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New Period of Education and Training

The conference ‘Promoting Innovation and Creativity – Schools' Response to the Challenges of Future Societies' marks a new period of education and training linked in with social and economic processes in Europe according to the European Commission and the Slovenian Presidency.

The conference, chaired by Mirko Zorman of the Slovenian Ministry of Education and Sport (president of the Education Committee), was opened by the Slovenian Minister of Education and Sport, Dr Milan Zver, with keynote speeches from Esko Aho, Jeremy Rifkin and David Istance.

The Minister began by stressing that Slovenians are traditionally innovative and ingenious, for they boast a long list of novelties and discoveries, having significantly contributed to development in different fields. He went on to underline that, although innovation is a broad concept, "discussions on innovation must start with education, and this is why we decided to make innovation and creativity a thematic priority of the Slovenian EU Council Presidency." He pointed out that modern-day education faces problems that can be solved only by new approaches, new paradigms and new patterns of thinking and acting. He also outlined the dilemmas and expected trends which education faces, and concluded, "In future society, schools will only fulfil their mission by becoming, in addition to places where knowledge is passed on, places of innovation and creativity and, as such, places where new knowledge is created." Esko Aho, a former Prime Minister of Finland, concurred with this opinion, stressing that the aims of education must include boosting entrepreneurial spirit in the sense of exploiting one's own potential, creativity and willingness to take risks. He went on, "It is not enough to do things better, the things we do must be better and higher in quality." This was further stressed by David Istance, an OECD researcher, who underlined the importance of developing new competences and school models as well as a broader cultural context determining the success of both students and school. He presented four starting points capable of fuelling innovation and creativity: research and scientific findings, synergistic effects of networking and horizontally linked areas, interaction between modular structures, and information technology.

In an extremely humanistically-oriented speech, the keynote speaker Jeremy Rifkin, author of seventeen best-selling books in the field of economy, labour, society and the environment, first wondered what innovation and creativity served, and explained the inevitable connection between these two elements and the continued existence of mankind in general. He pointed out that the future of society very much depended on quality of life, which is the reason why "education must be oriented in particular towards the growth of every individual, however not only with regard to profitability and efficiency, but also in terms of obtaining and developing values, solidarity and the integration of individuals into society." In this context, he emphasised that, in the past, education systems had been the driving force of every revolution and every major social change and added that, with regard to the current globalisation processes which promise a new revolution, education would again play a decisive role in the future.

The main conclusion after the first day of the conference was, therefore, that the above shifts could be achieved only by changing the mentality of individuals – teachers, students and thereby also the schools as the fundamental institutions in which knowledge is obtained and basic values created.

The conference will continue tomorrow, and participants will be able to attend different workshops on the following themes: partnership and networking for creativity and innovation, empowerment of schools as a necessary condition for creativity and innovation, skills and knowledge for creativity and innovation. The conference conclusions will be presented by the Slovenian Minister of Education and Sport Dr Milan Zver, the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth Jan Figel', and the conference moderator Mirko Zorman, at the press conference to take place on 10 April 2008 at 1.30 p.m. at Brdo pri Kranju.

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Date: 09.04.2008