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Photos from Cambridge Baltic Conference 2014 are available!
In 2013, the Cambridge Baltic Conference (CBC) project was initiated to gather leaders from various fields to discuss the Baltic countries in the context of the European Union, and brought together speakers, students and guests of incredibly high calibre. This October, CBC takes on Education.
The CBC 2014 aims at generating a nexus of ideas that will combine the knowledge, creativity and experience of students, business community, politicians and academics to take lead in the discussions of the current state and the future of educational practices.
The first day of the conference will feature academic, debating and public speaking workshops held for students, which will engage their individual responsibility together with collective creativity to develop projects and concrete action plans on education. The second day of the event gives students an opportunity to share ideas and discuss with distinguished guests, professionals, politicians, entrepreneurs and academics. All our exciting speakers are introduced on our website!
Panel discussions and student projects will address issues such as "Best Practices in Higher Education", "Does Education Foster Entrepreneurship?", "Skills versus Knowledge in Secondary Education", and "Future Trends and Innovations in the Field of Education". We will be considering how education could better address businesses' needs, the value of the traditionally "Western" teaching methods as opposed to the "Eastern" ones, as well as the future trends in the field of education.
Come along, rethink educational pathways and take part in shaping the future of the Baltic countries!
Please fill in both forms to register:
We, ourselves young students, are taking the lead in educational innovation by creating an educational project within the conference on Education. The mission of this educational project is to create a medium of exchange for educational change. Workshop Day will be a day of conference meetings and workshops for discussions on education and skills training, which are designed and dedicated to high-flying students from the Baltic countries and the United Kingdom.
We believe that good questions outrank easy answers. We want to empower the students so that they can give answers by representing their views and coming up with solutions that will re-envision and reinvigorate Education in the Baltics. In addition, we will prepare them for asking demanding questions by providing training through informational, leadership, debate and public speaking workshops and discussions, which will enable them to question the answers represented by the speakers on the second conference day. In doing this and representing the ideas of the youth on the second day panel discussions we want to encourage everyone to always think of themselves as students, who continuously learn and go forward.
Education and business leaders worldwide desire today's students to both master school subjects and excel in areas such as problem solving, critical thinking, and interpersonal communication - abilities referred to as "21st century skills". Could development of transferable knowledge and skills be the key to success in education and work also in the Baltics? How and when this is to be achieved?
The panel on higher education will discuss the ideal practices in higher education in both the Baltic countries and the UK. Speakers will touch upon issues such as practical versus theoretical approaches to learning, the role of extracurricular activities, students' work experience and international student exchanges.
Does education foster entrepreneurship? Would successful entrepreneurs have been successful regardless of their education? What can we change in our current educational system for there to be more Zuckerbergs etc., particularly within the Baltic States?
From primary to higher education, traditional teaching methods are being challenged both globally and within Baltic countries and are shaping a new way of building knowledge and teaching the youth of today and tomorrow. Where is the future of education moving, as well as where should it be moving, in both the level of Baltic states and the rest of the world?
Tap on or place your mouse cursor over the speakers to display their biography details.
Prof’s White address explored major changes in education over the last half of millennium, with particular focus on developments in the way Cambridge delivers its education, and what future changes can be predicted. Prof White underlined the main future challenge for ancient universities such as Cambridge, that is staying true to heritage but also being globally relevant and making sure that their science and engineering courses compare to courses offered by universities on other continents. Higher education in the 21st century means opportunity time but also conflicting demands of universities. Strong curriculum that stimulates leadership, curiosity and useful knowledge acquisition, is needed.
In his speech, Dr Ķīlis pointed out the three main issues currently facing secondary education in the Baltics. This is depopulation, due to both aging of the populations and migration; the mismatch between skills required by employers and qualifications, and scarcity of skilled labour; inequality, which is often understated in the Baltic States though the share of people with lower qualifications than their parents is in fact rising. In order to address these issues, Dr Ķīlis suggested changing the role of teachers and giving the parents more influence; making use of VET, STEM, DUE policies, striving to have attainment to be irrespective of socio-economic and location factors; giving more importance to extra-curricular activities.
According to Ms Liledantec, education in the Baltics is knowledge-based, which puts students from those countries at a disadvantage. The Baltic States should follow the model of Teach First and Team Up programmes for the benefit of future generations of students. Education needs to suit the current needs of students, not the current ideological position of the government that governs them. Ms Liledantec voiced the need for more informal learning, good career advice, reforming the curriculum, training/retraining of teachers and actively engaging students.
Dr Wilson argued that it would be futile to attempt to cannot replace all current teachers, changing the mind of the existing ones is more realistic. Students need both knowledge and skills to apply that knowledge, however the common attitude that teachers ought to know everything is not useful. The Baltic States should not necessarily compare themselves against other countries using international data which is often obtained using flawed tests.
Dr Landsbergienė put stress on the need for adequate preparation of teachers and increasing prestige of the teaching profession in Lithuania. Dr Landsbergienė suggested that teacher training programmes should include mentoring and hands-on experience and focus should be shifted to developing emotional intelligence and leadership skills, for which a longer school year would be useful.
Using evidence from authoritative sources, Dr Olina proposed that infrastructure, assessment and good teacher attendance are the strengths of the Baltic education systems. Nonetheless, more space and time to make mistakes and learn from them are necessary, for both teachers and students alike.
Mr Kruusimägi called for more focus on the process of learning itself, which would benefit all society, though it should teach life skills such as thinking, social interaction, research and self-management, which are imperative for success. The emphasis on standardised testing and marks does not encourage entrepreneurship. Teachers should aim to be professional, rather than efficient even if efficiency is imposed by politicians. All stakeholders in education should be engaged, although parents are frequently the most difficult stakeholders to negotiate with.
Ms Rute presented evidence which reinforces the position of Europe as a key player in education and research. However, more work could be done to have a higher number of PhD students trained for industry to allow for better knowledge transfer between academia and industry; more researchers working for private companies to have best brains aware of the needs of private companies. Investing in research and innovation boosts economic performance, as does having students go abroad for part of their studies, the figure of European students studying abroad should be raised from 10% to 20%. The rate of drop-outs out of school in the Baltic States is relatively low and tertiary education rate is above most European countries. It needs to be borne in mind that over the next 7-8 years the demand for simple, unskilled jobs is going to decrease by 20%.
Mr Daubaris recommended spending a higher proportion of GDP in the Baltic States on tertiary education and focusing on the quality, not the quantity of education establishments. Those in power should consider merging universities in Lithuania to preserve the environment, have better connectivity with business and reduce the number of graduates competing for the same jobs. Moreover, knowledge should be presented in an appealing, interactive and applicable way and this would be one way in which students could be empowered.
Prof Auzins pointed out that about 70-80% of the Latvian population enter higher education and the state is not able to fund education for all, as such businesses should play more of a role. Prof Auzins remaked that people who both know and think are increasingly rare and only the most motivated students should be free to choose areas to specialise in.
Somewhat controversially, Prof Hayes claimed that students should ‘forget the soft skills and get some real knowledge’. The soft skills such as learning to learn and emotional intelligence, as well as the so-called university student experience should not be given priority after since they in fact reduce students’ ability to think critically. Such skills go hand in hand with knowledge and should not be seen as separate entities from knowledge. Additionally, Prof Hayes argued that education is not linked to economy, it is important for its own sake and we have lost that. Teachers themselves tend not believe in passing on of knowledge and excessively focus on learning objectives which turn education into training and present perfectionism as something to overcome and eradicate. Lack of motivation often stems from lack of interest in the subject area.
Mr Woolsey maintained that Europe is not spending enough on education and that within the lifetimes of those who are young now, China will come to dominate the world. As such, young Baltic people should seek to convince the Chinese to invest in their region. Big corporations are good places to kick off a career and learn more about business from them but young people should aim to direct their talent elsewhere and establish their own businesses. Failure is part of learning, and losing at first can bring recognition in later stages of development of the business.
Dr Pačėsa acknowledged the importance of profession knowledge, but also suggested that it does not suffice and the so-called soft skills are entrepreneurial skills. Therefore young people should tolerate and take risks, always look for new opportunities and maintain positive attitude. Idea, initiative and implementation should go together and form part of the big picture. Education is currently failing young people because of too much focus on knowledge transfer, constant assessment and isolation of disciplines. Dr Pačėsa recommended having more open-book exams in order to spread the joy of learning and discovery, and striving for interdisciplinary education since we live in an increasingly interconnected world.
When it comes to entrepreneurship, the academic subject that one’s degree is in is irrelevant. The current education system was designed to meet the needs of industrialisation and taking the increase in global population, globalisation, resource scarcities and abundance of information we ought to seek new ways of educating and providing flexible learning and continuous professional development through interactive, experimental and practical education. This kind of education should encompass functional skills, human interaction and stakeholder awareness and expertise in these areas is particularly useful for those with the ambition to lead a company in the future. Sir Judge emphasised the need for a culture that encourages entrepreneurship, rather than knocks it out of young people. Opportunities can be found in all geographical areas and the history baggage of the Baltic States may even be advantageous. Reforms in education have more influence in emerging countries and more university students should be encouraged to study abroad for part of their degree.
Mr Pekk referred to a number of recent studies on education, one of which has shown that when it comes to networking and asking for advice on education, it is far more effective to ask what others wish they had done differently, rather than seeking answers to own questions. It has also been revealed that student satisfaction and test results have an inverse relationship at schools which focus on exam performance.
Dr Gelbūda stressed that education is an engine for creativity and progress but education in the Baltic States has not delivered this yet. Entrepreneurship is a style of behaviour and the Baltic States need to introduce new teaching methods that hone the ability to solve problems and have practical use. In particular, developing social skills is crucial and the most importance competence in life.
Mr Ozols claimed that there is no direct correlation between the average attainment in education and the economic prosperity of a country. Also, Mr Ozols pointed out that ‘whether you are an entrepreneur or not is like your sexual preference – something you are born with’. Moreover, the Baltic States produce many talents who unfortunately later leave their country and do not return, therefore more work needs to be done to control this brain drain.
Mr Bradford argued that knowledge does not mean education and the process of learning does not equal acquiring knowledge, which is increasingly more readily available. Students should be stimulated to question and one can always become a better entrepreneur. Most start-ups fail due to young people’s limited experience to real life problems.
Mr Riisikamp pointed out that mentalities of particular education establishments have a lot of bearing on the education being delivered and excessively often young people are expected to do well without taking risks or failing. Schools should also play a part in fostering entrepreneurship, regardless of whether students are considering entering higher education or not and do so through means other than grades, which are an outdated of measuring achievement.
Mr Wolfram maintained that maths can be divided into maths as a school subject and applied maths and there is increasing divergence between the two branches. Computers have revolutionised the subject and the idea that computers have dumped maths down is ‘nonsense’, as is the idea that hand calculating procedures teach understanding. The assumption that intellectuality is divorced from practicality is mistaken. Removing computer means removing context considering that maths was a rather niche subject before computers emerged. The subject itself and how it relates to the world should be differentiated from the delivery of the subject. Estonia’s focus on being smart is comparable to the focus in Scandinavia on fairness or American freedom, it is a country that is ‘small, smart, fast, well-educated and they make things happen.’ In the real world, subjects are interconnected and we should start by observing real life situations and working backwards to apply mathematical concepts. Lastly, Mr Wolfram reminded that both students and teachers are people and learn similarly, and that teachers should not feel that they ought to know everything as they are learners also.
Dr Wydra remarked that there have been few developments in tertiary education provided by Cambridge University over the last few hundreds of years, unlike the history of the Baltic States. Former Soviet countries are open in two ways: both in that they are more vulnerable and insecure about the past, but also smart and realistic about education. Students should be taught to deal with failure and focus on human interaction and all kinds of talents should be recognised.
Mr Ališauskas argued that dramatic and sudden changes in the way in which education is run causes tensions among teachers and are problematic for schools to deal with. However, there is a growing age difference between students and teachers on average, leaving the generational gap void, given that ‘some of the teachers were born before WW2’. Additionally, schools are losing monopoly over education with the introduction of new technology.
Mr Saar claimed that technology should come into education only when it is necessary and the education systems in the Baltic systems put unnecessary emphasis on quantity, preventing them from going into a subject area in depth or developing critical thinking. Compartmentalised approach to education should be eradicated, while teachers should be knowledgeable but also have an open personality. While teachers prefer summative assessment, students benefit from formative assessment more, as such we should see more of assessment as learning, not of learning. Mr Saar also suggested that high-flying students should be invited to consider the option of becoming teachers.
Mr Tukišs argued that there is too much focus on being efficient and education as a stepping stone towards future jobs. Learning is the most exciting pursuit of all and should not be overshadowed by working towards qualifications.
Mr Sedleckas reasoned that although there is never a perfect time to implement change, education systems in Eastern Europe should accept that failure is a part of learning, and this ought to begin with teachers. Internet works two ways, it facilitates both sharing and accessing information and this should be made greater use of. Moreover, Mr Sedleckas highlighted that those in higher education tend to spend a lot of time working on their own and educating themselves given the limited number of contact hours.
Prof Shiller commented that successful universities tend to emphasise small teacher to student ratios since teaching large classes and this model could be adopted in the Baltic States. Collaborations between universities in the Baltic States and abroad are unfortunately rare and should be looked into. Online learning and video lectures can be useful but it is unlikely that it will take over traditional methods of teaching. Lastly, according to Prof Shiller, there is nothing inherently wrong with for-profit education.
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Cambridge Baltic Conference 2014 is jointly organised by:
The four aforementioned student societies have been established in 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2012 respectively with over a hundred of exceptionally bright and active full-time students from the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. The members of the societies are working towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in various disciplines. Together we build a friendly environment for sharing ideas and experience.
Although relatively new, CULS, CUEST and CULA have already proven solid organisation, clear vision and long term goals. Our successful past and present projects have included the Cambridge Baltic Conference 2013, Lithuanian Ideas Forum 2011, student mentorship project Academic Buddy, Lithuanian Students Forum, interactive conference LINK2012, guest lectures by Prof Leonidas Donskis, Prof Ene Ergma, Prof Mart Ustav and classical music concerts by Algirdas Galdikas, Maksim Štšura and Rimantas Vingras. These events have attracted hundreds of people and have been highlighted in the media.