wondering what it is.
So many odd situations, so many childhood memories and still I feel like a tourist there, it is not my home anymore, it used to be and it is still very familiar, but it is not anymore - i grew out of it, but it seems it did not grow out of me.

Mittwoch, Mai 16, 2007


getting dry hands

Cooking in other people’s places is really difficult. There are differently shaped and sized pots and pans, there are edgeless knifes; there are different herbs and spices, oils and dairy products. So all very complicated, but the worst is, cooking in kitchens without dishwasher. For years I have a dishwasher now, whilst being fully aware that this is a luxury, it is a luxury I got used to. So shopping, cooking, dishwashing, doing the laundry in a different household, with a different micro-cosmos is really awkward, but in a household without dishwasher it is just – annoying!

Freitag, Mai 11, 2007


what i have been up to

It has been an exiting few days. I had the opportunity to meet many or the youth forums member organisations, but most importantly, I was invited to attend the seminar and board meeting of ESIB, my home base in the youth forum.
First I was at the IFM-SEI (International Falcon Movement – Socialist Educational International) conference in Vienna, congratulations to Tamsin and Tim who got entrusted to be the new leadership of the organisation. It was good to see how passionate people were about out of school education and the empowering and liberation character of education.
After this I moved on to the European Guides and Scouts conference in Slovenia. This is a joint conference of WAGGGS (the world association of girl guides and girl scouts) and WOSM (the world organisation of the scout movement). I have never heard so many quotes of one person on only one day; Baden-Powell really has a fan club that is huge. Though it was very new for me to see so many young people in differently coloured uniforms. Congratulations to the new leadership, especially to Henrik, one of my predecessors as a president of the youth forum, who was elected into the leadership of WOSM. Right from there I flew to the place where Baron Baden-Powell was born almost exactly 150 years ago, to London.
London these weeks is the capital of European Higher Education policy, not only that ESU – the European Students Union (formally known as ESIB- The National Unions of Students in Europe) has its board meeting, but also the Ministers of Education will meet there in a couple of days time. It is the Ministers conference that is taking place every second year in the framework of the Bologna Process, this time London, first time with the obligation for every country to bring a student representative in their national delegation. It was not only very pleasant to come home to ESU, but also to be in the UK and meet up with old friends and find time for new friends.


good bye

It has been an honour to serve this great country. I give my thanks to you, the British people, for the times I have succeeded, and my apologies to you for the times I have fallen short.

Mittwoch, Mai 02, 2007


when loved ones are ill

Live the Questions Now
...I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
in Letters to a Young Poet

She has helped me build my life and who I am today is because of her.

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