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The Unintended Consequences of Increasing Access

The Ohrid Agreement established ‘state funding ... for university level education in languages spoken by at least 20 percent of the population of Macedonia’, and reiterated the right to compulsory education ‘in the students’ native languages’ and to learning the Macedonian language.117 Hereafter, the entire thrust of education policy would shift towards expanding access to mother tongue education for children of Turkish, Serbian and Albanian backgrounds.

These provisions had a limited direct impact on primary schools, which had enrolled over 90 % of children by 1999.118 Moreover, the right to mother tongue instruction at primary school level had long been remarkably uncontroversial and students were not prevented from freely choosing their language of instruction. Figure 6.3 confirms that the Ohrid Agreement did not impact on the proportion of children attending primary school in Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish or Serbian. For example, just over 31 % of pupils studied in Albanian in 2000-2001: the proportion increased to about 32 % in 2006-2007 and about 33 % in 2011-2012.119

The picture is different at the secondary level, as Fig. 6.4 shows. Postagreement governments concentrated on expanding access to secondary education for students of ethnic minority backgrounds by, for example,

Percentage students by language of instruction in primary and lower secondary schools in Macedonia between 2000 and 2012 (State Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook (Skopje

Fig. 6.3 Percentage students by language of instruction in primary and lower secondary schools in Macedonia between 2000 and 2012 (State Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook (Skopje: State Statistical Office, 2006); State Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook (Skopje: State Statistical Office, 2008); State Statistical Office, Primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools at the end of the school year, 2011/2012 (Skopje: State Statistical Office, 2013); State Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook (Skopje: State Statistical Office, 2013))

building more secondary schools in deprived areas.120 They also lowered the minimum number of children required to open an Albanian-, Turkish- or Serbian-language class, and made secondary education free and compulsory in 2008. Thus, the proportion of students attending school in Albanian grew steadily from 16 % in 2000-2001, to 18 % in 2006-2007 and 29 % in 2011-2012.121

Expansion of mother tongue education at the secondary level may have ‘increased respect for the state’ among members of some ethnic communities.122 Certainly, it signals that consociational Macedonia recognises, values and protects the different languages of its ethnic communities and by extension their cultural specificity.

However, the successful expansion of secondary education in Albanian and Turkish had some unintended consequences for the wider education

Percentage students by language of instruction in upper secondary education in Macedonia between 2000 and 2012 (State Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook (Skopje

Fig. 6.4 Percentage students by language of instruction in upper secondary education in Macedonia between 2000 and 2012 (State Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook (Skopje: State Statistical Office, 2006); State Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook (Skopje: State Statistical Office, 2008); State Statistical Office, Primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools at the end of the school year, 2011/2012 (Skopje: State Statistical Office, 2013); State Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook (Skopje: State Statistical Office, 2013))

system. The growing number of students forced schools to operate several shifts (with different groups of students attending school at different times of the day) or to create satellite schools. To this day, students are often divided into different shifts or buildings on the basis of their language of instruction, so the provision of ‘quality mother-tongue education ... usually involves having no contact with the other community’.123 Private ‘pilot’ English-medium schools are ethnically mixed but only cater for upper-middle-class children.124 Exceptions to the separation of children of different ethnic backgrounds in state schools are rare: a high-profile example is the trilingual elementary school Bashimi/Brastvo/Birlik in Gostivar.125 Lack of contact between children of different backgrounds, as Chap. 7 discusses in more depth, may foster stereotypes and inter-group rivalry.

Moreover, in ethnically and linguistically separate school environments, children of ethnic minority background struggle to learn the Macedonian language. Since 2008, children attending school in Albanian, Turkish and Serbian have learnt English before the official state language. The constitution guarantees the right to learn Macedonian at all levels of education, but in 2007 the ethnic Albanian Education Minister Suleiman Rushiti introduced the English language from first grade and delayed Macedonian-language classes to fourth grade.126 This reform indicated a shift from a language shelter model of bilingualism (with pupils studying in the mother tongue but learning the Macedonian language as a subject) to a voluntary segregation model (with children instructed in their mother tongue without gaining proficiency in the official language).

The delay of Macedonian-language classes to fourth grade may also have been ‘a message’ from the ethnic Albanian Education Minister to the ethnic Macedonian elites and the wider public: ‘I want to learn a foreign language before I learn the official language’.127 Thus, linguistic reforms in Macedonia’s education system remain an expression of, or even a tool for, wider power struggles in the consociation.128 Current arrangements are not only detrimental to language learning, but also hold potentially destabilising consequences for the peace process. First, they are depriving children of the basic means of communication across communal lines: a shared language. The poor quality of English-language education in all schools hampers the emergence of English as a shared language in Macedonia. Second, young Albanians struggle to express themselves in Macedonian, and this may hamper their employment prospects in a Macedonian-dominated labour market.129 For their part, most ethnic Macedonians ‘want other communities to want to learn the state language’, but refuse to learn Albanian or other local languages.130

There are only two, very original, models for bilingual education in Macedonia: Mozaik kindergartens and Nansen schools. In both cases, parents often enrol children in bilingual schools because of their better infrastructure, superior quality of education ‘and educated personnel’. They only come to appreciate the benefits of bilingualism at a later stage.131 In the Mozaik kindergartens, two teachers work in parallel, speaking two languages to children.132 In schools adopting the Nansen model of integrated bilingual primary education, students belonging to two communities are taught in their mother tongue in separate classes but every day they attend extracurricular activities in mixed groups. Two teachers supervise the extracurricular activities, speaking the two working languages and paraphrasing each other. Nansen Dialogue Centre Project Manager, Veton Zenkolli maintains that although students are never forced to speak languages other than their mother tongue, they generally learn the school’s second language.133 He argues that the Nansen model performs a balancing act on the ‘thin line between integration and assimilation’.134 This is because Mozaik kindergartens and Nansen schools accommodate both the principle of parity of esteem (by granting equal value, legitimacy and authority to both working languages and upholding the right to mother tongue education), and the principle of pluralism (by promoting contact and cooperation). As Chap. 7 shows, in deeply divided societies, initiatives for integration are particularly successful when, beyond fostering equality and relationship-building, they provide added value in terms of the quality of education.

The expansion of access to education has also benefited the smaller communities (the Roma, Vlachs, Serbs, Bosniaks and Turks), allowing more children to access secondary education.135 Yet children belonging to smaller communities often struggle in primary school: Turkish- and Serbian- language education may be available, but most children attend classes in Albanian or Macedonian.136 These students often underperform and are excluded and sometimes even discriminated against, as they do not have sufficient proficiency in the language of instruction.137 As a consequence, dropout rates among children belonging to smaller communities are higher than the national average: in 2008 only 44.6 % of Roma children completed primary school, compared with a national rate of 82.6 %.138

Thus, smaller communities have criticised post-Ohrid education policy for appeasing the demands of the ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian communities, while appearing to ‘forget the others’.139 They point out that the Ohrid Agreement’s provisions for administrative decentralisation favour Albanian-language schools in municipalities controlled by Albanian parties and Macedonian-language schools in municipalities controlled by Macedonian parties.140 Moreover, schools are instrumentalised in wider power struggles: for example, in September 2012, the Macedonian daily Dnevik reported that the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI)- controlled municipalities intended to close several Macedonian-language classes as a payback for the closure of an Albanian-language class in a Macedonian-controlled municipality.141 Preoccupied with the ethnic Albanians and Macedonians, the government underinvested in areas populated by smaller communities, where schools accommodate even thousands of students in three or four daily shifts.142

 
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