We were fortunate in our recent trip to Eastern Europe to get an insight into the education system of many former Eastern bloc countries. What was evident, despite the relative poverty of some of the nations, education is highly valued by all age groups.
Children often do not start school until they are 6 or 7 and then remain in education until they are 16. After that, there are the options of continuing down one of 2 paths;- vocational education or higher education (equivalent to our A level and University). What was telling however was that both options are highly valued and no stigma is attached the either. It is true that many go on to study degrees abroad which is subsidised by European monies, but speaking with the young people, they are motivated and articulate in their desire to improve their own and their families lives by investing in their education.
The older generations also value the opportunity to retrain and this was particularly evident in the war-torn countries of Serbia, Croatia and former communist states of Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. They proactively face their past, and whilst some states have advanced further than others, it was amazing to see how they embrace new opportunities and positively look at how they can constantly learn.
Customer service in all the nations was exemplary; locals speak several languages and in most countries English, Spanish and French are taught across the curriculum, so many are fluent in at least 2 or 3 languages, which opens up their horizons and options for additional development.
It brought home that very often we don’t appreciate the opportunities that are afforded to us here in the UK. Those of school age do not necessarily engage in the learning at school and the same can be said of those who are given the option to develop in their work environment.
What is essential, whatever the age of the learner, is that it should be relevant, engaging and provide the individual with the scope to enhance their development. Staid, repetitive or uninspiring content means the learner isn’t enthused, loses interest and ultimately loses the opportunity to advance.
One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to learning and development, but in order for everyone to value the learning opportunities we must ensure that we retain our childlike enthusiasm to learn new things and progress both personally and professionally.