Bulgarian news English News

A university-led good practice whereby university faculty reaches out to secondary education to impart knowledge in an attractive field of science

University lecturers visit the secondary schools and make presentations that aim to introduce students to systems based on microcontrollers, Programmable Logic Controllers and mobile robots – the main concepts, devices and their application, the logic of programming. During these presentations, theoretical and conceptual issues are made easier to understand by live demonstration with programmable devices and models. At the end of the activity, the students are given the opportunity to test the devices and models that are used during the demonstrations.
Demonstrations are an essential element of the activity since they capture students’ attention.
The activity achieves its impact in two ways:
Students are attracted to STEM through interesting topics and the opportunity to engage in hands-on exercises
Students have the chance to meet researchers and ask questions related to the discipline in which they are interested in or inquire about what it is like to be a scientist.


Good practice

Photos from a school visit – lecture with demonstration of equipment, and hands-on activities for students

The activity targets students from secondary vocational schools. However, some of the visits were attended by pupils from elementary schools, too. Indirectly, it also targets teachers at the same schools.
For the activity to be commenced in a particular school, the head of the relevant Department or the Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Electronics has to establish contact with the director of the vocational high school. The contact can be initiated by either side. There is no department or staff member responsible for this activity. On the side of Technical University – Gabrovo, the organization boils down to identification of the lecturer(s) that will visit the school. The lecturer is responsible for preparing for the lecture itself.
A list of lessons with brief annotations is sent to the vocational school beforehand. The details are negotiated with the receiving school so as to fit the interest of the students and teachers. From the side of the school, the negotiation involves the school director and the teachers in the relevant subject. Typically, it is teachers that are consulted on the topics and details of the presentation and the demonstrations.
The vocational school is responsible for providing a lecture hall and for inviting the students to participate in the activity. The leading role in organizing student participation is played by teachers in the relevant subject.
Higher education students’ involvement in the activity.
In some lectures, university students are also included in the team of lecturers. This greatly increases the effectiveness of the activity and the impact on the secondary school students because young researchers can establish a more effective connection with high school students and serve as role models.
This activity has been conducted for 10 years at various schools in Bulgaria. It faces no serious issues of sustainability since it does not require much financing or special equipment. It can always be continued at the request of a school or a new collaboration with a new school can be established if there is interest on the part of the school. Maintaining links to vocational high schools is a long-lasting tradition of Technical University – Gabrovo. Thus, the activity has always been considered compatible with the development strategy of the university.
Financial sustainability
The activity is funded by Technical University – Gabrovo. The participating lecturers are paid travel expenses, each lecture counts as 4 hours of work. The equipment used for the demonstrations is taken from the laboratories of the university.

Good practice
Every year, Technical University – Gabrovo organizes around 15 such educational outreach activities at different schools. In each activity, between 20 and 40 students are present. Unfortunately, due to the limited time available for the lectures and the demonstrations, the impact of the activity has not been formally assessed. The general feeling among teachers and lecturers involved is that students show interest in the topics and hence, it could be expected that the activity also sparks interest for a science career. All in all, this is a practical low-key method of maintaining continuous relationship between universities and schools and exposing students to scientific information and new technological advances. It allows students from high schools that are not endowed with sophisticated equipment to work with such equipment, even if for a short time period.
Factors for success
For the activity to be successful, the following factors have been important:
– The activity has been perceived as part of a long-term strategy of the University to connect with secondary schools in the region
– The success of the activity strongly depends on the relations between the university and the recipient school being characterised by long-term cooperation. This allows the university staff and the school teachers to design and deliver lectures with demonstrations on a variety of topics, often linking these lectures to the compulsory curriculum
– The activity’s relevance increases when the lecturers maintain continuous contact with the relevant teachers in order to determine the interest and the level of prior knowledge of the target students. This can make sure that the participating students benefit from the activity and that the activity can be used to upgrade knowledge received in the classroom

More such good practices can be found at the webpage of DISCOVER project.

English News

Thinking outside the box

Which concrete experiences from and with mobility projects have managers and teachers in German VET gained? The German partner in the ENNE team, Wisamar, enquired.

What are the chances of mobility for learners, vocational schools and companies? Can you give examples from your practice that have worked very well? And in your experience, what are the main difficulties in organising and implementing mobilities? These are some of the questions, which Wisamar asked to actors in German vocational schools, who are responsible for European exchange projects there.

Coming back with more self-confidence

The interviewees agree that there are many advantages for VET students who complete a mobility abroad. It is a very important experience for young people and their personal development. In general, they come back more worldly and open-minded. “They simply think outside the box,” says a vocational school teacher from Flensburg. “They gain flexibility and self-confidence and then also appear much more confident in the workplace. In addition, they generally improve their language skills, of course, which is also a great advantage for their training company. On the other hand, the chance of a stay abroad increases the attractiveness of the apprenticeship place: “Knowing that I will participate in a mobility during my training makes it much more interesting, of course,” explains one interviewee.

For some of the VET students, the work placement is their first stay in a foreign country. Erasmus+ also enables trainees from families with lower incomes to do an internship abroad. The number of people who go abroad for an internship after finishing their vocational training is increasing, according to the mobility adviser from a business school, because immediately afterwards they have the opportunity to stay longer in another country. During a two to four-week stay abroad, the trainees did not always learn a lot of new things in their profession, “but afterwards they are better equipped to assert themselves in unfamiliar situations.”

Experience enrichment as a host company

Vocational training staff or students do not always have to go abroad to broaden their horizons, emphasizes an interviewee from Leipzig. Visits to one’s own institution by vocational trainers and trainees from other countries are always an enrichment and variety in the daily routine. And sometimes they bring a breath of fresh air into the company where they are doing their internship abroad: One interviewee told us that Italian trainees developed the social media presence for their German host company and then explained and showed it to their German colleagues.

The motivation to organise mobilities despite all obstacles and difficulties stems from the enthusiasm and excitement of the trainees returning from their mobility, explained a vocational school teacher from Pinneberg. The students often do not see the negative points at all or find a way to turn them into positive learning experiences and actively use their time abroad.


Suitable internships, legal framework and huge responsibility

But what are the problems faced by Erasmus+ actors? Finding really suitable placements for trainees is difficult, many of the interviewees’ stress. Some schools work with intermediary organisations in other countries and are not always satisfied with the quality of the placements allocated. The placements often did not really fit the profile of the trainees. This sometimes leads to frustration among the trainees, according to the teacher from Pinneberg. 

Another interviewee said that the main obstacle in organising mobility is the different legal regulations of the countries. In Sweden, for example, it is not allowed to work without payment, and it has to be clarified that trainees receive a scholarship, etc. Someone has to take responsibility for organising everything, including planning the trip and booking tickets and accommodation. This is very time-consuming. Furthermore, it is a huge responsibility as an accompanying teacher when traveling with a group of VET students, emphasises an experienced vocational school teacher. “It took a load off my mind every time when everyone was safely back at their home station.” A well-designed programme is also very important, she says, that does not overburden the pupils and does not overestimate their independence. Many of them have never been away from home alone, have never used a plane or travelled far away.

Exemption by the partner companies

However, not only the organisation of the stay and programme abroad is perceived as challenging, but also the cooperation with the partner companies in Germany, where the young people complete the practical part of their training, is not always easy. According to the experience of one vocational school teacher interviewed, the partner companies are not so interested in sending their trainees abroad. Although the stay abroad often takes place during the trainees’ school time and not during their time in the company, one company has already opposed this so that not too many lessons are missed. It happens again and again that apprentices take leave in order to be able to participate in a mobility. It should be normal that apprentices receive an official leave of absence from the company for their mobility.

Special challenge COVID19

This year, COVID19 of course made it very difficult to carry out mobilities: Many of the planned stays abroad were cancelled or, if possible, postponed until 2021. Only few individual mobilities are still taking place. Due to the situation, those who still want to do their internship abroad prefer to travel to neighbouring countries like Denmark or Austria. They don’t want to be too far away from home. Two interview partners from VET schools stated that the willingness to participate in mobilities has decreased among trainees and VET staff due to the COVID 19 pandemic. They don’t want to take such risks. Other reasons were liability and the question of who is responsible if mobilities cannot take place as planned. That is why everything is being planned with reservations. It needs to be avoided that trainees would be burdened with the costs if the mobility cannot take place. Another interviewee stated that the trainees themselves still wanted to go abroad, but that their companies in Germany as well as host companies in the other countries are more hesitant.

The companies’ view

In addition to this brief insight into mobility experiences of vocational training institutions in Germany, the next ENNE newsletter will present the viewpoint of companies, represented by various Chambers of Industry and Commerce and Chambers of Crafts. Wisamar has also talked to some representatives – so stay tuned!

English News

Teaching on the net: Digitisation as a Resource

The Italian Chamber of Commerce for Germany ITCAM, an associated ENNE partner, will participate in four virtual events organised by DIDACTA ITALIA and dedicated to the world of school.

Under the motto “Extraordinary events require extraordinary changes”, an overview of the transformation of school over the past year will be given on 13 and 14 October 2020, between 3 and 7 pm. ITCAM, which is also a member of the organising committee of DIDACTA ITALIA, will present a video on e-learning during the webinar “Teaching on the Net: Digitalisation as a Resource” (13/10/2020, 5 pm). It compares the practical implementation of online teaching in different European countries.

The webinars are free of charge, more information (in Italian) here

English News

Role Models for VET: Stories from the shooting sessions

How to inspire people to participate in an Erasmus mobility? How to create something so engaging that people cannot say no to living and working/studying abroad?  

At this point, it is already known the main goals of the ENNE project and that it truly believes in the power of Erasmus as a fundamental aspect for the professional and personal development of individuals. To better demonstrate this, the ENNE project has planned the realization of Role Model videos.

In a broader concept, Role Models come from all walks of life and professional backgrounds and their experiences can serve as examples to young people struggling to find a place in society or tempted by easy shortcuts.

The main goal of the Role Model Videos within ENNE project is to inspire young people in their learning paths and encourage them in taking part in a mobility experience, but also to promote VET Teachers’ participation in Erasmus + mobilities and foster communication and cooperation between VET providers, as well as to promote VET quality and attractiveness also for companies, which are important stakeholders for WBL experiences.  

In order to do this, 15 video-interviews (3 per country) are being produced by project partners. These videos should be a positive reflection on the impact of transnational mobility projects on VET learners, staff and hosting companies

At this moment, Arts & Skills from Portugal already filmed all the interviews, and what an amazing experience it was! The first interview was with the student Cátia Silva. She was a student of the vocational course of Marketing Technician from the Francisco de Holanda Secondary School. In 2018, she had the opportunity to go to Reggio Calabria, Italy, for an internship of 3 months in a local company. Throughout the interview, it was possible to see and feel her enthusiasm. With emotion in her eyes, Cátia told us the stories from her experience, from the moment of her arrival in Italy, the conviviality with her colleagues, the welcoming environment from the company to all the memories she was able to build. It is certain that all of this will remain forever in her memory.

We proceed to the second interview: the hosting company Plantas da Fonte. It is a gardening company located in Guimarães and has been working with Arts & Skills for quite some time. From the interview with the tutor, it is clear that they could not be happier with the experience. For them, the most outstanding aspects are the knowledge and skills that the students acquire in school and their willingness to work and learn more. It is certainly a rewarding experience for the company and for all its employees, who still keep in touch with some of the learners that they welcomed throughout the years.  

For the last video, the interview with Guiomar Silva, the director of the School Group of Arrifana. When she was asked to do this interview, she immediately said yes! As you all will see in the video, she is so passionate and dedicated to her Erasmus+ projects. We were all fascinated with her stories and how she loves to see the impact of Erasmus in the life of her students and teachers. This is truly is an excellent example of how mobility activities influence a school and all the community around it. 

We will not tell more because we are saving it for the videos, but we can tell you that you will be inspired to write your Erasmus project, to receive an Erasmus student in your company, or to go abroad on an Erasmus adventure! 

See you soon!

Belgian news

Erasmus Duaal

Erasmus Duaal is a rather atypical Erasmus+ KA1 project. It attracts participants from various training programmes (such as hospitality and catering, care or construction) and from all over the country. Most of them do not know each other until they find themselves abroad together: their schools are not official project partners themselves, but they have an agreement with project promoter SYNTRA Vlaanderen.

In the spring of 2018 and 2019, 96 Flemish dual learners from 14 Flemish schools did a two-week work placement in 9 different countries. In the same period, 32 pupils from abroad were welcomed in Flanders.

For the Spring of 2020, for 84 candidates had been found work placements abroad, but COVID-19 made the mobilities impossible. Hopefully, part of them will be able to go abroad in October 2020.

Boosting professional and personal skills

During their stay abroad, participants have an opportunity to develop specific professional and technical skills and generic work skills at the placement company, to improve their knowledge of a foreign language and to follow a sociocultural programme developed by SYNTRA Vlaanderen’s foreign partners. Learning often goes both ways: ‘The greatest experience was when I was able to teach the Estonians to make fries. When they were ready, a dozen people immediately gathered around the bowl of fries’ (Nick, Cook, Estonia). Back in Belgium, participants take on an ambassador role in their classroom, school or training centre, where they help promote the importance of the international dimension and international mobility in their own organisation and region.

An empowering experience

The feedback is very positive:

  • the large majority of participants are (very) satisfied with their experience, and would participate in another work placement abroad in the future. They would also recommend participation to their peers;
  • many find that the project has boosted their personal development: ‘I’ve learned how to stay organised in a foreign country where they speak a foreign language. Usually, around strangers, I’m a shy person, afraid to take up a leadership role. But now I was very willing to take the lead and guide my fellow Erasmus students. […]’ (Joyce, sales person, Scotland, UK);
  • they also point out the opportunity to meet new people and to experience/explore other cultures and habits, while also working on team spirit within their own group. ‘I’ve tasted a bit of another culture. […] It’s an adventure I’ll never forget!’ (Lien, Care, Netherlands)

Almost all participants received an – often (very) positive – Europass mobility document, signed by the placement company: ‘This is an empowering experience for these young people, who really come into their own. And the Europass mobility document will be a great reference later in their careers.’ (Maarten, Flemish supervisor, Italy).

More info: Erasmus Duaal  (in Dutch)

SYNTRA Vlaanderen is the Flemish Agency for Entrepreneurial Training and is responsible, among other things, for the recognition of the Flemish placement companies. SYNTRA Vlaanderen is a member of CONNECTIEF vzw, the Flemish ENNE-partner.