Education minister: HARNO's youth website may be modified

Kristina Kallas.
Kristina Kallas. Source: Government Office

An online platform aimed at involving young people in educational projects and which has come in for criticism may be modified, Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) says.

Speaking at Thursday's regular government press conference, Kallas noted that the platform, developed by the Education and Youth Board (HARNO), has received funding from the EEA and Norway grants scheme, and that its structure needs to be reviewed in relation to the project's original intentions.

The minister noted that this would not involve a separate site, but rather a new interface aimed at involving not only young people, but also a selection of projects or initiatives which could receive municipal support and which would have been proposed by young people.

However, Kallas added that: "Whether it is required in this form is still an open question for me," said the minister.

Since the bulk of the funding was external as part of a wider project, Kallas said that she as minister lacked the authority to revise that funding; on the other hand, there may be further changes to the implementation of the platform and its workings, "in a format that will hopefully be more useful for local governments, young people and Estonia as a whole, over the long run," Kallas added.

Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev (Reform), also present at Thursday's press conference, noted that if it is the case that the state is looking for ways to make savings, it would be worthwhile to look at a project like this one, and to assess whether the platform would find a good uptake among young people.

The project, aimed at making a "digital leap" so far as youth goes, received funding via a local development and poverty reduction program funded by Norwegian health authorities, and project goals in the context of this funding had been reviewed as early as 2021, the minister said.

That time, three independent evaluators were involved: Sociologist Maarja Vollmer, former head of the University of Tartu Educational Innovation Center Anzori Barkalaja, and associate professor of Tallinn University of Technology's (TalTech) data science working group Innar Liiv.

The latter was included due to a divergence of opinion between Vollmer, who was less critical of the project, and Barkalaja, who was more critical.

Since in the event Liiv's opinion was closer to that of Vollmer, this point of view was taken as the evaluation basis, while Barklaja's points were not fully taken into consideration, though not completely ignored either.

Barklaja said in 2021 that the project's lacked focus and took too much of a scatter-gun approach, even as it had at that point received €871,435 in funding, almost half the amount originally requested.

Barkalaja now works as an advisor to the Minister of Education and Research, and recently told ERR that he is currently applying those observations from 2021, to enable the current minister to take a closer look at the initiative and to form an opinion.

An IT expert recently panned the conceptualization of the platform.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Grete-Liina Roosve

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