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Slavica Đukić Dejanović, Serbian Minister of Education

We Understand Digitalisation’s Challenges And Opportunities

Serbia is striding towards confronting all the changes dictated by contemporary global trends and is ready to respond to all the challenges in the field of education imposed by digitalisation and the fourth industrial revolution

Despite artificial intelligence and new technologies presenting new and major challenges to the education system, they also create opportunities, says Serbian Education Minister Slavica Đukić Dejanović. For example, it is a challenge to prepare pupils and students for the jobs of the future, and to prepare schools and teachers to use new technologies in their work and their approach to teaching and learning. That’s precisely why improving teaching content in primary and secondary schools in accordance with the needs set by the advance of artificial intelligence has been established as one of the goals of the Strategy for the Development of Artificial Intelligence in the Republic of Serbia for the 2020-2025 period. That’s why, according to Minister Đukić Dejanović, artificial intelligence has its place in the curriculum within the subjects of Informatics and Computing and Engineering and Technology, while reviews of this theme are also evident in the subject of the Digital World.

The Digital has been a compulsory subject within the first cycle of primary education from the first to fourth years of primary school as of the 2020/2021 school year. The general aim of teaching and learning in the Digital World is to develop students’ digital skills and thus enable them to safely and intelligently utilise digital devices for learning, communication, collaboration and developing algorithmic/ computational thinking.

Peer-to-peer violence is a complex social phenomenon requiring the engagement of not only the education system, but also the social and healthcare systems, the prosecution, the police, the local community and parents

In the second education cycle, from the fifth to eighth years of primary school, Informatics and Computing was introduced as a mandatory subject from the 2017/18 school year. Apart from this, fifth to eighth year pupils also have Engineering and Technology as a compulsory subject.

In secondary education, artificial intelligence forms part of the curriculum of several school subjects, mostly elective ones. For example, in the fourth year of high school, alongside other elective subjects, pupils can choose Modern Technology and thus learn about artificial intelligence.

“Given that artificial intelligence plays a significant role in people’s lives, the education system – like all other areas – has also recognised the importance of this segment of development and artificial intelligence has a clear place in the curriculum,” concludes Đukić Dejanović.

To what extent are the opinions of teachers included in education reform processes?

— The work of the Ministry is defined by the Strategy for the Development of Education until 2030 and accompanying Action Plan, and we work in accordance with that, in consultation with all relevant stakeholders.

The priorities include making education even more accessible and increasing the support provided to vulnerable groups, as well as further supporting gifted and talented pupils and students.

We will continue to improve conditions for work and learning through the implementing of infrastructure projects for the renovation and construction of nurseries, schools, colleges and dormitories, but also through the modernisation of teaching work and programmes. The Ministry, together with competent institutes and professional bodies, will continue to serve as support to the advancement of education and the teaching paradigm through the creation of a new, modern conception of schools. This naturally also encompasses training for teachers in the most varied fields, the goal of which is to improve the skills of education personnel.

The results of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey were the same in 2023 as they’d been back in 2019, and they weren’t overly favourable. What provides reason for optimism over the possible improvement of these indicators?

— PISA testing can’t be viewed from the perspective of just a single cycle. The results of the PISA 2022 survey were published in December 2023, with that research including the participation of approximately 690,000 students from 81 countries, while Serbia had the participation of 6,413 15-year-olds from 183 schools. They solved tests in reading, mathematics, scientific literacy and creative thinking.

The results for cognitive domains have already been published, while the results in the area of creative thinking will be known by this spring.

Pupils in the fourth year of high school can choose to learn about artificial intelligence

Serbia ranks in 40th place in reading and science, and is 42nd in mathematics, which represents an improvement compared to 2018, when it was ranked 45th in reading and 46th in science and mathematics.

Despite the fact that a proper picture of the education system isn’t created only on the basis of this result, this survey provides us with an opportunity to compare ourselves with other education systems, and this research should direct our efforts towards creating better, higher quality and more effective education.

The mass shooting at Belgrade’s Vladislav Ribnikar Primary School raised the issue of safety in schools in the most painful possible way. What steps has your Ministry taken to improve safety in schools and to support children and parents?

— Much has changed, starting with the way this school year began. We focused more on discussing virtues and values with pupils, as well as thematic teaching.

We amended legal regulations at the level of primary and secondary education in order to clarify procedures and actions in cases of violence.

This raft of legal amendments envisages the strengthening of the social education function of schools, as well as the implementation of previously established measures to better prevent and more effectively respond and take action in cases of violence in schools. Apart from that, it will also contribute to increasing the responsibility of all those engaged in school life, but will also expand possibilities when it comes to social education work.

These new developments also provide the possibility to reinforce social education work beyond school premises with pupils who commit acts of violence or exhibit problematic behaviour, the possibility of work that serves society and the engagement of schoolchildren within the framework of reinforced educational work, shortened deadlines for initiating and conducting disciplinary proceedings in cases of serious violations of pupils’ obligations, as well as postponing the enrolment of pupils in high school while disciplinary proceedings are conducted. Likewise, it also envisages more intensive cooperation and communication between all institutions dealing with violence – schools, the Interior Ministry, Centres for Social Work, local communities and others.

FOUNDATION

Teachers, expert associates and directors of educational institutions are crucial to creating change and represent our most important resource in modernising the teaching process

PROGRESS

We amended legal regulations at the level of primary and secondary education in order to clarify procedures and actions in cases of violence

SUPPORT

Schools need to be provided with direct support through pedagogical instructional work and the provision of mentoring support