Bratislava/Senec. From March 23 to 26, 2010 Senec is the venue of the 3rd Central European dialogue on education, the aces – Academy of Central European Schools. The unique educational platform is again expanding its borders. More than 350 pupils and teachers, representatives of the Ministries of Education as well as artists and education experts from 15 countries participate. This year´s Academy is taking place under the patronage of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education of the Slovak Republic Ján Mikolaj.
aces was founded in 2006 as an initiative of ERSTE Foundation in cooperation with the NGO Interkulturelles Zentrum. Every year a project competition for school partnerships is carried out. During their implementation phase, the awarded projects are supported financially by ERSTE Foundation. “The aim of aces is to promote the intercultural dialogue between young people and to generate valuable incentives for further development and networking in the education sector,” explains Boris Marte, Member of the Board of ERSTE Foundation. With this in mind, aces actively promotes exchange and cooperation between countries in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe, both EU-member and non-member states.
New member of the aces coordination team in Slovakia
Today more than 400 schools from 15 countries are part of the network which is supported by the Ministries of Education in every partner country. Recently, the Slovak civic association VČELÍ DOM has joined the aces coordination team and will from now on participate in shaping the network. “From the beginning, Slovakia has been part of the aces network. We are glad that this year’s Academy will take place in our country and that it will have a local partner in Slovakia”, says Dagmar Hupková, general director of the section of international cooperation of the Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic.
The growth of a new education platform in Central Europe
In recent years, the number of partner countries has almost doubled. Gerhard Moßhammer, Managing Director of Interkulturelles Zentrum, describes the initiative’s growth: “In 2007, the project started with eight partner countries. Twelve countries participated in the second project competition in 2008, and in 2009 we were able to get another three new partners on board: Bulgaria, Kosovo and the Republic of Moldova.” The number of participating schools has also risen in the last years. From the beginning it has almost quadrupled. 54 schools participated in the first aces competition in 2007. In the year 2009, there were 207 schools which submitted their project proposals on the topic “Have your say! Young Europeans shape their future!”. Overall, more than 4.000 pupils and teachers have participated in the aces network and have contributed their share to a cross-border dialogue and the exchange of alternative teaching and learning methods.
Start of a new project competition 2010/11
Violence as well as mobbing in schools has increased and is becoming the topic of sad news more and more often. In the framework of the aces Academy in Senec, it should be discussed how conflicts can be solved peacefully and which creative methods of dealing with conflicts exist. “Create your solution! Dealing with conflicts in schools and our surroundings“, is the title of this year’s aces project competition for school partnerships. All interested schools can submit their project proposals until April 30, 2010. The main requirements are that pupils have to be between 12 and 17 years old and interested school classes have to find partners in another aces country. Together the partner schools develop a project and submit their proposal. “Dealing with uncertainties and diversity is part of our everyday life, also in schools. Certain competencies on both sides, teachers’ and pupils’, are necessary to cope with those daily challenges. Seeking a creative approach to conflicts and their solutions can be a chance for personal and institutional development. This is what we would like to stimulate with this year’s aces competition”, Danica Lacová,executive director of VČELÍ DOM, explains.
Award of best practice
At the Academy all winning projects of the aces call 2009/10 will be presented and honoured. The project of the Evanjelické Gymnázium in Banská Bystrica is among the nominees. Together with partner schools from Slovenia und Serbia the project “Change your future by accepting the present” was realized. The pupils dealt with challenges and problems in everyday life. They discussed issues like education, family life, love, sex and health. “During the project we used social media like Facebook or MSN to stay in contact. But what the pupils enjoyed most was getting to know each other during the big project meetings in the partner countries”, explains Matej Zilak, teacher at the Evanjelické Gymnázium and experienced aces member. “These personal encounters have a sustainable impact, and no schoolbook can be a substitute for this special experience”, he says, convinced of the importance and success of the aces project.