EuroNews 06-2006, Education under change

Studying in Serbia

How is it to study in Belgrade? Does it make sense? Is it democratic and fair? A closer look into the universities of Serbia.

The personality of every invidious is often marked by that of “who we are, what we are and where we are going”.

The question of “Who we are” is based on our nationality, origin, sometimes religion, further more it depends on whether we are good or bad, positive or obscure. “What we are”, is simply us, just the way we are, accepted or unaccepted by the society or any other group of people. And, finally, “Where are we going”, refers to our education, talents and capability to succeed and achieve all our goals.

Born and bred on the Balkans, in Serbia, with defined nationality and religion, we went through different schools’ systems and reforms. If we look back at the early nineties, at very center of communism all we can conclude was that education played an important role, but it was free and everybody could choose an University and study as many years as he wanted. One couldn’t fail the year; he or she could be the students of the final year of The Faculty for Medicine, without passing anatomy from the second or the first year. And that went on … True, we have many worldwide accepted experts in all areas, but we as well have many intellectuals who don’t have jobs, or are simply working something beneath their qualifications.

The late nineties were mostly the same, with few changes. First of all, education wasn’t free from charge, but a year of studying at any University in Belgrade or other Serbian cities could be paid off with only one average salary. Second of all, there was a reform within the Universities, one couldn’t just jump from one year to another, he should pass the certain number of exams, for instance at the Faculty of Law in Belgrade with 7 exams at the first year, the condition of enrolling the second was the 5 arbitrary chosen, passed exams. Accomplishing that condition the student doesn’t have to pay any money the following year or any other years if he manages to pass the necessary number of exams. Still, a huge number of students who didn’t go into the next year, have decided to postpone their studying and do something else, for it was cheap to study and country itself couldn’t provide jobs for everyone.

The democratic breakthrough in the 5th of October 2000 brought new issues or reforms. At the beginning of the democratic expansion, education was not that expensive, but within few months the rate went on from circa 4000 dinars to 40 000, which was almost a thousand Euro per year, and an average income was about 200 Euros per moth. Conclusion was evident; it was hard to continue the way it was before, not everybody could afford university education. In the last few years, there were several changes: the school rate had stayed the same for some faculties, but it has increased for the others, for example, it costs about 3-4 thousand Euros for a year at the Faculty for Medicine and a thousand for The Faculty of Philosophy; number of exams has stayed the same, but if someone fails the same year to times, he/she looses the right to study without paying the school rate. Therefore many students have financial difficulties, and it is becoming harder and harder to pass the exam (especially in the written form) because many Universities have thousands of students at a certain year of studying, and the professors cannot dedicate attention to all of them. It happens that someone did the test excellent but he didn’t pass cause of the lack of concentration of the person who was checking the results. The same story with education system in Serbia went on, and still exists at most Universities.

But there was a change with the Bologna declaration of 19 June 1999 which has the importance of education and educational co-operation in the development and strengthening of stable, peaceful and democratic societies in the situation in South East Europe. Several European countries have accepted the invitation to commit themselves to achieving the objectives set out in the declaration, by signing it or expressing their agreement in principle. The Bologna declaration is also a support to the general principles laid down in the Sorbonne declaration. It is considered to be of primary relevance in order to establish the European area of higher education and to promote the European system of higher education world-wide:

  • Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees, also through the implementation of the Diploma Supplement, in order to promote European citizens employability and the international competitiveness of the European higher education system.
  • Adoption of a system is essentially based on two main cycles, undergraduate and graduate. Access to the second cycle shall require successful completion of first cycle studies, lasting a minimum of three years. The degree awarded after the first cycle shall also be relevant to the European labor market as an appropriate level of qualification. The second cycle should lead to the master and/or doctorate degree as in many European countries.

In 2005 Universities in Serbia have decided that The Bologna Declaration should be implemented in all faculties, which mainly meant that reading material would be reduced, exams could be taken partially through test and seminars. The final exam mark would be the average sum of all students’ activities thought out an academic year. Special attention was dedicated to finding jobs for all students, therefore there were words about establishing an agency (Job Career Center) in the following year, which would take care of the best students and provide them scholarships. There were also some changes at The Faculty for Medicine, new studies were opened (pharmaceutical), and conditions in the students campus were improved; so far there were 10 000 students from Kragujevac studying in Belgrade and only 600 of them lived in the students campus, because there was no space.

Today we can see that situation has improved; at The Faculty for Political Sciences and The Faculty for Electronics in Belgrade, students have already accepted The Bologna Declaration, and they are satisfied, and many other Faculties are trying to change the old system and establish the new one that exists in other countries in the region of South West Balkans. Once accepting The Bologna Declaration, the educational system in Serbia has a difficult task, the old methods and strategies have to be abolished, and the system itself has to be changed from top to bottom. Despite the fact that Slovenia and Croatia have reformed their Universities and transferred them to the European way of higher education, the educational reform in Serbia is developing slowly. Hopefully, we will have a European educational system with possibilities of student exchange and participation in European programs such are “Socrates “and “Leonardo”.

Once again, we have high expectations and hopes that Democratic Government in Serbia will do something about our education, for it is our future.

Marinkovic Ivana

Photo: <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Uncle_buddha” target=”_blank”>Uncle buddha</a>, Licence: <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en” target=”_blank”>Creatvie Commons by/3.0</a>