Education reforms in SEEDLING project countries encompass principles of sustainable development
During the Second SEEDLING Steering Committee Meeting, held at the REC on October 17, a main part of the agenda was for representatives from each of the seven countries participating in the project to showcase the latest national results in educational reforms. The text below provides a summary of each of the seven country reports presented during the meeting.
Albania highlighted its overall objective to develop a pre-university education system that supports sustainable economic development and brings increased competitiveness to the country, both within the region and abroad. Albania’s educational reform is guided by: priorities of the 2014-2020 National Plan for European Integration; standards set out in the 2020 European Education Reform Programme; and goals of the UNESCO “Education for All” initiative. Special focus is on developing student competence for lifelong learning. A GAP analysis has been carried out in the context of curriculum reform, with a focus on sustainable development and the SDGs.
REC Albania has been working lately on the national texts for the TEEN Pack educational tool, with 16 experts involved in developing country-specific content. The Ministry of Education also plans teacher training and professional development, which will support the long-term implementation of the SDGs. One current obstacle to be overcome is that many teachers in Albania are not prepared for the use of technology in the classroom. Training will teach basic computer skills, internet navigation, use of electronic billboards, and the creation of digital teaching materials. Without these skills, teachers will not be able to use the TEEN Pack in the classrooms.
The successful implementation of the SEEDLING tool on SDGs requires coherent and sustained interventions. According to the GAP Analysis, the current infrastructure concerning ICT in Albanian education system is too fragmented to meet evolving national aspirations and global demands on SDG-related issues.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Some cantons in BiH plan to introduce a dual education system, and entity Republic of Srpska has adopted a new law on secondary education, but the distribution of competences in the country does not prevent the implementation of projects like SEEDLING, the country representatives said. In fact, the project has helped to reinforce the network between ministries and departments on all governmental levels. And while there “too many” departments, they have managed to jointly develop SDG-related goals. While there are no laws with SDGs included, all new legislation includes SDG-related components. The main step forward is that BiH has developed a GAP analysis, so that the country “now has the indicators to illustrate how far we’ve gone and what we need to do.”
The main goal of efforts to link students more directly to the labour market is to achieve progress in a systemic manner so that students receive the same information. The representatives pointed out, however, that no single reform can be carried out without high-quality professional training of teachers.
“We want our students to be close to the labour market so they can find jobs after leaving school,” the representatives explained. “This is just the starting point, but it’s something that cannot be achieved overnight. We need to change our conscience completely.”
Kosovo* is currently implementing curricula reforms to increase efficiency and reflect modern requirements. The country is especially focused on stepping up major competences, including life-long learning and didactic tools.
The SEEDLING project started at a time when Kosovo* began to introduce educational reforms. The main documents—i.e. the Framework Curriculum and Core Curricula—have been revised: ESD has been added into the Field Areas as a new learning outcome, and its cross-curricula integration is one of the main goals to be implemented. The main challenge at present is to cross over from theory into practice.
“We have created a basis and laid the foundations for incorporating the SDGs in all spheres of education,” the presenters explained. “SEEDLING offers specific forms of assistance.”
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The presenters reported excellent cooperation with the SEEDLING project unit, which provides a solid basis for further development of education on the SDGs. Currently lacking a strategy for the 2030 target, the country plans to adopt a comprehensive educational strategy for the 2017-2022 period that incorporates SD objectives into secondary education curricula. Key recommendations include the need to identify needs for training and guidance, and to introduce SD comments to students and teachers alike. Also on the agenda is an official promotion of the country’s GAP analysis.
Regarding education related to employment prospects, FYR Macedonia has received input from employers to strengthen public/private partnerships. New vocational curricula also include new subjects, such as an Entrepreneurship; meanwhile, three new fields related to energy efficiency—Electrical Engineering, Construction, and Machinery—have attracted more than 1,000 students. In addition, 55 new qualifications (including Ecological Technician) have been established in 14 sectors. The year 2020 should produce the first students graduating with these new qualifications.
The Montenegrin Parliament recently ratified the Paris Agreement, and the country’s comprehensive SD strategy includes all 17 SDGs and 169 measures. Keen to promote life-long learning, the country’s stated “ultimate goal” is the improvement of education for all. Thanks to SEEDLING, last year, Montenegro became the 63rd country to implement the Eco School Programme. Currently, 38 schools (15 percent) are participating in the programme. A second call for participation in the programme was published on September 29, 2017.
The legal framework for all levels of education has been improved recently. A new curriculum for elementary schools was created, and new programmes for individual subjects have been developed, introducing an outcome-based approach. Also, classroom sizes have been reduced (28 students maximum), and inter-subject themes have been introduced at all levels of education.
Related to education and employment, the country will develop a set of indicators to monitor the progress of students and measure what they have achieved.
The Moldova presenters extolled the REC efforts as being of major importance, not only for the promotion of sustainable development at the regional level, but also for Moldova’s educational reforms. The country aims to promote ESD and the development of personal skills that are accommodated to real-life conditions.
Moldova’s secondary-school structure comprises three main areas: compulsory disciplines, optional disciplines, and extracurricular activities. According to the government-approved curricula (published on the website of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research), Environmental Education is an ‘optional discipline’ currently pursued by 20,569 students—up from about 15,000 in 2015-17.
According to the latest recommendations, ESD should be promoted in Moldova through the optional biology-related disciplines, as well, such as Environmental Education and Health Education.
At the request of the Ministry of Education of Moldova, the REC is developing a version of the Green Pack for Moldova. The Teachers’ Handbook adaptation is almost finished, and experts are now at adjusting materials related Moldova’s specific environmental characteristics.
Changes are afoot at the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development with the promulgation of a new law concerning fundamentals of the country’s education system—Article 12 of which deals with accountability to environment and health. Work is also being made to amend articles on core and secondary education. Another new law, on dual education, is being prepared for introduction.
The country believes that it is important to focus on professional training of teachers, and this creates a need for accredited training curricula. Other top priorities include: development of stimulus for entrepreneurship; organisation of exhibitions and workshops in the field of environmental protection; facilitating research; and promoting SDGs among teachers and students.
An empirical research report titled “Knowledge, attitude and habits of secondary and VET pupils in Serbia at the end of the secondary education”, developed within the SEEDLING project, showed that secondary school pupils are aware of most of environmental problems and goal, but lack the knowledge on how to improve the situation.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.