Finding your voice with the help of your peers

Belgian Claire Ataya says it was her own, sometimes problematic journey in the educational system that eventually made her want to become a part of it in her professional life.  “We need to find a way to fulfil everybody’s potential and make sure the system supports it,” Ataya says.

Ataya is in the Education and Globalisation Master’s programme at the University of Oulu. She says that when she realized that she wanted to get involved in the field, she started looking at her options to study abroad.

“I remember being very frustrated with the educational system in Belgium and hearing how well other countries were doing in this area, especially the Nordic countries, and specifically Finland. I visited Finland a year before starting my Master’s and made trips to different universities. Oulu was the place that scared me the most, meaning that it felt challenging in a good way,” Ataya explains.

Ataya’s own school experiences were both encouraging and discouraging. She says she felt really empowered and autonomous in primary school, but in secondary school and her business studies she felt she had to take on very specific roles, which didn’t always make sense. “It seemed to me that discipline was valued more than academic knowledge,” she says.

She wanted to get involved and also be in a position to make a change. “In Belgium, there are national mandatory objectives in education and the system is very bureaucratic. Teachers and students are enthusiastic but the program makes things difficult at times. Of course we need to have objectives and be able to monitor progress. We need to find out what is the best evaluation process to measure how we empower children and make sure that they have the foundation of knowledge they need,” Ataya says.

In her studies in Oulu, Ataya feels empowered in her own right. She says the teachers create an atmosphere for the students that makes them feel comfortable to share their experiences, deconstructing the usual formal relationship between teachers and students. Ataya says that she has learned so much from her peers and her professors through rich and engaging discussions and insightful and fascinating readings.

“There’s also a thing which I was not expecting. In my first few classes, I realized that my classmates already had experience as teachers, or had done amazing work at NGO’s or something, and I was just out of university. I felt a little inferior to my peers,” Ataya remembers.

She says that soon enough her classmates figured this out and told her how they feel lucky to be part of such a mixed group where people come from different backgrounds and have different experience levels.

“Soon enough, I was taking part in the debates and realized I had a voice equal to my peers. Our professors really find ways to help us recognize our value. Not only did I feel as a part of something purposeful and worthwhile, but I also discovered I had something valuable to add to it,” Ataya says.
 

Last updated: 28.11.2019