Adaptation of school systems to the challenges of time – Reforms in the Croatian school curriculum

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Image: Milorad Vučović

Never before we have so desperately needed real changes in our schools, from top to bottom, and if you sincerely answer to the question, if you, personally, as a teacher are ready to change, the answer is more or less: No, even if you hear yourself uttering: Yes.

The heart of a teacher often trembles of uncertainty if the change requires abandoning our daily routines. People don’t like changes, don’t believe in painless changes, changes are hard. However, as a teacher in a Croatian school, I recently attended an interesting lecture of dr.sc.Boris Jokić on a new reform of Croatian school curriculum. This lecture announced a series of changes in education which should be designed and implemented step by step within the next ten years having already started from now on without delay.

All kinds of announcements of changes, particularly concerning the curriculum, are not something new or unexpected. Every school year we witness new attempts of improving our school system that eventually happen to be a make-up of an 19-th century’s old lady’s face in spite of pompose speeches of a radical make-over.

On the other side, the results of a research carried out in Croatian schools have shown that our school children aged 6-10 achieved above-average results, but later as teenagers, they achieved below-average results at all three levels of literacy (natural, mathematical, reading) according to the Programme for International Student Assessment.  Statistically, our average 15 years old students know how to count in different mathematical operations, but it seems to be difficult for them to apply those operations to tasks that simulate life situations.

Our students learn almost only on the eve of a test. It is not because they deliberately want to deceive their teachers. Our students deal almost every day with a large amount of too hard, uninteresting and insufficiently prepared tests with a large amount of details, which may seem important from the point of experts (the members of an older generation) of the school subject, but do not form any part of our students’ lives. The existing curriculum and textbooks assure us of the importance of a multitude of information, for which we wonder whether they really are important to be taught and questioned by tests. The same multitude of information is  available on Internet within one second. On the other hand, only one third of the questioned 18-years old students knew to name two measures of protection against sexually transmitted diseases. The knowledge of protection might be of vital importance for their life.

Children who always want to know where they have to go, who cannot sit or stand still during a boring lesson, who are eager to communicate, to express how they feel using their gadgets, need better equipped classrooms, better prepared teachers and a totally new school curriculum adapted to learning outcomes.

This school reform will hopefully be different from the previous reforms because it is comprehensive and highly professional. It is not an instant reform. It will be carried out in six phases. The first three phases will take place from now on to before the second semester of the school year 2017/2018. After the experimental periode the structure of the school system will change, so that the change will be gradual. It would be a mistake with possible long term negative consequences to put an unprepared system into operation.

New curriculum does not mean just  change of a program, it is also a change of assessment, evaluation and reporting of student achievements in which the work of teachers who perform tuition is a basic precondition of any success of the reform. That’s why the working groups are formed with excellent people from the teaching profession. The already existing general document – the National Framework for Curriculum (NOK) – which was supposed to be a short, concise document with desired goals of learning, teaching and assessment, will be expended in the way that there will be several general, concise documents regulating aims of preschool education, primary school education, gymnasium education, education in industrial and manufacturing sector and of education for artistic professions.

The reform should be achieved by a better adaptation of the school system to the challenges of time, for the benefit of students, to parents and teachers’ satisfaction. Students should be more taught how to learn and how to adapt to their future life.

/More about the reform of the Croatian school curriculum you can read here./

Article written by: Milorad Vučović, Scientix Ambassador

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