Through our weekly youth conversation meeting at the American Corner we’ve talked to high schoolers and college students about their education system but we also learned about a class called Civil Education while visiting the Gay Straight Alliance in Belgrade.
Since the current political regime came to power they implemented an interesting curriculum that requires all seven year olds entering the first grade to choose between Civic Education and Religion. This choice lasts with them until they enter high school and it is obligatory upon entering elementary school. In 2001, the year Milosevic was taken down and the new government stepped in, a task force met to create a course about society which would be optional and ideally spark societal interest in a young age. Perhaps by using ideally it’s already clear to you that this action didn’t go as planned. The new government that rose through Milosevic’s fall jumped into shoes of democracy whose laces were tied together. That was a bizarre analogy, but the intended insinuation was that they didn’t sort through the binds of the past administration and instead vaulted forward into unchartered territory trying to promote themselves in the most democratic way possible according to the GSA. They would only create a Civil Education course if Religion were offered as well because the Democratic government wanted to show a difference in their attitude towards religion after fifty years of secular Ex-Yugoslavian rulings. The religious course was assembled hurriedly so the course outline merely offered an in depth look at Orthodox Christianity. Even though that is the dominant religion of Serbia, there are Protestant and Catholic Christians, Pagans, Jews, and Muslims and none of those religions are recognized in this class. Shortly before the classes were introduced in schools the government made it mandatory that the students choose between these courses in the first grade promoting an ideology that a believer couldn’t be a citizen or a citizen couldn’t learn about his or her religion. The first batch of students who took Civil Education are around my age and the intention to get students interested in society has seemed to backfire since nearly everyone my age wants nothing to with the government. And since they had to split up the money allotted for the Civic Education class to fund the Religion class neither course was given a strong financial base to grow from so most students have negative comments about this requirement.
There are other major differences between the education systems and I’ll go into those on a later date. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!