Montenegro Steals Croatia’s Curriculum Reform

By 22 August 2017

While the educational reform in Croatia is delayed seemingly permanently, other countries are copying it.

While the curricular reform is a topic of contention in Croatia, although its methodology has repeatedly been praised by the European Commission, neighbouring countries are intensively working on the modernization of their education systems, reports Jutarnji List on August 22, 2017.

Earlier this summer, Montenegro published its new curricula on the website of the Institute of Education, and its content shocked Liljana Hanžek, a mentor from a primary school in Zagreb, who worked on the curricular reform in Croatia. She found that one of the curricular documents was almost entirely copied and translated into Montenegrin. “I stumbled accidentally on the website of the Institute of Education of Montenegro. I looked up their new curriculum for sports classes and concluded that the Montenegrins had done a good job. But, when I studied it in more detail, I realised that most of it was copied and translated from our curriculum,” says Hanžek.

Hanžek forwarded the document to her colleagues from the expert working group. They were part of a team of 500 people who were preparing Croatia’s curricular reform. Proposals for all the documents were published in February last year. The public consultation period has concluded but, because of the well-known problems, the documents were never implemented in Croatian schools. Judging by the activities of Croatia’s neighbours, they might be carried out in Montenegro.

By comparing the two documents – the Croatian curriculum proposal for sports education and the Montenegrin proposal – it is clear that the documents use the same methodology, the same domain names, and most of the overlapping content, which was, of course, translated into Montenegrin. Curricula for other subjects are also identical with the methodology developed by the former Croatian expert group led by Boris Jokić.

For example, the Croatian curriculum for the sports education subject lists three main domains: Exercise, sports and dance; My body and I; Living healthy. The Montenegrin curriculum contains these same domains, just with Croatian words substituted by Montenegrin.

Astrid Čulić, a teacher of sports classes from the Ivan Mažuranić Primary School in Zagreb, believes she knows what happened. “These are ideas that came from our heads; these are our sentences. Our curricular document is recognisable by its uniqueness in conceptualisation. We will perform a detailed analysis of our and Montenegrin documents. As a co-author of the paper, I can believe that this is plagiarism, but I am not a lawyer,” says Čulić.

She hopes that the Ministry of Science and Education will react since it is officially the owner of all the curricular documents. Until then, she and her colleagues have informed all the other experts who had worked on the curricular reform to check if there are similarities with the Montenegrin documents in their subjects as well.

In the Montenegrin documents, there is no mention that Croatian proposals were used as a source.

Čulić and her colleagues are clear, “Our country is asleep while others are using its documents.” Still, after the initial shock, they say their heart is at peace. “This is a confirmation that we did a good job. I am sorry that our country does not recognise it. There is no doubt that the Montenegrins have copied and translated our documents.”

Boris Jokić, former head of the expert group for the curriculum reform, commented on the issue. “Methodology and reports are publicly available to everyone and, as a scientist, I do not mind if the children in Montenegro, Uganda or Germany, use our work to have an opportunity for better education. I am not bothered that the work paid by the Croatian taxpayers’ money has been taken over by other countries because that is a question for those who lead this country,” says Jokić.

However, he adds, it is a shameful fact that the work of more than 500 Croatian teachers, educators, principals, experts and scientists will not benefit children and young people in Croatia. “That is a national shame that will be a mark on our education for years,” Jokić concludes.

Director of the Institute of Education Rešad Sijarić and Montenegrin Minister of Education Damir Šehović did not have time to answer Croatian journalists’ questions.

Translated from Jutarnji List.