The Center of Lifelong Learning in Prague represents a new model of an intergenerational, non-vocational education for all ages.It is bringing together programs that have succesfully existed for more than 15-20 years as independent educational projects and offering new ways of activation as well. It is a source of mental, physical and social activity for thousands of its students in order to increase the quality of their lives.
It has a strong social message, offering top quality lectures for affordable price in order to make education accessible for disadvantaged groups such as mothers on maternity leave,disabled,retired and unemployed people.They make 99.99 % of all students They pay no tuition only a low registration fee.
Four basic programs are offered to the public:
- The U3A platform is serving the samples of subjects that the various Universities in Prague are offering to seniors.
- The Center of Healthy Ageing is maintaining and increasing the competance of the elderly in order to prevent their dependancy and serves as a source of enlightment for younger students.There are three subjects available each semester: Alternative ways of treatment; Psychology and How to protect ourselves is the present offer.
- The University of Free time is a form of intergenerational education with variety of attractive subjects of common interest lectured by the top lecturers.
- History of Art- 18 semester study, World History 12 semesters; History of Music -8 semesters; Prague Architecture- 4 semesters; Egyptology -2 semesters; History of religious orders.-2 semesters,Rome in Antiquity-2 semesters , History of Religious Orders, etc.
These described educational programs represent the official mission of the Center.
And now come the programs of additional activities which are organized on voluntary basis by the Center students .Club of Mutual Understanding is offering over 30 language classes,Yoga,Thai-chi, remedial training against osteoporosis, dance,painting,Bridge,handicraft, dances, etc..All these classes are taught free of charge by the Center students and their colleagues are paying a token entry fee in order to take part in these activities .Fee is used for rent of the rooms in which the classes take place. Such activities mean a valuable contribution to the new life program which the students are seeking for, not only for those who are their takers but also their givers, who feel useful again.
The University of Free time model has many followers throughout the country: libraries,cultural houses,nursing homes are using the local source of lecturers and are becoming the centers of enlightment in small communities.
The name UFT has been borrowed from intergenerational education in France,but the system of operation is inovative and adaptable and flexible as a pattern for intergenerational education throughout the world.
The senior students of the U3A platform have been taking part in reciprocal exchanges with similarly motivated seniors from foreign countries since 1991.The philosophy of such exchanges is very simple: Do your best for your guests, they will do the same for you when the roles reverse. The Czech hosting groups are providing the full hospitality to the foreign party during its entire stay and the guests are repaying the Czech hospitality later when the Czechs come to see them. Both groups are paying their own travel costs and medical insurance.
The Czech seniors have seen the world through reciprocal exchanges /40 exchanges-4x USA, 4x Australia, N.Z.,Canada, South Africa and most of the European countries/ which is a unique way how to learn about the nations and their cultural heritage on the personal basis.The participants are expected to put in a lot of their own labor and invention in order to reduce the price of the trip. Consequently demonstration of physical and mental potential of seniors is the tangible result of desribed ventures. And the personal friendship between and among the members of the exchange groups is another valuable aspect that speaks in favor of exchanges.
The reciprocal partners are usually bodies organizing senior education, such as Institutes for Learning in Retirement, U3As or Institutes of Senior Studies.
The last two exchange partners were:
- in 2007 U3A groups from Melbourne ,Victoria and Hobart, Tasmania,
- in 2008 U3A groups from Cape Town and George, South Africa.
- In 2009 the Prague seniors went to China and in 2010 toured the East coast of the USA. In 2011 they are hosting 47 U3A members from Victoria, Australia and going to Australia themselves.
Please click here to read other initiatives organised by EURAG.
founder and executive director of Center of Lifelong Learning in Prague
vicepresident of EURAG/European Federation of Older Person