Sunday 24 September 2017

There is no systematic data on quality of education in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B-H). An international study from 2007 revealed that B-H students’ achievements are way beyond the international average, where B-H has the lowest ranking in the South-East Europe region, with 23% of students who do not reach even the threshold level. 

The current education system in B-H is characterized by inequality in the access and low quality services. Educational policies are embedded in a fragmented and complex system which operates under specific mandates and restricted powers. There are 14 ministries dealing with education in B-H.

Through a consistent support of Save the Children, recently relevant authorities have showed improvements in recognizing and addressing education issues within their respective areas of competence. Some of the authorities have also showed interest in undertaking significant reform processes to improve the quality of and access to education.

Among these authorities is Bosnia-Podrinje Canton Government. A year after we started with implementation of the project “Enhancing Social Inclusion - Equity and Quality of Education to Support Thriving of Children in North West Balkans 2016-2018”, we visited primary school “Fahrudin Fahro Baščelija” in Gorazde, central city in this Canton.

The school, attended by close to 750 students, is located on the banks of river Drina, pride of the region. The Bosnian language classroom offers a splendid view of the river, but there is no much time to enjoy it, as 7-th grade students and their teacher prepared an impressive demonstration of what they have been learning.

“I am thankful to this organisation (Save the Children) because it had taught me something that is applicable, something creative. At any of these classes, it feels like I’m the one that gets to spread the wings, while I’m looking at children’s smiles. That is the highlight of every class, when you use creative ways, something new, to achieve the goal of that class, to truly accomplish defined outcomes,” says energetically Bosnian language and literature teacher, Sanela Masic.

Ms Masic and her students were working on a well-known Serbian drama “The Badger on Trial” written by Petar Kocic when we visited. They worked in groups on different assignments, with every group presenting their assignments. “My group was tasked to prepare a small play of the drama The Badger on Trial and it was very exciting. I hope we will have a chance to continue working on similar assignments and that next time we will be even better,” enthusiastic is Almir* (12).

Students are especially happy with the new approach in teaching, as usual classes don’t offer much interactivity and engagement. “It was really interesting and learning experience. I think this is how classes are supposed to be,” says Sanela* (13).

As part of the ongoing education reform, the Agency for pre-school, primary and secondary education of B-H (APOSO), as the main national-level expert education authority in B-H, identified introduction of student learning outcomes as one of the main priorities expected to increase the overall quality of education and hence improve students’ educational achievements. Save the Children has been providing support to APOSO in reforming the education system through developing Common Core Curriculum in Literacy, Numeracy, Natural Sciences and Arts areas based on Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) since 2012. Having supported the creation of the Curriculum, Save the Children is now specifically focused on introducing and implementing Literacy and Numeracy SLOs in classrooms and supporting educational authorities in revising the curricula in line with SLO approach. 

Student learning outcomes or SLOs are statements that specify what students will know, be able to do or be able to demonstrate when they have completed or participated in a program/activity/course/project. Outcomes are usually expressed as knowledge, skills, attitudes or values. SLO-based approach to education is student-centred and focuses on student’s ability to demonstrate learning, as opposed to the current objectives-based approach to education in B-H which is teacher-centred and teacher-guided. As the approach focuses on practical functionality of knowledge it is expected to equip students with skills needed for 21st century labour market.

The overall aim of the project is to ensure that girls and boys in targeted geographic areas in B-H demonstrate relevant learning outcomes for literacy, numeracy and natural sciences by the end of 2018.

As part of the general education system reform, introduction of SLOs will ultimately benefit all children in primary education. In the first phase of the project and during roll-out we directly reached more than 2500 education professionals and through them it is estimated that approx. 80,000 children have benefited from the intervention thus far.  

However, it is presently impossible to measure the effectiveness of SLOs and the impact on children. The current national student assessment system based on learning outcomes is outdated and not fully functioning. In the coming period SC will support the establishment of the new model of student assessment system in basic education in the Tuzla Canton, which can be used for scaling-up the intervention upon evaluation of its effectiveness.