My answer to the question of what I would change in Kosovo would be another question: Is there anything I would not like to change in Kosovo? But for now, I will choose one thing –– the education system.
Kosovo has operated with the same education system since my parents were in school and now my parents are in their fifties. The system they were educated in as children is effectively the same as I was educated in after the war and the same that my cousin, who is in first grade, is currently learning in. The way we get educated is quite simple. The teacher speaks and you read. Never does it come to our minds to ask questions or to try to correct the sometimes incorrect information or the mistakes that are fed to us.
I thought this was the way to learn when I was growing up, but it became a problem when I went to college and I realized I dreaded being called on in class or presenting in front of my classmates to repeat lessons by rote memorization.
It seems like no one was bothered with the situation until after the results of the PISA tests, the international educational report that compares students’ capacities across countries. Kosovo was almost in last place out of the countries included on the list. Finally the bell was ringing, but it felt like it came too late.
Countless generations passed through this education system without getting an education and the same continues today. It has been over 22 years since the end of the war and 14 years since independence and little has been done to update our education system. Making matters worse, there are geographical divisions; cities fare a little better while villages come out even worse.
Kosovar students learn nothing about reproduction, human rights, or LGBTIQ issues in school. Some teachers still teach people that HIV/AIDS comes from homosexuals. It is not enough just to know how to read and write –– education means more than that. We need to understand the world around us and be able to challenge it, not just read and accept things as they are.
We need a meaningful and open commitment from everyone. Educational workers threaten us every year with strikes, demanding higher salaries for teachers and never demanding a better education system.
The way the system works is so deeply ingrained in our heads that it has started to be taken for granted, as something that cannot be changed. And how can the system change when teachers continue to create functional illiterates? These functional illiterates then return to the system and continue to create more functional illiterates. We need constant and systematic work to break the trend.
How can we do this?
We need to start with one simple thing, teacher recruitment should be based on meritocracy. There should be fair testing and competition when it comes to job applications and the recruitment of new teachers. We need to get rid of the practice that someone who is a relative of the school principal or has good relations with a politician has a better chance of getting the job.
We need to implement this change as soon as possible. But there are other profound changes that are necessary, such as the revision of textbooks and training teachers on new pedagogical methodologies. This could pave the way for a learning environment that allows interaction and open communication, where strict hierarchical structures are undermined, where thinking differently is encouraged rather than repressed.
The list of necessary changes is long, and fairness in the way of recruitment can be a good start towards these changes.
We have started to notice the consequences of the old education system, and these consequences will only get worse in the future. To prevent an academic catastrophe, change must be made today, not in the next five years, but now. We must act today so that we do not sink into an academic abyss tomorrow.
When young generations reach a high academic level, the whole of Kosovo benefits. We can’t allow the reproduction of old systems. In a world driven by technological developments, it is already painful that we still have to talk about an education system where basic things like reproduction and human rights are not discussed. The world is advancing and no one will stop and wait for us.
Feature Image: Arrita Katona / K2.0.