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University of Eastern Finland launches training project for immigrants

New opportunities for self-motivated and hobby-based learning are being developed for asylum seekers and native Finns in the Learning Spaces project (Opinsauna in Finnish) carried out by the School of Educational Sciences and Psychology at the University of Eastern Finland, the Community College of Joensuu, and other liberal adult education sector actors in North Karelia.

Traditionally, training aimed at immigrants comprises language training and integration training. The Learning Spaces project seeks to create innovative alternatives to complement the offering available to adult learners.

"In this project, students of education and adult education will, under supervision, develop new kinds of self-motivated activities to avoid a situation where asylum seekers stay isolated and idle in their own groups while waiting for their language and integration training to begin. Together with native Finns, asylum seekers can also act as trainers in their fields of expertise, for example cooking, woodwork, handicrafts or music. This is bound to give integration a boost," say the persons behind the idea, Senior Lecturer Juha Kauppila and Professor Jyri Manninen of the University of Eastern Finland.

Self-motivated learning bears many benefits

The liberal adult education courses organised by the Learning Spaces project constitute a natural platform for coming together and learning together for persons of different cultural backgrounds.

In the project, asylum seekers become familiar with the Finnish culture and they have something motivating to do. Participating in non-vocational training comes with many benefits for the participants, as shown for example by the extensive, European-wide Benefits of Lifelong Learning study, BeLL, (www.bell-project.eu) in which the University of Eastern Finland participated.

Self-motivated learning bears many benefits for adult learners. It enhances social interaction, self-esteem and life management skills, and increases trust and tolerance through intercultural interaction.

Furthermore, liberal adult education activities also serve as a natural forum for native Finns and asylum seekers to meet one another, to learn about each other's cultures, and to tackle any possible prejudices. At the same time, using language in these contexts also supports the traditional language training aimed at immigrants.

Liberal adult education activities in Finland date back more than one hundred years and reach over a million participants every year. These activities have played a key role in the creation of Finnish welfare and democracy.

Students as doers

The implementation and management of the Learning Spaces project is mainly at the responsibility of University of Eastern Finland students of education, adult education and career counselling, who use a project-based learning model as part of their studies.

"For example, we are running a course on project work and networking for students of education and adult education, so why not address a real and topical issue and do our project on that? Moreover, as future adult trainers have teaching exercises as part of their pedagogical studies, I can't imagine a better way to practise than to be a trainer and leader on these new kinds of courses," Senior Lecturer Juha Kauppila says, explaining the idea behind the project.

The project constitutes part of the activities of the Freedom and Responsibility of Liberal Adult Education network, which is a joint effort between the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Tampere, Åbo Akademi and the Finnish Adult Education Association.

For further information, please contact:

Professor Jyri Manninen, tel. +358 294 45 2200, jyri.manninen(at)uef.fi

Senior Lecturer Juha Kauppila, tel. +358 294 45 2586, juha.kauppila(at)uef.fi