On the occasion of World Teachers’ Day – 5 October, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) points to the urgent and strong support to teachers, who are key actors in the education system is necessary, in order to fully contribute to faster recovery of the system from the pandemic consequences, but also to improve the overall level of quality of education.
Coronavirus pandemic has significantly disrupted, the already long-weakened, quality of education, and the Government is not taking appropriate measures to strengthen the unenviable position of educators in facing the situation in which they are together with their students. The CCE considers that is necessary for the competent Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, but also the entire Government of Montenegro, to effectively respond to consequences of the pandemic within the educational process, which includes a focus on teachers, as well.
It is not good for the teaching staff to be weakened in various forms, after almost two school years of online teaching and the maximum effort made by teachers in moral, pedagogical and professional terms, as well as endangered mental health of students studying indoors.
Teachers are manipulated through the mandatory number of lessons, so instead of renewing their employment contract, fixed-term employments get terminated and new teachers, with or without experience, get hired, all with the aim that their predecessors would not get a permanent job. There is no analysis of the individual quality of work and experience of such teachers, and there is no assessment of the damage that occurs to students in the period until beginners get used to work and gain adequate experience.
Of particular concern is the fact that there is still a bad practice regarding teaching assistants for children who are in dire need of these assistants, having in mind that these are children with a developmental learning disorders. The role of their assistants is specific, as is the children’s habituation to those assistants. Children at the earliest ages and during primary school should not, for pedagogical reasons, change assistants – which often happens nowadays. Also, assistants get fired in kindergartens, although it is clear that they have a particular contribution to the development of these children. Instead of supporting the work of these assistants in various ways, as well as increasing their number so that teaching is equally accessible to all, a negative trend is recorded in all respect.
Additionally, no compensation was paid to teachers for working above the mandatory number of lessons during the pandemic, when classes were divided into two parts, so their work was practically twice as long but also more demanding.
Such relation of the relevant Ministry directly breaks the promise from the Prime Minister’s exposition that the Government will work on “improving the education system at all levels with priority depoliticization.”
The CCE points out that teachers are now exposed to much greater demands from parents, children and society and remain without support, which refers even to training to cope with these different requirements. They are also burdened with numerous administrative obligations, which threaten to replace the essence of teaching with form.
The Government has not made sufficient effort to adapt teaching to the conditions of the pandemic, and this attitude towards teachers results in the transfer of a part of the teachers’ work to parents. In today’s constellation of situations, children do not learn in school nor do they have enough time for it. Free education becomes meaningless, because parents often pay tutors due to lack of interest and commitment of the Government to this important system.
CCE calls on the Government of Montenegro to recognize the importance of the role of teachers and education, and to place it essentially, not rhetorically, in the place of its priorities. It is also necessary to promote this profession, hence, to be elected more often, and to restore the reputation it deserves. This is the only way Montenegro can keep pace with the European education system and educate staff who is competitive in the labour market.
Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor