”Today, the status of informal education in Serbia, in all social segments, is quite high, much higher than in most countries that made the former Yugoslavia“, says Bratislav Filipović, MSc.oec. Director and Proprietor of the Filipović Academy, and adds: “The Filipović Academy gave a significant contribution to that and in the last 15 years, has educated over 30,000 students.“
“When we started our work, our mission, informal education was a taboo topic. We have come across many obstacles and misunderstandings (read: ignorance). At that time, we set ourselves a task or rather a goal that we have been successfully accomplishing for over a decade and a half now,“ Mr Filipović adds.
Who needs continuous professional development? Which professions are you focusing on?
— Continuous training is definitely mandatory for everyone, regardless of the profession. The Filipović Academy is recognized for its training of education workers, although at the very beginning of our work, we were very active in education and re-training of the beneficiaries of the National Employment Service. However, at one point, we made the decision to base our work and activities exclusively on the education system, and expand into digitization, and promotion and application of modern technology. Today, we educate teachers through thirteen of our accredited seminars – we introduce them to modern technology, and motivate them to think about in line with the times in which we live, where the rapid development of technology and accompanying software is very pronounced. We motivate them and to move them to unconditionally and on a daily basis apply all aspects of didactic materials and to understand that their curricula can no longer be realized exclusively through traditional teaching without the use of contemporary teaching aids and programmes.
How much is the knowledge that educational experts have to possess changing and what new trends have you observed?
— Teachers possess a very good knowledge but they have to supplement their knowledge via various training, seminars, and courses and to differently articulate this acquired knowledge, as well as to use newly obtained skills and use and implement contemporary technology. Elsewhere in the world, education is the top priority in a society or a state. Nursery, elementary and high school teachers and university professors have huge importance for our society and the state of Serbia. The society that we live in depends on them, their work and their effort. This is something that they have to understand, as well as those that run this country. Our state has an evident problem in not understanding the importance of teaching staff, hence, they treat them very superficially with educational staff often feeling degraded and neglected. Nobody is asking for their opinion, they have been stripped off many rights and burdened with unnecessary bureaucratic activities.
Which seminars are you planning in the next period? How willing are your students to perfect their knowledge and accept innovation?
— The seminars that we are preparing for the next period of accreditation relate to the improvement of computer literacy in teaching staff because this is still the sorest part of our educational system. Although, I have to say that IT literacy of employees in education in the regional countries in t is no better, nor is it at a higher level than in Serbia. Inclusion and inclusive education, integration of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in the education system of Serbia are inevitable topics that will be covered by our seminars.
Are contemporary forms of teaching and IT a precondition for the success of teachers and students?
— Today, in our country, there cannot be quality teaching without the use of modern technology, starting with basic things such as the projector, interactive whiteboard, and presentation software. It has been proven that students are more active, more interested and better at mastering teaching materials if teachers apply IT in the learning process. This is their time, the time of IT development, their needs, the time of our children, the way they perceive the environment in which they live, the way in which they learn, the time for fulfilling the basic needs of children, which we must accept unconditionally and without discussion. Teachers have to adapt to the time in which we live, to give their best, to improve and to transfer their knowledge to students in a way that is consistent with the current time and best suits the children.
How is the process of digitization in schools developing? What is what you would like to single out from your offer and is, in your opinion, indispensable?
— The process of digitization in schools is not carried out in a planned, but rather a more improvised manner, with the desire to arrive at some predicted results as soon as possible, which are definitely needed. Not all the basic factors of the digitization process are considered, starting from the technical equipment in schools, and more importantly, the degree of IT literacy of teachers is not ascertained. The Filipović Academy has been working on digitization in schools since 2008 when we were among the first in Serbia to create an electronic grade register. Teachers, their resistance and refusal to cooperate in the implementation of the programmes were the biggest obstacle that we have encountered and this problem persists until today. In addition to the electronic grade register, the Filipović Academy has developed a complete school information system consisting of Electronic Library, Electronic Portfolio for Educators, Teachers, Students and School Directors, Electronic Pedagogical Notebooks for primary and secondary music, ballet and specialized schools, platforms for creating school websites, and the programme for school pedagogues and psychologists. Many schools are happy to use our contemporary applications.
How are you going to further develop the Academy’s capacities?
— Digitization remains our priority, and by that, we mean raising IT awareness and IT literacy of education staff through careful planning, and certainly not through improvisation. Our wealth of experience shows that this has to be taken seriously, but also that there is an interest shown by teachers for additional training and acquiring skills in this field, except in some extreme cases that should not be rejected, but tactically resolved. As the pioneers and advocates of the application of modern technology in teaching, last year, the Filipović Academy started producing portable interactive boards and accompanying software, which, in addition to schools in Serbia, are distributed in schools in Montenegro and the Republic of Srpska. Portable interactive boards are very popular with teachers, they are applicable in every classroom and are very easy to use. In many schools, we have activated the already existing interactive boards, which were donated. We have also educated and still are educating teachers on how to use and implement these boards in the teaching. Furthermore, we equip schools with modern teaching tools that include the aforementioned interactive boards (portable, static, touch displays, projectors, …) and 3D presentation software, MozaBook. With our adequate education, moral support and explanation that the use of these resources is an imperative in the time in which we live, as well as reassuring teaching staff that all of these resources can be easily used, that highly developed IT literacy is not needed, they do not have to be programmers or IT teachers, but only have basic IT knowledge, and that it is the duty of everyone to engage in the digitization process, teachers easily accept new challenges. We are still focusing on further improvement of software, in particular, the Electronic Portfolio, over 8,000 teachers in Serbia use, and the Electronic Pedagogical Notebooks, namely the programmes that are recognized by the Ministry of Education of Montenegro. The Filipović Academy was also the recipient of the Diskobolos Award in 2015 in the category of education for use of the E-portfolio of teachers web application. The e-portfolio, devised by the Filipović Academy, is of the highest quality and one of the most useful tools in the educational system in Serbia, which is validated by a large number of users and their positive comments and praise. Our recent application (dating back to October 2017) has been translated into multiple languages, and it is also used by teachers from other neighbouring countries. We are negotiating with the Ministry of Education of Montenegro on the implementation of the application in their education system. Our plan is also to expand our operations to North Macedonia and Slovenia. We have been setting high standards since the first day, we continuously improving, we are working on personal education and thanks to the team of professionals who make the Filipović Academy, we have earned recognition, both in Serbia and in the neighbouring countries. Digital transformation is in line with our mission and vision and perfectly fits into our motto that is „A STEP AHEAD OF EVERYONE“.
PORTABLE INTERACTIVE BOARD
As the pioneers and advocates of the application of modern technology in teaching, last year, the Filipović Academy started producing portable interactive board.