The OPEDUCA Project was initiated bottom-up, by the field itself, building on the concept of ‘OPen EDUCational Areas/regions’ (social-demographic communities with a degree of coherence) in which Industry, Science, Education and (in a 2nd phase) regional Governmental authorities join in purpose and strength to address the most important en effective aspect of sustainability: the development of the next generation
The idea of an OPen EDUCational Area/region, 'OPEDUCA'
A general idea underlying OPEDUCA is to regard a social demographic region as a young learners’ cradle and home for development (Eussen, 2004). The scope of an OPEDUCA is grossly determined by its social, cultural and economic cohesion, the locality where people are inextricably part of multiple manifestations, indissolubly bound together. Such a region being a group of villages, a city, a (part of a) province.
Following the notion learning takes place anytime, anywhere, with anybody and through any device, the learner is envisioned to note, experience, interact, take in data and create information while moving around in her natural and societal habitat. A process which sees regional society as an accessible space, bringing sources of education within reach of the learner, providing rich opportunity in real context for meaningful learning.
Local communities have an indispensable role to play in supporting people’s learning and development and in creating societies that are engaged, inclusive and sustainable. Community-based learning strengthens bonds across generations, promotes agency and self-reliance, and fosters social cohesion, thus encouraging active citizenship and a sense of ownership of a community’s future. Moreover, it enables the exchange of information and the development of skills necessary in tackling the challenges of today’s rapidly changing world, ultimately contributing in a very significant way to sustainable development at local level.
To stress to policymakers and other stakeholders the wide and far-reaching benefits of community-based learning, particularly in the light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) has published a new policy brief, Community-based learning for sustainable development. This policy brief, co-published with the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development, advances six principles of action to develop the role of community learning centres (CLCs) as the main delivery mechanism for community-based learning: responding, engaging, enabling, embedding, sustaining and transforming.
Furthermore, to allow CLCs to put these principles into practice in a holistic and integrated manner, the paper proposes four policy recommendations for local and national governments to:
- provide dedicated resources for community-based learning;
- create mechanisms for partnerships and networking opportunities;
- organize ongoing capacity-building to ensure well-qualified and trained staff and volunteers;
- support learning content development.
A fundamental change in thinking about the practice of education and education policies is called for. Instead of beginning from the perspective of education systems we should think about building common public spaces for education. This should be led by teachers, working in conjunction with families, communities, local and national authorities, universities, public and private entities. While we have great cultural heritage and wisdom to build upon, there are no ready‐made solutions. Solutions must be built, collaboratively and taking into account the diversity of contexts and cultures in the world (UNESCO, Futures of Education, 2021)
In OPEDUCA embed their learning in the community. They explore, inquiry and draw on sources within their reach in their own habitat. A learning that goes beyond projects in welfare or care-taking: Community Based Learning in OPEDUCA is about seeking and using all the possible sources of knowledge and experience the community offers. Thereto pupils and students actively participating in the community, but their activities are driven by their learning demand and based on intrinsic motivation.
Community-wide education being found conceivable and practically effective if building on learning-processes instead of institutions and regulations, such opens perspective for an essential quality and added value of ESD, being the realisation of a local-to-global learning sphere for students.
Where the school is positioned as nexus of learning in the own community it provides a solid foothold to reach out and structurally connect the ongoing learning pathways around the globe to further effectuate the transformative potential of ESD.
"Community-based learning just might be the missing piece we are looking for on our competency-based, personalized learning quest for our students. If we can bring this work together-if we can connect them to their passion (personalize), move them along when they are ready (competency-based) and ground them in real life experience (community-based), perhaps we can truly give them the roots and the wings we have only been theorizing about for fifty years.”
Dr. Sandra Dop
Iowa Department of Education