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Civic Education in Primary and Secondary Schools in the Republic of Serbia.

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Smith, Alan, Fountain, Susan and McLean, Hugh (2002) Civic Education in Primary and Secondary Schools in the Republic of Serbia. UNICEF, UNESCO and Open Society Institut.. UNICEF, UNESCO and Open Society Institute. 118 pp. [Research report (external)]

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Abstract

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY1. This report is an evaluation of the introduction of Civic Education (CE) to the schoolcurriculum in the Republic of Serbia. In November 2001, Civic Education was offered as anoptional subject to pupils in the first grade of primary school (7-8 year-olds) and first year ofsecondary school (14-15 year-olds). Classes operated outside the normal timetable and the syllabi for Civic Education were developed from existing NGO programmes. Teachers ofCivic Education were selected from existing staff within schools, and received extensivetraining through workshops provided by the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES).2. The evaluation took place between January and July 2002 and involved collaborationbetween UNESCO, UNICEF, and the Open Society Institute in consultation with the Ministry of Education and Sport. A team of international consultants led the evaluation and a Belgrade-based research agency, Strategic Marketing and Media Research Institute(SMMRI) was contracted to carry out data collection through a national survey. The evaluation also included an analysis of documentation and syllabi for Civic Education; interviews with academics and course designers; and case studies of the introduction of Civic Education to schools in six different parts of the Republic of Serbia.3. The International Context. Section 1 of the evaluation locates the emergence of CivicEducation in the Republic of Serbia within an international context that includes the UNDecade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004); recent developments in civic educationwithin a European Context; and an international study on civic education by the InternationalAssociation for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). These provide referencepoints for international norms that are emerging for civic education and provide evidence ofa resurgence of interest in civic education, based on human rights and active participationthrough democratic processes, rather than the simple transmission of civic knowledge.4. The Local Context. Section 2 identifies some of the specific developments leading upto the introduction of Civic Education to schools in the Republic of Serbia. These include theproduction of a strategy and action plan by the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES);the establishment of an Expert Working Group on Democratisation of Education andEducation for Democratic Citizenship; and a Local Consultation Process on educationreforms. The recommended syllabi for Civic Education draw heavily on existing NGOprogrammes supported by organisations such as The Fund for an Open Society-Serbia, Save the Children UK, Save the Children Norway and the United Nations Children’s Fund(UNICEF); brief descriptions of these programmes are provided.5. Commentary on the Curriculum. Section 3 of the evaluation provides a criticalcommentary on the Civic Education programmes for primary and secondary schools basedon an analysis of available documents (Ministry regulations, syllabi, teacher manuals andlearning resources). There are Guidebooks for Teachers that provide detailed descriptions of each workshop at primary and secondary level.• The syllabus for first grade of the primary school is called “Civic Education -Knowledge of Oneself and Others„, and is made up of 36 lessons of 45 minuteseach. The lessons are grouped into seven main topics. Internationally, there is lackof agreement on what might be age-appropriate concepts and competencies in civiceducation for primary school children. The Republic of Serbia syllabus for primaryschool is based on a well-articulated set of workshops and there is a strong commitmentto active learning. Suggestions for future development include a developmentalfocus on specific themes in each grade of primary school; the inclusion of more‘civic content’ and work related to group identity; and a review of the currentemphasis on psychosocial topics.• The syllabus for the first grade of secondary school is made up of 35 lessons (45minutes each). The lessons are grouped together into three units of study: Individualand Society (14 lessons); Rights and Responsibilities (12 lessons); and School as aCommunity (8 lessons). There is a strong commitment to active learning based onworkshops previously developed by NGO programmes and a significant strength isan emphasis on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Suggestions forfuture development include a review of the time allocated to various themes; theinclusion of civic knowledge and understanding, economic dimensions of civic life,the law, and the role of the media in democratic societies. It is suggested that gapsin content are addressed and that the CE programme be spread over three years ofsecondary school, taking account of progression and linkages between grade levels.• The syllabi provide the basis for training of primary and secondary teachers. In thecase of primary schools 1,249 teachers were trained through two (6-day and 4-day)workshops. In the case of secondary schools 419 teachers were trained through two(5-day) workshops. At secondary level there are manuals for each trainingworkshop. These are of a high standard and provide detailed and helpful guidance.• There is a need to make syllabi, manuals, learning resources and other relevantdocuments available in different languages.• Many of the issues raised through the CE curriculum (for example, concerningdemocratic processes as part of the school culture, pupil action projects, issuesrelated to child protection and children’s rights) have implications for the developmentof whole-school policies affecting all teachers.6. Methodology. The main sources of data for the evaluation were:• A national sample of 238 primary and 66 secondary schools offering CivicEducation. Pupils, teachers and parents of children taking Civic Educationcompleted questionnaires in each school. A local consultant appointed by UNICEFalso designed a special research instrument for primary school children. Detailedanalysis of data is provided in a separate Technical Report.• Case studies of Civic Education in primary and secondary schools in six areas(Belgrade, Draginje-Koceljeva, Preãevo, Niã, Novi Pazar and Subotica). Each casestudy involved interviews with pupils, teachers, parents who have chosen CivicEducation; pupils, teachers, parents who have not chosen Civic Education;principals and members of the wider community. Summaries of the case studies areprovided in Appendix 2 and full details are contained in a separate report.• Interviews with academics and members of the Expert Working Group involved indesigning the Civic Education syllabi.7. Main recommendations. The evaluation report provides full details of the mainfindings and conclusions. The main recommendations that arise from these are:7.1 Do not introduce a compulsory choice between Civic Education and ReligiousEducation.• It is recommended that an urgent priority is to dispel the perception among certainstakeholder groups that Civic Education is an alternative to Religious Education.Pupils should not be forced to make a choice between Civic Education and ReligiousEducation.• If the MoES proceeds with the current decision to require a ‘compulsory choice’between Civic Education and Religious Education within the normal timetable inthe 2002-2003 school year, schools should be instructed to avoid timetabling CivicEducation opposite Religious Education.• The Ministry should also consider the different implications of introducing a forcedchoice in different regions of the country, depending on the demography. In regionswhere the commitment to Civic Education was high in the first year, this supportcould be undermined if Civic Education must compete with a strong commitment toReligious Education.• The Ministry should provide guidance and support for resolving timetabling issuesrelated to the introduction of the two new subjects. This should include respondingto teacher and pupil concerns that CE may require double periods and that creativetimetabling solutions may also be necessary.• The MoES also needs to consider its long-term goal for Civic Education. One set ofarguments suggests that CE should remain a voluntary option for pupils in the shortterm. A longer-term goal would be to secure support for the introduction of CivicEducation as an integral part of the compulsory curriculum for all pupils in the firstthree grades of secondary school. This would be consistent with international norms.A sequential introduction of Civic Education in the eight years of primary school,perhaps adding one grade per year, would exceed international norms, but could beundertaken with a developmentally-appropriate focus on content, skills, andattitudes.7.2 Maintain and extend the quality of the Civic Education curriculum.• A broad-based Civic Education curriculum working group should be established,drawing on expertise from a range of backgrounds and tasked with the developmentof the next phases of the curriculum, with a more balanced content in line with thecurricula of Civic Education in other European countries.• The emphasis on the use of active learning methods in the current Civic Educationcurriculum is essential and should be strongly supported throughout any processesof modification to the content.• Children’s rights/human rights issues seem to be the least well-received topic in thecurrent Civic Education curriculum, by both teachers and pupils. A review of thissection of the curriculum should be conducted by the CE authors and trainers, withthe intention of revising both the curriculum and the training on rights issues. Asurvey of age appropriate methodologies for introducing children’s rights withyoung children could also be useful.• The name Civic Education should be retained, but as the curriculum is developed, aspecific focus for each grade level can be added.7.3 Improve information and outreach to all stakeholder groups.• Better dissemination of information to raise awareness about the aims and purposesof Civic Education should be carried out prior to the start of the 2002-2003 schoolyear, particularly if all pupils will be required to choose between Civic Educationand Religious Education.• The Ministry might wish to develop a clear and simple statement defining CivicEducation, to enable parents and pupils to make informed choices. In addition toinformation brochures produced by the MoES, alternative ways of disseminatinginformation about Civic Education should be considered. Information meetingsabout the subject were positively received by parents in the first year, and should beheld by schools wherever possible. Participation of current Civic Educationteachers, pupils and parents should be encouraged, so that they can share theirexperiences of the subject with prospective parents and pupils.7.4 Ensure that participation in Civic Education is possible for all students, particularlythose who are members of minority language groups.• Ensure that all Civic Education materials – information brochures, syllabi, teacher’smanuals, pupil instruction materials – are translated into minority languages, so thatlanguage minority groups are not excluded from participation.7.5 Maintain and extend the current quality of teacher training in Civic Education.• The Ministry should strive to retain the high quality levels in Civic Educationteacher training that have been achieved so far. It is to be anticipated that a greatlyincreased number of Civic Education teachers will need to be trained as a result ofthe ‘compulsory choice’ legislation (estimates suggest that the number of teachersneeded at the primary level may increase by a factor of three, and by a factor of 10at the secondary level).• It is recommended that the MoES not rely on weaker cascade models (in whichtrained teachers are expected to return to their schools and train other teachers), asthis is likely to diminish the quality of the training experience.• The MoES should consider shorter and more frequent Civic Education trainingformats, as opposed to the intensive five-day model used in the first year.• The Ministry should demonstrate the value placed on Civic Education training byensuring that training allowances and expenses are paid to participants promptly andefficiently.• The sections of the teacher training on Children’s Rights should be given particularattention and revised if necessary, to ensure that appropriate methodology andrelevance to real life issues are integral features.7.6 Put into place effective and systematic mechanisms for assessing the outcomes ofCivic Education.• Attendance at Civic Education classes should be recorded officially and records keptin a consistent place, such as the school diary.• Assessment of pupils’ participation in Civic Education should be included in theofficial school report.• Descriptive grading is the most suitable way of assessing Civic Education at thistime, as the subject deals largely with the development of skills and attitudes that aredifficult to assess quantitatively.

Item Type:Research report (external)
Keywords:civic education; citizenship; serbia; religious education; conflict
Faculties and Schools:Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education
Research Institutes and Groups:Institute for Research in Social Sciences
Institute for Research in Social Sciences > Education
ID Code:16334
Deposited By:Professor Alan Smith
Deposited On:10 Nov 2010 09:38
Last Modified:10 Nov 2010 09:38

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