Archive for the ‘education’ Category

The TACCLE4-CPD project takes further steps in its work – Part Two: Reflections on policy mapping in (German) VET sector

June 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I reported on the second transnational meeting of our EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD and our efforts to develop tools and concepts for continuing  professional development of teachers and trainers. As has been the case with earlier TACCLE projects, we focus on integrating the use of digital tools and web resources to pedagogic approaches. In my previous post reported on the meeting itself and on our progress in adjusting our work program and the partners’ activities to each other. With this post I want to take a closer look at one of the tasks – mapping and analysing current policies – and what it requires from us (the German partners) working in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Below I try to give an overview on the role of regulative frameworks, innovation programmes and R&D initiatives in this context.

On the role of regulative frameworks

When discussing the role of educational policies, colleagues from other countries tend to refer to the “National Curriculum” as a key instrument and its implementation as the central process. This doesn’t apply to Germany. Since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany (and after the German unification) the regulative powers have been given to the Federal States (Länder), not to the Federal Government (Bund). Thus, there are 16 autonomous Federal States deciding their own curriculum frameworks – with some level of mutual adjustment in the Standing conference of cultural ministers (KMK). Yet, the differences between larger states (like Bavaria and Lower Saxony) and the city states (like Hamburg and Bremen) can be considerable.

When it comes to the field of vocational education and training (VET), there are further complications in the picture. For the dual system of apprenticeship (the mainstream model), the regulative powers have been divided. The Federal Government (Bund) has the power to regulate the workplace-based training, whilst the Federal States (Länder) are responsible for the school-based education. Furthermore, the intermediate training centres (überbetriebliche Ausbildunsstätten) that support training in the construction sector and in the craft trades are managed by the umbrella organisations of the respective industries and trades.

In the light of the above, tracing the policy processes at the level of regulatory frameworks reminds me of putting together a jigsaw puzzle with numerous pieces.

On the role of national innovation programmes

Whilst the Federal Government (Bund) doesn’t have the regulative powers in (shool-based) education, there is a growing consensus that Federal funding is needed to promote digitisation and digital competence throughout the society – including the education and training system. For this purpose the key instruments are the Federal innovation programmes – such as the ones promoting the use of digital media in VET (DiMeBB and DiMeBB2). This funding includes R&D projects in which education and training providers work together with service providers and supporting researchers.

Parallel to this, the Federal Government has provided special funding to promote digitisation and digital competences in the intermediate training centres. This funding is allocated partly to support the updating and upgrading of equipment and partly for supporting the staff training.

This reminds me of putting together a mosaic when all the pieces are not (yet) available.

On the role of local/ regional/ domain-specific initiatives

In the light of the above it is worthwhile to pay attention on specific measures and initiatives in a local/regional context or in domain-specific training. These may influence heavily the ‘implementation realities’ in digitisation and in the acquisition of digital competences. Also, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the impact of earlier R&D activities – inasmuch as they may have had a sustainable impact on the education and training cultures. Here I can refer to the long-term engagement of ITB in introducing Project Management training in schools (in particular in Bremen and the neighbourhood). In a similar way we need to pay attention to the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as a digital toolset to support vocational learning and organisational knowledge sharing.

All this reminds me of describing changing facets of a caleidoscope.

I think this is enough to illustrate, how complex these mapping and analysing exercises may be. However, the formulation that we agreed – “Policies looking for (appropriate) practices; Practices and initiatives looking for policy support” – is helpful. In this spirit I find it easy to continue our work with this task.

More blogs to come … 

The TACCLE4-CPD project takes further steps in its work – Part One: Reflections on our project meeting

June 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

As I had told in my earlier blog of December 2017, our institute ITB is involved in a new European project TACCLE4-CPD. This project is the fourth one in the TACCLE project family that supports teachers and trainers in integrating the use of digital tools and web resources into teaching and learning processes. Our project is developing tools and concepts for continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. (For further information on the background and on the earlier TACCLE project see my blog of the 9th of December 2017.)

Now we had our second project meeting and we were able to see, how we can bring our activities with different educational sectors and with different “Intellectual Outputs” together. As I had mentioned in my previous blog, the earlier TACCLE projects had been working with general education – with primary and (lower) secondary schools. In our project some partners continue the work with focus on these educational sectors whilst others bring into project insights from adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET). In our kick-off meeting we had a first look at the work program and on the starting points of different partners. Now we were  having reports on activities of different partners – both concerning the fieldwork and the conceptual work. In this way we were able to take further steps in adjusting our activities to each other and in including different contributions to the Intellectual Outputs. Below I will firstly discuss the progress with our work program and then some specific issues from perspective of the German team and of the VET sector.

Progress with ‘streamlining’ the work program and the partners’ activitities

In our meeting the dynamics was as follows: We had firstly activity reports of one or two partners, then we noticed that they served as a lead-in to some of the Intellectual Outputs. We had a brief debate with some challenging issues – and then ended up with a common conclusion that ‘streamlined’ the work for all of us. Below I will take up some topics that illustrate this:

  • Analyses of current policies to promote digitisation and digital competences: With the activity reports we were caught with the contrast between countries that have centralised educational policies (driven by the National Curriculum) and others with more fragmented power structures and policy processes. This led us to a brief debate on what is merely ‘local/regional’ and what counts as ‘policies’. With a little help of mindmaps and diagrams from other project we found a good formulation for streamlining our mapping and analyses: “Policies looking for appropriate practices – innovative practices and R&D initiatives looking for policy support”. In this way we could provide a European group picture without giving too much emphasis on explaining different policy contexts and instead draw attention to the ‘implementation realities’.
  • Developing a tool for quality assurance: In this context the responsible partner informed of their ongoing qualitative study with schools participating in the eTwinning programme. This triggered a discussion, whether other partners should replicate a similar study or not. However, in the course of discussion we noted that the study is shaping a matrix for analysing quality issues and in this way contributing to the project.
  • Developing a Route Map for promoting digital competences and Planning tools for institutional managers: In this context the responsible partner presented earlier versions of such Route Maps. They had been successfully implemented in earlier TACCLE projects and in national follow-up activities. Another partner presented a somewhat simplified and more condensed version (developed in another predecessor project) that could be taken as a basis of the planning tool. We agreed to merge the tasks and work with both variants of the tools.

I guess this is enough as reporting on our meeting. We had several other points to discuss in the meeting. I will get back to them in due time. In my next post I will discuss the mapping and analysing of policies from the German perspective and with emphasis on the VET sector.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Back to Stockholm – Back to the cruise conference(s)

June 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Both last year and this year I had the privilege to participate in the International Vocational Education and Training (VET) conferences organised by Stockholm University in the beginning of May. These conferences have become already a tradition – the 2017 conference was already the sixth and this year it was already the seventh. The practical arrangements are also very special – the conference starts at noon in a the conference rooms of a cruise terminal. After the first sessions the whole conference boards on a ship and continues it work in the conference rooms of the ship. While we are working, the ship makes the trip through the Stockholm archipelago and finally stops at the port of Mariehamn (Maarianhamina) – on the Swedish-speaking island Åland (Ahvenenmaa) between Sweden and the Finnish mainland. In the morning the ship starts the journey back to Stockholm and the conference continues until the ship is getting near the port of Stockholm.

When looking back at the two cruise conferences in which I have participated, there was a clear difference to me regarding my personal life situation and in my work. In 2017 I had had a treatment of severe illness behind me and I was in the process of recovery. Also, we had just completed the EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012-2016) and finished the last reporting duties arising from the final review meeting (January 2017). So, when I prepared my contributions for the conference, I was still to a great degree working in a ‘reporting mode’ – describing the activities of the project and explaining the specific choices of the construction pilot and the accompanying research team of our institute ITB. And – although I have a background in the Nordic and European VET research cooperation – I was a ‘newcomer’ in this setting. So, I had to familiarise myself with this conference pattern in order to  learn as best I could from the other contributions.

Now, thinking the conference of this year, my situation was completely different. During the year that had passed by, I had been monitoring the follow-up initiatives of the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot (efforts to extend the scope of working with digital tools in organisational and individual learning contexts). Moreover, I had had the chance to revisit the theoretical and methodological roots of our approach that we had followed in the project. So, I had a chance to discuss the challenges of our innovation research in a transition phase – from the original project to the successor activities. And I had the chance to discuss, how our approach had built upon its predecessors but also, what new elements our context brought into discussion.

I will not try to give an overview, what all themes were covered in these conferences – that would go beyond the limits of blog articles. Instead, I am better off referring to the website of the conference organisers:

https://stockholminternationalvet.com/

This website provides information on the previous conferences as well as on the recent one. And – moreover – it provides links to the book publications based on the conference material. The book based on the 2017 conference was just published for the next conference. And the book based on the 2018 conference material will be produced even quicker – that is what we all hope. (In the meantime I will also publish updates on my ‘project’ spaces on the ResearchGate portal.)

What I want to emphasis in this context is the very specific atmosphere of these cruise conferences – they bring the participants from the Nordic circles, from the European circles and from the wider international circles closer to each other. Moreover, this conference has more intellectual flexibility to take on board interim reflections – not only finalised results and completed theoretical discourses. From that perspective it has gained an acknowledged position as a valuable ‘interim conference’ vis-à-vis the annual ECER conferences and the VET research program of the VETNET network.

However, having said that, I have to mention that for this reason the VETNET community had agreed on new conference schedules. Parallel to this Stockholm conference, we experienced the emergence of another similar ‘interim conference’ with similar features of bringing different circles of international and European VET researchers together. With this ‘other’ I refer to the “Crossing Boundaries in VET” conferences that were started in Bremen in 2015 and continued in Rostock in 2017. With these conferences the organisers had thought that the timing – one week before the annual ECER conference – would be helpful for the international participants. But this was no necessarily the case. Therefore, a mutual agreement was reached that the Stockholm conference will be organised from now on every two years and that in between the “Crossing Boundaries in VET” conference will be organised elsewhere in Europe.

So, after wrapping up my experiences with the Stockholm conference, I had to start working with the proposals for the next “Crossing Boundaries …” conference that will take place in May 2019. As the organisers of that conference want to deliver the proceedings already at the conference (and have managed to do this both times), the call for proposals was closed already at the end of May. So, to quote an old phrase: “After the conference is – before a conference”. Also in this respect, May 2018 was a busy month. But there were also other activities.

More blogs to come …

 

Issues in developing apprenticeship programmes: UK and Spain

May 22nd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

soundtechAfter years of running down apprenticeship schemes through a policy focus on mass university education, the UK, in common with other European countries, has in the past few years turned back to apprenticeship both as a strategy for providing the skills needed in the changing economy and as a way of overcoming youth unemployment especially or those with low school attainment.

The turn to apprenticeship has gone through a number of phases. In its earliest incarnation there was a tendency to just label any vocational work based programme as an apprenticeship. This did nothing for the reputation of apprenticeships either with young people or with employers and there was widespread criticism of the quality of many of the courses on offer.

Two years ago, the government undertook yet another shakeup of the apprenticeship programme, introducing a training levy for large companies and placing a focus on higher level apprenticeships including degree programmes.

Yet this reform has also run into problems. Despite setting a target of three million new apprenticeships by 2020, there was a near 27% fall in the number taking up trainee posts in the last quarter of 2017.

The number starting apprenticeships dropped to 114,000 between August and October, down from 155,700 in the same period in 2016. That followed a 59% drop in the previous three months after the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April last year.

The biggest drop came in “intermediate” apprenticeships, the basic level, which dropped 38% to 52,000. The highest level of apprenticeships – known as degree apprenticeships – rose nearly 27% to 11,600. Schemes for adult apprentices were worse affected than for those young people, falling by just over 30% compared with 20%.

Last week, the UK House of Commons Education Select Committee heard evidence from the Further Education minister Anne Milton, the quality inspectorate Ofsted, the Institute for Apprenticeships and the Education and Skills Funding Agency on the quality of apprenticeships and skills training.

What seems remarkable from the TES report on the issues emerging from the meeting is how much they parallel problems in other European countries attempting to develop new apprenticeship systems, such as Italy and Spain. Indeed, nearly all of the issues also emerged in our study on apprenticeship in Valencia, Spain, all be it in different forms. This first article provides a quick summary of some of the issues raised at the House of Commons, together with a look at their resonance in Spain. In later posts I will look at some of the issues separately, particularly in reference to developments in the Dual System in Germany.

Higher level apprenticeships

According to the TES, high up the agenda were degree apprenticeships. While degree apprenticeships may raise the prestige of apprenticeship funding, this does little for the lower skilled young people looking for what in the UK are called intermediate level qualifications. Similarly, in Spain the new FP Dual apprenticeship programme has gained biggest traction at a higher apprenticeship level, demanding good school examination results for entry.

Despite the fact that Spain has a decentralised regional system for approving new apprenticeship programmes and the UK operates a national system, in both countries there seems to be significant issues around the level of bureaucracy in getting approval for new programmes and for the management of programmes.

Judging quality

In both countries too, the quality of apprenticeship programmes appears to be variable. Paul Joyce, deputy director for FE and skills at Ofsted, said there was a “very mixed picture” in terms of the quality of apprenticeships, adding: “It is certainly not a universally positive picture in terms of quality.” He said that of those providers inspected so far this year, “round about half are ‘requiring improvement’ or are ‘inadequate’, so it’s a very mixed bag”.

In Spain with no inspection system and few attempts at any systematic evaluation it is difficult to judge quality. Anecdotal evidence suggest also a “very mixed picture” in part due to the lack of training for trainers.

The role of Small and Medium Enterprises

The House of Commons Select Committee heard from Keith Smith, director of apprenticeships at the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), who said there was an aspiration to give employers more control in the system.

He added: “For small businesses, we need to be really careful we provide them with the right support and infrastructure to do that. They’re not the same as big levy-paying employers, they don’t have the same back-office support.

“We’re trying to design this very much with micro-businesses in mind. So, if it works for micro-businesses, it will work for all small businesses.”

Despite that, there would appear to be little take up from small businesses at present, possibly due to lack of knowledge about the new system, or because of the bureaucracy involved.

Similarly in Spain, there is limited take up by small businesses, Whilst in reality vocational schools are in charge of the system, the curriculum for apprenticeship programmes is developed in partnership between the schools and the companies.

More support needed for disadvantaged

Apprenticeships and skills minister Ms Milton said she will do what she can to break down barriers for disadvanataged people, including lobbying other ministers on issues such as travel discounts, an apprentice premium and the benefits system. After education secretary Damian Hinds yesterday refused to commit to the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge of transport subsidies for apprentices, Ms Milton was also coy on the issue.

In Spain there is continuing confusion over support for apprentices. With the adoption of the FP Dual system largely in the control of the regional governments, different regions have different policies, some stipulating pay for apprentices, some of training allowance and others not. Similarly, in some regions transport is paid and in others not. Sometimes it depends on agreements between individual employers and vocational schools.

 

Academic Archers: abstract for the 2019 conference

May 18th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Archers Logo Wheat Colour Long.jpgFor years, Jenny Hughes and I have been promising ourselves to submit a paper for the Academic Archers Conference. And this year we have finally got our act together. You can read the short abstract below. But first, for non UK readers what is the Archers? According to Wikipedia:

The Archers is the world’s longest-running radio soap opera. The British production, which has aired over 18,600 episodes, is broadcast on Radio 4, the BBC‘s main spoken-word channel. Originally billed as an everyday story of country folk, it is now described as a contemporary drama in a rural setting.

Five pilot episodes were aired in 1950 and the first episode was broadcast nationally on 1 January 1951. A significant show in British popular culture, and with over five million listeners, it is Radio 4’s most listened-to non-news programme. With over one million listeners via the internet, the programme holds the record for BBC Radio online listening figures.

The Academic Archers is an experimental form of academic community with The Archers as a lens through which wider issues can be explored. The web site (which includes videos from the 2018 conference) explains: “As a community we share our knowledge of the programme, our research interests, and a lot of laughs, creating the academic field if you will, of Ambridgeology. In all that we do, are values are to be ‘curious, generous and joyful’.”

And so on to our abstract:

Education and careers in the Archers viewed through the lens of gender and class

The paper will explore attitudes to education and educational participation and achievement in The Archers through the lens of gender and class.

There has never been a teacher in the cast of the Archers. The nearest is Jim, but as a retired Classics professor, he is something of a parody. Does the Archers have a problem with education?

Attitudes to education and to the choice of future career are largely determined by class. There’s the split between the cathedral school and the state school. Shula and Elizabeth’s kids attend the Cathedral school, the Brookfield children the other. Ruari is so precious he is a boarder – too good for the Cathedral school?

Higher education remains a relative rarity in Ambridge. Phoebe, Alice and Pip are the exceptions, although the Fairbrother’s rugby playing background suggests they too may have attended university. Apprenticeships are for the less academically able, such as Johnny.

Parental background largely accounts for choice of career. Few offspring have flown the nest to a completely new occupation. Indeed, it is notable that Ambridge still lacks a single person working in Information Technology.

And what of children with SLD? The only child with Down’s Syndrome was ‘removed’ from Ambridge to the big city to better meet her educational needs despite educational policy promoting integration in local, mainstream schools?

The question is to what extent The Archers reflects changing attitudes to education in rural areas of the UK and continuing divisions through class and gender?

About the authors

Both Jenny Hughes and Graham Attwell are lifelong Archers listeners. They work for Pontydysgu, an educational research organisation based in Pontypridd. Their research includes the training of teachers, the use of technology in the classroom and careers education.

Adult Education in Wales

May 11th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Learning and Work Institute is organising this year’s adult learning conference in partnership with the Adult Learning Partnership Wales. It will take place on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

They say “Changing demographics and a changing economy requires us to re-think our approach to the delivery of learning and skills for adults. What works and what needs to change in terms of policy and practice?

The conference will seek to debate how can we respond to need, grow participation, improve and measure outcomes for citizens, and revitalise community education.”

Highlights from the Pontydysgu Studio – Learning lessons from key projects

April 20th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I wrote down some memories of the so-called Pontydysgu Studio in Bremen, now that that ‘studio’ has been closed and the Pontydysgu activities are continued mainly in Wales (Pontydysgu Ltd) and in Spain (Pontydysgu SL). With that post I tried to give an overview on the work with multimedia (in general) and as a part of our joint projects. With this post I want to give the floor to key actors of Pontydysgu – Jenny Hughes and Graham Attwell. In the year 2012 I made some video interviews for my project of that time. In the interviews with Jenny and Graham I asked them to tell what they had learned in some of their key projects and how these lessons could be taken further to possible successor projects.

Jenny: The continuing learning process through different TACCLE projects

Among the Pontydysgu-led or -supported projects the series of TACCLE projects is a clear success story. It started with the first TACCLE project (Teachers’ Aids on Creating Content for Learning Environments) that prepared an E-learning handbook for teachers classroom teachers. In the Taccle2 project the work was differentiated to address different subject areas and alongside them the primary education teachers. In the Taccle3 the emphasis on teaching programming and coding for school children. And the (so far) newest project Taccle4 focuses on developing materials and media to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. The following two interviews were recorded already in 2012, so the it was not quite clear, in what order the successor projects would come up, but the vision was clear – this work merits to be continued.

Graham: Lessons from predecessor projects – conclusions for the Learning Layers project

In the videos above  Jenny discussed a clear continuum of projects and a training and learning strategy that was developed further in the successive steps. In this respect the interviews with Graham were somewhat different. Firstly, they covered a longer period and a wider range of projects in which very different experiences could be made. Secondly, in the latter videos they focused on comparing the predecessor projects with the forthcoming Learning Layers project. Therefore, I have selected the two latest videos for this post – the discussion on the immediate predecessor project and the shift of emphasis to the new project. Here it is worthwhile to note what challenges Graham brought into discussion and how he expected us to meet the challenges.

I think this is enough of these highlights. To me, both sets of videos have very timely messages for our current projects. I Jenny’s case we are talking of the Taccle4 project to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers. In Graham’s case we are talking about the successor activities of the Learning Layers project and its construction pilot – now that we can build upon the Learning Toolbox (LTB) that was developed in the project. Yet, the message  – that we have to meet the challenges of the construction sector partners in their complexity – is very valid. And at the same time we have to be able to address these needs by customising the LTB and by complementary measures – training, introduction of additional software solutions and by participative co-design processes. This work is still going on.

More blogs to come …

“Mein Koffer in Berlin” – Part Three: The highlight – the Paganini-Marathon & Extras

April 13th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two previous posts I have been writing a series of blog entries  on my recent visit to Berlin – the ‘second home town’ of the mid-1990s when I was working at Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training). My motto is the same as that of other alt-Berliner who long for getting back – “Ich habe noch einen Koffer in Berlin“. In my previous blogs I have told of my sightseeing rounds – walking in Berlin – and of my encounters with friends of old – meetings in Berlin. But now it is time to come to the highlight of the visit and tell the reason for being in Berlin during those sunny days. I was there to attend a concert that was announced as “Paganini-Marathon”. I have reported in my blogs of December 2017 how I got enthusiastic of classical music at the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in June and how I have followed a brilliant multi-instrumentalist Sergey Malov after the festival. But perhaps it is worthwhile to recapitulate some points of that story before going to the concert of Tuesday the 10th of April.

The “Kuhmo Magic” and its impact

Well, how did it all start and how did it develop further? For many years I have been going to Kuhmo to listen chamber music because my beloved Johanna has always been a passionate fan of classical music. We had been shuttling ourselves from the neighbouring Sotkamo (frome Johanna’s home grounds). I have enjoyed the music as well but when we have been attending just a few concerts, it has not made that great impact on me. But in summer 2017 we decided to give us a treat – to take the weekly tickets for both two weeks and to get the accommodation from the centre of Kuhmo – walking distance from the concert venues. And that gave us an entirely new perspective for experiencing the Kuhmo Magic.

Well well. how to explain what is so special in Kuhmo. Perhaps it is better that I don’t even try to do it now with my own words. Instead, I am better of recommending the short article written by the British-Italian top violinist Hugo Ticciati, who knows Kuhmo as a special place and with a special atmosphere. And in his article “See you in Kuhmo!”: A performer’s perspective he has given a complete picture – so, please have a look and enjoy his explanation:

https://bachtrack.com/feature-ticciati-kuhmo-chamber-music-festival-april-2018

And if the article itself doesn’t give a sufficient impression on the place, let us have a look at the landscapes of Kuhmo as the background for musical performances – here for Daniel Rowland and Marcelo Nisinman:

In my blogs of December I have told, how I got into conversation with Sergey Malov on his use of special effects in his Paganini concert in Kuhmo (which reminded me of a special scene in Emil Loteanu’s film “Lautarii”). And when we both had found the film on YouTube and shared our impressions, we had more themes and I was happy to follow Sergey’s other concerts and his performances in the Salakamari (“The seceret chamber”). Below we see firstly Sergey performing with Klaus Mäkelä and Antti Tikkanen. In the second photo we see Alberto Mesirca performing with Daniel Rowland. In the third photo we see Marcelo Nisinman performing with Daniel Rowland. Such experiences  made all the difference when compared to the previous years – we all were residents of the “Kuhmo planet” and it was very easy to for music-lovers to start a conversation with artists who were around. And we enjoyed the “Kuhmo cocktail” provided by the festival program.

Kuhmo Salakamari 1Kuhmo Salakamari3Kuhmo Salakamari 2

The concerts in Helsinki and Tampere

After the Kuhmo experience I made my homework by searching all possible videos of Sergey Malov and by examining his concert calendar if I could possibly attend his concerts in the autumn or winter. Most of the time the dates of the concerts clashed with my travel schedules and I couldn’t be there. But I was lucky to watch the concert of Klaus Mäkelä (conductor) and Sergey (soloist) with the Helsinki Philharmonic orchestra. This was a special event since it took place two days after the 100th Independence Day of Finland and on the 152nd birthday of Jean Sibelius. It is obvious that Sergey played Sibelius and he did it well. I was happy to watch the concert on livestream and afterwards as a video recording. Unfortunately this video is no longer available, but the interview of Sergey after the rehearsal is still available:

https://www.helsinkikanava.fi/kanava/fi/videot/video?id=3576

Then, finally, in the beginning of March I had the chance to attend the next great concert of Klaus Mäkelä and Sergey – this time in Tampere (my old home town) and in the concert hall Tampere-talo (next to my old university). This was an opportunity not to be missed. And I managed to get the young hobby-violinist Karita from our family circle to join me in the concert. So, there we were, firstly listening to the warm-up talks before the concert hearing all kinds of things about the pieces of music to be played. But we heard also of Sergey’s sport exercises on the ice of the lake Näsijärvi during the week before the concert. And we had a discussion on the role of violoncello da spalla in his forthcoming concerts in Kuhmo and Kuusamo (further North) in the following week. Unfortunately there is no video recording of these talks nor on the concert. But it was great to listen to Sergey playing Stravinsky.

During the intermission we had a chance for catch-up talks with Sergey and I told him that I would come to Berlin as well. And Karita was happy to get the record “Hommage à Ysaÿe” signed by Sergey as a belated birthday present.

Tampere-talo Fr 9.3.2018Signing the record

The Paganini-Marathon

Then it was the time for the ‘Paganini-Marathon’ in Berlin. To be sure, we knew that Sergey had produced a great record as “Hommage à Paganini” and an equally great video “Paganini live” in addition to the trailer of the video. So, many of us knew what to expect.

Also, the guitarist Alberto Mesirca had played nicely Paganini cantabile with Daniel Rowland in an interesting location.

Yet, what we got was something more vivid, something more creative and something more seamlessly played than anything what we had expected before. The chain of Paganini’s caprices was opened by Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti and by music of Nicola Matteis. But when we got to Paganini, everything worked like a clock. A major clock was projected on the wall and when the music moved on from one caprice to another, the pointers of the clock were moved one hour further. So, in this way we were kept informed of what was currently going on, Yet, there were imaginative blends played in the middle of the music. At a certain point I and my Scottish colleague started to pick some Scottish influences – and then there were some parts of “Scotland the brave” inspiring Paganini to the final run. In the next phase it seemed to us that there was some Hungarian flavour integrated into the music of Maestro Paganini. To be sure, this didn’t disturb us at the least. Here a short clip of the sounds of Maestro Paganini at the concert:

https://www.facebook.com/smalov/videos/1580840885296953/

Altogether we all in the audience, in particular Maria Lazareva from Moscow, my ex-colleague Alison from Berlin and myself were overwhelmed and stunned of what we could see and hear. And the encore – Henri Vieuxtemps’ Capriccio for Viola – was completely disarming us. There was no other response to that than a standing ovation – and all the others in the audience felt in the same way. We enjoyed very much and we hope that the video that was recorded will be edited for public viewing.

The ‘debriefing’ extras after the concert

At the end of the concert we noted that there was no restaurant or cafeteria in the same building or in the neighbourhood that could have accommodated us for some kind of group talks after the event. So, most of the audience faded away while I was getting the CDs signed by Sergey. And suddenly we were only a small group of family members, musicians, support team members – and me. I was very pleased that Sergey and Anna could host our little group at their place. And we had some nice talks on music, technical support, films and videos as well as other topics. And in the middle of all that Sergey presented us yet another instrument and explained how it works. Here we only have a still image of it (on Instagram Sergey has uploaded a video with sound.) So, at the end of the day there are no limits to creativity when our top artists are concerned. Altogether, we in the audience were happy with what we had experienced during that evening.

Sergey with new instrumentPaganini-Marathon_audience

I guess this is enough of the background and of my impressions on the concert. After the event we in the audience were overwhelmed, stunned and speechless. Gradually we are getting our impressions together. But it would be a great thing to get a video recording of this magnificent concert to refresh the memories. We are looking forward to it and to the next concerts of our musicians.

More blogs to come …

 

 

“Mein Koffer in Berlin” – Part Two: Refreshing memories and catching up with friends of old

April 12th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started a series of blog entries focusing on my recent visit to Berlin and on the chances to refresh my memories from the mid-1990s when I was working and living in Berlin. My motto is the same as with many famous artists who have left Berlin and long for getting back – “Ich habe noch einen Koffer in Berlin” – as the old song tells us. In the first post I told you how I was dealing with my luggage of memories while walking around Berlin and seeing the well-known sights. In this second post I shift the emphasis to meetings with friends and colleagues of old time – many of which I had not seen in 15 – 20 years. So, there was a lot of sharing and catching up with different groups of good friends.

Treffpunkt “Mutter Hoppe” – catching up with Sabine and John

In my first lunch meeting the venue itself was part of the memories. But let us begin from the start. I had met Sabine Manning already during my first weeks working at Cedefop. then in Berlin. I knew of her research interests in comparative educational studies. In particular I knew that she had studied initiatives that ingrate general/academic and vocational learning into dually oriented qualifications (Doppelqualifizierende Bildungsgänge). When Cedefop – my employer organisation – moved from Berlin to Thessaloniki I got the chance to monitor an accompany European cooperation projects. This led to a long-term cooperation with Sabine who was leading a set of such projects and my beloved Johanna (who became my partner in life) who was leading another set. This cooperation was continued in the annual ECER conferences and in the VETNET network for European research in vocational education and training.

So, coming back to the restaurant “Mutter Hoppe” – this old-styled restaurant at the Alexanderplatz had served as a meeting point for me, Johanna, Sabine and her husband John some ten years ago. Since then we had mostly contacts via phone and e-mails, but not via face to face meetings. So, this time it was very convenient for us three to meet at Mutter Hoppe (and keep Johanna present in our talks). To some extent we discussed the recent news of the VETNET network (to which Sabine contributes via her mailing list and newsletter) and the forthcoming events. But as family friends we shared a lot of family news. I told  of our experiences working as expatriates (me in Bremen, Johanna in Tampa, Florida). And we had a lot of news to share of the adult children pursuing their careers as expats, returners or home-bound. And of course we talked about grandchildren. So, we had a nice lunch in a very convenient location (see photos of the restaurant) that I totally forgot to take photos of ourselves.

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Treffpunkt “Hellas” – ‘Klassentreffen’ with veterans of BiBB and affiliated friends

Another meeting took place on the same evening after I had been walking around in Berlin (see my previous blog). This meeting was agreed with two friends of old (including their spouses – also good friends of old), but they had managed to spread the news and some more friends came along. So, we were a nice group – just like a “Klassentreffen” (a school class reunion). And here again, the venue was part of the memory. The restaurant “Hellas” was very close to the building of Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) when it was located in Berlin. (Now I was surprised to see that the building serves as the cultural department of the embassy of a non-European country.) And given that Cedefop (and me with my employer organisation) had moved to Thessaloniki, I was pleased to refresh my memories of Greece in a Greek restaurant.

Thinking of my friends who were there, I had learned to know Gerhard Zimmer already during my first visits to Germany 1989, 1990 and 1993 and he had visited Finland in 1990. And during the years 1994-1995 we had a lot of sharing knowledge and experiences, including leisure activities involving also his wife Brigitte and my daughter Paula (who visited me in Berlin every now and then). At thar time Gerhard was working in the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BiBB) in Berlin. After my years in Thessaloniki I had a chance to bring a group of vocational teacher educators to Germany in the beginning of the year 2004 and then we visited Hamburg, where Gerhard was now a professor in the Helmut-Schmidt-Universität. Again, it was a good encounter with several common themes.

With Reinhard Selka my cooperation started shortly after the move of Cedefop to Thessaloniki. On top of my duties in research cooperation in the field of vocational education and training (VET) I had taken a temporary responsibility on the project ‘Teachers and Trainers in VET’ since the earlier project manager had left Cedefop. During the transitional period Reinhard (as the expert on ‘training of trainers’ in BiBB) was a great help and a great friend as well. During our cooperation in this period I was happy to receive him in Thessaloniki and to visit his place in Berlin. His spouse Monika with her Greece-expertise was a natural ally in these talks. And it was a great experience to attend the concert of the Dubliners in the Tempodrom tent (next to Haus der Kulturen der Welt) with Reinhard, Monika and my son Antti (who was at that time a teenager). When handing over the transitional responsibility on that theme ‘training of trainers’ our cooperation came to an end and shortly afterwards Reinhard retired from BiBB.

With Johannes Koch I got acquainted in the same conferences as Gerhard Zimmer and as the neighbour of Reinhard. Johannes had been for a long time a prominent representative of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) attached to pilot projects (Modellversuche) in the field of VET. Johannes had been the prominent promoter of pilots with self-organised learning supported with instructional scripts (Leittexte) and analysed the importance of appropriate working & learning tasks in the field of VET. With Johannes our cooperation went further, including my first years in the ITB (when we were in charge of promoting networks and consultation processes across Europe).

With Bent Paulsen I had been in cooperation during the early stage of the European action programme Leonardo da Vinci. Bent had become the head of the Leonardo coordination unit in BiBB and I was working my way into the realm of European cooperation. Our discussions in Berlin (before the move of Cedefop) and afterwards, during my visits to Berlin, gave me a lot of support and solidarity.

So, altogether we were like a group of classmates after many years’ break. And just continuing from what we had had as common topics, we managed to pay attention to critical incidents. But, after all, I hope that the picture above has been appropriate and yet appreciates the contribution of the expert musicians from wherever they come. In this meeting we got ourselves into a special feel for Greece that it merits to be presented below. And here again, we forgot to take photos. So, here we come! As a compensation of the photos, let us take as a common denominator our interest in Greece and Greek culture and let us call Maria Farantouri to express that!

Treffpunkt “Raymons” (Spandau) – Refreshing memories on Berlin and Thessaloniki with Alison & Gerd

My final meeting of this type was with my former Cedefop colleague Alison Clark (from Scotland, but a real Berlin oldtimer) and her husband Gerd Romeike (a native Spandau inhabitant). I had learned to know Alison as the cheerful coordinator of the Cedefop translation service and as the natural meeting point hostess for the afternoon tea for the more or less British tea-drinkers in the Berlin time. After the move to Thessaloniki the afternoon tea break with Alison’s teapot helped us to put away with all kinds of monor inconveniences of the beginning period. And when we started to get settled, Gerd was also seen there as a frequent visitor to join the family of Cedefopians. Also, with Alison I got involved into the Caledonian society of Thessaloniki as a quasi adopted Scotsman and that was a great musical and cultural experience.

After my temporary contract in Cedefop came to an end my friends among colleagues prepared a special farewell song to me – “The melting snowman” – and Alison and Gerd were involved there as well. So, after all these years, it was a great pleasure to have a private catch-up after they had left Thessaloniki behind and got both settled to Berlin. Indeed, there was a lot of talk on Berlin, Thessaloniki and friends of old – as well as of experiences of travelling around the world. And I was happy to get Alison with me to join my main activity during this Berlin visit (see my next blog post). We had an enjoyable lunch session at a lakeside restaurant Raymons in Spandau and as they were both shining in the photos. Good for them!

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I think this is enough of these meetings and of the magic of being back in Berlin with friends of old – as if the years in between had not been there and as if it had been just a couple of days since we met last time. This was very encouraging and empowering. Yet, the best of all was to come after these encounters – but that is a topic for another blog entry.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

“Mein Koffer in Berlin” – Part One: Refreshing memories of 1990s and walking around

April 12th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Ich habe noch einen Koffer in Berlin” (I still have a piece of luggage in Berlin) – this is the way that old Berliners express their longing for getting back to the home town they have left behind. The first one (if remember correctly) to record the song was Marlene Dietrich, and many others have done it after her. I am not a singer but I share this feeling although my time in Berlin was relatively short – from June 1994 to September 1995. But that was long enough to get familiar with the mega-city consisting of different kinds of districts (Bezirken) that had once been independent municipalities. And the history of Berlin (East and West) has left its traces, as well as the unification and the rebuilding and remodelling of the capital of the unified Germany. So, now that I had a chance to spend three days in Berlin, I got back to my luggage of memories just like Marlene Dietrich in her song.

Walking in Berlin – the sights “um de Ecke” (round ‘e corner) in East Berlin

To me, walking in Berlin was an endless series of expeditions in different parts of Berlin in the years 1994 – 1995. At that time I was working as a national seconded expert at Cedefop (European centre for the development of vocational training) – during that last year and a half before the centre was relocated to Thessaloniki, Greece. But this is not a story of my work but of my memories of Berlin. So, I kept visiting firstly the centres of West Berlin and East Berlin – the divide into two was still there and the construction sites in the border zones were only taking shape. And with the tube (U-Bahn) I travelled to all surrounding districts and collected impressions. So, I learned to love the city and felt bad about the thought that we had to move elsewhere. (But that, again, is another story – not for this blog entry.)

So, now that I had quite some spare time, I was there again, walking in Berlin and visiting the sights of the centres. I started from East Berlin, since my hotel was there (for reasons to be told later). And the obvious point to start was the Alexanderplatz (‘Alex’, as the locals call it). During my years in Berlin it remained pretty much the same as it was after the unification, but major changes were to come in the near future. So, the central buildings of the DDR-regime were to be demolished and completely new buildings were to be built, in particular due to the move of the capital city (Hauptstadtumzug) that was still on its way. Now, most of that rebuilding work had been done, but yet there was quite a lot of construction work going on around the Alex. This can be seen from the photos that I took there.

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What we don’t see any longer in these pictures, is the former parliament of DDR, Palast der Republik, also called by some locals as “Erichs Lampenladen” (Erich’s lamp boutique) due its luxurious lighting from inside and outside. But, as we see it, the respectable fellows Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are still there and observing, what all is going on.

Demonstrating in Berlin – “Berlin brennt” (Berlin is burning)

During my years in Berlin in the 1990s I experienced a lot of demonstrations – including the techno event Love parade that was officially a demonstration. This time the overarching trade union of employees in (public and private) service occupations – ver.di – had strikes (that didn’t have an impact on my travels or stay in the city). I didn’t see any great mass demonstration BUT I saw a very special demonstration of the fire fighters in front of the city hall of Berlin (Rote Rathaus). The fire fighters raised issues on health and safety, working hours, retirement arrangements, outdated equipment … . And they had found effective ways to present their message as we see it from the photos. I was happy to support them by signing their petition and by giving a statement that was recorded on a video. I hope that the authorities will count on the fire fighters when something starts burning – rather than on the old pal Poseidon, who was placed near them. (BTW, the red building in the final picture is not from Alex, it is the headquarters of ver.di close to my hotel on the other side of the river Spree.)

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Berliner Dom – Unter den Linden – Brandenburger Tor – Reichstag

Probably the best way to get a feeling for the history of Berlin and for the critical moments is to proceed from Alex via the Berliner Dom to the main street Unter den Linden up to Brandenburger Tor (the Brandenburg gate) and to the old parliament building Reichstag. When moving between the gate and the old parliament building one cannot help thinking, how deeply the years of separation and the wall between the two parts had torn the people apart from each other. Here some photos of the Dom, Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag.

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Bahnhof Zoo – Gedächtniskirche – Ku’damm

But, to be honest, at the time when I was working in Berlin, most of us (me and my colleagues) still perceived the centre of West Berlin as the real and living centre of Berlin. And accordingly, the Kurfürstendamm (or shortened as Ku’damm) counted as the main street for business and tourists. The centre of East Berlin (Mitte) was perceived more like the historical centre that was a bit out – or to some colleagues very much out (as the phrase ‘jott-wee-dee’ meaning ‘janz weit draussen’). Now, visiting shortly the central places of West-Berlin, I got the impression that that part is now being squeezed by the new buildings and the ongoing construction work. Obviously, the railway station Bahnhof Zoo and the ruin church (Gedächtniskirche) with its memorial building remain as clear landmarks. But the legendary Kranzler-Ecke – and the cafeteria that gave the name for that corner – have been squeezed into minor diminutives. Well, times – they are a-changing – as we know it from the old song.

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Ach weh! So many memories are creeping to my mind just when writing this and adding the photos. But I guess this is enough for this blog post. In my next post I will give insights into the meetings with friends of old and how we refreshed our memories when having lunch or dinner together.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

 

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