Education Blog

Martina Fiabanova: "I enjoyed thinking and discussing education in a more philosophical and conceptual sense"

Martina became a student in the MA program in Educational Innovation and Leadership (EduInno) at Tallinn University in the fall of 2019 and completed her studies successfully in 2021. She joined the program only in its second year of existence. Currently, Martina works for the National Institute for Education and Youth, an agency under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education in her home country, Slovakia. She stepped into this role after four years of working at an international school where she helped to develop and deliver Character Education to high school students. 


What motivated you to study in Estonia at Tallinn University, and why did you choose the EduInno master's program?

I selected the EduInno master's program after careful consideration and months of research. I was working at a different international school in Vienna, Austria, looking for an opportunity to further my career and expertise. I have gained enough practical experience and knowledge that helped me realize what I was most interested in and where my focus lay, or instead, what was the burning question behind my desire to grow professionally within the field of education: "How to innovate education effectively with a lasting impact?" I thought the question was too big, and I couldn't even imagine which master's program could possibly offer some answers to this question. To my surprise, I found one! Of all the places, it was in the capital of Estonia, a country with some historical context similar to mine but with an education system that reflected much higher quality than the one of my own country. I knew there was much to learn from Estonians, not only about our education system. I had applied to other MA programs then, but I was secretly hoping for my top choice at Tallinn University. The wish became a reality, and the rest is history.  

How useful were and still are the knowledge, skills, and practices gained at EduInno at your current or past workplaces? 

I was in my second year of the EduInno program when I started working for an educational non-profit organization whose sole goal was to provide a different and more innovative education to young people to unlock their true potential. As a Character Education Facilitator at Leaf Academy, I conducted my Master's Thesis research and incorporated an innovative practice into the curriculum. It was a direct and precise transfer of knowledge and skills I developed at Tallinn University into my actual work. I was also lucky that the organization I was working for was significantly up to date with current modern education theories. They were applying concepts such as design learning and the newest technology into their teaching practice. In that regard, there was a lot of overlap between what I was learning in my courses and what I was doing in my new role at work. 

I also credit the EduInno program for sparking my interest in educational policy and systems. I enjoyed thinking and discussing education in a more philosophical and conceptual sense − looking at the big picture and understanding that change must also be systemic for it to be effective. My current role as a National Correspondent for Youth Policy is a natural extension that sparked interest in Tallinn in the fall of 2019. 

If I could demonstrate what I have learned in one simple example, it would have to be my constant and often annoying question to my colleagues: "OK, but what evidence do you base this opinion on?" :) 

Which courses/topics were the most memorable for you?

I don't remember all of my courses' names, but I remember which ones impacted me most. I enjoyed all of my classes in the first year and the broad scope in terms of topic/focus and the approach or form the course has taken. Regarding the wide range of issues, we've had classes that covered the area of educational psychology, the teaching profession in its more innovative form. We also covered educational policy and current trends and challenges in education. We had an entire course dedicated to educational technology and another to group dynamics and getting to know each other. We visited schools, start-ups, large companies, and NGOs as part of our course syllabus.

Regarding the approach and form, it was rarely a top-down approach but rather an open discussion facilitated by the lecturers. We had some lectures with Estonians, which enabled a perspective exchange and a chance for outsiders to connect with the locals. We had group projects and individual essays. Most of the time, we were learning from one another - discussing, presenting, or preparing activities for our classmates. However, there was also time to take notes and listen to guest lecturers. I still remember when Marco Snoek, a professor of Teacher Development and School Innovation at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, came and talked to us about a teacher development framework they've developed in the Netherlands to make the teaching profession more attractive, exciting, and reflective of the needs of a modern educational system. I still dream of a program like that in my own country and hope I'll be able to invite Marco to present at one of the universities in Slovakia one day :)

When I think of my time as an EduInno student, I remember how much I appreciated the programs' structure, the various forms of delivery of content, and the different ways of learning available to us. 

How did you get used to living here in Tallinn? How was life in Estonia compared to your home country? 

Unfortunately, I never had the chance to get used to living in Tallinn. It was the "Covid Era," and I moved back after seven months to Slovakia, where I finished my studies online. This is a surprise after seeing how much I have learned and experienced in the present mode. And how is it different? Estonians are more humble and proud than my fellow citizens. They are more shy, but not when it comes to their love for dancing and singing national folklore music. It is also colder in Estonia than in Slovakia − both in the weather and the demonstration of emotion or affection towards each other. What we share is a capacity for innovation and resourcefulness. Oh, and there is a lot more dill and barley in Estonia. 

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