Katarina Popović has contributed to the heritage of adult education as a scholar, practitioner, and influencer on political decisions in the countries of southeastern Europe.
As an associate professor in the Department of Andragogy at the University of Belgrade, she has been instrumental in the revitalization of the adult education school of thought in the Balkan region, which almost disappeared during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. As director of the Serbian office of the German Adult Education Association, she strengthened practical adult education by initiating, managing, and coordinating numerous projects for the professionalization of adult educators in Serbia and Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, and Belarus.
Her international networking connected people and built a firm and shared understanding of professional adult education in the region. Hundreds of experts, students, and staff participate in exchange programs thanks to her.
She succeeded to influence national policies in adult and continuing education by developing adult education strategies, laws, action plans, and programs for adult education training – in Serbia and other countries in the region – and was chosen as one of four European delegates at CONFINTEA VI in Brazil in 2009.
Popović’s scholarly work has helped to regain the scientific legitimacy to adult education in the Balkan region. She is one of the new scholars who conceptualizes adult learning as constant throughout human history back in the times B.C. – an approach rather neglected by the history of institutionalized adult education.
As professor at the University of Belgrade, visiting professor at the universities in Germany and Austria, member of adult education associations (EAEA, ESREA, REGDANET, ISCHAE, and ISCAE), several journal editorial boards (Lifelong Learning in Europe, European Journal on Research in Adult Learning, and The Scientific Bulletin – Series Humanistic Sciences), and editor-in-chief of Andragogical Studies, she has influenced the national and international academic and pragmatic development of adult education. Invited often to counsel governments or ministries in different countries, she has brought honor and distinction to today’s status of adult education in the Balkans.
International organizations, including UNESCO, often used her expertise in adult education in countries in transition. Her findings were used for creation of national policy (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro), for adult and continuing education reforms (Montenegro, Romania, Macedonia, and Azerbaijan), and for practical projects in this field (Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Georgia).
Through her tolerant and supportive approach, Popović revitalized connections that had been politically damaged or broken by civil war, crimes, and isolation. Her academic knowledge, professional competencies, and personal engagement helped re-establish contacts with adult education scholars in other countries, with European bodies and international organizations. She enabled exchange and participation in the European Union by translating and supporting the implementation of EU documents, and she is helping open EU programs to non-EU countries.
As the organizer of the Adult Education Festival (initiated by UNESCO CONFINTEA V), aiming to increase the visibility of the field, she targeted both decision makers and broad audiences. In Serbia and southeastern Europe, it resulted in a positive change in attitude toward adult and continuing education.Popović’s visibility and distinction in her profession made her the first non-EU vice president of the European Association of Adult Education, the biggest European NGO in adult education. Here, she represents non-EU countries and fights for their interests at the EU level.
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