Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Bandić Calls for Dismissal of Education Minister Divjak

ZAGREB, June 4, 2019 - Labour and Solidarity Party leader and Zagreb mayor, Milan Bandić, on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to replace Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak, and to "make a statesmanlike move" due to her unlawful conduct" noting just one example of 7.5 million kuna of taxpayers' money thrown down the drain for methodical handbooks.

Addressing a press conference, Bandić said that Divjak "has to bear the consequences of conscious breach of the law."

He called on the relevant state institutions to inspect the details of the minister's actions regarding methodical handbooks which cost more than 7.3 million kuna last year. Despite the money spent, those handbooks will only be used this school year and will not apply to the "School for life" due to numerous objections presented during public debates.

Can someone who makes such irresponsible and damaging decisions be a minister in government, Bandić questioned. He added that the "School for Life" programme supplied 8,000 tablets in the 208/2019 school year at price of 1,000 kuna each yet parents can buy new tablets for 500 kuna.

Bandić added that he isn't interested in "feathering his own nest," and that his party would continue to support the government in those decisions that are beneficial for the citizens of Zagreb and Croatia.

Bandić's party colleague, MP Kažimir Varda addressed reporters ahead of a meeting of the ruling coalition partners and said that if Plenković did not replace Minister Divjak, he would table the impeachment motion in parliament on Wednesday. "If Plenković doesn't agree, we will launch proceedings according to the law," Varda said.

He added that the minister had breached the law with regard to school textbooks. Textbooks are free in elementary school except for specialised subjects which the government can finance if it has the necessary funds for that purpose.

Minister Divjak on Saturday said that she had been given a guarantee by Prime Minister Plenković that elementary school students would next year be given free textbooks for all compulsory and elective subjects, including Religious Education, a second foreign language and IT studies.

The government has said that it will "ensure that all elementary school students throughout Croatia are given free textbooks," recalling that the law specifies that the education standard comprises compulsory and elective subjects, which then means that compulsory and elective subjects are a constitutive part of the national standard for students, which is something the state supports and guarantees.

Education and Science Minister Blazenka Divjak's special advisor Maro Alavanja said on Tuesday that he was sorry that Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić's focus on education "is not manifested in equipment or maintenance of schools in the city".

"We are glad to see that Mayor Bandić is focused on education, however, we are sorry that this is not at all reflected in equipment or maintenance of the schools founded by the city," said Alavanja.

Alavanja went on to say that the mayor should be more concerned about his court proceedings "while we are continuing to bring about results and concrete changes in education such as the introduction of IT studies as a compulsory subject and implementation of the curriculum reform".

Alavanja called on Mayor Bandić to invest the city's money in the renovation of sanitation in schools and removal of asbestos roofs.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 24 May 2019

University Professors Should Be Initiators of Social, Economic Development

ZAGREB, May 24, 2019 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak on Thursday spoke about strategic planning in higher education at the MIPRO international conference in Opatija, noting that the time was coming when university professors would be counted on as initiators of social and economic development.

Now is the crucial period for the system of higher education because talks are underway on programmes of institutions of higher education to define how the system would develop in the period to come, said the minister.

"... focus is being shifted from data such as the number of students or professors to the outcome - the percentage of students who complete their studies and the response to demand for professions that are in short supply," she said.

The minister said that there were 127,000 full-time and 46,500 part-time students in the system of higher education, and that most of them, or 140,000, attended universities.

Divjak noted that the system of higher education was too fragmented, with too many individual institutions.

The way university programmes are defined to meet the needs of the labour market is not satisfactory either, she said, noting that as many as 44% of students attend programmes in the humanities and social sciences while the number of students studying STEM subjects is insufficient compared to the demand. The minister added that also problematic was a high rate of university dropouts.

"To improve the situation, we should learn from countries that have made positive changes. What is encouraging is last year's European Commission monitoring report on the Croatian education system, which was positive for the first time."

Higher education institutions in Croatia are universities (and their constituents - faculties and academies of arts), polytechnics and colleges, according to the information provided by the Croatian Agency for Science and Higher Education.

"A university is an institution organizing and delivering university study programmes, and, exceptionally, professional study programmes. Polytechnics and colleges organize and deliver professional study programmes.

"Currently there are 119 higher education institutions in Croatia, namely: 8 public universities, 2 private universities, 68 faculties and art academies and 1 university centre at public universities, 4 private polytechnics, 11 public polytechnics, 22 private colleges, and 3 public colleges," the agency says on its website.

Asked to comment on the shouts "For the homeland ready" at a high school leaving party in Rijeka on Wednesday, Divjak said that it was "entirely inappropriate, regardless of the occasion and the students' young age."

Such incidents should be condemned and both schools and parents should work so they do not happen, she said.

The new history curriculum, to be launched in the autumn, truly condemns the Ustasha regime, notably the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), as well as other totalitarian regimes, she said.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Huge Interest for High School Video Game Developer Studies

The Technical High School in Sisak has been under siege from parents of students finishing elementary schools in recent days. Calls are coming from all over Croatia, and the school estimates it could enrol at least five times as many students as it has positions available. The reason for all this interest in the newly-introduced studies programme – the video game developer, reports novac.hr on May 16, 2019.

“One mother even had an idea of bringing her third-grade high school student and enrolling him in the first grade of our school. The interest is huge, but in the next school year, we can have just one class with 24 students. I believe that we will be able to attract the best students from our county, but also other parts of Croatia,” said the Sisak Technical High School principal Davor Malović.

Croatian vocational schools will not offer many new studies for the next year, which is why the technician for the video games development programme in Sisak has attracted a lot of attention. On the other hand, it raises the question of why such programmes are not found more often in Croatian schools.

“We would not have it if the county had not launched a wider project. As is well-known, we have become the regional centre of competence and have received substantial European funds. The money will be used to equip several classrooms for students who will later work in the gaming industry,” said the principal.

The classrooms for the implementation of the new programme will include a professional audio and video studio, a motion capture camera, top gaming computers, VR glasses and gaming chairs. While it is difficult to estimate how much it will ultimately cost to invest in equipment and teacher education, the amount will undoubtedly reach a few million kuna.

The curriculum for the new programme has been developed by experts from Simora, the Sisak-Moslavina County development agency, which also educates teachers. In the first grade, students will have courses in basic programming, computer basics, graphics in video games, and video game development, while in the second grade they will switch to subjects such as operating systems, basic electrical engineering, intro to computer networks, designing graphics elements and team collaboration.

In the last two years of education, they will learn advanced video game development techniques, 3D modelling, texturing and animation, videogames project development, digital logic objects, production of competitive video games, visual effects in video games and, finally, marketing and monetization of video games.

In total, in four years of schooling, the program will offer 20 subjects related to the gaming industry, divided into five modules.

After this programme, the school plans to introduce six more related courses, one of which is space technology.

Translated from novac.hr (reported by Mirela Lilek).

More news about education in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

School Calendar Changes for Next Year

ZAGREB, April 28, 2019 - Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said on Saturday that as of the next academic year counties and schools would be able to choose one of four school holidays models, including the current one, and that the number of working days and holidays would be the same in each model, the only difference being their distribution.

Speaking for the RTL commercial TV station, Divjak said that the planned change of the school calendar was based on the positive experience of schools participating in the experimental stage of the planned education reform.

She added that some successful countries such as Finland or Germany had more school breaks of shorter duration, for example a week, with Finland having four short school breaks, "which makes it possible for pupils to get some rest but not relax too much and to return to school refreshed."

"That is why we have given counties the freedom and autonomy to choose, in cooperation with schools, one of the four models. The number of working days will remain the same - 175 - as will the number of holidays, the only difference is that they are distributed differently," she said.

Asked if autonomy could result in chaos because until now all students had school breaks at the same time, Divjak said that autonomy meant a certain level of responsibility. "I don't think it will pose a problem, anyone thinking that it could can opt to keep the current model," she said.

Asked if there would be a survey on the matter, she said that a survey was a good way to enable parents to participate in decision-making on school life.

The next school year starts on the same day for all schools - September 9, and it ends on 17 June 2020; it has two semesters - the first lasts until December 20 and the second starts on the first working day after the winter break, which depends on which of the four models schools and their founders choose.

The proposed models bring a shorter spring break, a new, autumn break which includes All Saints' Day, and the possibility of taking the winter break in two turns, with one of those breaks falling in the second half of February. Also, the spring break would not necessarily include Good Friday and Maundy Thursday, days leading up to Easter.

July 1 is the deadline for schools to make their academic calendar public.

More education news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 1 April 2019

President Rejects Claims about Her Doctoral Dissertation

ZAGREB, April 1, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Monday labelled as insinuations Jutarnji List daily's claims that she is writing her doctoral dissertation on a topic already covered under the same mentor, calling them an attempt to politically discredit her and a grave insult to the scientific community, notably the Zagreb Faculty of Political Science (FPZ).

Asked by Hina to comment on the daily's claims, the president said "the topic of my dissertation has passed the necessary verification procedure and it will be additionally verified at university level." She added that the dissertation and her defence of it "will be available to the wider public for further analysis."

Jutarnji List says in today's edition that master of science Bernardka Prasnikar defended at Ljubljana's Faculty of Social Sciences in 2014 a dissertation called "Concept of responsibility to protect and its use on the example of Libya" under the mentorship of Anton Grizold, and that Grabar-Kitarović's doctoral dissertation is called "Responsibility to protect (R2P): Concepts, challenges, limits and lessons learned (Libya)" and that Grizold is her mentor.

In mid-March, the FPZ Academic Council endorsed a report by a commission which assessed the topic of the president's dissertation. In order to become final, the report must be confirmed by the University of Zagreb Senate. Professor Grizold was on the commission.

A source close to the president says she read Prašnikar's dissertation as well as others Prašnikar and Grizold wrote on that topic, and that Grabar-Kitarović's dissertation looks at R2P from an entirely different angle.

The source recalls that the president studied and did research at Harvard, George Washington and Johns Hopkins universities, and that she would never smear her honour by plagiarising another person's dissertation "because she is more than competent and capable of writing her own."

More news about Croatian president can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Junior Engineer Academy Links High Schools with Universities and Labour Market

The Junior Engineer Academy programme was presented today at the Zagreb Innovation Centre. This is a project developed in the collaboration of Deutsche Telekom Stiftung, the Institute for Youth Development and Innovativity (IRIM) and Croatian Telecom (HT), the leader of the STEM revolution in Croatia. A vital feature of the programme is to establish and maintain close links with companies and universities that provide students with an early insight into the world of engineering in all areas of technology and science, reports tportal.hr on March 26, 2019.

In the first phase of the project, the IRIM selected 15 vocational schools to participate in the project implementation, donated advanced technology and funds to schools, and provided mentors with training to enable them to transfer the knowledge to students and work with them in the process of converting creative ideas into solutions using the IoT technology.

The second phase involves connecting the selected schools with related educational institutions and the business sector. Throughout the process of creating solutions, the IRIM provides continuous mentoring by its experts. The ultimate goal is to establish permanent co-operation between the educational and business sectors, which will result in stronger and more productive links between educational institutions and the labour market.

One of the main goals of the activities of Croatian Telecom, including through the STEM literacy programmes, is to bring technology into every corner of Croatia and thus create equal opportunities for everyone, and education is the starting point for bringing about such changes in the society.

In partnership with the IRIM, Croatian Telecom has equipped 160 schools in the last two year, while about 130 mentors and more than 2000 students have attended educational programmes to be prepared for the future created by the technological revolution. Young creators are achieving significant successes in global competition in creating innovative IoT solutions. The latest such success is the achievement of Vukovar high-schoolers who won the first prize at the worldwide competition marking the anniversary of Arduino - the technology which Croatian Telecom offers to a growing number of schools in Croatia.

“Getting the STEM knowledge to everyone is essential for young people to learn how to use technology to find solutions. That is why, for the third year in a row, we have completely changed the approach to learning in schools, and we are the leader of the STEM revolution in Croatia. We are proud that young people today have the opportunity to implement their ideas using the latest technology. Successes such as the one achieved by the high-schoolers from Vukovar prove that we are moving in the right direction and encourage us to continue developing such programmes,” said the director of HT corporate communications Nina Išek Međugorac.

“We will not stop until all schools accept the challenge and become part of the HT educational programme because that is the only way to create generations that will lead our society forward. We want these creative individuals with the competences of the future to motivate the whole society to join the wave of change that will result in simpler and better lives," Išek Međugorac said.

"With this project, we want to expand IRIM activities and strengthen high schools by providing them with cutting-edge technology, financial donations and continuous support through professional mentoring. Through the establishment of the Junior Engineer Academy network in Croatia, we want to foster cooperation between the educational and business sectors as well as the development of competencies that will prepare the young for the future," said IRIM president Nenad Bakić.

More news about IRIM can be found in the Business section.

Translated from tportal.hr.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Improved Rights of Gifted Students

ZAGREB, March 21, 2019 - European Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Commissioner Tibor Navracsics and Croatian Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said on Thursday that gifted students should have equal rights and an individualised approach during school.

They were speaking at an international conference held on the occasion of Gifted Students Days in Croatia, organised by Dar, an association caring for gifted children and students in Croatia. The second such conference focused on the best world, European and Croatian practices in working with gifted children and young people.

Asked about the most important kind of help to gifted students, Navracsics highlighted motivated teachers.

Divjak said gifted students should be provided with equal rights and an individualised approach during school, underlining the need to educate teachers to work with gifted children.

The conference was being held under the auspices of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who was scheduled to receive the organisers later today.

The parliament speaker's envoy, Sanja Putica, said gifted children were ignored and the law should ensure better working conditions for teachers because of the complexity of their job.

Hungarian Ambassador Jozsef Zoltan Magyar said his country had launched a programme of support for gifted children and students in 2008 when the tax system enabled citizens to set aside 1% of their incomes for what they thought they should support.

Most have donated their money to a gifted children fund, which amounted to 1.5 million kuna in 2009 and is four times higher today. In a country with about ten million people and nearly five million employed, "one in ten Hungarians is the 'father' or 'mother' of a gifted child."

Navracsics said the most important thing was for every child to be included in classes, for education be inclusive, as education and talent were two sides of the same coin.

He said education was the cornerstone of the society of the future and that it must be run in such a way that it took into account that a gifted child could, paradoxically, have more difficulties than other children.

That's why the European Commission's message is that gifted children should be supported and their work and progress monitored, he added.

More news about Croatia’s education system can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Rectors of 30 Universities from SE Europe Sign Cooperation Agreement

ZAGREB, February 9, 2019 - Rectors of 30 universities from SE Europe, including those from Croatia, signed an academic interinstitutional cooperation agreement in the southern Bosnia and Herzegovina city of Mostar on Friday.

The agreement provides for stronger engagement and cooperation in research, higher education, projects defined through various funding programmes, and in establishing more effective links between higher education and the labour market.

The Rector of the University of Mostar, Zoran Tomić, said that the rectors had agreed to better organise themselves and to open themselves to European and global university conferences.

"We want to offer our vision of development of higher education, research and knowledge transfer to large conferences such as those in Berlin, London and Paris. We want to act together through strong organisation within the 30 universities participating in the Rectors' Conference of Southeastern Europe and the Western Balkans," Tomić said.

Snježana Prijić-Samaržija, the Rector of the University of Rijeka, Croatia, said that it was essential to use the connections between the universities for the absorption of EU funding.

Igor Papič, the Rector of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, said that all universities in the region should define their own interests, adding that his university had an obligation to help others to integrate into different European projects.

A Permanent Secretariat was established to coordinate the future activities of this forum.

More news on the universities in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Police Investigating Extremist Branding of Female Student

ZAGREB, February 7, 2019 - The Minister of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy, Nada Murganić, on Thursday commented on an incident in a Zadar high school where a male student on Wednesday, using a lighter, branded a fellow female and a fellow male student with the letter U, saying that the school should have reported the incident to the police, parents and social workers.

Murganić stressed that local social workers would carry out an inspection of the student's domestic circumstances.

She said that this was "an ugly and violent act" towards a fellow student which bore evidence of the need to prevent bringing up a generation of young thugs who deal with their partners in a violent way.

In a message to opponents of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, Murganić said that cases of violence against women were very difficult to deal with once they reached the stage at which a crime had already been committed. "We must identify problems and deal with them much sooner," she said, underlining the importance of prevention and education.

Commenting on the case of a young man who has been found guilty of brutally beating up his 18-year-old girlfriend in Zadar and who will be released from custody on Sunday, Murganić said that the state can and must protect the victim from the threats she was receiving.

Police said on Thursday that they were investigating the incident while the principal of the school where it happened told the media that he had been told at a class meeting that "it was just a game."

More news on the extremism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Education Minister Announces Action Plan to Prevent School Violence

ZAGREB, December 16, 2018 - Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said on Saturday an action plan to prevent school violence would be made, adding that she supported warning about violence and that education and responsibility were the best prevention.

She was speaking on the occasion of a rally in Zagreb at which thousands of teachers demanded "safe schools without violence."

"I applaud and support the pointing to the importance of dealing with the problem of violence in schools and society. However, it is important that we are careful about the messages we send. We must remember that violence has never stamped out violence, and research proves that crucial in preventing violence is education and the responsibility of parents and schools as well as the inclusion of all relevant institutions and stakeholders," Divjak said in a press release.

The minister said she had convened a meeting to draw up a new action plan for the prevention of violence in schools which would include a change of the legal framework, the education of and a support system for teachers and parents.

Over the past 18 months, the ministry has significantly increased investments in education and programmes for the prevention of violence in schools, and it will increase funding for projects supporting violence-free schools, said Divjak.

More news on Croatia’s education system can be found in our Politics section.

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