Education and science marginal issues for parties and coalitions

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) notes, upon the analysis of election manifestos of coalitions and parties that participated in the recent parliamentary elections, that issues of education and science, which are highly positioned in democratic societies, were not in the focus of our parties and coalitions.

Education has marginal space in election manifestos of all political parties and coalitions, except in the programme of Coalition „For Future of Montenegro“ which does not have it at all. Also, in most of the programmes this issue was in the last position, with a lot of general remarks. For the former opposition, emphasis of required reforms was the main point, while the parties of the previously governing structure have emphasized that they will continue to implement initiated reforms. Avoidance of stating specific actions that would improve the educational system represents the common point to all. This indicates that the parties neither approached the detection of the problem analytically nor dedicated themselves to find an adequate response in this area. It is obvious that parties addressed those issues that are receptive to most voters, hence, many promised to build kindergartens, and none remembered, for example, the bad results of PISA testing of Montenegrin students, as one of the important indicators of the quality of education system and how to address that. Although these programmes state that the education system and the labor market are not harmonized there is no proposal for improving vocational training. Also, high education is almost forgotten. Only two of the 11 electoral lists have mentioned the University of Montenegro (UoM) in their programme – the Coalition „Peace is Our Nation“ states that it is a capital educational institution that needs autonomy, while the Social Democrats underline that investment in UoM should be continued. It is unusual that only state university, with an already ruined reputation and negative external assessments, is not a matter of concern for those who pretend to make decisions of public interest. Besides, it is interesting that none of the electoral lists, even those rhetorically committed to the development of civic society, have recognized the importance of civic education. Only one actor – the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) emphasized the need to develop lifelong learning. Although the elections were during the coronavirus pandemic none of the election lists dealt with possibilities of how to adapt the educational system to that situation. In quantitative terms, education takes about 5% within election manifestos presented during the campaign. Media monitoring conducted by the CCE shows that out of a total of 7,143 of analyzed publications, only 51 publications were about education, ie. only 2,65% of the total media coverage of the campaign. This confirms the inadmissible underrepresentation of one of the topics that should be among the most important in our society, which is not promising in the part of the necessary improvement of the formal education system.

Also, CCE analyzed the representation of science in the programmes of electoral lists and it was established that science is mentioned only seven times in all these programmes. As with education, these are general formulations without specific actions that could improve the conditions for the development of science in Montenegro. It is dominantly stated that is important to increase investment in science, but not how much these investments must be, except in the case of the Coalition „Black on White“. Also, the election actors have promised that Montenegrin society will be recognized by scientific innovations, but road map for that is missing. Some lists, such as the Social Democrats, the Bosniak Party, the Croatian Reform Party, the Croatian Civic Initiative, the Albanian List, and the Coalition „For Future of Montenegro“ did not mention science within their programmes at all. However, even those who have mentioned science have not provided significant space, nor can be seen from the content that this issue has been taken seriously. In total, app. % is dedicated to science in the programmes of all election list.

CCE  has been indicating for years that education is one of the bases of the progress of any society, and especially is important for states of the size of Montenegro, which has limited human resources. The fact that electoral actors have dedicated minimal notice to education and science warns that there is no understanding between those who shape public policies. Finally, it is concerning that problems in this area, recommendations of external evaluators and the need for modernization of the educational system to ensure the quality of educational institutions and alignment with European educational policies and best practices are being ignored.

Milena Vujović, project assistant