Dropout prevention and support to education of migrants in Serbia
The Center for Education Policy (CEP) from Belgrade hosted in October a NEPC delegation to present the implications and the results of the project “Combating early school leaving in Serbia through effective dropout prevention and intervention measures at the school level” and of the project “Support to education of migrant children/refugees in the Republic of Serbia”, also with the aim of exploring the transferability of practices.
Representatives from Educational Research Institute (ERI) of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and of Education Reform Initiative (Eğitim Reformu Girişimi – ERG), Turkey, went to Serbia for a two day study visit during which they had a chance to notice similarities in challenges that institutes and organizations are experience approaching these common issue, though on different scales. Visiting organizations reported that was interesting to learn from professionals who worked on the projects in practice and how both projects were translated into concrete activities.
More specifically, CEP lead the visitor into an in-depth analyses of the “Dropout Prevention Model”, of the engagement of parents (which fosters the inclusion parents involvement in various in cultural, sports, educational and humanitarian activities organized by school and in a structured model of problem solving through a written agreement), peer support and reconceptualized remedial teaching (where the focus is on the conditions that need to be met during the education and not on the education itself).
The visiting delegation met also the school staff from the Primary School “Bratstvo jedinstvo” Vrbas who took part in the drop-out prevention project. The general perception of personnel who took part in the initiative was that the project had been successful at reducing early drop-out rates. As ERG was carrying out projects aiming at teacher empowerment in Turkey, it reported that it was very beneficial to see that teachers who are committed, supported and included as an active partner can contribute a lot to the success of projects at school. In that sense, the project was not only a good example in combatting drop-out but it was also a good practice of teacher involvement.
Ivana Cenerić, Research Coordinator at CEP, presented the project “Support to education of migrant children/refugees in the Republic of Serbia”. The discussion was mostly focused on capacity building (transport to schools for refugees, financial help to institutions, providing the translators and volunteers etc.) of educational institutions, school authorities and civil society organizations for education of migrant children and students, support to institutions for the successful integration of children and students and ensuring quality education for children and students enrolled in regular education.
Similar to the dropout case, the attendees visited also a school facility involved in the project, the Elementary School “Branko Pešić”. The participants could observe that building an inclusive education environment was a crucial part of the project. Children’s works in Persian were displayed together with Serbian works on the walls of the school. A science class was attended, where a translator, an assistant and a psychological counselor were present next to teacher. One important challenge teachers in the school talked about was that many refugee children were leaving the school suddenly because they also leave the country. They also mentioned that there were some children who leave the school and the country once but come back again. They observe that children’s belonging to the school increased after the implementation of the project. They said that some children were coming to the school even before school start time because they feel belonging to the school.
The study visit was completed by a meeting at ADRA Community Centre: a representative of the organization presented the activities with refugee children in the field of non-formal education. In the facility, language and art lessons are provided and a playground is available to little children. It is also in plan to provide psychological help to children and adults.
Participants from Slovenia especially see a big potential in the transferability of the Dropout Prevention Model not only as it already is to Slovenia but also to other fields, such as the problem of low achievement, student’s behaviour etc. Moreover, there are some aspects of the “Support to education of migrant children/refugees in the Republic of Serbia” project, especially the part which covers the development of intercultural competencies of teachers and principals, that can be transferred with some modifications to their projects that deal with refugee and migrant topics (e. g. Le z drugimi smo, HAND in HAND, etc.)
Education of refugee children in Turkey is a crucial part of Education Reform Initiative’s work. Observations during field visits to schools and ADRA centre in Serbia – they said – will contribute to strengthen research and advocacy activities of ERG. ERG carries out projects together with teachers. This projects aim at strengthening teachers in order to improve education in schools. Observations regarding teachers’ contribution in both projects carried out by CEP will be taken into consideration during ERG’s ongoing projects with teachers.