Project “YOUth Ambassadors of Non-Formal Learning”
Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Interviewer: Maja Vejzovic
Interviewee: Inga Kotlo, Teaching Assistant at Dzemal Bijedic University of Mostar and Program Coordinator at American Corner Mostar
Date and location: May 20, 2020, Mostar
List of questions for the Interview:
1) Is the law defining NFE in your country? If yes, please describe what the law says.
As far as I am informed, the Law on Adult Education in Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (“Zakon o obrazovanju odraslih Hercegovačko-neretvanskog kantona”) defines NFE as an organized process of education aimed to provide specialization and further development of acquired knowledge, skills and competences. Non-formal education is provided by the NFE organizers (schools, universities, training centers, agencies, NGOs etc.) independently from the formal education system and it does not lead to acquiring official diplomas/certificates and qualifications. NFE is predominantly focused on providing key competences to enhance opportunities for employment, or on instilling values and attitudes needed for different social activities and continuous personal development.
2) Please describe the existing strategies, action plans that define non-formal learning in your country?
The strategic goals listed in the “Strategic Platform of Adult Education Development in BiH 2014-2020” (“STRATEŠKA PLATFORMA RAZVOJA OBRAZOVANJA ODRASLIH U KONTEKSTU CJELOŽIVOTNOG UČENJA U BOSNI I HERCEGOVINI ZA RAZDOBLJE 2014.-2020.”) include a) improving the legislation for adult education and harmonizing it with the EU framework of laws, b) establishing effective ways of participation of relevant stakeholders, c) development of program and institutional framework, and d) quality assurance of adult education. These strategic goals have also been broken down into operational goals and activities such as: continuous monitoring of labor market needs and adapting the enrollment policy accordingly, creation and maintenance of the registry of NFE organizers, motivating the employers to ensure better conditions for lifelong learning of their employees, as well as to invest in education etc.
3) Have you been involved in the development of a strategy / action plan / law in excess of the NFE issues?
No, I haven’t.
4) Do you work on promoting NFE and how?
I would humbly say that my personal contribution to the NFE promotion is threefold:
- I) I have been engaged as a participant in NFE activities ever since I was 18 years old; still today, 15 years after, I try to complete approximately 2-4 NFE programs per year and I usually promote and highlight their value and benefit on my personal social media profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram).
- II) As a Program Coordinator in an NGO, I have been organizing various NFE programs for the youth (elementary, high school and university students) in my local community for the past 7+ years. The NFE programs I organized so far predominantly focused on human rights, entrepreneurship, peace and reconciliation, active citizenship, environment, English language and soft skills.
III) As a Teaching Assistant at an university, I have been connecting the formal education with the non-formal education by introducing university students to different NFE opportunities, organizing study visits, and including certain relevant modules/units in the university classes where appropriate (e.g. choosing a topic of human rights to discuss during the Communication Skills class).
5) For your institution/CSO how young people recognize NFE?
Unfortunately, many young persons still don’t see the added value of the NFE even though it is largely free of charge for participants; they consider it as an additional obligation instead of an investment for their future. However, I personally believe that the network of active youth who are aware of the NFE benefits is steadily expanding. As I am both an active participant of various NFE programs and a productive organizer of NFE programs, I may attest that the number of attendees is growing, as well as their subsequent involvement in other NFE programs and interpersonal cooperation in individual and joint initiatives for the common good.
6) What are you doing about NFE in term to make closeness with youth?
I continually communicate with the youth in order to detect what they find important and/or missing in the local community that may assist them in further personal and professional development. I am particularly interested in programs that aim to support youth employment and fill in the gaps in knowledge and skills that were inadequately addressed during the process of formal education. The continuous communication with as many young persons as possible significantly helps with the identification and the appropriate design of the priority NFE programs.
7) Have you involved young people in the process of bringing about things that are relevant to non-formal education?
Yes, as described in the previous answer, I continually communicate with numerous young persons from the local community. To be more specific, during the activities of current projects/programs I seek to find information about the upcoming NFE topics/ideas through conversations, polls and evaluation forms. I also try to keep myself in sync with the local and global trends, for which I heavily rely on my personal accumulated knowledge in the field and perennial local and international experience and activity.
8) Should the Government get involved and make an even bigger contribution when it we are speaking about youth and policies about youth?
I believe there should be a clear, structured and well-functioning public process/mechanism that would enable the voice of the majority of youth to be heard before making decisions and creating policies about youth. Youth must have a say in this matter, because their unique standpoint will ensure that the policies and action plans will take us in the right direction. Currently, it seems that policies are influenced only by the voices of the few, perhaps those few that are directly in contact with the relevant government officials. Youth is not a uniform mass; different needs of diverse members of youth should be taken into account. Thus, the content of the youth policies should be discussed, enriched and approved by the majority of youth of different nationalities, genders, social classes, locations and other identity traits.
I also believe that, in order to raise awareness of the importance of NFE, more financial incentive should be provided to NFE organizers, as well as more official recognition of quality NFE programs. Young persons should be convinced that their efforts in acquiring NFE are not in vain; this may be achieved if, for example, their NFE achievements are valued when they apply for a scholarship, a job etc., or if their current employer or formal education institution awards them with a (non-financial or financial) reward and recognition/praise. However, in order for this to be possible, more needs to be done in terms of developing clear and measurable standards and quality assurance tests for NFE programs and their organizers.