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Local Academy Midden-Drenthe

-  learning in your own neighbourhood -



1. Life Long Learning: Introduction by Mary Looman-Struijs, Local Council of Middle-Drenthe



A life long of learning in your own locality is the objective of the Local Academy. I am a living example of this! Learning has always given me pleasure and enriched my life. I was therefore very grateful when, during discussions with Drenthe College about tailor-made courses, I had the opportunity to talk about the fact that I felt it was time to move away from only having lessons in large centres or in supply-driven mode in Assen.


Through my contacts in the small villages and their organisations, I know there is demand from volunteers, those raising children, adults and ‘new Drenters’ for specific short courses, in order to learn the things that they need at a particular point in time.

With the Middle-Drenthe Foundation for Community Organisation as the driving force, the Drenthe College as executor of the educational activities and the Middle-Drenthe local council, the goal of three organisations came together in one initiative: the Local Academy.


To my delight, the Local Academy is proving a success. Evaluations indicate the Local Academy is very popular and fulfils the need for demand-driven learning in the locality. People are enjoying learning again and are following courses which help them develop further.


I would like to thank the people of Hoogersmilde and Nieuw Balinge who were involved in setting up the Local Academy for their enthusiasm. It is my wish that this good example will be followed throughout Middle-Drenthe.



2. The Local Academy as a response to new developments: lecture by Jan Houtepen).


Our society is constantly changing. Developments in all areas mean that people have to learn continually. The concept of the Local Academy fits in seamlessly with the developments of both today and tomorrow.


You ask, we deliver??

In demand-driven education, it is not the syllabus, which is of greatest importance, but rather the issues current in society. Through direct contact with people and groups, these issues can be identified. These can in turn be translated into learning opportunities.

For me, demand-driven education is not the same thing as ‘you ask, we deliver’. Careful research into the learning requirements and possibilities must be done beforehand. Referral is also part of the Local Academy’s work. Discovering learning requirements is intensive work. Key individuals who have easy access to local residents fulfil an important role. These people must be trusted.


An educational biotope

A key aspect of the Local Academy is the tailor-made education on offer, which is delivered in the locality.

In my book ‘Social Policy and Education - On the Road to an Educational Biotope’, I explain that learning opportunities have to be taken to the people. Learning arrangements, which match contexts in which learning requirements spring up like mushrooms. I call this the educational biotope. It demands of educational and cultural facilities that they make the move towards people, in villages, districts and neighbourhoods. And, last but not least, it requires educational workers to develop programmes, which suit the learners’ requirements.


The WMO as a challenge for the Local Academy

The Local Academy ties in seamlessly with the Law on Social Support (WMO, 1/1/2007). It presents many challenges for the Local Academy. Below I have mentioned a few:

What educational support can be offered to the disabled, the elderly and psychiatric patients in order to promote independence and self-sufficiency? Which educational activities are useful within a day-programme framework?


The catalyst to co-operation in the village

Health education with prevention as the objective is urgently needed. How can volunteers and carers be supported with reflection, training and information? Which cultural and educational programmes can contribute to tolerance and acceptance in the area?


Using local talent

For the fourth development, I would like to highlight the use of human and social capital in the Local Academy. Knowledge and talent already available in the neighbourhood, district or village can be used. If there is a need to learn DIY, for example, there are professionals in the area who can teach these skills. It is a question of organisation. Older people can use their knowledge and insight to help others, as in the Guild projects.  You get a mixture of professional and volunteer help. For me, this is a  rectification of the over-professionalisation  currently widespread in adult education.


Many opportunities for co-operation

Finally, the Local Academy offers the opportunity for co-operation between educational, cultural and socio-cultural organisations. The desired movement in the direction of the people takes shape in a shared approach in the neighbourhood, district or village. Cultural facilities such as libraries and artistic organisations can and should also contribute. In an approach like this, the future of community and village halls in rural areas and community centres in cities is assured.



Jan Houtepen is Chairman of the Platform for Non-formal Adult Education. The Platform for Non-formal Adult Education was set up in 1995 with the objective of stimulating and supporting methodology developments and activities in the field of non-formal education. This is preferably done in co-operation with other relevant organisations also active in the field. In addition, the Platform works for the structural facilitation of non-formal education activities in government policy.




3. A model for adult education in Middle-Drenthe (by Mariëtte Steenhuis, Drenthe College)


People need to start enjoying learning again

Under the motto ‘People need to start enjoying learning again’, the Local Academy began as a pilot project in New Baling (800 inhabitants) and in Hoogersmilde (1400 inhabitants) in 2005. These are villages with active residents’ committees, their own welfare committee, a toddlers’ playgroup and two primary schools (one non-denominational, one Christian).

It all began with the desire of the Foundation for Community Development Middle-Drenthe, the local council and the Drenthe College to take ‘learning’ into the community; in this case into the many small villages which make up the local council district.


Activities for parents fit into the ‘opportunities in education’ policy

In order to tie into the ‘opportunities in education’ policy, the pilot was offered to villages, which had already received resources for their schools as a result of the policy. The activities and courses for parents fit into this policy. The timing was also right – activities for parents was something which had been on the wish lists of the primary schools in Nieuw Balinge and Hoogersmilde for some time.


The Local Academy developed its own identity in Middle-Drenthe

The concept of a Local Academy is not new, but it did develop its own identity in Middle-Drenthe. The villages helped to give it shape. Together they agreed the following guarantees:

-          what is on offer is, in principle, demand-driven

-          demand and supply are quickly synchronised

-          activities are organised close to people’s homes

-          a broad range is on offer, with a recognisable logo: the Local Academy.


All activities in the villages, which can be labelled ‘learning’, fall under the Local Academy. From courses for volunteers to support in raising children, language lessons, self-defence courses and Drentse culture. The providers can be all different types of organisations, but the ROC, the Drenthe College, plays a very important role.


Mariëtte Steenhuis is an education adviser at the Drenthe

College: ‘the Local Academy makes it possible to develop

tailor-made educational activities in a neighbourhood, district

or village. Parents may have questions about helping their

children with their homework or about how to raise children.

The elderly say they feel unsafe in certain situations.

Through short and - above all – practical courses, the Local

 Academy can provide a suitable answer to these questions.’



Anchored by good work structures 

In order to ensure that the Local Academy is not just a flash in the pan, it needs to be firmly anchored in the village community. The organisations in the village are expected to set up good consultation and work structures, which fit into the way in which people wish to learn. Learning requests from the ‘bottom of the pile’ should be given a chance, and a non-negociatable condition is that everyone is entitled to participate.


Roelie Otter is a teacher at the Drenthe College: ‘participants in the ‘more effective meetings’ course had very varied backgrounds. From someone without any meetings’ experience whatsoever to a union man, and a woman who had completed secretarial college. I had standard lesson material on two levels. I used the learners’ needs as my starting point and in that way could combine theory and practice in Hoogersmilde to deliver tailor-made learning. I enjoyed working with the participants.”




4. The Local Academy in Nieuw Balinge and Hoogersmilde



Villages say a resounding Yes to the Local Academy

During an opening meeting at the start of 2005, the Local Academy was introduced to representatives from the villages of Nieuw Balinge and Hoogersmilde. People had the opportunity to brainstorm about the possibilities for their own village. The meeting ended with a resounding ‘yes’ to the pilot project. Discussion about the courses to be offered quickly followed in the villages. Within a few months the activities had started: a course on effective meetings, computer courses and activities for parents with the themes children and the media; good communication with children, children and self-sufficiency, and punishing and rewarding.



Alle Blijsie of the Hoogersmilde Villagers Group is enthusiastic about the initiative. He says “In the past, if you wanted to follow a course, you had to leave the village. Now we can follow a course in our own village! In addition, the courses are very affordable and we look at the needs of the villagers themselves. For example, at the moment, we have 56 people registered for a computer course.”


Help getting started

The villages received help in giving the Local Academy shape from the local representative of the Foundation for Community Development in Middle-Drenthe. The representative is someone who knows the village well and can offer support where necessary.


Diana van Uffelen, community development adviser, is co-ordinator of the Local Academy; “In the past, if there was a call for a type of training, this fizzled out because of lack of courses on offer because, over the years, the link with education centres had disappeared. The Local Academy has given us something else in its place. The great thing about it is the active role of the people themselves. The different groups in the village are alert to signals and decide together which courses should be offered. There are now usually no more than 10 weeks between an idea being put forward and the start of the course or activity.”




The majority of courses are funded by the local council, through the Law on Education and Vocational Training (WEB). For activities, which cannot be funded in this way, because they do not meet the criteria, other sources of funding are sought, with the help of the Local Representative. Because various information points come together as a result of the co-operation in the village, finding sources of funding is usually not so difficult. In this way, a wide variety of activities can be offered. Even a course on something like ‘pruning’ can fall under the remit of the Local Academy.


Albert Wielink from Nieuw Balinge, a contact person for ‘his’ Local Academy, is happy with the interest shown in the activities in his village. ‘People are incredible enthusiastic” he tells us. “It took some time to get it going, but once a few people are involved, more will follow.” He is full of praise regarding the co-operation between the non-denominational and Christian schools. This increases the chances that everyone will take part. He adds, somewhat cautiously, “You see that for some people, it is a welcome second chance to learn something new, especially for the elderly”.



5. Learning points and factors for success


Setting up the Local Academies in Nieuw Balinge and Hoogersmilde has thrown up many learning points. The most important of these are outlined below. They came to light in an initial evaluation held with those involved.


Building on what is already there

It makes sense to build on the co-operation, which already exists between different groups in the village. These groups include the non-denominational and Christian schools, the toddlers’ group, the Welfare Committee and the Committee for Local or Village Interests.


In the case where co-operation between the different groups in the village is still in its infancy, giving shape to the Local Academy serves to strengthen the sense of co-operation and social inclusion. People find this worthwhile. Local amenities are used for a good purpose; the village hall for the activities and the usual methods (local newspaper) for recruiting participants. The usual ‘way of doing things’ in the village is also adhered to, for example, something as simple as the way the coffee should be paid for.


Harry Tijms is a community worker; “As a community worker your goal is to harness and improve the strength of the community. In this way, you can deliver a tailor-made service, with the community itself deciding what form it should take and what the content should be. The Local Academy works the same way – people think it’s a good idea and then ensure it fits into their village.”


Working together and – above all – remaining alert

A programme of activities doesn’t come out of nowhere, experience has taught us. It demands that people work together, discuss together and, above all, remain alert to the signals in the village. Ideally, no signal should be ignored, each question should be carefully noted and discussed. In this way, groups, which have limited means of putting their learning, needs forward can also be heard. An example of a group like this is the elderly in the village.


Formulating the learning need properly

Through  brainstorming all sorts of ideas in the village are born. The trick is to turn this into a quality programme of activities. The education adviser of the Drenthe College can give support with this. Once the learning needs have been identified, the content of the activities and courses can be decided.


‘Measuring the dose’ of the activities

Something the organisations in the village should take into account is ‘dosage’ . What is realistic on a village level? It is better to be happy with one or two activities in spring and autumn, for example, than to aim too high by offering lots of courses, none of which ever get off the ground. This takes practice and experience.


Recruiting participants

-          emphasise the ‘low threshold’

-          involve residents in recruitment

-          approach people through clubs and other organisations

-          use the local newspaper for interviews, photos etc about the activities

-          you will notice that people get involved and go on to do other activities too.


Share your success stories

It is important to share success stories with one another and use one another’s ideas.



6. Looking to the future of the Local Academy in Middle-Drenthe.



Education and welfare work have found one another (again)

In the Middle-Drenthe Local Academy, Education and Community Development together closely. The activities are funded by the local council, which takes an active role. The Drenthe College looks after quality in the execution. Participating villages feel challenged and look after structure and organisation themselves. It is a nice example of community building, which is supported by the local community worker from the Community Development Foundation.


Klaas Bouwman is a community worker; “The Local Academy provides the opportunity to learn together, with people from your own village, in your own surroundings. That is a big plus and ensures a low threshold. It does take time and work to get the Local Academy known, and up and running, but that is something you can learn.”


The Local Academy on a small and large scale?

The Local Academy has proved it can work well on a small scale. But what about bigger scale situations? A few larger villages have already expressed an interest. The situation there is different, in part because there are other service providers there – a library or home help organisation, for example. From initial discussions with these organisations it seems that they would also like to try different approaches in order to attain as much as possible. Surprisingly this fits in with the Local Academy’s objective: to better reach the target group.


The basic conditions of the Local Academy will have to be met in the larger villages too. For providers of activities this will mean pooling the activities they offer in order to recruit participants under one denominator – the Local Academy. In co-operation with the groups they will use in order to reach the target groups, they will have to set up a work structure, which sticks to the basic conditions of the Academy. A bonus opportunity for the larger villages is the chance to focus on specific target groups, such as minimum wage earners.



The Local Academy in action

The villages work hard at organising their Local Academy. During the process, things can be readjusted if necessary. Finding the right formula is the big challenge for all parties involved.

For example, Drenthe College now participates directly in meetings in the village.

The Middle-Drenthe Council has now made arrangements so that an incoming request can be dealt with quickly and a decision be made about the use of funding for education. This contributes to the success of the Local Academy.


Gré de Jonge is a civil servant; "The local council has the resources to offer courses. However, it is not always easy to reach the right people. In the past, this was often a problem. The Local Academy has changed all that. Now, many people are reached because the initiatives come from the villages themselves. People are made enthusiastic and share their enthusiasm with others. In this way, lots of courses have started within a short space of time. Money is now being spent on the things it is meant for and we are very happy with that.”




The Middle-Drenthe Local Academy Steering Committee


Middle-Drenthe Local Council

The Middle-Drenthe Local Council participated in the development of the Local Academy in Middle-Drenthe. The council receives a budget for adult education from national government. This budget should be used, among other things, for social participation and integration of local residents. It is a means of increasing the residents’ social independence. The Local Academy is an excellent way of achieving these aims. Through their own initiative and co-operation people will learn to enjoy school and learning again.


Drenthe College

Drenthe College is an ROC (Regional Training Centre) in the province of Drenthe. Young people and adults can go there for secondary education (mbo), vocational training and retraining, and adult education.

Drenthe College wants to make the move toward demand-based education, and use the local infrastructure in order to anchor activities in the local community. It has set itself the objective of translating the Local Academy concept into concrete agreements with local partners in each region.


Community Development Organisation Middle-Drenthe

Community Development Middle-Drenthe, an institution for building communities, co-ordinates the process of the development of the Local Academy. The institution is interested in local educational activities, which fit into social processes in the village and district, or specific target groups, such as minimum wage earners. The objective is to increase the social participation and skills of the members of the local community. Schooling is a board term; “on the job learning” should also be an option. In this way, education once again becomes a powerful tool in the district, neighbourhood and village.


April 2006

© Steering Committee Local Academy Midden-Drenthe