Where is political responsibility? The Government should introduce civic education!

Worried about the recent information and contradictory statements made with regard to civic education by the new Minister of Education, Vedran Mornar, civil society organizations gathered in the GOOD Initiative (initiative for systematic and quality introduction of civic education in schools) and Platform 112 sent out a message at a press conference that the Government should act politically responsible and introduce civic education into schools this autumn.

“Young people are not born as fascists and democrats, nor as tolerant and intolerant; they become so as they grow up, and 25 years after transition the society has failed to provide them with tools for reflection upon these matters considering that Croatia is one of few European states that have not recognized the importance of civic education for building a democratic political culture,” warned Professor Berto Šalaj of Faculty of Political Science, reminding that “Kukuriku coalition had boasted that they will introduce civic education in autumn 2014 in their document entitled “Plan 21 – Half way there” and now we are seeing, as we may read from the statements of the new respective minister, that they are abandoning the idea.  It is not enough for civic education to be an inter-subject matter because research shows that the effectiveness of such education is then weaker, and it becomes obligation of all and responsibility of none.”

“Unfortunately, all governments until today have rejected introduction of civic education. Minister Željko Jovanović seemed to have announced a step in a different direction because great efforts were undertaken over the last two years – an experimental programme was implemented, workgroups established and public discussion held. What surfaced with the new minister coming into office is that strategies and public policy hold no value in this state. The only valuable opinion now, it seems, is personal opinion of a single man who has within three days repudiated two years worth of effort of the Ministry of Education, Education and Teacher Training Agency, and other actors,” warned Šalaj and concluded: “The system of education is not a private quarter of the minister, but the Government’s domain with regard to which it has inscribed civic education in their program, and should the minister and the Government decide not to introduce it as a separate subject, I shall consider it as backing out of civic education.”

Does anyone still remember Plan 21…

“Resigning from introduction of civic education is a defeat of the new minister as well as this government and subscribes Croatia to a low level of political competence,” pointed out Emina Bužinkić, representative of the GOOD Initiative which “requests from the Government to introduce civic education in schools this autumn since the programme has been prepared entirely following public discussions and recommendations of the expert commission, and may be built upon subsequently. Besides, during the past two years half a million of Euro has been invested into the experimental implementation of the civic education programme, which will have been wasted if the implementation now ceases.”

The same applies to efforts of teachers and educatiors who dedicated time and energy in professional development necessary for introduction of civic education into schools, as is case of one Miljenko Hajdarović, professor of history and psychology from Čakovac who stated that “we should educate responsible and engaged young people who will be prepared to change bad things around them, and even though civic education is no magic wand to solve all problems, it does represent a step towards a society of active and not passive citizens.”

Eta Krpanec, a pupil, warned that in society, and often in schools in particular there is a lack of room for discussion and presentation of opinions, adding that she perceives civic education in schools as an important means of informing and providing knowledge on political life and preparation for it, as well as a cure for growing intolerance in the society, stating how “it is sad and devastating to hear from your peers and older friends that they don’t want to vote in elections nor participate in politics because they don’t see any point to it. It is a shame that they do not know what is the purpose of petitions, referendums, what are consumer rights and that there is more and more intolerance towards others and those who are different. However, if we know how to act, than it is more likely that we will. We are expected to be active citizens when we leave high school, and vote in elections, but without this subject we do not have enough knowledge to enable us to have insight into all possibilities offered to us.”