Strengthening the role of school in developing students’ social and emotional skills

My values and virtues

UNICEF Montenegro
Children actively take part in group exercise at the workshop in the elementary school "Blazo Jokov Orlandic" in Bar
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2015
28 October 2015

PODGORICA, 28 October, 2015 - The complete personal development of children implies a harmonious development of their cognitive, emotional and social skills. A quality and responsible educational system should provide equal incentive to each of these aspects, since they are all equally and wholly reflected in the unique personality of each child. 

For this reason, the Bureau for Education, with support of UNICEF, has launched the initiative "My values ​​and virtues". This initiative aims to strengthen the role of schools in developing pupils’ values and virtues that underpin their success at school, and the quality of their future lives and careers.

Despite the traditional views about them being innate - social and emotional skills and character virtues can be learned, acquired, developed and changed.

"Children spend a lot of time at school - about five or six hours a day. We consider that it is extremely important that schools deal with this issue and work on the development of values, virtues and skills during regular classes,“ said Jadranka Gavranovic, a psychologist in the “Savo Pejanovic“ Primary School in Podgorica.

Based on the traditional role of school as an educational institution and on the latest scientific knowledge on the importance of early support for the development of personality and character values, this initiative of the Bureau for Education, has included the development of an intensive teacher training program. The goal is to engage teachers to make the best of their previous experience and apply it in accordance with the latest findings on how to successfully encourage the development of skills and character virtues for the wellbeing of all young people.

"Through this initiative, we are offering new tools, new methods of work, with the aim of strengthening this existing function of school. It is something that we are doing on a daily basis, but we are just not recognizing it. There is an enormous potential for developing children's social and emotional skills within regular classes, which needs to be used in the right way," Slavica Vujanovic, a psychologist from Bar, explained.


UNICEF Montenegro

Based on the research which has shown what are the most important virtues, values ​​and skills for pupils, teachers and parents, a training program for teachers was prepared and conducted. The program was then piloted in four schools in Podgorica, Bar and Spuž.

Another psychologist, Ana Calov Prelevic from Podgorica, said that this initiative has got the best reaction from teachers. 

"One of the reasons was that it does not require any additional funding, and it does not require any additional work from teachers outside regular classes. But it gives them an insight which they sometimes lose in their daily work. Teachers do not just want well educated pupils, but they want children who are independent, stable, tolerant and responsible enough to be the bearers of our entire society in the future" Calov Prelevic added.

The value of this initiative have been recognized by parents in all four pilot schools - the survey results have shown that parents recognize and appreciate the role of the school in building of child’s personality. They actually expect from schools to help them on this joint mission. 

Tatjana Jokic, a pedagogue from the elementary school "Njegos“ in Spuz, said that parents have been involved from the very beginning.

"They are kept informed of what is going on in the school, what kind of initiative this is, what it brings, and what will parents, children, schools, and society at large get from it. Our experience indicated that parents need help regarding the direction they should take in educating and guiding their children, and how to instill some positive qualities in their children and therefore help them find their place in society,“ Jokic said.

Primary school pupils very well recognize what values and qualities are most important to them, and expect school to support them in developing these values. These are, above all, confidence, respect, perseverance, a sense of responsibility, creativity and gratitude. 

Stasa Barabas, a tacher in the elementary school 'Blazo Jokov Orlandic' in Bar, talked about her first impressions from the implementation of the program, and the reactions of children.

"They are interested in this type of teaching and they perceive it as a part of regular classes. They even keep asking me when we will have these workshops again. We are trying to include some of these methods in regular classes and apply it in the regular program. The role of school in developing students’ personality has been a bit neglected, and it is now being restored to its rightful place again, at an equal level at least with its other roles and activities," Barabas said. 

At one of the first workshops in this school, children actively took part in well-designed group exercises, thus developing confidence, creativity, tolerance, solidarity, patience and communication. 



"Because we work together, we all do better, and we learn from each other“

"An individual cannot win against a whole team“

"When somebody expresses their opinion, we should not tell him or her - your opinion is wrong“

"Working in a group is what I prefer, because we hang out together“

"In the beginning we did not get along so good, but later we all agreed on who will do what“ 

The aim of the initiative "My values ​​and virtues" is that the main partners in this process - schools, teachers and the Bureau for Education, create a program that will encourage children - both inside and outside the classroom - to learn and think about their behaviour, decisions, moral dilemmas, and feelings, and the virtues they want to build their future on. The aim is for the overall school life to be aligned with the values ​​and virtues that we want children to develop.