How Serbian pupils learn about women’s right in physics class

The presentation of  “Guidelines for the integration of the reference framework of competences for democratic culture in selected teaching and learning programs” was held today at the Media Center in Belgrade. The conference was attended by the head of the Council of Europe office in Belgrade Tobias Flesenkemper, representative of the EU Delegation in Serbia Nicola Bertolini, program manager from the Department of Education from the Council of Europe Vesna Atanasova, State secretary of the Ministry of Education Anamarija Viček as well as the teachers from two elementary schools in Serbia Zorana Lepedat and Margarita Berček. As it was highlighted by the participants, Guidelines are the result of seven years long path on which core democratic values were implemented into the formal education system among elementary Serbian schools.

The head of the Council of Europe office in Belgrade Tobias Flesenkemper pointed out that democracy, the rule of law and human rights are the main pillars of the Council of Europe and that democratic society and education come hand in hand with each other. Therefore, the best way to materialize these connection is by integrating democratic values within the subjects in primary schools around Serbia.

“If you look at the Council of Europe you think about three words: democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Democracy is part of our culture and something we want to achieve among countries”, highlighted Flesenkemper. He emphasized that democratic values should be  integrated into subjects such as Serbian, physics, mathematics, history etc. Tobais underlined the importance of learning trough education and added that Serbia has shown a significant progress on this issue.

Representative of the EU Delegation in Serbia Nicola Bertolini stated that democracy and fight against discrimination are based on four main elements: education, principles of European Union, combination of political and social measures as well as practical activity.

Talking about education, Bertolini highlighted that education has the fundamental importance because it impacts all other elements of society.

“We, as donors and partners, should work only on two important E – Education and Environment. All the rest we do is not so sustainable because education or the respect of environment is not completed”, said the Representative of the EU Delegation in Serbia.

Therefore, human rights, democracy, anti-discrimination, which are the basic principles of EU, should be integrated in early childhood. He reminded that these principles are ultimate and non-negotiable when it comes to the countries which are in the process of joining the EU and this is why their importance is even greater in the context of Serbia.

Something which makes this project unique is the combination of political measures and awareness-building on the local level that comes from elementary schools and local communities. Yet, none of these would be possible without practical activity, which is implemented into the elementary schools on different locations around Serbia, concluded Bertolini.

How far has Serbia come?

Program Manager from the Department of Education from the Council of Europe Vesna Atanasova stressed that today`s event is just a small example of all the efforts which were done in the past seven years  in the field of integration of democratic values into to educational system.

She said that the work group has established short, middle and long term goals in order to successfully realize the reform underlining that Serbia went further in the implementation of this framework which reached the policy level.

State secretary of the Ministry of Education Anamarija Viček added that one of the key elements of success is the enthusiasm of schools which have shown great willingness to be part of the project. Twenty schools which have been first participants in the project have become mentor schools, while sixty additional schools also joined the project.

Talking about long-term objectives, Viček added that the ultimative goal is to educate future teachers trough development of the syllabus at faculties of pedagogy.

“Those teachers who will leave higher education institutions should learn about the importance of (democratic) competences and in which ways, they, as future teachers, should work on it, that is why we are also working on the possible development of the syllabus at faculties of pedagogy”, emphasized secretary of the Ministry of Education.

Deputy Director of the Institute for the Improvement of Education Dejana Milijić Subić highlighted that every reform should be done in classrooms. As one of the writers of the Guidelines, Milijić Subić  added that the process of writing was very creative and that she hopes that Guidelines will give the possibility to teachers to develop fresh and creative approach with their pupils which will integrate core democratic values in all subjects.

How does it work in praxis?

Serbian Teacher Zorana Lepedat from the elementary school Miroslav Antić Mika in Pančevo, which was pilot and by today has become a mentor school, emphasized that teachers, non-teaching stuff and local community during six years are constantly developing democratic values.

One of the examples she gave was when the Serbian language and literature class was realized as multidisciplinary class. Pupils were requested to write about the religious objects in the city, which from the one hand, is a literature task, but on the other hand it also increases the awareness of pupils about the minorities in their town and encourages tolerance. Another example for inclusive practice was during the physical education class when children played a football match with children with disabilities.

Psychologist and Citizenship education teacher Margarita Berček from the elementary school Zdravko Gložanski in Bečej underlined that each subject is appropriate for the development of democratic competences. Therefore, from history in the school Zdravko Gložanski pupils learned about holocaust, from chemistry about the ways in which chlorine was used for war purposes, while from physics pupils were introduced with the life of Marie Curie which enlightens the degrading position of female scientists in the past.

Although it is much harder to develop creative workshop than a classic frontal class, it is achievable trough focus groups, debates and collaboration between teachers and pupils.

Berček emphasized that implementation of democratic competencies is of fundamental importance and that whether to be done ad hoc, it requires systemic work on the democratization of education which should be included in the curriculum.

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