Vet4WesternBalkans

Introductory visit in order to prepare Soft Skills training

Montenegrin perspective

In order to better prepare for the announced Soft Skills training, trainers from the Netherlands, Monique Hanekamp and Peter van Engen visited the “Vaso Aligrudić” school for two days on 26. and 27. 9. 2022.

After several online meetings, the trainers and school coordinator and project manager Marina Braletić and Danka Markuš agreed on the details and agenda of the visit.

On the first day, in addition to getting to know the school administration, through a one-hour presentation they heard all the necessary information about the educational system of Montenegro, not only about the educational programs that are implemented in secondary vocational schools, but also about the way they are created and implemented, formal and informal education, differences between diplomas and certificates, obligations of all parties involved in the education system, etc. Then they spent a little over three hours visiting the vocational and general education classes. They had the opportunity to see how the teachers of the School of Electrical Engineering conduct their lessons, what methods they use in teaching, but also talk to the students in order to gather as much information as possible.

They visited the school premises and then they were introduced to the ways of keeping and fulfilling in the Teacher’s Register. It was explained to them what all the obligations of the Head teachers are and which of the other teachers.

At the end of the day, they summarized their impressions with the school coordinator and project manager and agreed on a few details for the next day.

The second day started with a meeting with the school pedagogue. In addition to a short presentation, she explained to them in detail what her obligations are and how she fulfills them. They received all the necessary material and answers to all questions. They saw how much administration is filled by teachers and pedagogue. Together with the school coordinator and the project manager, they came to the conclusion that the presence of the school pedagogue in the training would be of great benefit.

As previously agreed at the project management level, the participants of this training will receive certificates.

After talking with the pedagogue Selma Šabotić, they held a meeting with the students who were involved in the first mobility, who will be involved in the next, but also with the students who showed interest in this project. According to the agreement, the teachers, the school coordinator and the project manager did not attend this meeting. The students talked very openly about the virtues and flaws of the education they receive at the “Vaso Aligrudić” Electrical Engineering School.

After the students, they met 12 teachers who will actually attend the mentioned training. By agreement, the pedagogue joined them. At this meeting, in addition to a brief introduction of themselves, the teachers presented not only their expectations from the training, but also the problems they face during the implementation of teaching, as well as the positive aspects of their profession. This meeting was of great importance for the trainers to prepare for the training. The main conclusion of the meeting is that all participants are looking forward to the training with great enthusiasm.

After all the meetings held, the trainers discussed all the impressions of the visit with the school coordinator and the project manager and together they agreed on topics that should not be missed during the training and other details related to the organization.

As one of the most important goals of the training is the direct implementation of everything learned, but also the spread of knowledge to other colleagues, it was agreed that at the end of the training, all teachers will be given the task of providing evidence of the implementation of the learned skills in a certain period of time, and after that, with the support of the pedagogue , transfer knowledge to other colleagues about everything learned. Upon completion of the task, they will be presented with certificates of completed training.

Discussions were initiated with the VET Center about the recognition of certificates through the Catalog for Teacher Training approved by the National Board of Education, in order to extend the teachers license.

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The second day ended with an online meeting of the trainers, school coordinator, project manager, Advisor for international affairs from Landstede Udo Lut and the main project coordinator Bodil Mygid Madsen from the SOSU center from Denmark.

Bodil and Udo received all the information about the visit and the dates of the training were agreed – from October 24. to 28.

The general conclusion is that this visit was of great importance for the best possible preparation of the training organization both for partners from the Netherlands and for partners from Montenegro.

Due to the school excursion with the graduating students, during the two days of the visit, the school director Ersan Spahić was absent, but because their flight was at the afternoon, the trainers managed to meet the director on the third day. At the meeting, they discussed very important topics such as the director’s expectations not only from the training itself but also from the implementation of the acquired knowledge that should follow after the training. His main expectation from the training is to spread the acquired knowledge to as many teachers as possible, and the main expectation of the project itself is to be the initiator for many similar projects in the coming years.

Dutch perspective

This visit yielded more than we had imagined in advance. Or as Peter said it: “I had no expectations, but I didn’t expect this”. It is important that we have discovered to see in real and by ourself what the situation is and what is going on.  In addition to insight into the education system, on the first day  we were able  to experience for ourselves what the lessons look like, which pedagogical and didactic skills are used and how administration has a major influence on teachers. In the experiences and conversations we had on our first day, it emerged that students all jump through the same hoop.
Differentiation in curriculum is not really possible in the first two years of learning. Years 3 and 4  were not present and we only attended classes of 1 and 2 years. The schoolsystem was characterized by traditional frontal education, in which students were occasionally  given a turn,  could briefly discuss answers to the teacher’s question with each other or had a discussion with the teacher about a subject.  Whether students understood it all and whether they understood why they had to learn things, we have our doubts. We saw ambitious teachers, who tried to shape their lesson as well as possible with the resources they had. They all worked with a laptop that was connected to a beamer. One teacher knew the student by name and the other teacher had papers made with their name. The resources they had at their disposal during the practical lesson had to be shared. A class of 25 was split, and one half went to work with desktops or resources to mimic practice. These resources were minimal. The other half took a different class.
The second day we had many conversations with the psychologist Selma, students, teachers and finally with the coordinators Danka and Marina. The psychologist Selma has provided a report in which she describes the problems she encounters. She would like to see education much more as a place where not only is learned about their profession, but also about how the student stands further in life. What she also observes is that there are teachers who give a lot their student and really want to get in touch with the student and the other teacher turns his lesson and indicates that the student is poorly motivated to do things for him. This difference is noticeable in the school. There is no team spirit. Selma is concerned about the quality of education. It is all described on paper and that requires a lot of work. As a result, time is lost that could also have been spent on students. In addition, there are also few teachers who dare to ask for help with problems they encounter in their classroom or lesson.
In the conversations we had with students, students indicated that they do not ask for help from teachers, but from fellow students or family. They would appreciate it if teachers dare to admit mistakes, or pay more attention to the differences that exist in the classroom. They do need a different way of teaching. Sometimes they understand it very well and they want to continue, or sometimes they do not understand it and they want extra attention and not the same explanation again.  They miss the practice and find it quite difficult that they can’t use laptops in the classroom. In contrast, teachers indicate that laptops are forbidden and that they are not needed in the lessons. Laptops are just distracting, just like phones. The teachers we spoke to did not receive any particular training in soft skill profession. They have been around for a year and also have to demonstrate every five years, by following a training, that they can still be teachers. Because they have not always followed a pedagogical training, the teachers who will follow the training do need soft skills. Some students are not motivated. A number of teachers would like to be taught soft skills. We think it is good to monitor this after the project. For this, Danka and Marina have figured out that the certificate they receive after the training is only signed by Selma, when they have also achieved their own goals, which they will formulate at the beginning of the training. We have experienced that there is a base of trust, from which we can work.

The last day we had an interesting conversation with the director of the school. During our first days of the visit the director Ersan Spahić was not at school, but Danka and Marina thought it was important that we talk to the director so they arranged a meeting at the last day, shortly before we went back home. This strongly showed that the director is open to innovation and to change. He appreciates the openness and drive of Marina and Danka and he is also really willing to look together at what he can do about this. In addition, we have given concrete advice to really talk to students and listen to what they have to say about education.

Stay tuned for updates on the following steps of the project.