Posted: November 2009
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the dreams of millions of young East Europeans were unleashed. As one authoritarian regime after another collapsed, youthful compatriots from either side of the Iron Curtain looked forward to sharing a peaceful and prosperous future.
But has the reality matched up to expectations? A public lecture held at the University of Dundee examined, 20 years on, what the changes have meant for young people in Eastern Europe and implications and messages for young people in the West.
The Bell Lecture took place at the University's Dalhousie Building on Wednesday, November 11th. Ken Roberts, Professor of Sociology at the University of Liverpool, addresses this issue.
This lecture is the first in a series to commemorate the reintroduction of the Bell Chair in Education, first founded by the Reverend Dr Andrew Bell around 200 years ago.
Professor Keith Topping, Associate Dean for Research of the University's School of Education, Social Work and Community Education, said, "On the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall, we were very pleased to invite Professor Ken Roberts to Dundee to explore the findings from his many research projects linking East and West".
"He had messages which were new to the West stemming from the experiences of youth in the East. And of course some reciprocal messages going the other way".
"We were particularly fortunate to obtain a view which is based on rigorous research, rather than merely anecdote and opinion".
Professor Roberts is among the UK's foremost youth researchers. Since 1989, he has coordinated a series of research projects in a total of 13 different former communist countries into how young people have been affected and how they have responded to the change of system.
The futures ahead of young people were transformed dramatically as soon as communism ended. It then became apparent that there would be consequences for Western Europe, especially since the end of communism would lead to the European Union's eastward enlargement.
This lecture gave examples of ways in which youth in Eastern Europe signpost the likely long-term outcomes of changes in Britain in young people's education, employment, family and housing life-stage transitions, and involvement in the public realm. Professor Roberts has written several books on this subject.
Regarding the provenance of the Bell Lectures, Reverend Dr. Bell was chaplain to the army of the East India Company in Madras, India. In charge of educating the soldiers' children and finding a shortage of teachers, he used the older boys to instruct the younger pupils.
On return from India, Reverend Bell travelled the country encouraging schools to adopt 'the Madras system'. This method of peer learning became widely used in schools at home and abroad. He also founded Madras College in St Andrews in 1833 and what is now called Bell Baxter High School in Cupar.
The Roberts lecture was prefaced by two senior pupils from Madras College talking briefly about their current experiences with peer learning at Madras College. It is intended that each lecture will be prefaced by a short event from Madras College which celebrates and informs about the work of Dr. Bell.
To further promote the study of education, he founded two Chairs in Education, one at Edinburgh (currently held) and the other at St Andrews which transferred to Dundee while Dundee was a College of St Andrews.
The Chair fell into disuse, but the University now plans to reintroduce it, and hopes to fill the vacancy next year.
The next lecture is by Professor David James from the University of the West of England, who will be talking on Work-based Learning in universities and colleges, and how it survives and changes in a time of recession, on January 20th.