Teaching profession is in jeopardy

Centre for Civic Education (CCE), on the eve of World Teachers’ Day, marked on 5 October, draws attention to a concerning situation within the education system, which is the result of decades of neglect of the sector, as well as confusion and poor decisions made by the authorities in the past two governments. The CCE expects the next Government to prioritize education and to pull it out of the party’s combinatorics that brought it to an alarmingly low level, potentially jeopardizing Montenegrin society’s overall progress.

The influence of party and individual politics in the education system has reached its peak, as well as the consequent degradation of the teaching profession, so today we are witnessing the loss of even the average quality of education. Therefore, it is not surprising, but should be a concern, that a small percentage of the best students see themselves pursuing a career in teaching.

The CCE believes that Montenegro needs educators with knowledge and integrity to lay the basis for healing the education system and freeing it from clutches of political parties. As long as the best candidate for teacher is not employed, the tolerance of ignorance, arrogance, unethicality, and intolerance of parents will prevail, which has escalated in recent years. Today, teachers are on the brink of survival and losing their dignity, and the lack of essential reforms is causing immeasurable harm. These are some of the reasons behind the teachers’ warning strike at the start of the 2023/2024 school year.

Furthermore, the number of immigrant students has increased, primarily from areas affected by armed conflicts, but also from other countries. In Montenegro, there are over 6500 foreigners in the education system, mainly residing along the coast and in Podgorica. This requires a minimum of six new facilities for schools and kindergartens, but an increase in the necessary teaching staff, in addition to the existing need to rehabilitate the deficit of staff in mathematics, physics and chemistry, so as not to reach a blockade and the impossibility of maintaining basic quality classes. CCE emphasizes the necessity of urgent and strategic determination and investment by the Government of Montenegro in the budget for education, which must no longer be a budget of a social category.

CCE indicates that teachers work in increasingly difficult conditions, in overcrowded classrooms, where it is not possible to maintain attention and concentration, and in recent years they often experience various forms of violence from students, parents or administration. On the other hand, there are also examples of teaching staff coming to work in an inappropriate state, under the influence of alcohol and opiates, which are not followed by sanctions due to the party eligibility of those who prove themselves unworthy of the teaching profession.

Teachers’ councils, committees and other bodies involving teachers lack the authority to make binding decisions on many important issues. This also results in questionable structuring of school boards, where instead of representatives of competent institutions, those who represent party or particular interests sit, which does not contribute to the necessary and promised depoliticization of educational institutions.

We are also witnessing illegal employment, setting standards, etc. so that the best candidate has no chance of getting a job, as well as ignoring the dissatisfaction of teachers who do their work professionally and with dedication. Dissatisfied or unqualified teachers cannot return education to the level where children learn to learn, or go a step further to teach them to think critically and contribute to the community, or to change the climate in which learning is only for grades. Practical learning in the laboratory and experimental knowledge at a basic level do not exist to the extent that we can compete with the countries with the best results in PISA testing. It is impossible with extensive and demanding curricula, a large number of subjects, and with the administrative duties that the teacher has in class, to make extraordinary achievements.

Therefore, the educational system must be changed in order to acquire practice, skills and competences. CCE assesses that precisely then the pressures and influences on the teaching staff would be significantly reduced, which would strengthen the education system, motivating teachers to continue their own education and upgrading.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor