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Innovation Driven Education in the Era of Twin Transition: Focusing on Southeast Europe

Project’s Motivation:
The consortium shares a key value – pure academism without links to the surrounding reality is an outdated phenomenon. Thus teaching should have an inalienable component of research, carried out in the style of the classical European tradition of the Academy – through interaction with the students, treated as junior peers rather than passive and ignorant individuals to be molded by the teacher. All of this should create a community, intellectual and innovative community, that will be able to address and tackle the complex realities we live in. We embrace the European consensus that climate urgency ought to be addressed – and that its key method should consist in the digital transition aiming at an ever greater democratization, economic equality in the unified digital trade market and energy sector that are expected to include the entire Southeast Europe (SEE), both the EU and the aspiring EU countries (WB6 included). However, we think it is also important to turn our attention in the direction of possible challenges and downsides: will the ever greater automation of medium and high-skilled labour cause social disparities, in particular in SEE? Are the stakes put in the long term strategy, expressed amongst other documents in “European Research Area 2030 Strategy”, of developing a competitive innovation based economy, whichе would rely, to a great extent, on a green entrepreneurship as fit-all solution, realistic, i.e., are the policy documents advocating these solutions convincing in the sense of offering compelling argument that they are truly implementable? Building on our research relying on data provided by the World Bank and OECD, we are believe we should address the question of whether SEE risks of becoming a cheap low skilled labour “backyard” of Europe, should it fail to catch the pace of the higher achieving countries. We would also like to address the question of how labour automation will affect the status of democracy, and its very character as we know it presently under the denomination of “European.” What are the specificities of the digital democracy, but also what is activism for a democracy of an increasingly digitalized world? – this is another question that we seek to address through a curriculum and teaching style that is a compound of rigorous research, policy transposition of the findings, advocacy for policy solutions – as a form of activism. We would like to advocate that such results are possible only with full integration on equal footing of the students as peers in one way (to be mentored) but also as students to be pedagogically guided even though through the double bind of their constant feedback. The consortium is constituted through individuals who share a very similar set of values and whose teaching is complemented with a strong research and activist component. We all have experience of being included in student activist initiatives.
Project’s Scope:

  1. Promote and integrate a teaching approach that apart from mastering the existing disciplines and transferable skills of moving across and integrating different disciplines, it will also promote hands on research as part of the teaching/learning process – in the form of workshops and continuous and mobile “mini hubs” ad hoc to the project – on the relationships between technological development, economics and social policies, integrated into the teaching process. It will result into educational policy solutions and academic responses to these developments through new curriculum ideas, new teaching materials etc. The main outcome of this cluster of results will be policy centered, socially responsible and applied study of the effects of technology on societal transformation, or more specifically: raised capacity of students and teachers to apply knowledge on the surrounding reality, raised awareness of civic engagement as a value that should mark contemporary education.
  2. Promulgate and integrate in the teaching processes an up-to-date, aligned with the post-Covid resilience building strategies of Europe, that correspond with the long term strategies of digitalization, response to climate crisis and deepening of digital democracy and thus social inclusion. Main output for this objective: Teaching materials for interdisciplinary courses bridging social sciences, humanities, economics, technology and policy through innovative teaching, in alignment with overall restructuring of the continent and the region. Major outcome is alignment of HE in the region with socio-economic transformation of the continent, EU/EEA/WB countries, in particular with its processes of post-pandemic transformation, bringing HE closer with the overall efforts to counter the negative effects of labor transformation in an automated era as well as harness the advantages offered by the agenda of an innovation based economy, and the alignment with it of the EU New ERA 2030 Strategy as well as the European Education Area to be achieved by 2025 and Digital Education Action Plan, as means to counter the possible negative effects of labor automation.
  3. Produce a model curriculum that might result into a joint degree will bring in deep integration between SSH and STEM, while retaining research as an inextricable part from the teaching/learning process and data driven policy advocacy. Outcome: deepening interdisciplinarity, in line with the EU and EHEA strategic documents, as the prerequisite of a globally competitive economy, which includes the region too
  4. Open and sustain a regional discussion and advocacy on the policy aspects of research-centred education embracing the twin transition while keeping a critical eye on the effects on the labour market, status of democracy and anticipating and preventing the adverse effects. Outputs include methodological workshops focusing on education for research innovation and policy critical angle, a completely new curriculum and a textbook.

The Initiative is Erasmus Supported, under the KA2 HED Action: Cooperation and Partnerships in Higher Education. Leader: Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities-Skopje, Partners: Panteion University-Athens, FMK at Singidunum University-Belgrade and Sofia University “Kliment Ohridski”