Education should represent an imaginary red thread that runs throughout human life. For fifteen years, the Institute of Lifelong Learning (ILL) has been helping to play Mendel University its part in supporting this vision. Thanks to ILL, the university can be a reliable partner for its students from the time they are admitted there after finishing secondary school, until the late age at which they want to have fun with their self-education, or even invite their grandchildren to join them. Of course, it is also available to all university staff and the general public.
Although ILL is a small university institute, it is engaged in many activities:
- We are the only ones at MENDELU to offer higher education in the field of pedagogy. This year we introduce an unique, professionally focused bachelor programme Applied Pedagogical Studies, based on current trends in adult education. We have been educating future secondary vocational schools teachers for 15 years, and we cooperate with almost 50 secondary vocational schools. Our goal is to train professionals in education who follow modern trends and are prepared to face changes in educational methods necessary for the period we live in.
- As part of our research activities, we are involved in several projects. We map everyday life in secondary vocational schools during the socialist period and describe the past for future generations. That is part of a project funded by the prestigious Czech Science Foundation (GACR) called Secondary Vocational Schools in Socialist Czechoslovakia from the Perspective of the History of Everyday Life. Since spring 2020, we have been solving a project funded by the Operational Programme “Research, Development and Education” with the objective to improve communication between teachers, pupils and parents in primary and secondary schools through transaction analysis tools. With another project, which had a grant application from the INTERREG international cooperation programme submitted in January 2021, we aim to develop the computer skills of pupils and teachers at secondary schools in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
- We organize the International scientific conference ICOLLE, which deals with current topics in the field of lifelong learning. 14th ICOLLE will take place on September 8 this year, and those interested can register for it now. The main topic of the conference is the Development of competencies relevant to life and practice in the 21st century. The conference is guaranteed by the Rector of MENDELU and the Governor of the South Moravian Region.
- Since 2011, we have published an independent reviewed scientific journal Journal of Lifelong Learning, which presents original scientific works of Czech and foreign authors, study overviews and discussion papers concerning the issues of lifelong learning and education (predominantly professional and further vocational education and senior education).
- In the field of lifelong learning, we offer almost 60 different courses and seminars, from two-day to four-semester long. Not even the rise of the coronavirus pandemic last spring stop them. The continuing interest in the courses is also visible in the registrations; some have up to three times more applicants than can be accepted. The offer of courses is thematically varied. It includes, for example, retraining courses for farmers, local cheese producers, but also courses on plant protection, economically oriented courses, IT courses or aromatherapy. All the lectures that were possible to adopt for online teaching are already available in distance form.
- Since 2008, our Counselling Centre has been providing qualified study, career and psychological counselling to all students, graduates and employees of MENDELU. Since last spring, we have seen an increased interest in psychological counselling related to the current pandemic. The Counselling Centre also helps students plan their careers. For example, it has been organizing the “Run It!” course for six years, helping them start their own business while still studying at university.
- An integral part of ILL is the University of the Third Age (U3A). Currently, it has, as one of a few universities of the third age in Czech, switched to online teaching during the pandemic. For seniors, the new online courses represent at least some connection with the world “out there” in a situation when they remain in voluntary isolation because they are worried about their health. Regular contact with the school, i.e. with lecturers and classmates, gives them hope. The University of the Third Age also has an international dimension. In the last three years, dozens of its listeners have participated in two projects involving 7 European countries.
- In 2019, we started a unique project of Intergenerational University, the aim of which is to strengthen relationships and ties between the older and younger generations through intergenerational education. It is an education in which seniors participate together with their grandchildren. They don’t spend time with them in front of the TV; they can go out together, for example, to explore the forest or to university laboratories. The authors of the project received the Rector’s Award for their significant contribution to the development of civil society.
In the 15 years of operation of the Institute of Lifelong Learning as an independent university institute, over 900 students have passed through its classrooms; over 1000 experts have participated in its thirteen ICOLLE conferences; more than 18,000 people have attended lifelong learning courses and seminars as well as those offered by the counselling centre; lectures at the University of the Third Age have been attended by more than 11,000 students.
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