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Aleksandar Kavčić, Founder Of The Alek Kavcic Foundation

Exercise For The Greater Good

No one can be inventive without thinking originally and distinctly. At the Foundation we aren’t afraid of inventing new methods that raise the level and quality of education. And demonstrating inventiveness, and leading by example, is also an educational tool – one that teaches and emboldens others to think differently themselves.

A first grader who starts school in the next 2022/23 school year will never have to buy textbooks – because – in a nutshell – it is at this point that the Alek Kavcic Foundation’s idea of providing free books to children aged seven will be realised. While the Foundation doesn’t fill its book collection by grade, children in each grade receive the possibility of coming closer to receiving free schooling. However, this battle still isn’t over for many reasons.

Who is the winner of your ongoing struggle to secure free school textbooks?

The students are undoubtedly the winners. They are the ones who benefit from a free public education. As a reminder, free education, without hidden costs (such as textbook costs), is a basic human right guaranteed by both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Serbian Constitution. Upholding rights guaranteed under the constitution is certainly a victory for all citizens of Serbia, especially those of school age.

How many schools and parents have voted for your offer, as you say, with their wallets?

More than 300 (of a total of about 1,300) schools in Serbia use some of the books that are free on our website besplatnabibioteka. com. However, interestingly, a good percentage of those schools are actually unaware that the books they use are free, and they still require pupils and/or parents to buy textbooks. We are working to change this. We expect more schools, parents and pupils to benefit from free textbooks in the next school year, as the number of textbooks offered in our programme grows.

We expect more schools, parents and pupils to benefit from free textbooks in the next school year, as the number of textbooks offered in our programme grows

Your disputes with Klett are well known, but what about the state? Is your cooperation with the state publisher of school textbooks a sign that your ideas are at least being partially embraced, or not?

Our free textbook programme is growing, and is well received by both the state publisher and the readers, i.e., schoolchildren. Sadly, Klett, which is a German multinational publishing house that owns three publishing companies in Serbia (Klett, Logos and Freska), has a problem with our growing programme. Klett’s main motivation is fear for their shrinking profits. It is unfortunate that profit is a motivator for a multinational company that tries to market itself as an “educator” that is, supposedly, primarily interested in dispersing knowledge. Klett has launched lawsuits against me and against the Alek Kavčić Foundation, but out legal team is handling these lawsuits very well and I expect us to prove victorious. There is no law that prevents the Foundation, or me personally, as a citizen of Serbia, from supplying free textbooks to my fellow citizens, for the benefit of Serbia as a nation. A German company should not have a say in this matter.

If the schedule is correct, then the list of textbooks required for the fourth grade is already known, while the list for the eighth grade will be published soon. How many books on this list will be yours?

We don’t fill our book collection by grade. Rather, we work on providing textbooks for all grades in parallel, concurrently. Naturally, eighth grade has more subjects than first grade, so it is going to be easier to provide all textbooks for first grade than eighth grade. In fact, at this point in time, we have completed all textbooks for first grade, so a first grader who starts school in the next 2022/23 school year will never have to buy textbooks. We expect to successively fill the rosters of other grades within the next two years, and the Foundation will provide all those elementary school textbooks, for all school subjects, free of charge.

There is no law that prevents the Foundation, or me personally, as a citizen of Serbia, from supplying free textbooks to my fellow citizens for the benefit of Serbia as a nation. A German company should not have a say in this matter

Until recently, your offer only included books in pdf format or printed versions. Is your digital version of books going to be free and how can this equate to the financial sustainability of your endeavour?

A digital textbook doesn’t differ much from a pdf textbook. In fact, a digital textbook is a pdf, but it has more than just text and pictures, in the form of interactive material, videos, exercises etc. But it must be understood that the pdf is the background of any book, whether it is interactive or not. The creation of any digital, electronic or cyber textbook requires some funding, but it is a one-off expense. Once the pdf and/or the digital textbook is created, it is done; it doesn’t need extra monthly maintenance. All that is required is to put it on a website for everyone to download and use. Putting something on a website requires no additional cost (except for the negligible costs of a few dollars per month to maintain the website), so our programme is in fact financially SUSTAINABLE. That is actually the beauty of it.

At the end of the day, what is more important for the improvement of the quality of education in Serbia: free access to textbooks or the freedom to think differently?

Both. They are complementary. Free education is a basic human right, so textbooks must be free. A free education is a prerequisite for a nation’s prosperity. Being inventive in the way we utilise resources is an exercise in thinking freely and differently. No one can be inventive without thinking originally and distinctly. We, at the Foundation, aren’t afraid to invent new methods that raise the level and quality of education. Demonstrating inventiveness, and leading by example, is also an educational tool – one that teaches and emboldens others to think differently themselves.

If you could add one thing from the U.S. method of teaching, what that would be?

Inventiveness in the classroom. Moulding all teachers to conform to the same boring standards is not the best way to educate.