Academic journal article Childhood Education

Innovations in the Education System of Countries in Transition

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Innovations in the Education System of Countries in Transition

Article excerpt

Many of the countries of central, eastern, and southeastern Europe have begun the transition to democracy in the last decade, which requires extensive reform of state systems, including education. Some of these countries, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, have already made significant progress in this transition; others, however, including the countries from the Balkan Peninsula, are at the beginning of the process. Montenegro, one of the six republics of the former Yugoslavia, falls in the latter category.

Numerous factors delay the transition from socialism to democracy in the Balkan Peninsula. Primarily, the political environment in the region is unstable and security unsure in the wake of numerous long-fought conflicts concerning national, ethnic, and religious tensions. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions have become refugees, the refugees have become an additional burden in the states to which they fled. As societies in the Balkan Peninsula strive to transfer from a socialist economy to a capitalist system, they have experienced a decline in the standard of living. Also, a high unemployment rate has led to the growth of a "gray economy" that is fueled by corruption, smuggling, and illegal trade.

These political and economic conditions contribute to an overall decline of moral values and decay of the traditional values system. The position of education and educational institutions has been marginalized in lives of individuals and throughout society. The family has not remained immune to this decline, either; divorces, addiction illnesses, and deviant forms of behavior among young people are all on the rise.

In such unfavorable conditions, it is almost a fantasy to talk about reforms of the education system. Despite the challenges, however, numerous innovative programs have been implemented in the region, such as Active Learning Methods, Step by Step, Inclusive Education, Development of Critical Thinking, Parent School Partnership, Creative Problem Solving, and Integration of Roma Population. Many of these programs are the work of international humanitarian organizations, including UNICEF, UNESCO, The Open Society Institute, Save the Children Funds, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, Cooperazione Italiana, Swiss Disaster Relief, and the British Council.

Barriers to Education Reform

The aforementioned programs/projects have benefited education reform efforts in the Balkan region to varying degrees. Some of the projects have not had a significant influence, while some have led to lasting improvements in certain segments of the education system. Several key reasons prevent some projects from effecting change in the traditional way of teaching. One of the most important reasons is the partial or short-term nature of the projects. Many of these projects address a narrow segment of the education system or the teaching process, and so the effects have been small or lost. Also, some projects last only a year or two, which is not an adequate length of time to bring about significant and/or lasting changes. The low bud gets of some projects meant only a few teachers could participate. A pervasive atmosphere of suspicion and skepticism--references to the foreign influence and "hidden" intentions of these programs--also have been obstacles in carrying out these innovative programs. Some educators fear that these programs would not be academically rigorous and that students would not be receiving instruction adequate to advance their knowledge. Some also believe that the basic principles of democracy that the innovative education programs rely upon would conflict with traditional beliefs concerning discipline and other aspects of educating children.

A huge barrier to quality implementation of innovative education programs often has been resistance from the teacher education field. University institutions are conservative and traditional, following the Herbart class-lesson organization (present the information, help students analyze it and compare and contrast it to other information, develop a general principle, and apply the information) and espousing the obsolete communist/socialist views of education and society. …

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