On the occasion of 17 November – International Student Day, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) indicates the long-lasting problem of inadequate addressing of students’ needs by educational institutions. The CCE calls on policy and decision-makers to strategically reform the education system to improve the quality of education and employability of graduate students.
In the societies of responsible political elites, education is the pillar of development. In that context, special attention is paid to higher education, students and critical opinion that can encourage quality social change. Unfortunately, students in Montenegro are not recognized as an important group and their needs are marginalized which also affects their raising desire to leave Montenegro. Researches indicate that half of the young people are dissatisfied with the quality of education, and among the key deficiencies they underline the incompatibility of education with the labour market, ie. lack of practice which would prepare students for future work. Professional training programme is a good concept, but in many aspects it remained unfinished and did not boost substantial progress in this area. Namely, this programme has not developed monitoring and control mechanisms which could establish how effectively it is applied and how much it helps students to gain an experience that provides them employment. Low quality of education and inability to develop necessary skills and competencies for employment and competitiveness in their profession lead to an increase of unemployment and it reduces the chances of young people to integrate into society, as confirmed by the fact that at the end of October, in the records of the Employment Service, there are 7640 of university degree persons registered as unemployed. The fact that only 19.35% of those who complete bachelor or specialist studies have a permanent contract makes students’ perspective uncertain and forces them to find jobs for the lower level of education. The economic rights of students are also ignored. CCE’s findings from a youth study show that 71.8 % of young people live with their parents, which prolongs their transition to adulthood. Neglect of students already has its expression in the lack of adequate human resources in the private and public sectors.
The University of Montenegro (UoM), which has been receiving more and more funds from the budget through the years, has not justified the investment of taxpayers by their poor ranking on relevant international lists. It is also concerning UoM’s stubbornness in non-transparency, especially when it comes to financial operations, as well as cases of non-academic behavior of employees that damage the reputation of this institution and make bad role models to students. The studies are based on theoretical classes without discussion, and non-formal education is not appreciated. There is a visible decrease of enthusiasm amongst the considerable part of the academic staff which is reflected in this (lack of) dedication to the students. Common for public and private faculties is that they do not recognize the importance of strategic planning and innovation, and defined strategic goals are mostly formalistically fulfill while shift students are taken as accountable when there is no track record.
Of particular concern is that the voice of the students, as a group that must clearly articulate its problems and attitudes, still is not heard. Low level of confidence in institutions, with a belief about systematic corruption, discourages students from fighting for their rights and make them apathetic and passive. Student protests are incidental in Montenegro, although there are a lot of reasons for that, and student protests have been a catalyst for democratic change in many transition countries.
International Student Day is a symbol of the struggle for a democratic society and better education. It is an opportunity to emphasize the responsibility of students and their actions to improve their position in Montenegrin society, hence we call on them to be louder in the fight for their rights as it is the only way to get the attention of the wider community about their perspective, and influence the reform of the education system so that finally meets their needs.
Milena Vujović, Project assistant