Srđan Ognjanović, Director of the Mathematical Grammar School

World Conquered By Knowledge

Srđan Ognjanović, Director of the Mathematical Grammar School

“Three Golds for Mathematicians”, “Subscribed to Medals”, “Serbian Mint of Knowledge”, “Top of Europe for our Mathematicians”, “Best also at Cambridge”. These are just some of the headlines that have appeared in the media during recent years. And with good reason. The students of the Mathematical Grammar School achieved successes earlier, actually since 1966, when the school was founded, but they were not spoken of or were mentioned very discreetly. Now they are noted more often, but still not enough, in my opinion.

 

Specifically, these diligent, talented and successful secondary school students should serve as an example and role model to their peers, and not as is the case today – when the participants of reality shows like the Cooperative, Big Brother, Couples are literally ringing on all bells. Many wonder how it’s even possible for students of a small school in Serbia to retain an equal standing for years with their counterparts from the most populous and powerful nations: China, the United States and Russia; and for them often – as was the case this year – to prove more successful than all European countries, but also Japan, India etc.

The simplified answer is – great enthusiasm and good organisation. For over half a century, this school has been working with talented youngsters with great love. The energy brought in the 1960s by the school’s founder, Professor Vojin Dajović and his associates has multiplied over time.

Namely, after just a few years, when the best students of the first generation returned to the Grammar School as teachers, they passed on the love of mathematics that they’d received from their professors to their own students. And so it is to this day, such that whoever comes to the Mathematical Grammar School experiences it as a big family. Of course, a serious organisation is also essential.

It is necessary to monitor and select the most gifted students, to motivate them and provide them with the best conditions, because they deserve that, and above all it is necessary to find talented teachers, enable them to work in a high-quality way, to include in that work students and young assistants from the University, former competitors, to find funds for essential equipment and trips to the world Mathematical Olympiad Series, but also to numerous local preparatory competitions.

When talent, perseverance and hard work are combined, results are not lacking. That’s how the Mathematical Grammar School can boast of having amassed almost 600 medals at the World Mathematical Olympiads and almost as many PhDs, but also numerous pupils who’ve received scholarships to study at top universities – Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton, MIT etc.

The fact is that no other secondary school in the world has achieved such results. I will allow myself to conclude by being slightly personal. I’ve spent my entire life – since I enrolled in the Mathematical Grammar School in 1969, and after graduating from college and becoming a professor in 1976, and then director in 2008 – at this school. It has been gruelling and difficult, but also a wonderful period of my life, dedicated to gifted children, monitoring their maturing, advancement and top results.

Much has been achieved – not only in competitions, but also in the great contribution given to the advancement of education and science, but space will always exist to fix things, improve and innovate.

The Mathematical Grammar School should continue always to be open – as it has been to date – to creative pursuits, and the children who complete their education at this school, which can freely be described as an institution, should be tomorrow’s leading lights of Serbian science and Serbian society as a whole.