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Learning to Change

Learning to Change: The Experience of Transforming Education in South East Europe

Edited by Terrice Bassler
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 231
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  • Book Info
    Learning to Change
    Book Description:

    A collection of first-person narratives by specialists in the field of education in South East Europe. The contributors are recognized leaders in civil society, government, academia and schools. Their works chronicle the profound effect armed conflict, political transition, and the increasing openness the region has experienced on education. It is a significant achievement as it is the work of individuals who are involved in the field and have a first hand perspective on issues of education in the region. The essays shed light on the reality of the educational reforms: they are far from beeing linear progressive processes, on the contrary, they are very often paradoxical and even controversial.

    eISBN: 978-615-5211-96-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Map of South East Europe
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    The Authors and Editor
  5. About the Authors
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. Patterns, Paradoxes, and Puzzles of Education Change in South East Europe
    (pp. 1-12)

    The stories in this volume speak about education change in South East Europe from many perspectives. There are personal, social, technical, national, and global dimensions to what is described. The storytellers may be keen observers of change or change agents themselves. They explore how schooling may have changed or not in their home countries, in the contexts they know best. Many authors reveal how the process has affected them as professionals and as human beings. What unites all of the stories are people who allowed themselves to question the status quo and venture in new directions, moving into zones of...

  8. The Stories

    • Simin Han
      (pp. 13-24)
      Medina Korda

      My wintery day visiting the Simin Han Primary School begins, reasonably enough, with the morning school bell. Nothing looks or sounds unusual. The morning bell clangs. Children’s voices and laughter resonate down the halls. School bags waddle up the stairs. Posters shout from the walls. But before the bell signals the end of classes that afternoon, the stories of the Simin Han Primary School carry me through six lives of sweat and inspiration, and ten years of filling chairs, overcoming trauma and restraints, and forging the kinds of bonds that make a community.

      The Simin Han Primary School had been...

    • To Change or Not to Change?
      (pp. 25-38)
      Alexandru Crişan

      In December 1989, I was a teacher in Voluntari, a village two steps from Bucharest. It had been eleven years since I had graduated from university. During those years, the Ceauşescu regime assigned new teachers to their jobs according to rigid criteria, which meant we were always denied positions in the big cities and towns. Undertaking your assigned job in a village was mandatory. The only hope was getting assigned to a village school close enough to travel to the capital, or at least to some other town. Commuting gave us a daily dose of culture.

      In a miracle, I...

    • Debate Was the Question Mark, School Was the Full Stop
      (pp. 39-52)
      Tomislav Reškovac

      Before I start this story about debate, I owe readers answers to two questions. Both are, I believe, logical and perfectly appropriate, and the answers to them may make the story more relevant.

      First, why is there, in a book dealing with large structural and system changes in the educational systems of South East Europe, a story on a relatively small education initiative such as the debate program. Indeed, in the ten years of its existence, the debate program in Croatia has changed neither the structure of the education system, nor any of its key elements, nor its character. The...

    • Out of the Tunnel: Romani School Desegregation
      (pp. 53-68)
      Petya Kabakchieva

      The mountain-valley town of Sliven, situated in the middle of Bulgaria, is the oldest industrial town in Bulgaria. People from Sliven boast that the first factory in the Balkans was opened there in 1836. Nowadays the town combines the beauty of its bourgeois past—old houses in the Viennese style—with large communist-era blocks and new commercial buildings. The town is still an industrial center. Besides its textiles and export wines, Sliven also is known for something quite different from its image as a prosperous entrepreneurial town: it is the home of one of the largest Romani neighborhoods in Bulgaria....

    • Hard Waking Up
      (pp. 69-84)
      Božena Jelušić

      I received my education in socialist Yugoslavia during the 1970s. At the entrance to my school, the teachers used to send home students whose hair was longer than that expected of a young socialist. In school, we were regularly served up our own American dream, with a socialist aura. I had never wondered why the birthday of our president for life was a national holiday. Tito’s birthday came in the springtime. Every May thousands of flower blossoms perished under the feet of schoolchildren who ran to give him a customary youth baton. The future was a linear movement toward a...

    • Everybody’s School
      (pp. 85-94)
      Bardhyl Musai

      I remember September 1978. I had just graduated from university. Bursting with enthusiasm, I marched off to work as a teacher, a “Commissar of the Red Light” in the parlance of the Communist Party.

      I was assigned to a school in a remote village in Belsh, a farming area in central Albania. I had heard about Belsh during my childhood, about its picturesque lake, about the special beauty of its rolling hills. Idealized images flickered in my mind and I thought Belsh might have made a fitting place in which to establish Albania’s capital city.

      The Belsh I found, however,...

    • From Čoček to Brahms and Back
      (pp. 95-104)
      Refika Mustafić

      The Roma Education Center in the Serbian city of Niš began its life seven years ago in an attic apartment of a private house on the fringe of the Romani ghetto. We jammed into two small rooms and a narrow kitchen. Our landlord, Grandpa Jule, would under no circumstances remove the freezer; so we had to make sure no one made off with any of his frozen chickens. Jule also left us a big dining table and a sofa, and they occupied almost all the floor space, so getting from our office to our classroom required slalom maneuvers. A wallpaper...

    • Halim a Thousand Times: “Make a School like a Home”
      (pp. 105-120)
      Lindita Tahiri

      Today is Monday, September the first. During the past weekend, I lined up the new books, pencils, and notebooks and new school clothes for my boys, and learned the names of their new teachers. My new school year is just beginning. My nightmare is the same old one: my little boys will complain of boring textbooks and the droning voices of the harsh teachers forcing them to learn their lessons by heart. Then the boys will skip homework and run to the nearest Internet club to play some horrid electronic game, something with an even more horrid name: “Counterstrike.” (I...

    • No Need to Hurry Up?
      (pp. 121-138)
      Petya Kabakchieva

      In February 2002, a small but highly vocal group of high school students took to the streets of Sofia to protest against the introduction of external graduation examinations that summer. Nothing new in this: Examinations arouse strong feelings among students and parents anywhere, and where change seems to threaten the comfortable expectations of those who know how to exploit the status quo, those feelings soon spill over into the media and then onto the streets. Similar scenes greeted exam reforms in Romania, in Slovenia, and elsewhere in the region, but as soon as it became clear that the new systems...

    • Rites of Passage: Reforming the Matura Exam
      (pp. 139-150)
      Ivan Lorenčič

      June 1991 was the end of my ninth school year as principal of the Second General High School in Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city. Everyone—especially the graduates—is always nervous at the end of a school year, but 1991 was unprecedented, filled with tension. Slovenia was about to break away from Yugoslavia and nobody could say what this move would bring. The anxiety among high school students, however, went beyond political uncertainties and pregraduation jitters. The fourth-year students were on strike. For seven days, they occupied the streets. They took their discontent into the city’s squares. They gathered in...

    • Shadows of the War: A Teacher in Serbia
      (pp. 151-164)
      Vigor Majić

      I met Ivan for the first time in the mid-1980s. A dynamic teacher of physics, he was a great improviser, combining different devices, used and discarded, parts of old machines, various pieces of plastic, cardboard, and metal, to make a workable tool, which he skillfully managed to turn into an interesting teaching aid, much better, more accurate, and demonstrable than factory models. Ivan came to Petnica for the first time to put into working order what looked like a huge pile of iron and screws, obtained as a gift from a major truck factory. They wouldn’t have given anything away...

    • Closer to the Ground
      (pp. 165-172)
      Terrice Bassler

      I first came to the Balkan region in the early 1990s as an official from the World Bank, one of the international agencies intent on helping the countries of South East Europe to upgrade their school buildings and update what was taught inside the classrooms. There were many of us arriving in those days after the fall of the communist regimes. In 1993, I was a fledgling education project officer leading the World Bank’s first work with schools in Romania and Albania from an office on H Street in Washington, D.C. At age thirty-five, I had been working up the...

  9. The South East Europe Context

    • Country Context Data
      (pp. 173-188)
    • Chronologies and Milestones of Education Change in South East Europe: 1990–2004
      (pp. 189-216)
    • For Further Reference
      (pp. 217-220)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-221)