Study visits to Poland and the Netherlands

May 5, 2022

Representatives of the education system institutions of the Republic of Serbia participated in two study visits organized by the project "EU Support for Education Reform in Serbia - Redis 2030" in order to strengthen capacities in the field of education. Study visits to Poland and the Netherlands were organized in a hybrid form, and more than 50 experts in the field of education from Serbia participated.

The study visit to Poland was intended for decision makers in the field of education policy, as well as employees in the system who can promote recommendations for improving the quality of education. Representatives of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, the Institute for Education Quality and Evaluation, the Institute for Improvement of Education participated, while the academic community was represented by an expert of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade.

The aim of the visit was to look at the key aspects of education reform in Poland, compare it with the reform of the domestic system and based on that, make recommendations on what can be applied in the further course of reforms in Serbia. The main question for the expert team that participated in the work was why the progress of the quality of education in Poland and Serbia differs, i.e. what are the key reform steps and activities that had led to the improvement of the education system in Poland and whether these patterns could be applied in Serbia as well.

As assessed by domestic experts after the visit, there are many similarities between the two systems, which facilitates the application of good practice in our education system. The decentralization of responsibilities for the quality of education and the quality of curricula, the training of principals and teachers for its implementation, support through textbooks and supporting materials for teaching and learning, the flexibility of the school network, the content and manner of implementation of programs adopted at local level are contributing to improving the quality of education and student achievement in Poland. In order for the Polish experience on decentralization of responsibilities to be transferred to our country, it was recommended to consider and redefine the roles, competencies and responsibilities of all involved in the implementation of the curriculum, especially school principals and the local community. But, at the same time, it is important to point out that a number of different institutions in Poland provides professional and financial support to those responsible for successful work. What the participants recognized as an important measure for improving quality is cross-sectoral cooperation and the involvement of a number of ministries in the field of education. Polish experts submitted all the required documentation on curriculum reform and its implementation in the new educational context, which will significantly facilitate the further work of our experts on improving the quality of education in Serbia.

The topic of the second study visit was the prevention of dropout and early school leaving. A group of 31 participants from Serbia, consisting partly of representatives of the intersectoral working group for the prevention of dropouts from pre-university education, and partly of representatives of local governments and schools, had the opportunity to learn about Dutch policies and mechanisms and exchange experiences and information on preventing students from dropping out of the education system with Dutch colleagues, but also on the importance of preventing early school leaving. The aim of the study visit was to assess the extent to which the Dutch experience can be applied in our system. The Netherlands was chosen as a country with which it is worth exchanging experiences on the prevention of dropping out and early school leaving, because it has been actively and cross-sectoral approaching and working on this issue for more than 20 years and has achieved significant success.

All participants in the study visit agreed that there was a lot of space for work, but it is also good that the Strategy for the Development of Education in the Republic of Serbia until 2030 envisages improving teachers' competencies for recognizing students at risk of dropping out and providing support those students. It was also determined that the legal framework at the national level is well established, but also that challenges arise in the application of the law and implementation at the local level. It was also concluded that the introduction of secondary education as compulsory would improve the situation regarding dropout and early school leaving, i.e., that it would have a positive impact on increasing the coverage of secondary education. Therefore, intensive work should be done on the campaign to raise awareness of the importance of education and retain students and young people in the education and training system, at least until the acquisition of the first qualification.

One of the preconditions for creating educational policies in this area is the possession of data on dropouts and early school leaving, which should be provided through a well-designed information system that would contain data from all levels. When it comes to the local level, the most important conclusion is the need for further improvement of legislation that would strengthen the role of local governments in preventing dropouts and early school leaving. The participants agreed that the experiences of colleagues from the Netherlands are very useful, but also that in creating and implementing educational policies in this area in Serbia should be realistic and keep in mind the economic development of our country, the size of schools that are significantly different from the Dutch. a large percentage of students in secondary vocational schools in our country, as well as the fact that a large part of the public is still not sufficiently familiar with the phenomena and consequences of dropping out of the education system on socio-economic development of the country and should work continuously.

During both study visits, although organized online, active participation and direct communication with Polish and Dutch experts through comments and questions was enabled. There is also a space for monitoring the events of observers, interested in this topic, but without the possibility of getting involved in communication.