Centralization of election and dismissal of school directors continues bad practice of the previous government

The Centre for Civic Education (CCE) points out that the parliamentary debate on the proposed amendments to the General Law on Education, in terms of maintaining the provision that directors of educational institutions continue to be appointed by the Minister and not by school boards, unfortunately, indicated that the new governing structure does not want to break with the bad practice of politicizing the education system.

For a decade now, the CCE has been pointing out the negative consequences of the mechanism by which the minister elects and dismisses directors, as well as the fact that this is the first step towards the necessary depoliticization of the education system. In mid-February, we called on the Committee on Education, Science, Culture and Sports of the Parliament of Montenegro, but also all MPs of the Parliament of Montenegro, to urgently incorporate in the Proposal for the Law on Amendments to the General Law on Education a provision which adds to the competence of the school or managing board of educational institutions the election and dismissal of the directors of those institutions.

CCE reminds that the vast parliamentary majority also advocated that while they were in opposition, as clearly indicated by the statements of their officials, as well as excerpts from election programmes offered to citizens during the election campaign and based on which they also won votes.

Accordingly, the coalition “Peace is our nation” promises in its election programme for the 2020 parliamentary elections: “We will ensure that school boards, as real representatives of employees, students and parents, elect the heads of educational institutions, in order to stop the party elections of staff.

Further, the coalition “Black and white”, in its election programme for the last parliamentary elections promises: “Election of directors of educational institutions to be carried out by school board, not by the minister”. The suggestion of the CCE was supported and amended by the MP of this coalition and high official of the Civic Movement United Reform Action (URA), Božena Jeluš, explaining that three months ago, inter alia, as follows: “It should, however, be decided by those who know best who are really potential quality managers from their schools and that is in certain sense one kind of correction to any attempt of “act in-depth”.

Also, MPs of the Democratic Front (DF) many times publicly pointed out that the existing manner of electing directors affects the politicization of schools, but also submitted amendments to change that. Branka Bošnjak, current Vice-President of the Parliament and high official of the Movement for Change (MfC) committedly and in argument based manner dealt with this issue while acting in opposition, insisting on changing the system by which directors are elected and dismissed by the minister of education.

The CCE emphasizes the role of the school board in this issue, having in mind diversity in the structure and authorizations that all of these boards have. It is unfounded that the crucial role in election and dismissal of directors has minister, regardless of whether he makes that decision on his own or by the suggestion of any commission. The Ministry has already protected its interests by having its representatives in school or managing boards. 

Failure to pass this solution which was proposed by the CCE in all previous amendments to the General Law on Education indicates that educators are not valued based on the quality of work but based on suitability. The intention of proponents of amendments to this Law, by which they want to keep the hitherto harmful principle of political suitability in the appointment and dismissal of directors, is disappointing, with the note that only other party and ideological circumstances are present now. This distances schools from the role of a place on which critical opinion should be developed as the basis for the promotion of the educational system.

If the Law is not changed in this part, it will be proof that the new Government, in terms of education, does not want to deal with numerous and serious key problems, but just to use mechanisms of the old authorities to strengthen their particular positions, and thus to continue with professional disrespect of over da 13, 000 employees in education.

The CCE consider that if this Government wants to improve something, it must ensure decentralized and democratic manner of the election of directors, which excludes discretionary decision making of the minister on this issue.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor