Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Three: Discussions on common qualification frameworks and credit transfer systems

August 29th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two previous blogs I have started a series to report on my experiences at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. With my first post I presented a thematic overview (and working agenda) on reports to come. In the second post I gave insights to my own presentation on the role of “Begleitforschung” (Accompanying research) in the Learning Layers project. With this third post I will make remarks on sessions that discussed national/international qualification frameworks and trans-national credit transfer systems. Here I do not try to cover entire sessions (which may have had several themes under a ‘common’ umbrella). Instead, I try to make transparent some red threads that I could follow across similar sessions and presentations.

The rocky road to qualification frameworks … and looking how they work

Before I start my reporting on the contributions to this theme in ECER 2017, I prefer to share some memories of ECER conferences about ten years ago. In ECER 2015 one of the highlights was the contribution of a large consortium of researchers discussing a policy study – the “Maastricht study” on the attainment of the goals of the Lisbon study. This discussion was informative, analytical and critical as well. It raised several themes to be followed. Yet, there was no direct follow-up. Instead, in the next conferences until 2009 major emphasis was given on the making and functioning (?) of the European Qualification Framework (EQF). This discussion was polarised between fundamental critique and interim reports from the EQF-processes. The tensions in these debates were put into concept with the metaphor “The Holy Trinity” referring to three functions that the EQF tries to fulfill without achieving any of them.

In the light of the above presented experiences it was interesting to see, how the discussion on qualification frameworks was brought back – now from a wider international perspective. Stephanie Allais from South Africa had worked in an international study that had analysed the making of national or trans-national qualification frameworks in different global regions. She had been involved in an earlier study and now there was a follow-up phase. Here I cannot go into details of her presentation. My impression was that in many cases making of the framework was characterised by writing existing structures and educational practices into the given format – instead of rethinking and reshaping them. In this respect the frameworks hardly fulfilled the function of policy development or transfer of innovation. Therefore, it was appropriate to discuss, whether the introduction of such frameworks has been mostly useful or useless but harmless or downright counterproductive regarding the development of educational practices.

In another session Stephanie presented a picture on the development of VET in three African countries – South Africa, Ethiopia and Ghana – with an emphasis to highlight the current developments at the level of educational practices. Furthermore, in her presentation Christiane Eberhardt discussed the differences between the German approach to recognition of prior learning v.s. the Australian approach to allow ‘skilled migration’ as precondition for visa.

To package circles into squares with credit transfer instruments … and how to do it in a smart way

Another session, managed by Sandra Bohlinger and her project team, brought into picture the work with credit transfer instruments. The presentations and the underlying two projects focused on healthcare sector – as a particularly interesting field from the perspective of European/international mobility. This was highlighted by the project team and in addition by the European policy expert Torsten Dunkel who reported on recent policy developments.

Here I need to remind us, how the theme ‘credit transfer’ was discussed in VETNET about ten years ago. Whilst the making of qualification frameworks was perceived as a push towards atomisation and fragmentation of holistic VET cultures, the role of credit transfer was perceived in a different light. Obviously, also in that exercise the risk of atomisation was there. But yet, the pioneer projects with the model VQTS tried to substantiate the credit transfer process by analysing work tasks and the development from novice to expert. Here the slogan was ‘putting Dreyfus to work’ (with reference to the well-known work of Dreyfus & Dreyfus).

In the light of this background it was interesting to see, how the newer projects had positioned themselves and what kind of tools (including both pedagogic and digital tools) they were developing. Here I will not try to present the contributions of individual presenters. Instead, it is worthwhile to mention that it took us some time to get an appropriate picture on the (limited) ambitions of the project. There was a risk to interpret their work as preparation for atomistic curricula – instead of tools for light-weight credit transfer procedures. And here, it was easy to get a false impression that the tools would be intended for costly and time-consuming (and commercialised) recognition processes. From this perspective the project team gave us the necessary clarification and we could focus on their real achievements.

– – –

I guess this is enough of these themes. The presentations of ECER 2017 will be published on the Vetnetsite, see the section 2017 Copenhagen Presentations. Background information on the discussion on these themes in the previous ECER conferences is available in my blog articles on the Vetnetsite (see

My journey with the VETNET network – Insights into the evolution of European vocational education and training research: The years of stabilisation of the VETNET community 2001 – 2006 (Part 3)

and

My journey with the VETNET network – Insights into the evolution of European vocational education and training research: The years of consolidation 2007 – 2011 (Part 4).

In my next post I will focus on studies and presentations that discuss vocational teacher education.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Two: My reflections on Accompanying Research in the Learning Layers project

August 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started a series of posts to wrap up my experiences in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. I presented a thematic overview and a working agenda to explore different aspects that came up in the sessions I attended. With this post I give insights into my own presentation.

Background, work plan and modification of the plan

This year all my conference presentations focus on revisiting and reconceptualising our experience with the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot. In particular I want to highlight the particular role of our “Begleitforschung” (Accompanying research) approach in the complex projects. Initially I had planned to write three parallel research papers and to present them in three successive conferences (see my post of April “Revisiting the Learning Layers experience – A “ToDo List” for forthcoming conferences“). I could partly implement it by preparing the first paper for the Stockholm International VET Conference in May – with emphasis on Accompanying research as promoter of action-oriented learning (Handlungsorientiertes Lernen). Then, I could prepare a second paper that I intended to present in the Rostock International VET Conference one week before the ECER. In this paper the main emphasis was given on revisiting the theme ‘work process knowledge’ and linking it to newer innovation agendas – in particular to “Industry 4.0”. However, then – due to intervening factors – I neither had the chance to present this paper in Rostock nor to prepare a third paper for ECER. Thus, I had to postpone my work with the methodological development of Accompanying research in the Learning Layers project (compared with prior approaches in pilot projects and innovation programmes).

Looking back at Learning Layers project – and forward to the follow-up

As has been the case with some other presentations, I had to give some background information, how the Learning Layers project was shaped and how the two sectoral pilots (in Healthcare and Construction) worked. Then I had to give insights into the change in the design idea – from digitising learning resources to shaping of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and to different iterations. Finally, I had to to draw attention to the complementary relations between co-design workshops, multimedia training and pilot testing with digital tools. Mostly, these activities were carried out in the training centre Bau-ABC of the North-German construction industries and trades. Here, the key achievement was the introduction of the LTB as a digital toolset to support (trade-specific) training and learning in Bau-ABC.

But I also managed to give insights into the follow-up activities that promote company-specific applications of the LTB (as contributions to overarching management of work-related knowledge processes) and similar uses of LTB in continuing vocational training (as support for integrative curriculum development and learning approaches). In addition, one follow-up process is shaping integrative approaches to ‘health and safety’  in construction sector. All these processes are taking further steps to reach real work contexts and users in work organisations.

Revisiting the theme ‘work process knowledge’ and analysing old and new innovation agendas

In the light of the above it was worthwhile recapitulating, what we had learned from studying the legacy of the “Work process knowledge network” of the years 1997 -2004. In particular it was important to compare the views on the role of VET and informal learning in promoting the acquisition of work process knowledge. Furthermore, it was important to take on board the recent analyses on three generations of innovation programmes in working life (‘Humanisation of work’, ‘Learning organisations’ and ‘Industry 4.0’). With the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’ I explored the recent analyses of German sociologists and educationalists on the general frontiers in the debates (techno-centric v.s. socio-technical approaches) and efforts to develop spaces and facilities for learning within work processes or to shape complementary learning spaces.

– – –

I think this is enough for a brief introduction. The long version of my paper is available on ResearchGate (see ‘Begleitforschung’ as contributor to digitisation in vocational education and training (VET) for construction sector – Linking ‘work process knowledge’ to ‘Industry 4.0’. The short version will be published in the proceedings of the Rostock conference (see the forthcoming conference proceedings). And my PowerPoint presentation will be published on the website of the VETNET network (see the Vetnetsite/2017 Copenhagen Presentations).

Concerning the feedback that I got, I note that the issue ‘scientific status of accompanying research’ has been discussed recently when the research work of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) in Germany has been evaluated. Indeed, I need to continue my work with this theme and inform myself the points made in this evaluation.

In my next posts I will discuss some key themes that were discussed in several sessions.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part One: Thematic overview

August 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I already made some remarks on the circumstances that overshadowed my participation in ECER 2017 and on my plans to report on the experience on the VETNET sessions. Yet, I think it is better that I provide a thematic overview – or a working agenda – for my forthcoming blogs. With each of the themes to be covered I have also different role positions and interests of knowledge that need to be taken into account.

For the moment I see the need to report on the following themes:

  • My own presentation on “Begleitforschung” (Accompanying research) in the context of the Learning Layers project and in the follow-up of its construction pilot;
  • Issues on European/national qualification frameworks and in studies on credit transfer – in current projects and in the VETNET sessions of the past;
  • Issues on vocational teacher education and on the role of practice-based learning (= practicum) phases – in current contexts and as topics of our previous European projects;
  • Discussions on ‘multi-methodological practices’ and perspective transformations in research on vocational education and training (VET) – in the light of current studies and earlier (implicit) agreements on European VET research (within the VETNET community);
  • Updates on recent news and developments in the VETNET community.

I guess these are the key themes that I need to cover – and at the same time revisit my own experience as a presenter, session chair or active participant in the discussion.

More blogs to come …

Insights into ECER 2017 – Back to the ECER

August 27th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

As I indicated in my previous post, I had a longer summer break than I had planned. Therefore, I had to change my conference plans. I had to cancel my participation in the International VET conference “Crossing Boundaries in VET” because of clashes with an important event elsewhere. And I had to travel to the European Conference on Educational  Research (ECER 2017)  directly from Finland instead of having started my work in Bremen.

This year my participation in ECER was a kind of ‘return of the oldie’ since I had to skip the ECER 2016 in Dublin due to health issues. Luckily enough, the health issues were not in the picture and I could give a full contribution as a session chair (in four sessions) and as a presenter (one individual paper presentation). The above mentioned intervening factors caused a change in my plans regarding the content of my presentation. As I had to skip the conference in Rostock, I could now use that paper for my presentation in ECER. The topic that I originally had in my mind for ECER is on my list as an urgent task after I return to work.

In my forthcoming blogs I will give insights into my own presentation and into themes that were covered in the sessions that I chaired and/or attended as a participant. Furthermore, I will present latest news on the VETNET network for European research in vocational education and training.

More blogs to come …

Back to work – Back to my blog

August 26th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

This year my summer break has been longer than I expected. I had anticipated that I could start working from my Finnish home base already at the beginning of August and that I would have returned to Bremen in the middle of the month. All that changed due to very sad intervening factors (which I do not want to discuss here). The consequence was that I had to take more time for myself and postpone my work plans until I am ready for them.

This week Ihave participated in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) in Copenhagen. I came directly from Finland and jumped into an intensive conference program. Now I am on my way back to Bremen to start my regular work – having the sad period in Finland and the inspiring conference behind. In my next blogs I will report on the highlights of the ECER 2017 and of the work of the VETNET network (European vocational education and training research network).

More blogs to come …

Rainer Bremer in Memoriam

March 6th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

At the end of January we received the sad news that our ITB and VETNET colleague Rainer Bremer had passed away after a difficult phase with severe illnesses. Three days ago he would have celebrated his 65th birthday, but now he is gone. It has taken some time to get my thoughts together on this fact. After all, I have known Rainer since 1993 when I was still working as a junior researcher in Finland and building contacts with ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung, University of Bremen). Shortly afterwards I changed to Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and in that contexts worked together with several EU-funded projects – and Rainer was involved in some of them. Then, from 2005 I have been working in ITB and Rainer has been one of veterans of ITB who continued all these years with national, European and international projects.

Below I try to bring together some memories of Rainer from different phases of our research careers. In particular I would like to focus on our encounters in project work and in the many ECER events (European Conference on Educational Research) in which Rainer was prominently present from the early years on.

Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and other similar pilot projects

I learned to know Rainer shortly after he had started in ITB and in the accompanying research team of the pilot project Schwarze Pumpe (wissenschaftliche Begleitung der Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe). This pilot project focused on promoting dually oriented qualifications – acquisition of regular vocational qualification and university entrance qualification (Fachhochschulreife) – without extension of education and training time. Rainer was responsible for accompanying the school part of the pilot, Hans-Dieter Höpfner for the workplace part, and Gerald Heidegger for the management of the accompanying research altogether.

During my first years at Cedefop I had the pleasure to attend some of the interim events of this pilot. In particular I was impressed by the integrated projects that some teams of vocational school teachers and in-company trainers had planned together – involving apprentices from different trades. And I was pleased with the way that the accompanying researchers brought these pedagogic achievements forward. In particular this was the case with nation-wide conference of similar German pilot projects, coordinated by MV Schwarze Pumpe. It struck me that Rainer (from West-Germany) and Hans-Dieter (from East-Germany) could bring together pilot projects that highlighted best practice from West and East (relatively shortly after the German unification).

European projects on parity of esteem and dually oriented qualifications

In the first phase of the EU action programme for vocational education – Leonardo da Vinci – the themes ‘parity of esteem between general and vocational education’ and ‘integrated qualifications’ were high on the priority lists. Therefore, it was no wonder that the MV Schwarze Pumpe was represented in two Leonardo projects:

  • The project “Post-16 strategies” compared different systemic/institutional strategies for promoting attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET) and reducing the status gaps between VET and general education. The project came up with a mapping result that identifies four main strategies from institutional unification (intergerated upper secondary education) to enhancement of VET within existing institutional frameworks.
  • The project “Intequal” provided insights into different curricular models or schemes that promoted integration of general/academic and vocational learning. This project sought to give insights into the possibilities to integrate the parallel learning cultures at the level of practical pedagogic solutions.

During their work the two projects developed close cooperation with each other – and ITB (with MV Schwarze Pumpe as its exemplary case) was prominently present in this cooperation. Rainer and Gerald rotated with each in the meetings and were involved in the bilateral study visits of ‘Post-16 strategies’ (that involved practitioners from Germany and Norway to mutual visits on each others’ pilot venues). Also, I remember the discussions in which Rainer explained to other partners the meaning of the concept ‘Beruflichkeit’ (and the kind of vocational professionalism to which it refers in German education, training and working cultures). Somehow, all other colleagues had failed to go that deep into cultural core concepts. At the end of the day the concluding event of the MV Schwarze Pumpe incorporated also a Cedefop-hosted European seminar in which the European partners could familiarise themselves with the results of the German pilot project.

The classical ITB pilot projects (Modellversuche) GoLo, GAB and GaPa

Partly parallel to the above mentioned projects, partly after them ITB experienced a period of outstanding pilot projects (Modellversuche – MV) in the context of or parallel to national innovation programs:

  • The first one in the series was MV GoLo in the Wilhelmshaven region. It tried to turn the declining tendency in providing apprentice training by encouraging the companies and vocational schools to launch workplace learning partnerships. However, alongside the organisational innovations that made such cooperation attractive, the project supported joint domain-specific workshops to promote quality of vocational curricula and mutual adjustment. In this context the workshops highlighted the role of characteristic working and learning tasks (Lern- und Arbeitsaufgaben). Rainer was not personally involved in the GoLo project but he was keenly involved in the further develoment work with the concept ‘working and learning tasks’.
  • The second one in the series was MV GAB that was implemented at different production sites of Volkswagenwerk. It had the task to develop a new integrative framework for occupational core qualifications and competences for the automotive industries. Rainer was in charge of the accompanying research team and took further steps in developing the concept of Expert-Worker-Workshops (Ex-Wo-Wos) and the curricular embedding of working and learning tasks.
  • The third one, the regional MV GaPa in Nordrhein-Westfalen can be seen as a transfer-project that was built upon the regional networking approach of GoLo and on the pedagogic work in the GAB project. Rainer was in charge of the first phase of the project before moving to other tasks.

Here it is worthwhile to note that the wording ‘outstanding’ does not necessarily mean that all these pilots were success stories – or that successful practice in the pilot contexts would have been easily transferable to other contexts. Yet, they represented a phase of intensive concept development work that had an impact on many successor activities. Moreover, I need to add that Rainer had also other research interests at that time. He was developing cooperation between ITB and our friends in Oldenburg on school-to work transition. And I still remember that he had a project on integration of disadvantaged learners in VET in the area of Braunschweig.

European cooperation with projects focusing on trans-national production of Airbus and Volkswagen

After the above mentioned pilot projects Rainer worked with a new generation of pilot projects that focused on the trans-national production process of Airbus and the role of vocational education and training. Firstly there was a conceptual study EVABCOM (a conceptually and methodologically oriented forerunner project cooperation between ITB, the French CEREQ and the University of Stirling). Then two trans-national projects – AEROnet and Aero-VET brought into picture trans-national partnerships that covered the countries in which Airbus had production (Germany, France, Spain, UK). The point of interest was the contradiction between the fact that Airbus had a mutually coordinated production process BUT the VET cultures in the participating countries remained different. As I have understood it, the consortium focused in the first project on analysing the working and learning tasks of apprentices in different countries. In the second project the consortium explored the usability of European credit transfer framework (ECVET) across the countries. (Here I am not going into details of the projects or into the results – I just want to give a picture of different milestones during Rainer’s career as a European VET researcher.)

Parallel to the start of the Airbus-project Rainer had also worked with the VW Group sites in Czech Republic and Slovakia (producing Skoda) – introducing Expert-Worker-Workshops to the new sites of the VW Group. So, Rainer was working on several international fronts. And alongside his project-related cooperation he was keen on developing the bilateral relations between ITB and CEREQ (the French national centre for research on VET and labour market).

Rainer, ECER and the VETNET community

As has been indicated above, Rainer was involved in several transnational projects and consortia. Therefore, it was natural that he was also prominently present in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). In particular I remember his project-related contributions to ECER 2004 in Crete (the VW-Group pilots and the development of Expert-Worker-Workshops) and the subsequent AEROnet and Aero-VET related symposia in the ECER conferences after Crete.

But Rainer was also engaged as a keynote speaker and/or as a keynote panelist in the opening colloquia of the VETNET network at some ECER conferences. In particular in 2004 (in Crete) Rainer was the keynote speaker to start discussion on the question: “Should the field of VET have an international PISA study of its own kind?” There, Rainer defended the ITB position that there should be an alternative to PISA that pays attention to vocational learning and to vocational progression routes. The other panelist, Jenny Hughes from Pontydysgu presented a fundamental critique of the methodology used in PISA studies and of the PISA apparatus itself. Unfortunately the two positions couldn’t be matched with each other in the discussion – although they both represented an alternative approach vis-à-vis the official PISA. But the debate – moderated by the VETNET program chair Nikitas Patiniotis – was intensive and inspiring.

In ECER 2006, in Geneva, Rainer was also involved in the VETNET opening colloquium. This time the VETNET program chair Barbara Stalder had invited the grand old man of Swiss VET research, professor Rolf Dubs to present a keynote lecture on recent developments in Swiss VET policies and research. And as discussants, responding to the keynote speech, Barbara had engaged Annie Boudér from CEREQ and Rainer Bremer from ITB. Without going into details of that session it is worthwhile to note that ITB (in general) and Rainer (in particular) were interested in learning more of the Swiss VET culture in which apprentice training was valued much higher than in several other European countries. Also, Rainer was keen to learn more about the French concept ‘Baccalaureate professionelle’ which was considered asa successful model in opening a vocational progression route after the initial VET.

Rainer, the uneasy intellectual and independent thinker

I guess that I have already covered the main milestones of Rainer’s career as a European VET researcher (at least the ones of which I have personal memories). However, the picture would be incomplete if I wouldn’t characterise Rainer as a special personality – more than just a colleague among others. Firstly, Rainer was an academic scholar with a manifold background in philosophy, social theory and educational sciences. Secondly, Rainer had seriously worked himself in into the field of research in VET and working life – and he valued this context greatly. Thirdly, he was a critical thinker through and through – or as the Germans express it: “mit Ecken und Kanten”. So, Rainer was always looking for deep insights – something solid to build upon. And he was never satisfied with halfway thought platitudes that had not gone through critical examination. Also, he was very clear about his priorities – and on what he didn’t include to them. Yet, he had always his intellectual curiosity and his intellectual humour with him – as fellow travellers. And many colleagues remember his manifold cultural interests – literature and poetry, music from classic to pop and jazz, photography – and not to forget: driving fast with his favourite Citroen car.

Finally, I have chosen a piece of music which could be related to his memory: George Dalaras singing the melody of Mikis Theodorakis “Old streets” in the open-air concert on Athens Acropolis to celebrate the 70th birthday of the composer. (Please note that I am not responsible for eventual advertisements popping up with the link.)

We miss Rainer but we will remember, what he stood for.

Farewell Rainer, we will carry on …

 

Hyvää Kalevalan päivää 28.2. – Happy Kalevala Day February 28th

February 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally I have not made great noises about my Finnish nationality. And it has never crossed my mind to to start blogging in my own language – after all, I have been working several years as a European researcher (using English as the working language). However, this year – the year 2017 – is something different. Finland is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its independence (I have already blogged on this after the 99th Independence Day 2016).  And today, on the 28th of February we celebrate Kalevala – our national saga. So, this calls for a little explanation on the importance of Kalevala for our nation-building and on the circumstances in which it was created.

Finland in the 19th century – the search for Finnish national identity and Finnish national saga

During the Napoleon wars in the 19th century Sweden lost Finland to Russia. Since the wars were going on elsewhere in Europe, Russia was inclined to integrate the new province in a smooth way. So Finland was granted the status of an autonomous Grand-Duchy and the Russian Czar adopted the title Grand-Duke of Finland as well. Finland could keep the old Swedish legislation and govern itself as before – now showing loyality to the new rulers. This could be settled rather easily.

Yet, for the language, culture and national identity this transition was a challenge. So far the educated classes had spoken Swedish and tried to integrate with the elites of the Swedish motherland, whilst Finnish had remained as a language of uneducated. Now, Russian language came into picture as the language of the new rulers. The educated classes faced the question – how to position themselves in the new situation. A new movement emerged with the motto: “We are no longer Swedes, we don’t want to become Russians – let us be Finns!”

And as a part of this movement several hobby-folklorists started to roam around the rural areas to collect old folklore runes and songs to compile the new nation in making its national saga. The leading person in this movement was Elias Lönnroth who collected a huge amount of folklore and edited the national saga “Kalevala”. This saga tells of the arcaic ‘motherland region’ of Finland – Kalevala and of the ancient heroes of the past. Strangely enough, most of these heroes were tragic or tragicomic characters and this was explicit in the stories. (Perhaps the ancient Finns were kinsmen of Kaurismäki.)

The Kalevala runes

As usual with ancient folklore, the stories were told as runes or sung as songs, With Kalevala, the metrics were similar as Ilias and Odyssey: the Kalevala-trokee. Therefore, the obligatory Kalevala-reading at schools has been a challenge for the younger generations. So, it has been easier to pick the tradition via shortcut-versions of particular versions, modern-styled movies with ancient characters or cartoon-versions with dog-shaped humans portraying the Kalevala characters.

But enough with the explanations – let us give sample of Kalevala poetry! Below I start with an original quote (the first verses of Kalevala). Then I continue with a self-styled Kalevala Day greeting (bringing the main Kalevala characters and their contributions together). And to be sure – this all will be in Finnish. And to pick metric, I have hyphenated the first verses. Enjoy it!

Mie-le-ni mi-nun te-ke-vi, ai-vo-ni ajat-te-levi,
lähte-ä-ni lau-la-ma-han, saa’ani sa-ne-le-mahan,
suku-virttä suolta-ma-han, laji-virttä lau-la-mahan …

Väinämöisen kanteleista, Ilmarisen ahjoista,
joukahaisen jousesta, Lemminkäisen miekasta,
Kullervon kirouksesta, Aino-neidon kohtalosta …

Mutta toki muistanemme, mielessämme kantanemme
Ilmattaren aikojen alusta – Väinämöisen kantajan,
Pohjan Akan mahtavan – Kalevalaisten pelkäämän,
Pohjan Tytin kaunokaisen – Ilmarisen emännän,
Lemminkäisen äidin huolen – poikansa pelastajan,
Sekä meidän Marjatan, jolle poika puolukasta.

Näistä kertoo Kalavala, Suomen kansan tarina,
juhlapäivä tänään on, juhlavuosi verraton!

– – –

This was my contribution to the Kalevala Day celebration on this special jubilation year of Finland. I think I will get back to topics like this later on this year.

More blogs to come …

Celebrating the Finnish children’s favourite TV program “Pikku Kakkonen” – 40 years and more

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

On my blog I have not dealt so much with my home country Finland – given that I have worked since 1994 most of the time elsewhere in Europe. During our EU-funded Learning Layers project I found several occasions to address some developments in Finland as impulses for the project work (e.g. developments in apprentice training and the ‘sustainability commitments’  in education, training and economy). Last December I felt the need to write about the Finnish independence, now that Finland is celebrating its 100th independence day in the coming December. In this respect I will picking more Finnish issues to celebrate during this year.

And just now I have a perfect case – the 40th anniversary of the most popular and sustainable children’s TV program – Pikku Kakkonen (Tiny 2-er). Today I watched the special TV program “Postilokero 347” (P.O. Box 347) in its full length and was amazed what all this program could report on the history, characters, contributors, feedback etc. Here I give the link to the program (made in Finnish for Finnish children) and then try to describe what all I learned.

Postilokero 347 – 40-vuotiaan Pikku Kakkosen tarina

The song “Pikku Kakkosen posti”: The TV-program invited children to send drawings and other post and the postal address was presented as a song that was performed by children. And this special program was started with this very song  – performed by several groups of children at different times. (And they all enjoyed it.)

The initial start of the program: Some of the founders had already been involved in making an earlier children’s program for the Finnish TV 2 but it had been based on a British format and was scripted in the UK. In this context they came to the conclusion that they could develop a program with their own format and with Finnish content and Finnish-initiated characters. Of course, they were also looking for contents and impulses from other countries. But on the whole Pikku Kakkonen was a Finnish design (from TV 2 and Tampere).

Some key characters and program elements: The program was composed of short elements glued together by the moderators. A special feature was to bring hand puppet animals as partners of the moderators. The most popular was Ransu the dog and his two mates Riku and Eno-Elmeri (together known as Karvakuonot – Furry Noses). Sometimes they were also making special outdoor visits (e.g. boat trips on the nearby lake or visiting police stations or fire brigade stations). From Poland the program borrowed Teddy Hangor (Nalle Luppakorva) and his animal friends. From DDR the program got its Sandman to start and to conclude the sleepy time tale (that was told by a famous Finnish actor – male or female). One of the most popular slots was that of the Circus clown Hermanni – announced either as Hermanni’s clown school (Hermannin pellekoulu) or as Hermanni’s hotline (Hermannin hätäapu). And all kinds of children’s concerns could be dealt by the sympathetic, shy and clumsy clown who was speaking directly to (fictive) kids somewhere in Finland and commenting their (fictive) answers.

Special excursions: The very special initiatives were to send a moderator with Ransu the dog to visit Leningrad in the 1980s – just to give insights into everyday life of children in Soviet Union (avoiding all kinds of ideological ornaments). Later on the same moderator and Ransu visited Berlin – and wondered why the people had got into such bad terms with each other that some got the idea to build the wall. Ransu made the point that they should learn to get along with each other so that no such walls would be needed. This was in the autumn 1989 – and by chance: the wall was opened next week (and the moderator and Ransu could add this delightful news as a PS to their travel report. Later on another moderator went with Ransu to interview the presidents of republic about their childhood memories or relations to their pet animals.

Echo from kids and families with kids: This special program presents several episodes in which city kids and rural kids rush to watch Pikku Kakkonen when the program starts – and the parents can count that the kids will focus entirely on the program the next half an hour. And in many cases this had gone from one generation to another. BUT even more striking was that in the 1980s Pikku Kakkonen had been the ‘window to west’ for the Soviet Estonian children and their families. And for Estonian children of that time it was easy to learn Finnish just watching the program.

Echo from other viewers: It was fascinating to hear a special fan – a severely disabled and blind man who had suffered from his disease from his childhood on – to tell that he had been able to follow the program very well in spite of his blindness – the program was sufficiently conversational and had a lot of music. But it appeared that the program is also popular in elderly people’s homes – it brings the children to the inhabitants of these homes (even if they may not have grandchildren of their own). And – what was striking to me – Pikku Kakkonen has become popular among the refugee families in Finland and a key facilitator of the language learning of their children at pre-school or school age. This became apparent in the talks with a Syrian family (in Arabic) and their children (in Finnish).

And finally, at the end of the celebration program “Postilokero 347” I was inspired to hear the current bedtime storyteller of Pikku Kakkonen present the Grimm brothers’ story of Bremen town musicians (Bremer Stadtmusikanten). That made me happy in my present location – in Bremen.

– – –

I guess this is enough to give a picture of Pikku Kakkonen, its history, key characters and impact. If you want to learn more, just click the link and make your own observations! I was overwhelmed by memories of the childhood of my kids (that we shared with Pikku Kakkonen in the 1980s). And I was surprised to learn what all came after those years (when we grew out of Pikku Kakkonen but the program moved on). Congratulations, Pikku Kakkonen – years and more!

More blogs to come (but on other topics)

A new year – a new era: Let’s see what’s coming up!

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

The new year 2017 is already two weeks old and I returned back to work already one week ago. During the last few years I always new, how to start my blogging after the holiday period. I just started to report, what is on the agenda in the EU-funded Learning Layers project. And there was no time to waste because there was always something moving. But now the project has come to an end and we only have the Final Review Meeting ahead us (next week, to be precise). So, in principle this year is to me stepping to a new era – to the period after the major European project. I had prepared myself mentally for a quick transition to follow-up activities but it appears that this transition is slower and the follow-up needs to be shaped carefully. Luckily enough I have now got an unlimited contract with the University of Bremen that makes my life easier and my participation in research activities more flexible.

Yet, it is not only the closure of the Learning Layers that gives me reason to speak of a new era. In the middle of last year I was hit heavily by health issues and the second half of 2016 was no longer like the first one. In June-July I was on holiday in Finland and had to go to a medical doctor because of problems in my lungs. Then I had a series of medical examinations and at the end I got the diagnosis: Prostate cancer with metastasis in lungs. I returned quickly back to Germany (where I am insured) and got the treatment started – firstly with medication and from November on with chemotherapy. So, I had to skip the conferences that took place in the autumn season and to limit my field visits and participation in project meetings to minimum. Yet, I was able give full contribution to the writing of the final reports of the Learning Layers.

Now that I am writing this down I can pass the message that my condition has greatly improved and I have all the reason to be optimistic – although I need keep my optimism in limits. The chemotherapy will be continued to the middle of February and then there will be control examinations and a new situation assessment. So, in the light of the above I am preparing proposals for some conferences in the coming year. Of course these have to pass through the review process, no question. But even more I have to add a personal question mark – “ready to participate provided that my health allows it”. And with possible changes in my health I have to be cautious and humble – to live with my disease day by day.

So, I am looking forward to keep myself in the picture and to face new challenges in the new year. The next milestone is the final review of the Learning Layers (I will get back to it) and then I will start shaping my post-LL activities. There we have a legacy of project work with using Learning Toolbox to support workplace learning – in particular in vocational education and training for construction sector. But before I get to these topics I would like to make somewhat different personal remarks on ‘change of era’ and ‘remarkable moments’ in other contexts. Then I will get back to topics on ‘working and learning’.

More blogs to come …

Peace on Earth – Give peace a chance! – My Season’s Greetings

December 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

I am not used to writing blogs on current politics. At best I may have picked special events or anniversaries to make some sideline commentaries. But that has been most of it. Likewise, I have not been active in sending ‘Season’s greetings’ in public domain – at best on my Facebook account but that has been it.

This time things are different. For quite some time I have been following the war in Syria and the bombardment of Aleppo – and the difficult efforts of diplomats to get a ceasefire that could bring real help to people who were stuck between the warring parties. Indeed, Aleppo has become to us and pour contemporaries the symbol of similar sufferings as Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and Sarajevo in the Wars arising from the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. This time it has been hard to witness and understand the weakness of the World Community, the UN Security Council and the public opinion. During the most recent days there have been relieving news on ceasefire and the start of evacuations, topped up by the unanimous vote of the UN Security council to send Peace Monitoring teams to support evacuations and international aid. Let us hope that they can provide help for the ones needed and give peace a chance.

However, parallel to these news we get schocking news of terrorist attacks in different places. For me the most striking is the news from Berlin – given that I have lived in over a year in Berlin (1994 – 1995) and I know the places in West Berlin very well. Here, the most striking thing was that the terrorist attacked the Christmas market area at Breitscheidplatz, next to the Gedächtniskirche – the ruin church that has been kept as a memory of the destruction caused by World War II. But equally, what has happened in Zürich (shootings in Islamic Centre) and in Ankara (the murder of the Russian Ambassador), in Yemen and in Somalia (the latter ones hardly attracting the attention of the Western worls) – all this is too much.

What is also striking is, how differently people react. My German Facebook-friends have promptly reacted with messages that express their condolences to the relatives of the victims and injured and condemn terrorist actions, whatever their motivation may have been. At the same time they have expressed their anger about the right-wing demagogues who have tried to pass the blame to all refugees and migrants en bloc. I have been pleased to share their messages and to translate their points in English. They speak the language of peace and understanding (instead of suspicion and xenophobia), they speak for dialogue with well-thought facts and for building bridges (instead of isolating oneselves and building walls around comfort zones).

In this spirit I also want my blog to pass messages of peace and understanding as my Season’s Greetings for the Christmas time and for the New Year 2017:

Let There Be Peace on Earth

Give Peace A Chance

 

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