Marko Parezanovic, substitute member of the National Assembly’s standing delegation to the South East Europe Cooperation Process Parliamentary Assembly (SEECP PA), took part in the meeting of the SEECP PA General Committee on Social Development, Education, Research and Science, on 23-24 February 2019 in Podgorica.
The topic of the meeting was "Education in the SEE region: current situation and perspectives". The meeting was chaired by Montenegrin Parliament member Radule Novovic, and was attended by representatives of the national parliaments of Turkey, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Croatia, as well as representatives of Pristina.
The meeting was opened by the President of the Parliament of Montenegro Ivan Brajovic who said he was happy to see Montenegro hosting a meeting of the SEECP PA General Committee on Social Development, Education, Research and Science for the second time. He stressed that education demands a systematic and efficient approach and that the modern era of digitalization opens up a whole new chapter in the history of human civilization. The participants were also addressed by Montenegrin Minister of Education Damir Sehovic and Minister of Science Sanja Damjanovic who presented the results of the digitalization and reform of the education sector in Montenegro. They spoke about what young people need in the virtual world that requires a modern education, based on the introduction of digitalization in all sectors, encouragement of creative thinking and adequate IT training. The plan is to equip all children with pocket computers and train the teaching staff to use them. Mimika Dobroshi spoke on behalf of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), headquartered in Sarajevo, about the presence and use of the Internet and new technology, as well as digital training with a special focus on regional cooperation. In that respect, she emphasized the wealth of data that can be found in the Balkan Barometer, the annual public opinion survey commissioned by the Regional Cooperation Council to gather and interpret data, giving voice to the SEE’s business community as well as its citizens at large, spanning a number of thematic areas and topics such as employment, trade, digitalization, investment and corruption.
In his address, Serbian National Assembly delegation member Marko Parezanovic said that the Republic of Serbia is well aware of the importance and significance of digitalization for modern education. Serbia had realized an important project in 2018 – “2000 Digital Classrooms”, securing through a variety of project activities, 2000 laptop/projection sets for primary schools across Serbia, as well as digital textbooks and trained the teachers how to use them. He said that the AMRES network enables Internet access to 96% of schools in Serbia and, in cooperation with partners, 25 rural schools have been given access to the Internet and local networks, as well as about 600 desktop computers. The state had secured 800 desktop computers and 170 tablets for schools which also all use the electronic grade register. Starting from school-year 2017/2018 computer science and IT has been made a compulsory subject in primary schools from the 5th grade onwards. The state also implemented innovative programmes throughout the education system incorporating content that requires the application of IT in education and enabling both teachers and students to gain digital competences. MP Parezanovic then spoke about the “Improving homeroom teachers’ digital competences” pilot training programme conducted 18-26 November 2018 in cooperation with the Belgrade Teacher Education Faculty, attended by 239 teachers from 31 schools. Primary and secondary school teachers were trained to reach basic digital competences viz. project “Digital classroom/Digitally competent teacher” and the introduction of electronic grade registers and digital teaching material. He said that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development is, in cooperation with the British Council, realizing project “21st Century Schools”, regional support project designed to help develop the capacities of schools in the Western Balkan region to teach skills essential for a positive contribution to 21st century culture and economy. The programme is conducted parallel to the general curriculum to help develop the digital skills, problems solving skills and critical thinking which students need for a successful career or their continued education.
MP Parezanovic reminded the attending that Belgrade will be hosting the next Digital Summit on 4-5 April, when the Western Balkan states are to sign a regional agreement to keep reducing roaming charges until they are completely abolished by 2021.
At the end of the meeting, the participants harmonized the proposed resolutions and reports to be adopted at the SEECP PA Plenary in Sarajevo in June, to be attended by the heads of parliaments of the SEECP states. In the process, the representatives of Pristina left the meeting in disagreement with the Serbian delegation’s amendments concerning the status neutral formulation of Pristina representatives. The Serbian delegation’s amendments were subsequently adopted by consensus, as were the proposed resolutions and reports.