Why Internationalize? Perspectives from Estonian VET teachers and managers

Talking about the Focus Groups carried out in the previous months, Estonian partner from Kuressaare Ametikool had interesting interviews with experienced teachers and project managers from several VET schools.

Following benefits for the teachers who are professionally active in international activities came out that taking part in projects gives you positive emotions and new friends. You become a better teacher and it widens your perspective. It helps you to nurture student’s motivation and perspective for their speciality. You familiarize yourself to new teaching methods. It helps you understand what’s important and sometimes how well you’re doing. In addition to that drinking wine was mentioned!

Participating in international activities widens yours perspective and helps you to become a better teacher. Photo from an Erasmus+ meeting at Kuressaare, Estonia in 2019.

On the other hand, bringing new staff members into Internationalization involves also challenges: it’s hard to participate without adequate language skills. Still, with careful mentoring it can be overcome, language can be improved on the go. There are success stories to prove that. There is always time/money issue when the teacher is overwhelmed with classes.

All interviewees said that soft social skills are even more important than language in order to be successful in internationalization. These are open-mindedness, flexibility, communication and other interpersonal skills. And of course, willingness and motivation are most important.

Open-mindedness, flexibility, communication and other interpersonal skills are vital for the successful international activities. French and Estonian teachers working together with the students from France, Italy and Estonia in an Erasmus+ project meeting at Lido di Jesolo, Italy in 2019.

There has been some positive feedback from different VET schools in Estonia to the project. We hope that the upcoming VET staff members career model of internationalization will help to clarify more the different ways and possibilities on how to be internationally active. To be a source of motivation and inspiration.

The first 8 months of the project

After the kick off meeting held in Bilbao in November and the realization of the first Intellectual Output, the six partners continued their work on the international paths for VET staff.

Moving from the results of the questionnaire that involved 740 staff members from 5 European countries, the partners organized focus groups with teachers, and staff in general, to collect feedback on the second Intellectual Output, i.e. a personal development path model in international skills for VET staff.

Due to the Coronavirus emergency situation there was not the possibility to organize lots of focus groups in person, as originally foreseen, so the project managers reached several VET centres and staff members (directors, teachers and project managers etc. but also work life representatives) via online tools.

Before presenting the model, they made a short presentation about the project and then proceeded with a discussion about the skills needed in an increasingly globalized world and those necessary to act as an international worker.

Following benefits for the teachers who are professionally active in international activities came out that taking part in projects gives you positive emotions and new friends, you become a better teacher, discover new teaching methods and it widens your perspective. Furthermore it helps you to nurture student’s motivation and perspective for their speciality.

On the contrary, bringing new staff members into Internationalization involves also challenges, for examples it is hard to participate without adequate language skills.

All the results of Focus groups carried out in the single countries will be made available soon.

IO n° 1 – Mapping the international skills and competences

The first Intellectual Output was a survey to map out what kind of skills the staff already had and what kind of skills are necessary in the future when thinking about internationalization of their colleges, e.g. home internationalization, international projects, mobilities, education export etc.

The partners sent out the questionnaire between November and December 2019 and they were able to reach more than 740 VET trainers from 5 European countries.

The results highlighted the importance of the Internationalization in their organizations: 94% of the interviewees agreed that it plays an important role.

Moreover 64% of the respondents said that they have had work trips abroad while working at the current organization and 38% have organized mobilities either for themselves, other staff or students.

Another important information collected was that 75% of the respondents was interested in taking part in international activities in an active way.

From these results the partnership will conduct some Focus groups among the staff in order to create a personal development path model in international skills for VET staff, that will constitute the second Intellectual Output.

Mari Kontturi (Luovi, Finland), the coordinator of the project, stated that the survey showed as 75% of the respondents said they want play a role in international activities and that the project aim is now inspiring the other 25%.

Erasmus+ KA2 / REX VET Project

From 20th to 22nd of November the partners of the REX VET project met in Bilbao to launch the project activities. “From a rookie to an expert – international paths for VET staff (REX VET)” is a strategic partnership project funded by the Erasmus+ programme with the final aim of motivating more VET teachers and staff to participate in internationalization activities either at home or abroad.

The project stems from the need to promote skills and competences required by the international labour market and multicultural working life. In order to provide students with such competences, VET teachers and trainers need to acquire international skills as part of their continuous professional development.

The project idea took shape during the EfVET Conference 2018 in Como when the partners realised that many VET providers have the need to increase the ownership of internationalization activities within their organization and engage more teachers and staff members in such activities. The challenge of engaging more teachers in international activities is crucial in order to increase the attention to the European context, develop new curriculum planning process and new curriculum models and help to widen cultural understanding among students. Moreover, it’s important to promote staff development in terms of internationalization. Skills as knowledge about the EU, better understanding of other VET systems, language and managerial skills and skills to work in a multi-cultural environment must be developed by VET teachers. Finally, it’s important to link these aspects to the international strategy of the organisation and to the staff professional development.

The project in a nutshell

  • 6 partners: the consortium consists of two Finnish VET providers (Luovi and Invalidisäätiö) and VET providers from Italy (ENAC), Spain (Centro San Viator), the Netherlands (Alfa-College) and Estonia (Kuressaare Ametikool).
  • 4 Intellectual Outputs: During the two-year, the project will deliver a pathway model for internationalization. Also supporting training materials will be created to promote skills and competences needed for individual professional development in international activities.
  • 4 transnational meetings and 5 multiplier events: to work on the products and to disseminate the results.
  • 1 learning, teaching and training activity: to test the products and to get feedback for the improvement from different stakeholders

The first IO has been already completed. It was a survey aimed at mapping the international skills of the staff in partner organizations. The data emerging from the survey were really interesting, showing strong support for the internationalization in vocational education and training institutions.