Friday, 15 March 2019

New School History Curriculum Drafted

ZAGREB, March 15, 2019 - The expanded task force has finalised its work on the history curriculum the best way it could in the limited conditions and all members of the task force have reached agreement on this third version of the history curriculum, Borislav Grgin, a history professor at the University of Zagreb, said on Friday.

He said that this would be done differently in the future. This is a public document, national consensus for all or pupils in Croatia, Grgin told Hina.

This is not only for the scientific community, pupils and teachers are our focus, and you have the public and politicians participating in the process, the professor said.

He said that the topic of the Holocaust, which was one of neuralgic points in the public discussion, should not be a source of disagreement in the third version of the curriculum. "There have been different demands. In that regard, in agreement with Professor Radovan Fuchs, we have highlighted what is important," said Grgin.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told his cabinet on Friday morning that every activity concerning school curricula had been completed and that they were unanimously adopted by experts. "We have achieved a good consensus on the history curriculum, which often causes ideological and not just expert, but also political disputes. The text is ready, the minister will adopt it and it's expected to be published in the Official Gazette in the middle of next week."

Plenković said the delicate topics of 20th century history, such as crimes and the Holocaust, were appropriately represented in the history curriculum and that it took a democratic and unbiased stance on every totalitarian and authoritarian system.

He said the history curriculum covered Croatia's 1991-95 Homeland War appropriately and in detail as well as in keeping with the parliamentary Homeland War Declaration. "It's not a political, but an expert document," he said, adding that the whole government could stand by it.

He is confident that the experts who will write textbooks based on the history curriculum will write "good and interesting texts for young people who will leave school with all the fundamental knowledge about Croatian culture, history, language, identity, our tradition, while also being well-informed about the history of Europe, the world and other countries."

Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said the history curriculum task force had completed its job and that it would be published next week. "We made it after three rounds of talks. The expanded task force unanimously stood by this curriculum and this is a good sign for Croatia," she told reporters ahead of the cabinet meeting.

More news about the curriculum reform in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Croatia to Accelerate European Space Agency Accession Process

ZAGREB, March 11, 2019 - A six-member delegation of the European Space Agency (ESA) led by Nathalie Tinjod is paying a visit to Croatia this week and Education and Science Minister Blaženka Divjak said on Monday that this would be an opportunity to use this phase for the enhancement of the innovations system in Croatia and for boosting cooperation, as well as accelerating the process of the country's admission to the ESA.

"The upstream and downstream branches of the space sector created over 230,000 jobs in Europe during 2017, valued at EUR 60 billion," Divjak said at a conference in Zagreb which was attended by the ESA delegation.

She recalled that in February 2018, Croatia and the ESA signed an agreement concerning space cooperation for peaceful purposes.

The cooperation with ESA is implemented through three pillars, and the cooperation agreement paves the way for Croatia's cooperation with that agency at the first pillar, including the exchange of information at meetings, workshops and training programmes as well as through the implementation of specific data and the ESA assistance in efforts to draw up a national space strategy.

Tinjod said the objectives of the ESA is to develop cooperation with European Union member-states in space research.

The ESA possesses about 80 satellites and 85% of the agency's budget goes on contracts with the European industry.

The agency's budget is 5.7 billion euro for 2019.

The Paris-based ESA is an international organisation consisting of 22 member states: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an associate member. Canada participates in some projects under the cooperation agreement. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Croatia have cooperation agreements with ESA.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Croatian Universities Not Bad, Considering How Little Is Invested in Them

ZAGREB, March 1, 2019 - The head of Zagreb University, Damir Boras, said on Thursday that Croatian universities were not so bad considering how little was invested in them.

His comment came in response to the statement by Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak that the present system at the Croatian universities and scientific institutes stifled excellence and needed reforming.

Boras and Divjak attended a ceremony at which an agreement granting Croatia associate membership of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) was signed.

Addressing the ceremony, Divjak spoke of the situation in the Croatian science sector, saying that Croatia ranked 25th among the 28 EU member states in terms of obtaining funding for Horizon 2020 projects and at the bottom in terms of obtaining funding for projects funded by the European Research Council. She said that the present system at the universities and scientific institutes stifled excellence and needed reforming.

Asked by the press after the ceremony to comment on the minister's statement, Boras said that "Croatian universities are not so bad considering how little is invested in them."

"Zagreb University is the best and largest scientific institution in Croatia with by far the largest output, despite poor funding. We can't be expected to be the best in the world if we are at the bottom in Europe in terms of financing," Boras said, urging the minister to secure more funding for science and higher education.

"All relevant indicators show that Zagreb University is at the tail end of Europe in terms of financing, but is not at the tail end of Europe in terms of relative output. If we look at the amount of money invested, then we are actually very good," Boras concluded.

More news about the Zagreb and other Croatian universities can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 8 February 2019

New Civic Education Programme Under Fire

ZAGREB, February 8, 2019 - The GOOD NGO on Friday warned that students partaking in the "School for Life" programme will not receive a quality Civic Education but rather a reduced version of an already inadequate programme that has been taught in schools for the past four years as a compulsory subject.

"Even though over the past few days we could read in the media about the introduction of Civic Education in schools and the big changes it will bring, this curriculum has shortcomings, is poorly elaborated and insufficient for the development of civic competencies in students. As until now, it will be taught as part of other subjects, which will not ensure its quality," the NGO said.

It further assessed that the new curriculum adopted last week by the Ministry of Science and Education was yet another step backward.

The new curriculum appears to be more like a draft version. Even though it defines what Civic Education should be, the actual curriculum isn't consistent with that and it looks more like a wish list, GOOD said.

"Instead of the announced revolution in education, this curriculum, which has been carved for three years, is mostly conservative with regard to the concept of the citizen and provides a very narrow and wrong understanding of citizens in a democracy," GOOD said.

Student won't gain the relevant knowledge or skills nor develop values and attitudes required to participate in a contemporary, democratic society and it is in fact just the opposite of the declared desired results of "reforms", to prepare young people for the challenges of the 21st century, the NGO said.

GOOD underscored that a better, more just and advanced society requires an education system that produces empowered and emancipated citizens capable of constructive changes in society based on solidarity, which, it said, is something the new curriculum won't provide.

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

Friday, 8 February 2019

Zadar Police File Report Against 15-Year-Old for Extremist Incident

ZAGREB, February 8, 2019 - The Zadar Police have filed a report with juvenile prosecutors against a 15-year-old male student of a local secondary school who, using a lighter, branded a fellow female and a fellow male student with the letter U. The minor was reported for inflicting physical injuries.

The Science and Education Ministry on Thursday sent an inspection team to the Zadar school. Police said the injuries sustained by the two students were light.

The chair of the parliamentary Committee on Human and Ethnic Minority Rights, Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), on Friday condemned an incident in a secondary school in Zadar where a student branded his two fellow students with the letter U, telling one of them that "she can now say that she is an Ustasha", and called for a prompt response from the ministries of education, the interior and justice.

"This disturbing act constitutes a breach of the Constitution with regard to ethnic equality and unobstructed exercise of rights related to ethnicity, the Non-Discrimination Act and Article 325 of the Penal Code, which bans any incitement of hate and violence," Pupovac said.

It is clear that school institutions lack the awareness of the nature of the problem and what needs to be done to prevent similar incidents and make students fully aware of what is allowed and what is unlawful, he said.

The most worrying aspect is that there are people in the school system that obviously do not mind incidents of this kind and, on the other hand, people who are afraid of such situations. "This requires additional education to make teachers, students and the public aware that displaying the Ustasha symbols and salute is not and cannot be tolerated," said the Serb minority MP, adding that the incident in Zadar bore witness to how serious the situation in society was in general. "That kind of symbols must not be legal anywhere, especially not among children and students."

Pupovac also said that even though minors were concerned, police should act and not downplay the problem, the more so as parents of students attending the school in question had repeatedly complained about peer violence.

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

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Pupovac Commends Minister's Initiative for School Visits to Jasenovac

ZAGREB, February 6, 2019 - The MP of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, on Wednesday commended Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak's initiative to make it an obligation for primary schools to organise visits to the Jasenovac memorial complex, and condemned attempts at restricting freedom of the press.

"In 2017, only nine schools visited that awful World War II execution site, and last year there were more visitors from Italy than Croatia," Pupovac said in parliament.

"Today, children don't know what's right and what's wrong anymore and whether the salute 'For the Homeland Ready' and the glorification of the Ustasha regime is allowed or not," he added.

Speaking of freedom of the press, Pupovac said that some MPs were "trying to stifle it from parliament benches."

He was alluding to the opposition Živi Zid party, whose conflict with the owner of a daily newspaper turned into a conflict with one of its journalists who in her article about the party's finances quoted from a report by the State Auditor's Office. "You're settling accounts with the employee and not with the employer. You should attack flaws in the system and not employees," Pupovac said.

He expressed concern over the fact that the HRT public broadcasting service had brought 33 lawsuits against other media outlets in recent months. "Why? Because they were fighting against fake news or hate speech? No, but because someone noticed elements of censorship in certain cases. That's why we are considering prohibiting (the HRT) from mentioning our name."

More news on the Jasenovac memorial complex can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Curriculum Reform Get a Solid B from Education Minister

ZAGREB, December 28, 2018 - The first term of the pilot phase of the curriculum reform, the largest ever project launched in Croatian primary and secondary schools, has received a grade of a "solid B" from all stakeholders and has justified its implementation, Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak told a press briefing on Friday.

The grade is based on two visits by advisers to the schools involved, five regional conferences attended by 2,058 teachers, and anonymous surveys. They showed that 95 percent of the participants were completely or mostly satisfied with changes to the subject curriculums.

Some 83 percent of 53 school heads polled agree that the learning outcomes of the subject curriculums are feasible in their schools. Also, 75 percent of school heads completely agree and 96 percent mostly or completely support teaching according to the pilot programme as of next school year.

Among over 3,500 students interviewed, 86 percent noticed that classes were different and more interesting.

Of 1,121 teachers polled, 75 percent completely or mostly agree that the pilot programme encourages continued feedback on students.

Teachers mostly asked for additional training in areas relating to assessment and grading, the use of digital technology in the classroom, and learning outcomes.

More than two-thirds of teaches completely or mostly agree that learning outcomes are feasible in their school, the survey showed.

"We have also received a large amount of feedback which we are now incorporating to make this large project a success," Divjak said, adding that everything was ready for the comprehensive implementation of the reform.

More news on the Croatian education system can be found in our Lifestyle 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.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

School Textbooks Bill Causing Rift in Ruling Coalition

ZAGREB, December 13, 2018 - Parliament on Thursday debated the Croatian People's Party (HNS)-sponsored bill on school textbooks which has caused friction in the ruling coalition. The opposition said that Education Minister Blaženka Divjak's approach was like 'putting a new facade on a house that is falling apart" while Divjak said that she had received "a lot of warnings not to touch the current law" because too many interest groups were involved.

"The ministry's interest is to care for students, teachers and the state and household budgets," Minister Divjak said and added that the bill was not imposing digitisation but would just give a variety of options regarding teaching material while those favouring classic printed material would be able to continue using it.

"With whom would digitisation be currying favour when the same publishers who make printed textbooks will make their digital versions. Some are just more prepared than others to adapt to the fourth industrial revolution while others have filled their warehouses with printed books," Divjak said.

The proposed bill gives teachers greater autonomy and possibilities to choose in line with their needs with regard to innovative teaching methods, the minister said.

With regard to demands for free textbooks, Divjak said it was necessary to determine the cost involved and who would cover it, as well as to ensure that quality was obtained for money rather than enabling someone to make an extra profit.

MOST MPs criticised the bill, claiming that the minister was trying to put a new facade on a decaying house and warning of the huge difference between rural and urban areas. MP Miro Bulj said that the minister should be focusing on the state of schools. "Two-thirds of Croatian schools look like they are from the Middle Ages. There are 2,700 fewer secondary school students, seven schools have been closed... two-thirds of children in Croatia lack adequate conditions and you are talking about something that might happen," Bulj said.

Social Democrat Sabina Glasovac called on the minister to lead schools into the 21st century by ensuring that roofs on schools were repaired and teachers' salaries were increased.

Divjak replied that the incumbent government was doing more to equip schools than was the case before and added that she was aware of the conditions in schools.

Under the proposed bill, school bags should be lighter, with more digital classes and lower costs for parents. The bill defines the maximum price for a set of textbooks for each grade, setting the weight of a complete set for grades one to four at a maximum 3 kilograms or its price at no more than 460 kuna. A set of textbooks for grades five and six would weigh 5 kilograms and for grades seven and eight, six kilograms.

MP Robert Podolnjak (MOST) said that "education is being reduced to kilogrammes" and wondered if this was the practice in the EU.

Speaking on behalf of Milan Bandić's Work and Solidarity Party (BM365), MP Kazimir Varda said Minister Divjak's presentation of the bill did not focus on textbooks but on denouncing fake news and comments.

He recalled that the BM365 parliamentary group, which is part of the ruling majority, wanted the bill to make sure that the state provided funding for textbooks in all elementary schools and that the government decide each year on funding textbooks for secondary schools, depending on the availability of budget funds.

If that is not accepted, the parliamentary group will not support the bill, Varda said.

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

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

State Science Awards for 2017 Presented

ZAGREB, December 12, 2018 - The State Science Awards for 2017 were presented in parliament on Wednesday for life achievements by six reputable scientists - Janko Herak, Helena Jasna Mencer, Vera Garaj-Vrhovac, Josip Kovačević, Vjeran Katunarić and Emilio Marin.

A total of 33 scientists were awarded and 31 received the State Science Awards which were presented by Parliament Speaker and the Chairman for the committee for state awards Gordan Jandroković and Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak.

The Croatian parliament, as the highest legislative body in Croatia, has for 23 years been presenting the state award for science and this year the committee decided to recognise a total of 33 scientists, Jandroković underscored.

He said that almost every segment of contemporary man's life is shaped by scientific and technological advancement, and that science is an unavoidable factor in the development of every contemporary state and its social and economic progress and prosperity, including Croatia, which has always been a country of reputable scientists and inventors in all scientific fields and it is that today too.

He added that he was particularly pleased that parliament recently adopted the 2019 budget which has allocated 506 million kuna or 3.7% more for science and education compared to 2018.

Jandroković believes that this will continue in the years to follow and particularly underlined that the increased funds are also related to Croatia's associated membership in the biggest research laboratory in the world – CERN and that this cooperation will provide new opportunities for Croatian scientists and lecturers and for Croatia's innovative industry.

More news on the science and education in Croatia can be found in our special section.

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