International Day of Education in the shadow of the neglected educational system

Centre for Civic Education (CCE), on the occasion of January 24 – the International Day of Education, warns of a significant decline in the quality of education in Montenegro. Numerous problems are additionally highlighted during the pandemic, but also by the chronic neglect of this system, which decision-makers continuously look at only as a resource whereby they strengthen their party and ideological structures.

Teachers work in difficult infrastructural conditions, and many schools have twice as many students as the accommodation capacity of the institution, while some of the buildings are in bad condition, and the schools often lack tools, equipment, and classrooms for adequate teaching. Low incomes and insecure work engagements have also weakened the motivation of the teaching staff, and young people do not see this profession as attractive, which is why we have numerous deficit positions, such as those that should be filled by teachers of physics, mathematics, and foreign languages. The challenges of providing conditions for immigrant students have not been well addressed either, since the Ministry of Education has not yet developed guidelines and regulations for the inclusion of children from war zones in our educational system, even though the number of such children is growing.

Although huge resources are invested in education, there is no reflection on the essential improvement of this system. The report of the State Audit Institution for the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports for the year 2021 gave a double negative opinion, which is why the CCE submitted a criminal complaint to the Special State Prosecutor’s Office (SSP) against the then management of this Ministry and the SSP started procedural actions concerning that case. The significant growth of funds allocated to private religious institutions, in addition to the ongoing and overwhelming needs of the public education system, such as the fact that some schools do not even have basic means for function (fuel for heating), indicates further prioritization of private interests over the public interest.

The coronavirus pandemic has deepened existing problems, but also discrimination in the educational system, as indicated by the UNICEF report. Distance/online learning has affected the loss of work habits and motivation to study, but also related frustrations among students and teachers who have been running out of strength in the last three years due to the constant availability and “erasing” of working hours.

Student achievements are getting weaker, as confirmed by the results of the PISA test, even though this is being covered up by the hyperproduction of the once prestigious and now devalued “Luča” diplomas.

The only positive thing that marked the past year in this area refers to the fact that at the end of December 2022, the Parliament adopted amendments to the General Law on Education. Finally, after 12 years, with these amendments, the Minister of Education has no longer the authority to appoint directors of public education institutions, and the directors who organize work in the school and on whom the system depends will now be appointed by school boards. However, the CCE indicates that this should be preceded by a review of the merits of membership in certain school boards.

International Education Day, established by the United Nations in 2018, is celebrated globally on January 24.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor