In the framework of the Life Long Learning Programme – a transversal programme implemented by the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes Zrinka Ristić Dedić from the Center for Educational Research and Development stayed from 17th till 21th March in Flanders, Belgium, on a study visit „Equal opportunities in education through policy and consultation with local stakeholders“. A visit was organized by the Flemish Department of Education and Training. Participants from Bulgaria, Denmark, England, Croatia, Hungary, Malta, Germany and Poland were informed about the equal educational opportunities policy that is implemented on the local level (in the cities of Ghent, Lokeren and Sint Niklaas). On that level also act the Local Platforms for Cooperation in Ensuring Equal Opportunities (LOPs) that gather different stakeholders (principals, representatives of school committees, trade unions, social services, parents, integrational office, local CSOs engaged in the immigrant, socially deprived and similar policies…) with the objective of analyzing the local situation and discussing and arranging the sensitive policy of student school enrollment, policy of supporting students with an unfavorable social environment, policy of prevention of negative school behaviours (school absence, school drop-out), policy of cooperation between family and school and so on.
Participants of the study visit visited a couple of schools at different educational levels where they talked about school practises with the objective of strenghtening the equal educational opportunities and ensuring equality of all the students at school. They were also guests of the heads of LOPs, representatives of cities, educational agencies and the Ministry of Education.
In Zrinka Ristić Dedić’s own words: „The most impressive part of the study visit certainly was participation in lessons at the so-called OKAN classes that accept children who have recently arrived to Belgium and who don’t speak Flemish. It was touching to see with how much enthusiasm, openness, empathy and joy the young teachers approach children helping them make their „first steps“ in the new country…Those are really the teachers with a great heart!—Also, it was valuable to see what can be done for the education of one city by the interested local community when all of the local resources are used in a constructive, focused and collaborative way. From the perspective of our, still rather centralised educational system and the local authorities that are usually more interested in painting the walls or repairing the school roofs, than in the quality of education and the overall wellbeing of school children, activities on the local level in Ghent seemed just unbelievable!!“

The school principal shows her bag with the educational materials (picture books, toys) that are distributed among the socially deprived or immigrant families for the enrichment of children’s playing and with the aim of developing linguistic abilities of school students.
Zrinka Ristić Dedić and the students of one of the so-called OKAN classes that have recently arrived to Belgium.
The presentation of the activities of the students’ council in the city of Sint-Niklaas. The students’ council organized the activities that warn the teachers about rational using of educational materials and supplies that are payed by their families.
Participants of the study visit (without Zrinka Ristić Dedić who took the role of photographer) preparing a group report from the study visit while waiting for the train to return to Ghent.