Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2002 SER: Civic Education in Primary and Secondary Schools in the Republic of Serbia



Author: Smith, A.; Fountain, S.; McLean, H.; Strategic Marketing and Media Research Institute

Executive summary

Background

In November 2001, Civic Education was offered as an optional subject to pupils in the first grade of primary school (7-8 year-olds) and first year of secondary school (14-15 year-olds). Classes operated outside the normal timetable and the syllabi for Civic Education were developed from existing NGO programs. Teachers of Civic Education were selected from existing staff within schools, and received extensive training through workshops provided by the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES).

Purpose / Objective

The purpose of the evaluation was to conduct an in-depth analysis in order to assess both the contents and the teaching process of Civic Education during the first year of implementation. The objectives of the evaluation were:
- to assess the content of the curriculum for Civic Education
- to assess the training provided to teachers
- to assess the teaching methods and materials used
- to determine the perceptions of Civic Education by key stakeholders (pupils, teachers, parents, and principals) and the degree of satisfaction on the part of each of these stakeholders
- to determine the impact of Civic Education, based on the perceptions of the key stakeholders and local communities

Methodology

The main sources of data for the evaluation were:
- A national sample of 238 primary and 66 secondary schools offering Civic Education. Pupils, teachers and parents of children taking Civic Education completed questionnaires in each school. A local consultant appointed by UNICEF also designed a special research instrument for primary school children. Detailed analysis of data is provided in a separate Technical Report.
- Case studies of Civic Education in primary and secondary schools in six areas (Belgrade, Draginje-Koceljeva, Preãevo, Niã, Novi Pazar and Subotica). Each case study involved interviews with pupils, teachers, parents who have chosen Civic Education; principals and members of the wider community. Summaries of the case studies are provided in Appendix 2 and full details are contained in a separate report.
- Interviews with academics and members of the Expert Working Group involved in designing the Civic Education syllabi.

Key Findings and Conclusions

Participants in Civic Education:
During the 2001-02 school year, 746 primary schools and 237 secondary schools offered CE classes. This amounts to 60% of primary schools, 45% of secondary schools and 55% of all schools. However, voluntary enrolment in CE classes outside the normal timetable during the first year means that the actual numbers of pupils participating are relatively small -- 18,824 (22.5%) of first grade pupils in primary schools and 3,215 (3.57%) of first year pupils in secondary schools. Because of the voluntary nature of enrolment in the first year, and lack of clarity about requirements for recording attendance, the Ministry estimates of pupil numbers are uncertain and have been adjusted to allow for inaccuracies and drop-out rates.

Drop-out rates, particularly among secondary school pupils, should be investigated more thoroughly. It would be useful to know if those who drop out do so because of dissatisfaction with the curriculum, the pressure of having too many subjects, difficulties with the subject being scheduled outside the normal school day, or some other reason.

Choices and policy issues:
The perception that CE is an alternative choice to religious education has created a very unhelpful dynamic where these are perceived to be 'rivals' -- this is likely to be exacerbated by the 'compulsory choice' legislation that has been enacted for the coming school year.

The majority view across all stakeholder groups is that CE should be a voluntary choice. This may be due to a range of reasons. For some, including the authors of the CE curriculum, allowing pupils to choose whether or not to enroll in CE reflects the practice of democratic values. For others, the option to choose whether or not to enroll was likely important in the first year of a new and unfamiliar subject. There are indications that some stakeholders see the subject as one that develops knowledge, attitudes and skills needed by all citizens of a democratic society, and should therefore be compulsory, but this is a minority view at this time. As pupils and parents will be required to choose between Civic Education and Religious Education in the 2002-2003 school year, issues of choice will likely receive greater attention. The MoES should consider carefully how to introduce CE and RE in the coming year in a way that preserves possibilities for choice (such as allowing pupils to attend both subjects, if they wish to).

Timetable:
Most teachers, parents and pupils think that 1-2 periods of CE per week is adequate, but a significant number of secondary school pupils suggest that CE classes should be more frequent. Many of the lessons in the current curriculum attempt to cover an ambitious amount of material in a 45-minute period, and Civic Education would likely benefit from an exploration of more creative scheduling options. Longer periods at the secondary level, for example, would allow the opportunity to fully explore issues through active learning methods.

There is broad support for including CE within the timetable for the normal school day. CE was commonly offered either before or after the regular school day, and this may have had a negative impact on enrolment, particularly for pupils who had to travel a considerable distance to school. Scheduling CE within the normal school day would likely encourage parents and pupils to view it as a legitimate and important part of the curriculum.

Curriculum content:
Most stakeholders think that all the topics covered in the current Civic Education curriculum are important. They also find the curriculum is age-appropriate. However, the fact that nearly one quarter of all primary school teachers expressed the view that it is not age appropriate merits further investigation.

Most stakeholders do not think any additions to the curriculum are needed, but secondary teachers are the group most likely to want topics added. Examples of topics suggested by the small group of stakeholders that want additions to Civic Education included healthy life styles, the environment, family relations, and sexuality. The scope of content covered by these suggestions may indicate that Civic Education, as a new subject in a curriculum perceived by many as rigid and outdated, is being seen as an opportunity for introducing everything that stakeholders now feel is missing from the educational system. Or, this range of suggested topics may indicate a lack of clarity about what Civic Education is. It is striking that no groups mentioned adding topics that have specific Civic Education content, such as democratic decision-making or social change processes.

A highly positive finding is that most teachers and pupils report that controversial issues in Civic Education are handled openly when they arise. The view that such issues should not be dealt with until pupils acquire skills in communication and conflict resolution is one that was expressed by some teachers during the evaluation process. Even young, primary school children are aware, at some level, of potentially controversial issues such as ethnic and religious differences. It is important, then, that Civic Education helps children learn and reinforce psychosocial skills by applying these to controversial issues as they arise, rather than waiting until some optimal level of skill development has been achieved.

Teaching and learning methods:
The introduction of Civic Education has exposed many teachers to the use of more interactive teaching methods. The new methodologies have been widely applied by teachers and enthusiastically received, particularly by pupils. The opportunity to interact and participate has made a strong contribution to pupils' positive perceptions of the subject.

Pupils see the active learning methods used in Civic Education as distinguishing this subject from the rest of the school day. In some cases, active learning was referred to by adult stakeholders as 'Civic Education methods', suggesting that the methodology may become identified with the subject. In the short term, it is possible that this could have the positive effect of creating a more distinctive identity for the subject among the parents, teachers, and pupils, many of whom express a lack of clarity about what Civic Education is. In the longer term, however, it may not be desirable for these methods to be seen as confined to Civic Education alone.

Assessment:
Two means of assessment were recommended for the first year of implementation of Civic Education: the collection of attendance records and the descriptive grading of pupils' participation.

Teachers have taken attendance records consistently. An effective system of assessing pupil participation would lend legitimacy to the new subject. However, the practice of descriptive grading has not taken hold among Civic Education teachers. It is not clear whether this is due to a need for more training in this new approach to assessment, a perception that the record-keeping required is burdensome, or some other reason. There is no agreement between stakeholder groups as to whether descriptive grading, observation, or no grading at all is the best form of assessment. It is clear that letter or numerical grading are the least preferred options.

Training and support for teachers:
The training program of workshops for CE teachers provided by the Ministry of Education and Sports has been one of the main successes of the introductory year. Attendance at the two training seminars was high, the geographical coverage has been good and the levels of satisfaction expressed by teachers excellent. Comments for future consideration include the suggestion that training could be more regular and over shorter periods of time; and a pervasive frustration with late/non-payment of allowances. In the medium term, some consideration should also be given to including training for Civic Education as part of initial teacher education programs.

In terms of resources, teachers have responded positively to the teacher's handbook, but there is less satisfaction with printed pupil materials, particularly in the primary schools. Some consideration might be given to encouraging teachers to make more use of a broader range of resources, including effective use of NGOs.

Stakeholder reactions and perceived impact:
The majority of survey respondents indicate accurate perceptions of why Civic Education has been introduced. Support for offering it during each year of schooling approaches 50%.

Satisfaction with the classes is high, most pupils enrolled and their parents want to continue CE next year. The fact that over one third of parents would like their children to take both CE and RE should be noted; this represents a substantial percentage of parents who could be dissatisfied with having to choose one subject or the other. This is an issue that can be addressed by not scheduling the subjects opposite each other.

Parents, teachers and pupils report noticing positive changes in those enrolled in Civic Education, such as more open communication and increased tolerance. And, pupils and teachers report more positive relations than are the norm in regular classes. This suggests that the curriculum may be meeting some of its goals of developing skills and attitudes needed for life in a democratic society. It would be useful to plan now for a more rigorous and objective assessment of the impact of Civic Education, perhaps to be carried out in 1-2 years.

Recommendations

Substantial recommendations are given with a view towards developing a strategy for incorporating Civic Education into the formal curriculum of the Republic of Serbia. The evaluation report provides full details of the findings and conclusions. The main recommendations that arise from these are:
- Do not introduce a compulsory choice between Civic Education and Religious Education
- Maintain and extend the quality of the Civic Education curriculum
- Improve information and outreach to all stakeholder groups
- Ensure that participation in Civic Education is possible for all students, particularly those who are members of minority language groups
- Maintain and extend the current quality of teacher training in Civic Education
- Put into place effective and systematic mechanisms for assessing the outcomes of Civic Education



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Report information

Date:
2002

Region:
CEE/CIS

Country:
Serbia and Montenegro

Type:
Evaluation

Theme:
Education - Other

Partners:
UNESCO, Fund for an Open Society - Serbia, Open Society Institute, Ministry of Education and Sport

PIDB:

Follow Up:

Language:
English

Sequence Number:
02/04

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