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Lost in the Curriculum: Civic Education

When asked about civic education, local analysts and practitioners disagree not only on its quality and impact, but also on its very existence. Some think that the government eliminated civic education classes when it introduced religious education in 2008, others think that civic education is a cross-curricular theme, and still others argue that it exists but admit that it is ‘very experimental’ and its contents and aims are unclear.155 In fact, arrangements for civic education in Macedonia are quite complex. According to curricular documents, it is taught as an independent subject for 36 periods per year in grades 8 and 9. In the early years of primary school and in secondary school, according to a senior officer of the Bureau of Educational Development (BoE), it is implemented as a cross-curricular theme.156

The civic education curriculum for grades 8 and 9 is very detailed, and lists activities and objectives for each lesson. Petrova-Gjorjeva argues that civic education focuses on problem-solving and on instructing children on societal norms and values; it refers more to action than to abstract knowledge and ‘reflects social expectations’. She argues that through civic education ‘rules of living in a community are determined for young people’.157

Petrova-Gjorjeva’s observations contrast with the official contents of the curriculum, which emphasise active learning methods, debate and discussion of controversial issues, and current affairs. Formally, the curriculum invites analysis and discussion of a variety of topics, from human rights and responsibilities to democracy, from the European Union to the responsibilities of institutions and authorities, from public participation to obedience to laws, from the constitution to the role of the media in society, from international humanitarian law to the resolution of conflicts ‘caused by cultural, ethical and religious differences’. The curriculum aims to convey knowledge, respect and tolerance for the different communities in Macedonia, to further respect for human rights and democracy, and to strengthen collective social and cultural identities.158

The objectives of citizenship and multiculturalism also infuse the curricula of other subjects at every level, particularly the national subjects. Educational strategies and legal documents similarly reflect a desire to develop mutual understanding, tolerance and allegiance to the Macedonian state. For example, the 2008 Law on Elementary Education calls for the development of cooperation, respect for diversity, understanding of human rights and freedoms, awareness of belonging to the state and development of pupils’ identities and personalities. The Concept of Nine-Year Elementary Education also calls for focus on democracy and multiculturalism.159 Thus, Lazarevska summarises that ‘on paper it looks like everything is fine’.160

However, Sabani reflects that civic education ‘got a bit lost in the cur- riculum’.161 This is certainly the most substantial critique of citizenship education in Macedonian schools: because of the poor implementation of curricula and educational strategies, as mentioned, many analysts and practitioners are not even aware of its existence as a subject.

Sabani argues that ‘small changes’ are needed to ensure implementation of the civic education curriculum: long-term funding, the production of specific and comprehensive teaching materials (Macedonia still lacks a comprehensive resource pack for civic education), and the revision of existing textbooks. In fact, current textbooks may further prejudice by ignoring some ethnicities (generally the Roma) and portraying others negatively (particularly Albanians and Turks).162 Textbooks often include mistakes such as the statement that every ethnic group in Macedonia has a state, or wrong depictions of flags, including the Macedonian flag.163

Moreover, Carta et al. call for teacher training as teachers frequently lack the skills and capacity to promote multiculturalism and equality in the classroom.164 A wider culture of avoidance and hypocrisy may discourage teacher engagement in discussions about peace and tolerance, but didactic, memory-based teaching also hampers the development of democratic and active citizenship.165 In fact, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) found that some teachers encourage prejudices with their derogatory comments about other ethnic groups.166 Thus, the introduction of inspections of civic education may improve the quality and effectiveness of the subject.167

Finally, as in the case of Lebanon, in Macedonia the contents of the civic education curriculum may not be relevant to everyday life. For example, in the context of increasing residential and educational separation, curricular emphasis on the multi-ethnic character of Macedonia is not accompanied by contact between children belonging to different communities or visits to ‘places from other communities’.168 Moreover, as in Lebanon, the grade 8 curriculum presents majoritarian democracy but it does not discuss or even mention consociation.169 This may be because citizenship education projects have been often ‘imported’ from abroad rather than being developed in Macedonia, and because books are frequently translations of ‘American’ textbooks.170

Some argue that it is a deliberate political decision not to employ teachers, books and financial resources to encourage peaceful multiculturalism and inclusive citizenship through civic education in Macedonia.171 More probably, the weakness of civic education reflects a lack of local capacity as well as wider disagreement over visions for Macedonia’s future: as Schenker puts it, when they look at the future, ‘Albanians see one thing, Macedonians see 13 other things’.172

 
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