Norwegian non-formal education methods introduced in Latvia 

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The Latvian non-governmental organisation Talent City is currently trying to introduce study circles in Latvia with the support of their Norwegian partner. The project “Democratic study circles” promotes a widely used method in Scandinavia in adult non-formal education and is financed by the EEA Grants.

The Latvian organisation met the Norwegian Adult Education Association (VOFO) in Riga during a matchmaking meeting which was organised by Society Integration Foundation, the programme operator of the Latvian NGO Programme.

“I had learned about the study circle method in Sweden and was eager to share this method in Latvia. We were very lucky to be able to get support from an expert from Norway. The Secretary General of VOFO, Sturla Bjerkaker, is the co-author of a book “Learning democratically, using study circles”. We think this has already determined the success of the project!” explains Rita Liepina.

According to VOFO, the study circle is a known and accepted basis for Scandinavian democracy. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has been actively used in the effort to spread knowledge and enlighten people. Traditionally, it has a democratic basis of values and stimulates learning that arises socially and voluntarily, and it develops learning that is life value-orientated. The circle creates interaction among people in different phases of their lives and recruits heterogeneous communities. It is a tool that promotes equality, dialogue, respect and tolerance. The study circle is also a meeting place; it is a place where information is spread and meaningful communication established.

The goal of the project is to train Latvian citizens and NGO representatives of the principles of the study circle method, to share good practices and methods, and to promote and spread the method in Latvia and Europe. The project promoter is hoping that the application of the study circle method in adult non-formal education will stimulate active participation of citizens in the democratic processes and will enable citizens of Latvia to realise the importance of lifelong education in a new innovative context.

“We started in 2013 with carrying out a questionnaire to find out how much people in Latvia know about study circles and lifelong learning. Only 4 % of the respondents had heard about the study circle method and lifelong learning,” explains Rita Liepina who is a project coordinator at Talent City.

Sturla Bjerkaker visited Riga and delivered a seminar to the representatives of Latvian NGOs during the kick off-conference in October 2013. Currently, the project promoter is spreading information throughout Latvia. They have planned four seminars in various regions throughout Latvia. The first training in Vidzeme has already been completed and was very welcomed by local NGO activists. Additional materials about the study circle methodology will be translated and adapted to local needs and participants will receive those materials during trainings.

“We have learned that people in communities are mainly concerned about the development of local community, education and environmental issues. They are keen to join local NGOs to try to make a difference. We are really keen to implement the planned activities and even spread the method further,” says Rita Liepina.

From their partner they have been able to learn a lot about the adult education situation and system in Norway. They have learned about the role of NGOs in democratic processes, and how the study circle method can be a good tool for the development of democratic values.

“We still have many challenges ahead as our NGO is only three years old and we need to improve the capacity of our organisation. But we are hoping that with the support of this project and partner the capacity of our organisation will increase. We will hopefully become experts in the method of democratic study circles and find followers all around Latvia and abroad,” concludes Rita Liepina.

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