Amendments of education laws should ensure quality, transparency and accountability

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) has submitted its comments and suggestions to the Ministry of Education with regards to four legal texts – Law on Higher Education, Law on Primary Education, General Law on Education and Upbringing and Law on Education of Adults.

Among other things, CCE has underlined key remarks related to Law on Higher Education, and proposed that text of this law must contain a general definition of plagiarism in designated place, as well as that this definition must be comprehensive. This would encompass an important part of harmonisation of amendments of this Law with the existing amendments of Criminal Code, which recognized plagiarism as criminal offense for the first time and classified it within the category of those that have most socially-negative consequences based on the severity of punishment. CCE has been advocating for years a more precise legal definition of plagiarism, and believes that Ministry of Education should recognise this issue in an adequate and meaningful context.

CCE believes that the role of the Council for Higher Education is greatly diminished based on the new draft and that it should be enhanced on two levels. Firstly, the Council should have within its composition a representative of NGO sector from the organisations dealing with education. Secondly, when it comes to managing bodies (Management Board and Director) of Agency for the provision of quality of higher education, they should be elected and appointed by the Council for Higher Education, previously appointed by the Parliament of Montenegro, thus granting it greater level of independence than the Ministry. Giving broad authorisations to new Agency, which will greatly shape the future of higher education in Montenegro, must be accompanied and clearly defined with the accountability and transparency of its work, as well as with the inclusiveness of all stakeholders in order to secure the competitiveness and legitimacy of elections of key bodies of the Agency. This can be achieved precisely by binding the Agency closer to the Council.

Furthermore, CCE proposed to render the works of every person who completed his/her Master or PhD studies at the universities in Montenegro publically available, which is essential for the development of scientific research at the universities and confirmation of credibility of credentials on academic appointment.

CCE also proposed the introduction of obligation of regular internal and external audits of higher education institutions and publication of these reports.

As far as the envisaged amendments of General Law on education are concerned, CCE has proposed once again a change in the manner of election of school director, based on which the director of public institution is appointed and dismissed by the School Board, or by the Managing board of public institution, not by the minister, as was the case so far. CCE believes that the structure of School or Managing board is a representative group of stakeholders (three representatives of Ministry, or three representatives of the municipality for the institution founded by the municipality, one representative of employees and one representative of parents), and that the minister should not play an important role in any case when it comes to election of school director, regardless of whether he makes that decision on his own or on the proposal of any commission.

CCE proposed to erase the introduction of legal solutions in the amendments of Law on primary education which exerts any sort of limitation on the conduct of administrative dispute, because the administrative dispute is a constitutionally and legally protected category, and each legal or physical person has the right to initiate one if he/she is the holder of rights and obligations that have been decided in an administrative or other proceeding.

Law on the education of adults defines the norms that close the door on every kind of training and education which is not licensed and it is a known fact that the most of informal programmes of education and training, provided by the civic sector in Montenegro, are not licensed because they are a part of project activities, which does not also mean that they are not good or beneficial. Provisions related to performers of informal education are also disputable, because the performers of informal programmes of education of adults are restricted on the employment of andragogy experts. This leads to creation of monopoly of small group of people in Montenegro who would practically be able to control who, and under what circumstances, would be granted a license, with opening of the space for additional revenue to Centre for professional training, as well as the simultaneous creation of serious, unnecessary and unsustainable business barriers for those who conduct informal education, thus this is not in the public interest. Namely, mandatory andragogy qualification for training providers is not an international practice and it is illegal from the aspect of general legal framework in Montenegro.

Mira Popović, programme associate
Snežana Kaluđerović, senior legal advisor