The decision to change eighth-grade biology textbooks because they contain lessons on gender and sexual identity is seen by biologists as a defeat for science.
Biologists warn that such a decision was forced and that it came as a result of enormous pressure from conservative forces, i.e. the increasingly vocal right-wing parties led by the Dveri Movement, but also from the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The educational authorities of Serbia have decided that seven out of eight approved biology textbooks must correct deficiencies in the lessons related to the “biological meaning of adolescence”. Although no one has specified what the “flaws” were or what their “correction” entails, the entire public dispute was initiated by Dveri.
Dveri said that the sentence from the textbook which said that “there are people whose biological sex and gender identity do not match (for example, a male feels like a female) as “propagation of homosexuality and transgenderism to minors.”
The decision of the educational authorities, made after and despite the assessment of the Biological Society of Serbia that the lessons are not controversial.
Professor Biljana Stojković from the Faculty of Biology said that science was defeated by that decision, adding that politics and the church won. She also pointed out that biologists and the scientific community are revolted by this event, because the biology curriculum has been developed for years.
“Psychologists, education experts and school teachers were all consulted beforehand. The curriculum was approved by all instances – the National Education Council and the Ministry of Education. It took a long time to put it together and it required serious work. We went with scientific data. We live in a country where one political party (Dveri) together with the church can influence the curriculum,” Stojković told Euronews Serbia.
Stojković aalso believes that the biggest culprit for the fact that the lessons have to be changed for the next school year is the Minister of Education Branko Ružić.
“After ignoring science, profession and education, he decided to obey conservative currents,” she pointed out.
The biology professionals were clear – the biology curriculum for the eighth grade is in line with science. This was the position of the Serbian Biological Society, all biology departments of universities in Serbia, as well as the Institute for Biological Research.
The biologists’ position was accepted by the National Education Council at an extraordinary session. However, apart from the conclusion that the biology curriculum is in accordance with science, they also agreed that “no interpretation of the curriculum must contain elements of ideology and that the students’ prior psychological and sociological knowledge must be taken into account when interpreting the curriculum”.
(Euronews Serbia, 06.10.2022)
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