KNOWLEDGE BEFORE ALL - Through educational reform to meaningful learning

Friday 11 May 2018


Are we ready, as individuals and society, to respond to the challenges that the future brings? Do existing school systems adequately prepare children and young people for a knowledge-based economy? How many of our students are trained to apply knowledge learned in school in real life?

In September 2016, Save the Children started with the implementation of Enhancing and Advancing Basic Learning and Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina (ENABLE-BiH) project supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

ENABLE-BiH aims to contribute to BiH students acquiring key competences necessary for participation in the knowledge-based economy, and becoming drivers of the economic development in the future by laying the foundation for improving learning outcomes in the field of mathematics, natural sciences, engineering and informatics, and in cross-curricular and interdisciplinary area of primary and general secondary education and quality initial teacher education at universities in BiH, as well as linking initial teacher education with all future steps of their professional development.

Identification of two key components, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)and PPDM (Pedagogy, Psychology, Didactics and Teaching Methods), on which ENABLE-BiH is based, has resulted from the need to change the approach to learning and teaching students in primary and general secondary education in BiH, overcoming limitations of education based on lecturing, memorizing and reproduction and shifting towards modern and innovative approach to education. 

The key to a knowledge-based economy lies in STEM competencies.

According to professor Saša Mrdović from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Sarajevo, one of the members of the core expert team who participated in the development of Operational Teaching Curriculum for STEM competences, STEM aims to integrate knowledge.

"Once upon a time, scholars studied and acquired knowledge that did not belong to a certain discipline, but there was a knowledge of the world around them. Similarly, teaching was 'one'. As the amount of human knowledge grew, there was a need for systematization, which inevitably led to a division into disciplines. This systematization and division were useful and necessary, but somewhere in the process the integrative factor was lost. Separate subjects have been created separately, taught by different teachers, and students got the impression that the knowledge they acquired on the school subjects was separated from each other. A science that has split in a similar way has come to the point when progress is almost always possible through inter-disciplinarity. Open issues in one area may have already been resolved in another. Ideas come from other disciplines. The results are universal. Science again becomes a unified quest for general knowledge. It is time to get this approach back to school as well.”

Draft Operational Teaching Curriculum (OTC) for STEM competences suggests links between defined learning outcomes of all school subjects in STEM area at the end of the 3rd, 6th and 9th grades of primary education, and at the end of the fourth grade of general secondary education, and accompanying documents - Operational Guidelines for Implementation of OTC for STEM Proficiencies and Teachers Training Manual for Implementation of OTC for STEM Proficiencies – strive to point out more effective ways of creating curricula and provide necessary guidelines and tools to teachers for planning and implementing teaching process, and to monitor and evaluate students’ achievement.

A shift from the expectation that students will only memorize unconnected facts, towards higher levels of thinking and expectation to understand, apply, analyse, comprehend learned concepts, and create new ones, in short, is the characteristic of the Common Core Curriculum defined on learning outcomes (CCC) for all six STEM disciplines, made by the Agency for Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education (APOSO). The very foundation for the development of STEM documents was precisely the CCC defined on learning outcomes for all school subjects that relate to STEM and which students in BiH learn from the first grade of elementary school until the end of the fourth grade of the gymnasium - my environment, nature, nature and society, informatics, technical culture, biology, geography, chemistry, physics and mathematics.

In order to clearly indicate the direct link between education and the emerging STEM industry that needs capable professionals for the survival and development in BiH - those who have STEM competencies - such linked learning outcomes within one and between more school subjects have been directly linked with selected sectors of knowledge-based economy in BiH where it is expected that the acquired STEM competences will be applied in a way to contribute to the economic development of the country.

Member of the core expert group, who participated in the development of Operational Teaching Curriculum for STEM competences in the field of Physics, professor at the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, Ms. Lamija Tanović, said: “Teaching physics in conjunction with other STEM disciplines is important for better understanding of the phenomenon and content of certain areas of economy that our country wants to develop since economic development in the future should be based on knowledge. This specific knowledge should be provided to the generations of schoolchildren now educated in our schools and those who will be educated in the future, providing an innovative educational approach which STEM is the part of. Only in this way will quality professionals be educated in the country and they are needed for the development of a knowledge-based economy. "

STEM and PPDM documents were developed through a collaborative work process by professors from universities in Sarajevo, Mostar, Banja Luka, Zenica and Tuzla, experts from the United States of America – 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education, representatives of all key institutions in BiH - BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs, Agency for Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education BiH, Agency for Development of Higher Education and Quality Assurance BiH, all 12 Entity and Cantonal Ministries of Education in BiH, as well as Education Department of the Brčko District Government, seven pedagogical institutes and representatives of five civil society organizations, international cooperation organizations and schools in BiH (OSCE, UNICEF, OSF BiH, CIVITAS, Center for Educational Initiatives “Step by Step”).

During June-August, 2018, ENABLE-BiH project foresees an intensive training of educational professionals - future STEM master trainers/mentors who will be able to apply STEM approach in the classroom and to train and support other educational professionals in the application of STEM education in the model areas/schools in partnership with Save the Children and relevant ministries in the targeted areas of BiH.

Save the Children has been continuously working to improve the quality of education in BiH by supporting the Agency for Pre-primary, Primary and Secondary Education in the development of CCC documents. Through the partnership approach, Save the Children supports the ministries of education and pedagogical institutes in BiH in the application of CCC and in the initiation of curriculum revision and alignment with defined learning outcomes. Through a comprehensive training and mentoring program, Save the Children supports educational professionals in the application of CCC in classrooms (with a focus on the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian language and literature, mathematics and natural sciences).