Interesting Schools: Making learning more engaging through co-agency

 

The Interesting Schools (Huvitav Kool) initiative aims to contribute to making learning more stimulating and inspiring for both students and teachers in general education. Enhancing education stakeholder well-being is another of its aims.

This is done through fostering co-agency, by involving students, parents, teachers, as well as other educational stakeholders and beneficiaries in working together to create more enriching and motivating learning environments. As an added benefit, schools are likely to build a more open school culture, as well as to take greater responsibility for exploring and responding to stakeholder expectations.

Although initiated by the Ministry of Education and Research in 2013, the initiative is guided by a voluntary advisory board consisting both of private and public sector representatives from among others the worlds of business, health, education and media. A working group oversees the implementation of related proposals. It also informs the public of progress, as well as encouraging public debate on how to move forward.

Key reference points

Interesting Schools encourages stakeholders to talk out loud about their hopes for the future of education, as well as current problems, and discuss these at the school, municipal and national level. Interesting School[s] runs think tanks and public consultations that encourage and facilitate stakeholder dialogue and actions to help shape education in the present day and the future.

Stakeholders include students, teachers, parents, entrepreneurs, NGOs, universities, non-formal education providers, museums and government agencies. Schools are assisted in finding partners, e.g. businesses, NGOs and institutions of higher education.

Likewise, Interesting Schools helps support networking opportunities among educators including job shadowing for teachers and school principals. The initiative also helps teachers develop their skills in training other teachers. For example, schools and teachers have shared their best practices in formative assessment, digital learning, promoting critical thinking, the creation of supportive multicultural learning environments, how to foster student well-being, and how to support talented and gifted youth.

Further, Interesting Schools has assisted schools in launching numerous other interesting initiatives. These include programmes for the building of social and emotional skills, as well as helping educational innovations and contemporary management practices to take root in schools. In addition to facilitating the sharing of Estonian best practices, the initiative has brought in experts from abroad to share international best practices.

There have also been diverse actions facilitating cooperation with local communities. Schools have been offered concrete ways they can better take into account community expectations in education, and how they can better integrate local traditions and unique features into the school curriculum.

In addition, this initiative is encouraging schools, parents and society at large to cooperate in order to identify, recognise and reward those schools where learning is particularly intriguing, interesting and/or motivating, thereby helping to raise awareness of and spread best practices. It uses events such as opinion festivals, annual conferences, its website and social media to promote dialogue/networking, to generate ideas and disseminate information.

Ultimately, the Interesting Schools initiative has created a certain push and pull toward undertaking school improvements. It has encouraged and inspired schools and their stakeholders to help create more interesting, engaging and motivating learning environments while likely also placing social pressure on the initially less inspired to demonstrate that they are keeping up with the times in offering interesting learning opportunities.

Looking Forward: 2020–2025

From 2020–2025, the initiative is focussing on the school’s contribution to increasing social cohesion and well-being (see Figure 5). This aligns with Education 2035, the national strategic plan for education, which aims for its citizenry to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for realising their personal, social and occupational potential whilst contributing to improvements in the quality of life nationally and to global sustainable development. Ultimately, the initiative wants to engage stakeholders including students, teachers and parents in creating more interesting and motivating learning environments that support well-being for all. In part that also calls for more transparent school leadership and management practices. In principle, all this should lead to increased stakeholder satisfaction with Estonian education.

Figure 5: Interesting Schools’ foci for 2020–2025

By 2025, among others, the initiative seeks:

 

  • to achieve increasingly spontaneous network-based close cooperation between edu- cational institutions
  • to increase student and parental involvement with a view to encouraging co-agency
  • to better integrate non-formal and formal learning opportunities
  • to support the widespread use of innovative and evidence-based learning and teaching practices, including the use of assessment to support learning
  • to capture and disseminate evidence-based stories of successful innovations imple- mented by schools
  • to give national and international visibility to the evidence-based best practices in Esto- nian general education
  • to have all schools working systematically to develop entire-school learning environ- ments that contribute to student and teacher well-being.

Further information