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Miloš Đuričanin, Director of Strategy and Development at the Nordeus Foundation

The School of the Future is a School of Opportunities

Our vision is to provide children and young adults with a platform to create and learn through experience, via which they can connect, jointly create and learn from one another, with the support of expert mentors, educators and the professional community

There can be no successful students without empowered and dedicated teachers, without whom the school of the future won’t even exist. The specific mission of our organisation and the Group for Education is to support teachers during these times of civilisational change and accelerated technological development. This is how Miloš Đuričanin, director of strategy and development at the Nordeus Foundation, describes this initiative that brings to Serbian schools a new approach to learning for the 21st century.

“The school of the future also shifts the paradigm of the educational process, or the role of teachers in the teaching process, in which they will gain the role of a partner in building knowledge, instead of merely having the currently ubiquitous role of imparting knowledge, while the student will become an active participant in the learning process,” explains our interlocutor. These postulates formed the foundation for the creation of the Makers Labs and other programmes that are being implemented, on the basis of European models, by the Group for Education, which includes – alongside the Nordeus Foundation – Junior Achievement Serbia, the Digital Serbia Initiative and the Centre for the Promotion of Science.

What are schools lacking today in order to be schools for the 21st century; and how do the Makers Labs complement the school of the future?

— The school of the future is a school of opportunities. In order for us to have empowered and dedicated teachers, we must create conditions under which the teacher can give their all and work adequately. We cannot raise the salaries of teachers on our own – that is the social responsibility of all of us and represents one of the important steps in changing our society’s attitude towards education.

We can nonetheless do a lot. The school of the future is part of an ecosystem, together with local communities, scientific institutions and businesses, which regulates itself in response to the changes brought by the future. The specific aim of cooperation within this ecosystem is to support teachers through the creation of new opportunities for their high-quality professional development, the improvement of conditions for implementing modern teaching methods that depend on the technological equipping of schools and adequate space for work, and finally through the repositioning of teachers’ role and value in society.

The aforementioned represent the goals of the initiative that led to the establishing of the Group for Education.

We are currently working on four projects in which companies assist in the establishing of makers labs in schools in their communities. We see that as the future of this initiative

In this context, the Makers Lab is just one part of that initiative, which has the aim of improving the technological equipping of schools. This is a space within schools that enables us to keep pace with the need to change the educational process and which replaces the traditional classroom model that’s designed exclusively for frontal instruction with the model of the classroom of the future, which enables the implementing of a new learning through project-based, multidisciplinary teaching and teamwork.

Alongside this, we are also working actively to pursue other stated goals – from the creation of support programmes and free training for teachers, to new programmes for pupils that prepare them for the digital economy. A special focus has been placed on building an ecosystem around schools in order for us to create a sustainable support system that depends on us and not on donors.

How did you come up with the design for the Makers Lab?

— The Makers Lab has been created with a view to the model of the “Classroom of the Future”, which was developed by the European Schoolnet (EUN) – a network that gathers together 35 European member states and deals with innovation in education in the broadest sense. This is a unique innovative and multidisciplinary space that encourages experimentation and entrepreneurship among school children, while enabling teachers to take an innovative approach to teaching by interlinking multiple areas within the scope of one school lesson. With the practical application of acquired knowledge, through regular classes or additional Makers programmes, school pupils are encouraged to convert their ideas into reality and to create a clearer picture of their future careers by familiarising themselves with various fields.

We think of schools as community centres and spaces where pupils have free access to a large number of different educational programmes, regardless of the main subjects that they’ve enrolled to study, through which they can advance and improve their knowledge and skills, and can do so in accordance with their personal interests that might not be part of their formal study programme.

What determines which schools can get a Makers Lab and how diverse are they?

— The Makers Lab and all support programmes implemented by the organisations that form part of the Group for Education have the aim of supporting the most important stakeholder in the entire educational process: the teacher. Our goal is to support all teachers who want to improve their work and the opportunities available to their pupils. We can thus say that the opening of a Makers Lab in a school depends primarily on the initiative of that school’s teachers and administrators.

We are limited only by the number of labs that we can open in one year, but we are learning fast: we have progressed from just four labs in one year to 11 during this school year, and I believe that we will open another 15 new ones as of this September. Makers Labs today exist in 14 Serbian cities and municipalities, and at least 10 more will have been opened by the end of the next school year.

We adapt Makers Labs to each school individually and donate the specific equipment they need to improve existing programmes for pupils and launch new ones. Through accession to the Makers Lab Network, each school also receives access to various programmes and projects that they can join as they choose, and through which they receive additional equipment.

You initially thought that it would be difficult to establish 50 of these labs in Serbia by 2025, but now you consider it realistic. Who are your most important allies in this endeavour?

— Everything is made less difficult when we work together, and there is no more worthy goal for us to unite around than the future of our children; their education and opportunities to live well right here in Serbia.

The Group for Education, which – alongside the Nordeus Foundation – comprises Junior Achievement Serbia, the Digital Serbia Initiative and the Centre for the Promotion of Science, primarily gathered around this goal. Every lab we establish and programme we launch is a result of the incredible synergy of the dedicated work of more than 20 people from these organisations. In just the first year of the Group’s work, we brought together dozens of companies around the idea of supporting schools in Serbia, and hundreds of people from those companies, through our programmes, independently take responsibility for the future of our children by sharing their knowledge with them or by providing mentorship support.

Ever more companies are contacting us with a desire to help establish Makers Labs in schools in their communities. We are currently working on four such projects that we see as the future of this initiative. Local communities must gather together to prevent the departures of young people and we can help them with that.

However, nothing would be possible without a wonderful community of teachers, who are true enthusiasts and heroes of this society. It is precisely in cooperation with them that we design and create every programme, project and initiative.

Considering technological changes, 2025 could bring something completely new compared to what we are familiar with now. How open to change are the Makers Labs?

— I think that the winning combination is to view education, the local community and the economy as a single ecosystem that we build together, just like in nature. That isn’t difficult, because our culture is founded on togetherness, on sharing both the good and the bad with our families, neighbours and community. Our vision is to create a platform for children and young adults to create and learn through experience, via which they can connect, jointly create and learn from one another, with the support of expert mentors, educators and the professional community. Such communities, or rather ecosystems, will be much more open to and ready for change, because they work on that change together.

KNOWLEDGE

We think of schools as community centres and spaces where pupils can advance and improve their knowledge and skills, regardless of the main subjects that they’ve enrolled to study

ECOSYSTEM

The school of the future is part of an ecosystem, together with local communities, scientific institutions and businesses, which regulates itself in response to the changes brought by the future

INITIATIVE

The opening of a Makers Lab in a school depends primarily on the initiative of that school’s teachers and administrators