I have been connected to the SIAE for more than 27 years. I still remember the beautiful and encouraging feelings that filled me when I first met my colleagues on 1 December 1995. There weren’t many of them, but they all impressed me with their eloquence and dedication to the SIAE’s mission, which I felt while working with them. This was especially true for my mentor, Olga Drofenik, who opened the door to the world of ALE for me, and my first roommate, Ester Možina.
I came to the SIAE from a predominantly male world of energy, economics and IT. The transition to humanistic waters suited me well, almost as if it was tailor-made. However, it took years before I felt genuinely competent. My different educational background did give me certain advantages. I eagerly took on information challenges and, after two years, took over the management of the unit with the same name. Transferring a wealth of data into computer-supported systems and establishing databases and relations between them – all of this was familiar to me. This work was inward-facing, oriented towards order and systematicity, which I generally experience as the first condition and springboard for something more in life. But a more significant challenge for me was working outwardly with people in the ALE community and beyond.
Our development has been dictated by technology and, above all, the needs of society and the individual
The Ordinance on the Establishment of the SIAE stated that our institute “performs library activities and maintains a programme and media library in the field of adult education, prepares and publishes publications and other materials for adult education, develops and maintains an information system, performs other infrastructure activities necessary for the development of adult education”. Some of these information-based tasks have acquired specific names and are still with us today, such as the e-Newsletter, the SIAE Library and the Where to get knowledge platform. We continuously update their approach to reaching the public. Others remain in the background, constituting our infrastructure.
Already in 1996, the development of another, perhaps even dominant, group of activities began: promotion or awareness-raising. The latter was explicitly mentioned in SIAE’s annual work plan and organisational chart for the first time in 2000, on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the leading promotional project – the Lifelong Learning Week (later Weeks) (LLW). The latter became our flagship in Slovenia and abroad. Thanks to it, we have woven partnerships with other activities and within the ALE community – at the local and national levels. At the same time, we have worked inter-ministerially and offered a helping hand to other stakeholders. Our efforts were holistic and inclusive, life-wide and life-long. Learners also had a voice; we awarded many for promoting adult learning and knowledge.
Additional impetus for opening up and connecting came in 2012 with the European project Implementation of the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL project). In recent years, we have set up awareness-raising, informing and promotional activities even more broadly with events such as the EAAL forums on the future of adult education (2021) and skills for life (2022). In addition, Adult Education Colloquium (1997 →), national LLW openings at the local level (2006 →), Learning Parade – Day of learning communities (2013 →), Annual Adult Education Conference (2010 →), numerous video publications and many other activities have also contributed to this.
Our desire to create synergies has brought us many collaborators and followers – institutions and individuals. Social networks, where we interweave daily, support us in this process. We believe that with all of the above and much more, we significantly contribute to establishing a culture of lifelong learning in the country and beyond. Our role in this will become even more penetrating in terms of time and content with the megaproject Awareness for lifelong learning.
And finally – not fighting, but forging noble alliances!
I would also like to mention the advocacy aspect of our work, which is present in almost every action of the Promotion and Information Unit at the SIAE. The victim mentality (poor me) has never been my cup of tea. I believe one can hardly gain a position, support, a leading role, etc., by feeling neglected and constantly reminding others how it should be, what others should do for you, etc.
On the contrary, I believe you start with your faith and conviction that you already have a leading role. You just need to constantly develop and verify the quality of its implementation and effectiveness. You don’t expect others who are above you to somehow approve of you in advance, but rather operate from the previously established source and bask in it. In this mode of operation, you invite others, give them equal validity, grant them respect and look forward to the collaboration. And always ensure the winning satisfaction of all involved. Such a benevolent proactive attitude usually brings benefits and continuous affirmation of the meaningfulness of what you do. If not, perhaps the time is not yet ripe for a particular matter, or it has no place in the structure of the world at all.
Our institution was born with a leadership role. Over the course of three decades, we have done our best to nurture it, establish it and work for the benefit of individuals and society. We have survived numerous crises that have affected our status and, most often, the lack of funding for ALE.
But for the present time, I dare say that adult education has never been so clearly recognised as inevitable. And never before has so much money been allocated to it from various sources. So let’s make sure it reaches those who need it most.
I wish us all many fruitful, validating and successful meetings and actions to come!
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (firstname.lastname@example.org), SIAE