Education is an issue on the agenda of most European countries, and one of the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy. The changes triggered by a globalised and increasingly technical world leaves us wondering how new schools and new learning processes should prepare future professionals and citizens.
Since 2013, EIN aims at improving the city’s educational progress by stimulating innovation and creativity at schools, and by means of (1) promoting ICT projects and (2) the collaboration between different local stakeholders. EIN brings together public administration, education centres, professionals, families and enterprises to foster the renewal of education. The collaboration among stakeholders of the civil society and the socio-economic sector is meant to develop innovative projects enabling the development of new education strategies.
One of the main changes the network has made is the renewal of technological devices in schools, and their improved use by teachers, students and families.
EIN has facilitated a collaboration space that acted as leverage for the renewal of education in Viladecans.
The collaboration between public administration, education centres, families and businesses has enabled a series of projects and synergies that enabled a significant evolution of the education in Viladecans and its upgrade to meet 21st century education needs.
From a technological point of view, the network carries out several projects, in order to ensure that Viladecans’ schools, teachers and students are provided with the necessary digital devices and skills.
In addition, schools are open and permeable to territorial and local stakeholders, ensuring an education that takes into account the local reality and needs, but also contributes to social inclusion and community building.
The school-enterprise collaboration is an important issue. Several projects aim at preparing the future integration of students into the labour market. An example is a collaboration agreement between enterprises, schools and the city council where in their research, senior students of the Upper Secondary School or Vocational Training tackle work problems and issues suggested by local enterprises. Both parties work in permanent collaboration during the whole process.
Another interesting working line is Emotional Education. EIN takes part in a project led by the university of Barcelona, and specific training is given to teachers in this field.
Schools must be adapted to new objectives, methods, spaces and even organisational structures. These necessary changes cannot just fall under the responsibility of headmasters. Administrative guidelines alone will not be effective either, as they tend to stay quite far away from the everyday realities of schools.
If we want these changes to be effective and successful, they must take into account the voices of all relevant stakeholders.
It must be ensured that the renewal of schools, and therefore of education, takes into account the local reality and local stakeholders. Thus, we understand that an integrated and participative approach is the best way to ensure a successful renewal.
NEI promotes and ensures the participation of all relevant stakeholders in the planning and implementation of innovative projects that will make a renewal possible.
The involvement and active participation of all stakeholders has been a key element for the success of the network: not only teachers and students, but we all are responsible when it comes to education.
EIN is in itself a participatory approach, as it gathers different stakeholders to jointly work and foster innovative projects that help to improve the education success in Viladecans.
In October 2013, a first open session was organised by the city, in order to present the network and invite all relevant stakeholders to take an active part.
In November 2014, an open session was organised where teachers, public administration, families and enterprises were invited to elaborate a roadmap of activities of the network for the following years. The result of this working session was a 10-project plan whose projects have been, and for some still are, implemented during this three-year period.
In addition, the implementation of most of the EIN project is currently composed of a total of 850 members (primary and secondary schools, education professionals, families and enterprises). It should be highlighted that most of the network projects require the collaboration of stakeholders from different sectors. All primary and secondary schools in the city are voluntarily involved in more than one project out of the 10 active network projects. In conclusion, the network triggered positive acceptance and had an important impact in the city.
The EIN activities boosted a real change in the city's educational scene:
• Technological renewal: The implementation of the Plan for the Introduction of Learning and Knowledge Technologies has resulted in an increase of the ratio of electronic devices per student in schools concerned by the plan (it foresees the implementation in 4 schools/year, until all schools are equipped).
In schools in which it has been implemented so far, the ratio moved from 1 electronic device/10 students to 1 electronic device/4 students.
• Improvement of digital skills of teachers, students and families;
• Specific training hours for teachers have doubled (mainly for the use of new devices, and emotional education);
• Entrepreneurial participation in the city's education scenario moved from almost non-existing, to the participation of ca. 30 businesses in activities related to education;
• As regards families, the network favours technological inclusion. Families are trained in the new tools their child use at school, so they can support them. A higher participation, and assimilation of social media as a communication element among partners is also notable.
Presently, 8 parents’ associations use apps to stay in touch. Since its creation in 2013, EIN has facilitated a collaboration space between public administration, schools, enterprises and families that made possible a renewal of education in Viladecans.
We definitely think that this initiative would be interesting for other European cities, for a number of reasons.
First, as already mentioned, education is always a key and a sensible issue, and it is also a priority of the Europe 2020 strategy. Education is just now a hot topic, as there is general debate on the need to upgrade and adapt the learning and teaching methods to 21st century needs.
At EU level, the necessity of understanding employers' needs is also highlighted, so that students can be trained accordingly, and enter the labour market with those specific skills that are required. The EIN enterprise-school collaboration ensures communication from early education on. In addition, it allows students to get in touch and interact with the real business world.
The working methods of EIN allow the city an “active role” in education, and ensure that education is well rooted in the territory and community. Spanish cities don't have the competence on compulsory education (primary and secondary), this responsibility belongs to the regional government. However, this network allows Viladecans' city council to participate in the education process of its citizens.
EIN also raises awareness of the impact the different stakeholders can have on the improvement of education. It's a win-win practice from which all stakeholders benefit.