Education System Reform – Urgent priority for Montenegro
Education Sector Analysis 2015–2020 presented
PODGORICA, 14 November 2022 – In anticipation of World Children’s Day, a comprehensive Education Sector Analysis of Montenegro 2015–2020 was presented today, with a view to using the document as the basis for developing a multi-year, budgeted Montenegrin Education Sector Strategy, which will be underpinned by evidence, all within the effort to provide high-quality and inclusive education for all.
“What we want to change in relation to the previous period is the lack of a key document that would integrate the strategic commitments applicable to the period up to 2030,” Minister of Education Miomir Vojinović said at the opening of today’s event in the UN Eco Building.
Ambassador of the European Union to Montenegro Oana Cristina Popa reminded that the annual report of the European Commission for 2022 recommended that Montenegro adopt a plan with a clear budget for a series of educational reforms in order to provide high-quality, inclusive education to all children at all levels.
“This comprehensive Education Sector Analysis, which is now available, thanks to the joint initiative of the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, is the first step in that direction,” Ambassador Popa said, announcing that the EU would provide financial support amounting to one million euros for the future education strategy and activities in this field with UNICEF and the Government of Montenegro.
UNICEF Montenegro Representative Juan Santander pointed to several key findings of this analysis, such as the fact that every two out of three children in Montenegro attend elementary schools with insufficient infrastructure; that there are an average of 16 students per computer in primary and secondary schools; that only every fourth teacher attends programmes for professional development; and that children growing up in poverty attend kindergarten, primary and secondary school to a much smaller extent.
“These data indicate that it is necessary to urgently provide for financing new school facilities and adequately equipping all schools with new technologies. Investing more resources in continuous professional development of all teachers is a priority if we want a better quality of education. In order to reduce poverty in Montenegro, high-quality education must be provided to all children from poor families, Roma and children with disabilities from the first years of life,” Santander said.
Jelena Jovanović, a student of the Medical Secondary School in Podgorica, called for the digitalization of education, strengthening of the pedagogical role of the school, the provision of greater support for the mental health and socio-emotional development of students and their better preparation for specific jobs.
“Be aware that we will be replacing you, in all state and private institutions, so it would not be adequate for our future knowledge to be like yours is now, with some exceptions,” Jovanović said.
Olivera Leković, President of the NGO Educational Community, recalled that, not so long ago, teachers in Montenegro were among the most respected professionals together with medical doctors, as well as that the social status of teachers and the quality of education were better in the past than they are today. She completed her presentation with a message to the Montenegrin public and to current and future decision-makers in the Parliament and the Government of Montenegro:
“If we continue to fail to invest in teachers and school infrastructure, continuing not to include teachers in the process of planning and defining educational policies and failing to employ people in education according to the principle of meritocracy, we will find it increasingly more difficult to meet our objective – the creation of a knowledge society in which every child exercises the right to quality, inclusive education.”
Radomir Božović, President of the Education Union, pointed out that only satisfied teachers can give their best in the classroom and thus contribute to the implementation of the reforms.
“The message of the Education Union is that education reforms can and must be carried out only by well-trained and motivated teachers. The Union will invest all its knowledge and efforts to improve the status of teachers in the coming period through growing salaries and better regulation of legal norms in the recruitment of teachers,” Božović said.
Kristina Mihailović, Executive Director of the “Parents” Association, reminded that schools and kindergartens were overbooked in most municipalities. She said that the grading system ought to be improved, that student achievements must be better in comparison to other countries, as well as that access to education needed to be improved for children from poor families. She also called for a strengthening of the quality of inclusive education for children with disabilities.
“Decision-makers must become aware that this is a top priority, which has not been the case so far. For example, in the last six years, the government has spent only €30 million on school infrastructure,” Mihailović concluded.
The analysis is available on the UNICEF Montenegro website and is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Education and UNICEF Montenegro, prepared with the technical assistance of SOFRECO, a renowned consultancy and technical assistance company. The document is aligned with the Education Sector Analysis Methodological Guidelines, developed in 2014 by UNESCO, the World Bank, UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education.