To improve civic education in Montenegro

Civic forum on activism and civic education was held in Zadar, Croatia, from 5 to 9 September 2016, within the project “Homo Europeanus – Overcoming the deficit of knowledge on EU”, implemented by Centre for Civic Education (CCE) in partnership with 14 European organisations with the support of European Union through programme Europe for citizens. This international forum gathered 60 participants from educational institutions and civil society, where Petar Đukanović, CCE programme coordinator, also held a presentation. Focus of this Forum was on different aspects of civic education, status and its role in the prevalence of contemporary global challenges, best practices and experiences in the development of activism on local level.

Đukanović reflected on the situation in formal and informal education in Montenegro, and on mutual openness of these systems in the realisation of principles of education for democratic citizenship. He presented the informal education programmes implemented by CCE in this area, then spoke on the role of organisation during the process of training of first generation of teachers of Civic education, advocacy and promotional activities which characterised the introduction of this subject and experiences of participation in working group for the creation of national Strategy for period 2007 – 2010. Đukanović emphasised that Civic education presents the basis for the development and sustainability of democracy in every society, or of participatory, open and inclusive society which fosters the culture of human rights.

Đukanović reminded that “ten years ago, Montenegro was one of the first countries in region that introduced the concept of Civic education into formal system and adopted series of documents based on which the principles of education for democratic citizenship were incorporated into the system.” However, he estimated that “Civic education cannot be disassociated from the existence of democratic practices and respect of human rights in school ambient, as well as in the society as a whole. Only the compliant acting of these segments can result in quality civic knowledge, skills and values which affect the changes in education and society and true democratisation. There is a question to what extent the principles of education for democratic citizenship can live in the schools in Montenegro whose directors o are appointed by the minister, while the representatives of employees, parents, pupils, as well as local self-government are being marginalised, and they should actually be the ones to make these decisions, since they are best familiar with the work and needs of their institutions.“

Nowadays, civic education is a mandatory subject in Montenegrin primary education, and an elective course in gymnasiums and secondary vocational schools. Đukanović pointed out that “evaluations done in previous years indicate that certain problems which initially posed an issue, still encumber the successful implementation of these subjects. Faculties still have no programmes which can prepare the teaching staff for this subject, while the principles of education for democratic citizenship are still insufficiently represented in curriculums for teaching profession, even though they were one of the key goals of national strategy for the introduction of these subjects. Trainings and specialisations are sporadic, insufficiently systematic, and fail to keep up with the ever changing tendencies of the society, and prepare the educators to adequately address them in form of a subject. Licencing of trainings and teachers of these subjects is an additional problem, in other words their status in the system is still not generally regulated, as well as the fact that teaching of these subjects is dominantly delegated to teachers who do not have the sufficient norm in their main course.”

Đukanović expressed his concern “because some of the important social topics, especially those related to human rights are not represented in curriculum of Civic Education, even though the pupils are entitled to answers on those burning issues, which schools should provide. For instance, Montenegrin education system completely ignores the questions related to rights of LGBT persons or facing the past. Education system must not turn a blind eye before the important social issues, or resort to strategies of cloaking the problems, such as the tendency to do this with the latest initiative of Ministry of Education regarding the introduction of student uniforms, with the explanation that this would resolve the issues of inequality, social stratification and poverty which disrupt the relations between the students. These questions, even the discrimination and peer violence, which often occur as their consequence, are too complex to be resolved with a rather superficial introduction of uniforms which would “rectify” every difference. Instead, it should be discussed in schools amongst the young people.”

Potential for better efficiency of Civic education, Đukanović sees in “vast space for the improvement of teaching methods, which are still mainly traditional, and better use of methods of active learning which stimulate the development of critical thought, team work, communicational and civic competencies, contrary to mere fact memorisation and traditional split of roles in classrooms. Without active learning there can be no active citizens capable of understanding the world around them and make critical, objective decisions useful for the communities in which they live and work.”

Đukanović concluded that “cooperation of informal and formal education must be substantiated and open for realisation of full effect of principle of education for democratic citizenship, as basis for further social changes and development, especially in the societies characterised by authoritarianism, patriarchy, traditionalism, homophobia and eroded value system, such as Montenegrin. Formal and informal systems can exist and act separately from each other, but their acting gains its full meaning once their resources are united, and ideas and views on directions of education are exchanged and complemented.”

CCE will continue to contribute to the development of civic awareness, values and competencies through its informal education programmes, but also to incite debates and initiate the cooperation with formal institutions on different aspects of improvement of civic education and implementation of reforms in order to contribute in the improvement of overall quality of education in Montenegro.

Svetlana Pešić, programme associate