05 SES 01, Extended Services, Informal Education and Community Schools
In Flanders the following framework on community schools (the term “broad schools” is used) is developed in 2010, based on international literature and three year pilot project funding (Joos & Ernalsteen, 2010; Joos, Ernalsteen, et al, 2006): “A community school aims at ameliorating the broad development of all children and youngsters by supporting and/or creating a broad learning and living environment in which children and youngsters can gain a wide range of learning and living experiences. In order to achieve this goal, a broad network is established between organizations and authorities form the various sectors that jointly shape and support the learning and living of children and youngsters.”
The personality of children and youngsters only fully develops when they are invited to do so and when a lot is expected from them. Community schools represent this expectant invitation to develop their talents. By providing children and youngsters with a multitude of experiences and encounters, their environment becomes a rich and safe training area for the complex society in which they will have to find their own place later on. They have to develop an enormous amount of competencies. For instance: dealing with information, being able and daring to adopt a critical attitude, problem-solving thinking, sports skills, co-operating, finding a job, communicating fluently, being creative, being able to make choices, expressing their proper ideas and feelings in various ways, enjoying it, … Children and youngsters must not only have many skills, they are also challenged to move in different and ever-changing environments. Participating in a multiform society requires a wide range of competencies that are flexibly deployable in changing socio-cultural contexts. This flexibility can only be acquired when you have the opportunity to develop broadly within and outside school. When we talk about learning, it means all forms of developing competencies, also by playing, by enjoying activities, in a formal or in an more informal way (Bentley, 1998, Thomas & Pattison, 2007; Dumont et al, 2010). Children and youngsters also need and are entitled to free space and time allowing them to actively explore without constant accompaniment (Gill, 2010; Gray, 2013). For instance, a Community school may support questions from youngsters for accommodation for their own activities, or meet these wishes in collaboration with the youngsters. A Community school can also see to it that children and youngsters stay the owner of their own projects, even if they are not immediately successful in that way. Failure then is part of a process resulting in new goals and developments (Gray, 2013)
A Community school essentially aims at providing children and youngsters with a maximum of opportunities and chances to realise such a broad development. It focuses on the connection between the different aspects of every concrete learning and living experience and between the many learning and living experiences children and youngsters are confronted with every day.
In this paper we will focus on the extent to which Community Schools in Flanders reach the above described objectives of giving children and youngsters a variety of opportunities to develop, to learn, to discover their talents. How do community schools use the environment of the city, during and after school hours to create this learning environment?
Bentley, T. (1998). Learning beyond the classroom. Education for a changing world. London: Routledge Dumont, H., Istance, D. & Benavides, F. (Eds.).(2010).The Nature of Learning. Using Research to Inspire Practice. Paris: OECD. Dyson, A. (2011). Full Service and Extended Schools: the Path to Equity? In: Kris Van den Branden, Piet Van Avermaet & Mieke Van Houtte (eds). Equity and Excellence in Education. Towards Maximal Learning Opportunities for All students. London: Routledge. Ernalsteen, V. & Joos, A. (2011). Wat doet een Brede School? Werken aan een brede leer- en leefomgeving.Gent: Steunpunt Diversiteit & Leren. Gill, T. (2010). Keeping it real: why and how educatorsshould be expanding children’s horizons, in: Charlie Tims (ed), Born Creative, pp. 63-70, London: demos. Gray, P. (2013). Free to Learn. Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. New York: Basic Books. Joos, A., Ernalsteen, V., Lanssens, A. & Engels, M. (2006). Community Schools in Flanders and Brussels. A Framework for Development. Brussels: Flemish Government/Education and Training. Joos, A. &Ernalsteen, V. (2010). Wat is een Brede School? Een referentiekader. Gent: Steunpunt Diversiteit & Leren. Rapley, T. (2007). Doing conversation, discourse and document analysis. The Sage Qualitative Research Kit. London: Sage Publications. Thomas, A. & Pattison, H. (2007). How Children Learn at Home.London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
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