It was in the early 90’s when a delegation of the Employment Department (the British Ministry of Labour) came with a very interesting offer to the Hungarian Ministry of Labour. They offered a Know How Fund grant of about £200,000 for setting up a training methodology centre, for adapting the methods of open and flexible learning for Hungary and our surrounding, mostly for the purposes of vocational training.
The Hungarian Ministry, by cooperation with the local government of Budapest, founded a new institution: this is the Budapest Training Technology Centre: Fővárosi Oktatástechnológiai Központ: FOK. It was in 1994, when the British and the Hungarian minister and the major of Budapest opened the new office of the new institute.
I was the member of the starting staff. And I was among the lucky ones who could study the methods of open and flexible learning in the United Kingdom.
It was something shocking new for us at that time. Not only the answers but also the questions were different. It took a rather long time while we could understand one another.
Adaptation process started. We adapted several training materials: the first distance learning tutor training in Hungary, for example. But there were several points we couldn’t go on. We wanted to make real adaptation, not only translations. We wanted to transform the methods of open and flexible learning to fit the Eastern-Central European educational traditions, habits and rules; the way of thinking. And the way of thinking, these traditions, habits are very different from the British mind.
We both felt rather strange each other; and this can be understood. The last age when Britain and the Carpathian region were belonging to the same cultural world, it was in the age of the Roman Empire, when the western border of the Roman Empire was in Britain and the eastern border in Europe was at the Danube, about 5 kilometres from my flat… So we are rather far from each other, not only geographically but also culturally. They have a society built on a long development process; we have a society with quick changes. The rocks of Dover are at the same place for a while… but my father, who is 91 years old this year, has been the citizen of 7 different states, however he moved from a city to another one only once in his life – within the same country at that time. They can count on some continuity; we have to have a standard to go by. When they are asked why they had done something, it is enough to say: because we usually do so. For us, in Eastern-Central Europe, the word “usually” has no meaning – because it can have several meanings.
Just as an example what difficulties appeared: we asked our mentors in the United Kingdom: a training material has to be divided into modules; but how should we know where it has to be divided, how long a module should be, where the cutting points should be. The answer was: an experienced author knows. All right; but what should I do now? Oh, it’s a question of practice. So… to practice being an author to achieve the necessary experiences… I ought to have the necessary experiences. Dear British colleagues: you have a former generation to learn from; we haven’t. We are the former generation. When we had another question (to tell the truth I don’t remember what the question was) our trainer said: this is a very interesting question; I wonder what you would answer. We told our ideas; and he wrote them on small yellow sticks, put them on the wall and said: 5 minutes break: you can read some possible answers. Now I know already how the Anglo-Saxon education works; but at that time I could think only, that I shouldn’t be happy if I were operated by a doctor who had learned surgery from the answers of the other students…
You see the different thinking: the different questions.
So adaptation was absolutely not trivial. And… after about 2½ years FOK stopped with adaptations, mostly because of financial issues. FOK exists even now: it is one of the background institutes of our educational system: it runs more or less traditional teacher retraining courses, develops school administration software and so on.
It was me who tried to run the adaptation work at FOK: I was a deputy director there, head of the department of training and methodology. When adaptation activities stopped, I left FOK – but I wanted to go on with this extremely interesting issue. There came some busy years at several institutes and schools, and in my own enterprise; and abut 15 years after the beginning (in 2007) I could say that I was ready with a technology which is as strict and formal as it has to be in our systems; and it is not less flexible and unbound than the model we could get acquainted in the United Kingdom. This is the methodology Life Tailored Learning – but this is another story.
I have signed a paper with the director of FOK saying, that Life Tailored Learning roots in the old adaptation process, but it is a real new development, a new intellectual propriety, with me as the main proprietor of the methodology Life Tailored Learning, and, of course, with many worth-having contributions of my workmates, mostly my present and former students.