For this edition, we speak with Norwegian Ambassador to Serbia H.E Arne Bjornstad about education and the potential of Serbia’s IT sector.
Norway has managed to create, among other things, one of the world’s best-structured education systems. What can Serbia learn and implement in its education system, based on the Norwegian model?
– I would say it is objectives and tools that make the difference, not structure. Four elements are important. One of the fundamental principles of the Norwegian education model is to be inclusive, in the sense of having an adequate offer for everyone, regardless of their intellectual or practical inclinations and previous school results.
Secondly, the pupils must learn critical thinking and empirical methods, which stimulates creativity and flexibility more than repetitive learning or other kinds of dogmatic teaching methods.
Thirdly, we try to make the school and universities move with the times so that both the curriculum and tools are not lagging behind. This requires a flexible system, based both on the demands of pupils and employers. What use is it to employers if schools teach young people how to repair a Yugo when they will have to repair far more hybrid and electric cars than a diesel or petrol car from the last century? Schools and universities must prepare their students for the labour market of today and tomorrow. That means preparing for a globalised economy.
It is all about constantly adopting new technologies and working models, and the public sector using methods and tools from the private sector
The Norwegian economy and administration base development on the benefits of digitisation. How difficult it is to keep pace with the market in new technologies today?
– It’s all about constantly adopting new technologies and working models, and the public sector using methods and tools from the private sector. This means having a flexible system that is not too tied down by regulations, but where innovations are put to use with minimum delay. The danger is overregulation. By the time regulations are adopted they are probably obsolete, what with the speed of innovation we see today. Of course, you need norms for information security, protection of privacy etc., but flexibility is a key success criterion.
In your opinion, to what extent could the IT industry’s development contribute to the overall development of the economy in Serbia?
– The IT sector is perhaps Serbia’s greatest potential. Serbia has good engineers and a multilingual workforce. Although reforms undertaken to date in Serbia have already yielded results, they must continue. When Serbia joins the EU, I am sure it will see an important increase in investments in the IT sector.
There is another element to this too. Digitisation and the adoption of new working methods that take advantage of the possibilities offered by IT technologies for making public administration more efficient and transparent will free both resources spent on administration, as is done today, and resources not being put to use due to today’s time-consuming and sometimes unpredictable bureaucracy.