Problems in education did not disappear with temporary closing of chapter 26

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses concern due to extremely poor state of affairs in the area of education despite the fact that negotiation chapter 26 (Education and culture), related to this area, was temporarily closed precisely on this day two years ago.

While education presents one of the key pillars of development in every society, in Montenegro it still lacks committed systematic and strategic focus. Laws in this area are far too often amended without any previously conducted comprehensive analysis or public debate within legally prescribed conditions, which significantly restricts the transparency and quality of this process. Additionally, level of their application is very low, while the level of abuse remains high even within that application framework. Also, the existence of necessary bylaws, that closer define the criteria and conditions of implementation of legislative norms, is nowhere to be found in almost any level of education.

When it comes to primary education, the thing that surprises is the inconsistency between official policy and EU policies. Namely, EU calls on the decentralisation of system of education and returning to life in rural areas, while minister of education simultaneously announces closure of some schools in rural areas. CCE continuously pointed out on poorly standardised legal provision regarding the manner of electing school principals, i.e. that school principals are elected by the minister of education which unnecessarily centralises the system, whereby the basis for a more democratic managing of schools is being lost, all for the interests out of public one. In relation to this, examples of harmful consequences are numerous, starting from questionable employment procedures, problems in the organisation of teaching process, to abuses of school premises for party purposes, which is why CCE submitted initiatives for the replacement of principals, but the Ministry protected them even though it had no reasonable grounds to do so. CCE’s allegations are partially substantiated with recent discovery from Educational Inspection regarding the inexistence of licences and diplomas in schools, which is a direct responsibility of principals of those schools, and it remains unknown whether anyone was sanctioned because of that.

Problems that are of special concern are related to inclusion in education. For instance, Roma are still deprived of their efficient right to education, because there are no bylaws that closer define the criteria and number of Roma children which, based on the principle of affirmative action, is possible to enrol in all levels of education. In the end, there is not a single Roma person in educational staff.

PISA testing shows chronically bad quality of education in primary and secondary schools, while we simultaneously note 900 best achievers in Montenegrin schools for 2014, which also indicates on fact that neither the system of grading is real.

When it comes to higher education, Montenegrin universities mark poor results on renowned ranking lists, where they can be found mostly in bottom of those lists. Resources for higher education are irrationally spent on the opening of “double” studying programmes, even within the same university and without a justified explanation. Also, little attention is paid to standardisation of studying programmes compared to needs of labour market.

Inaccurately regulated area over the control of plagiarism left room for numerous abuses of copyrights and continuous plagiarism affair. Budget resources are managed in an irresponsible manner and, seldom and unlawfully, enormous incomes based on the establishment of double employment or additional arrangement can be noted without the approval from Senate when it comes to University of Montenegro, as well as other questionable basis. Simultaneously, there are no allocated resources for what should be the basis for the improvement of higher education – scientific-research works. Serious issue for higher education is also the lack of Strategy of securing quality of higher education.

Despite the CCE’s years long efforts to initiate the advancements in the area of transparency and supervision of work in education, competent institutions mostly remained silent or reacted inarticulately by stating the argumentation that could justify their (in)action. In the meantime, problems are piling up and the fact that this chapter was temporarily closed supposedly left the impression that authorities are not ought to do anything in order to improve the situation. However, it should be emphasised that EC still monitors issues from Chapter 26 as well as that competent educational authorities should show far more responsibility in regulating this area.

Mira Popović, programme associate