Navigating challenges and embracing innovation for a safer, smarter future
Slavica Djukić Dejanović
Minister of Education of the Republic of Serbia
At the recently held “World in 2024” conference, the Minister of Education of the Republic of Serbia, Slavica Djukić Dejanović, presented the key directions for the development of the education system in Serbia, emphasising the importance of safety in schools, mental health of children and young people, as well as continuous innovation and investment in education.
Minister Dejanović reflected on the past year’s challenges, particularly highlighting the tragic events at the “Vladislav Ribnikar” Elementary School in Belgrade and in the towns of Dubona and Orašje near Mladenovac. In response to these challenges, the Ministry of Education, in cooperation with other institutions, intensified efforts to create a safer and more stimulating environment in schools: “Unfortunately, this year was marked by tragic events in the Elementary School “Vladislav Ribnikar” in Belgrade, as well as places Dubona and Orašje, near Mladenovac. This is why the Ministry of Education, in cooperation with other institutions, made additional efforts this year to ensure a safe and stimulating environment for all those involved in the education system in our educational institutions. This year, we worked additionally on strengthening the learning component of our educational institutions and providing support to every child who needs it. We know that it is important to cultivate virtue in school, first of all, as a value in behavior, and that is why we additionally encouraged the cooperation of parents and teachers in these activities. We all have the same goal: a safe and stimulating environment for students and teachers. To prevent violence and respond to violence, amendments were adopted to several laws in the field of education and other acts. The goal of all these legislative changes is to make precise procedures in responding to violence, abuse, and neglect, as well as strengthen the competencies of educational institutions for acting in crises. To prepare the students, since the beginning of this school year, together with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, we have been implementing the project “Together and Safely through Childhood.” We have been teaching elementary school students about safety in emergencies through interactive workshops. We have also prepared the Manual for Crisis Interventions in the Education System, which represents the guidelines for the actions of institutions and communication in these challenging times. We are finalizing the amendments to the Rulebook on the Protocol for Actions in situations of violence, abuse, and neglect, and we have included actions in crisis interventions.”
We all have the same goal together, which is a safe and stimulating environment for students and teachers
Special emphasis is placed on preserving children’s and young people’s mental health and well-being. The Ministry of Education is one of the five ministries that signed the Multilateral Memorandum on Cooperation in the Field of Prevention and Protection of Mental Health. This initiative, together with the national platform “Čuvam te” (I’ll keep you safe) for reporting violence, represents key steps towards creating a safer environment for children: “In addition, preserving the mental health and well-being of children and young people is one of the most important tasks of any society. It is up to us to ensure a safe school environment and restore confidence at all levels of society that the school and all other places where our children stay are safe. To successfully restore trust, the involvement of everyone in the system is needed. Therefore, I am very proud that the Ministry of Education is one of the five ministries – signatories of the Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in preventing and protecting the mental health of children, adolescents, and young people (October 2023). The memorandum is the basis for coordinated action to improve the system of mental health and psychosocial support for children and young people in Serbia. In addition, online reporting of all forms of violence involving children is made possible via the national platform “Čuvam te” (I’ll keep you safe) and thus ensures more effective action by the competent systems in preventing violence against children and strengthening the capacity to combat it, through educational programs. So far, the platform has recorded over 74 thousand users. For the sake of students and teachers, we must constantly analyze the education system, review and improve it, and discuss it to seek solutions and compromises. Our task as a state is to recognize global trends, determine strategic development directions, devise measures, and strengthen the system so that today’s students become responsible young people.”
What is certain is that we strive to make education accessible to every child and to improve support for sensitive groups
The minister also emphasized significant investments in the education system and emphasized the important role of modernization and digitization in the education process: “From the budget of the Republic of Serbia, more than 2.5 billion Serbian dinars were invested in all levels of education in the past three years, and in cooperation with international financial institutions in the same period, close to 30 million euros were invested in the construction, extension, adaptation, and equipping of infrastructure at all levels of education. To create conditions for greater inclusion of children in preschool education and upbringing, with the support of the World Bank, we are building and expanding the capacities of 23 facilities in 22 local governments, which will provide 11,000 new places for children. Investment in education has been continuously growing since 2017. Aware of the role of employees in education, the Government made decisions on salary increases for employees in January of this year by 12.5%, then in September by 5.5%, and a 10% increase is planned from January 2024. Also, in the coming period, 2,672 people will be employed in educational institutions, which will realize the new seventh phase of employment for an indefinite period in education. From the beginning of 2020, the Ministry of Education and the Government of Serbia, in cooperation and agreement with trade unions, enabled indefinite employment in the education system. In this way, including the last, seventh phase of employment, the labour legal status of about 20,000 employees in education was resolved.
This is one of the ways in which the Government of Serbia advocates and shows care for the education system and educators. What is certain is that we strive to make education accessible to every child and to improve support for sensitive groups, to support the gifted and talented further, and to motivate pupils and students to learn by creating the best conditions for them to learn, both through improving the infrastructure of the schools and colleges themselves, homes, as well as through the modernization of work and programs. Among other things, we introduce new technologies as teaching tools, improve the digital competencies of teachers and students, and digitize the work process. All reform steps and directions for the development of education and training are defined by the Strategy for the Development of Education and Training until 2030. and the accompanying Action Plans, and we are working according to them. Since modern society and new technologies require continuous improvement of knowledge, investment in future generations, through their education, is the driving mechanism and strength in which lies the future of every society.”