High School Students in Bosnia and Herzegovina Demand Their Rights

Student protest Auckland 16Oct1997More than 200 BiH high school students gathered at the major city square in the capital of Sarajevo demanding their rights. With duct tape placed over their mouths, they symbolically expressed their powerlessness when it comes to speaking their minds and being heard by the proper authorities. Students were seeking answers to the questions such as “who can we turn to when our rights are violated?”, “how can we take part in creation of class curricula?” and “why aren’t there any teacher evaluations?”

Students also placed 13 chairs in the city square representing the 13 ministries of education that operate in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Only the minister of education from the Sarajevo Canton, Mr. Damir Marjanovic, was present to talk to students and answer their questions. Minister Marjanovic expressed his hope that this generation of students will be the one that will change the country for the better, and emphasized that only if and when they speak loudly and clearly enough will politicians listen. He urged them to talk to their school administrator, principal and even their education ministers if they feel their rights have been violated.

This protest is part of a wider movement called “We want to know” that included gatherings of students in all the major cities in the country with the aim of raising awareness of the current situation of education system in BiH and the issues students have to deal with on every day basis.

Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina is highly decentralized. There are 13 ministries of education – 2 entity, 10 cantonal and one for Brcko District – each following different programs and curricula. Certain schools still practice de facto segregation of children based on their ethnic belonging, even though this was ruled unconstitutional in 2012.

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BiH High School Students Offer Solutions to the Problems in Their Local Community

Federal Ministry of Education and Science of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the local association “Infohouse” organized 6th annual “Volunteer-Finance” fair in order to present the results of last year’s Social day. Social day is a part of Infohouse’s “Volunteer-Finance” project and aims at giving high school students all over Bosnia and Herzegovina an opportunity to work for one day in their local community. However, instead of getting paid, students’ per diems are deposited into an account especially created to fund projects students want to see realized in their communities.
Volunteerism Needed
This year’s fair was attended by over 600 students from 107 high schools, coming from 40 different cities in BiH. Together, they raised over 33.000KM (cca. $22.000). Students had the opportunity to volunteer in close to 500 different private and public companies, NGOs, and government institutions. Federal Ministry of Education and Science was the biggest employee, housing 150 students during the Social Day in October of last year.

At the fair, students offered 107 different projects aimed at solving variety of issues their local communities and youth are faced with, ranging from environmental protection and conservation of the local forests, theater, youth camps, and the preservation of local culture and traditions. The Mayor of each participating municipality will receive a booklet containing projects initiated by the students in order to financially support their realization.

“Volunteer-Finance” was started in 2007 with the idea of strengthening the capacity of BiH youth and enabling them to take responsibility for their future, while interacting with their local community to promote solidarity, volunteerism, and general work ethics. So far, over 7000 students took part in this project, raising total of 130.000KM (cca. $87.500).

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Plans for ‘One BiH, One Book’ Project Undergoing in Bosnia and Herzegovina

One Book One City
The United States Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has recently revealed its plans for the realization of ‘One BiH, One Book‘ project. Project is to be realized in cooperation with the publishing house “Sahinpasic” and “SOS Design” and includes 69 high schools from 39 different cities across Bosnia and Herzegovina.

‘One BiH, One Book’ is inspired by the American projects of reading in communities such as ‘One City, One Book‘ and ‘What if the entire Seattle read the same book?’, initiated by the librarian Nancy Pearl. The idea of having similar projects in BiH was born when Nancy Pearl visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in January 2013 and held workshops and seminars in schools and libraries across the country.

The book of choice for this project was Sherman Alexie’s award winning novel The absolute true diary of a part-time Indian. According to Sunshine Ison, the cultural attaché at the US Embassy in BiH, this book is a chance for BiH students to learn more about culture and traditions of the United States. She also emphasized that this project is an opportunity for young people to get to know each other and communicate their ideas and opinions, and use the book’s theme to discuss challenges of a multi-cultural societies such as BiH and US.

So far, 1400 books were distributed across participating schools, but it is estimated that around 2000 young people already read it; an impressive number considering that the books are entirely in English. The program will end in mid-May with the two day festival that will include English spelling bee contest, students’ presentations, plays and performances and the visit from the book illustrator Ellen Forney. 21 BiH students will also have the opportunity to visit Seattle where they’ll meet book’s author, Sherman Alexie.

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Online Trade of College Papers Booming in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Slogans such as, “Our knowledge in service of your success,” or “Free up your time for other activities and let us create your work,” advertise a booming business that is taking over BiH and the region. Over the past few years there has been an increase in the number of websites and social media pages (mostly Facebook) that offer college essays, term papers, graduate, masters’ and even doctoral theses for the right price. This trend has become a “public secret” – accepted by students, overlooked by universities, and ignored by authorities.
Coupon for plagiarism
The prices of “services” rendered by these internet portals or individual sellers vary depending on the scope of the work in question. They can reach as high as 2.000KM (cca. $1.200) for masters’ or doctoral theses. Prices can also differ based on whether  the topic sought is already in “stock” or needs to be written anew. The possibilities are endless: law, economy and sociology, communications, agriculture, sports, etc.

What should be considered illegal and unethical, passes in BiH as a legitimate business, because the current legal framework does not have a provision that could ban such activities. On the one hand, ministries of education claim that it is up to each university to discover and sanction plagiarized work. Universities, on the other hand, are understaffed, and students often don’t get to have “one-on-one” contact with their supervising professors. This results in a lack of direction and support that students need from their professors. Additionally, professors are unfamiliar with their students’ work, which makes it easy for students to turn in plagiarized papers. There is also no plagiarism detection software available to professors, making the recognition of stolen work that much more difficult.

College papers are not the only things being bought and sold in BiH. Recently, a large number of “fake” diplomas were discovered, some belonging to high ranking government officials. This begs the question: has BiH become a society that values the diploma more than actual knowledge?

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External Evaluations to Replace High School Entrance Exams for BiH Students

Standardized TestThe end of the 2012-2013 school year in June will introduce the first generation of students in Bosnia and Herzegovina who will be externally evaluated for knowledge acquisition during their years in junior high school. External evaluations will replace customary entrance exams students were required to take in order to get into a high school of their choice.

This push for external evaluations comes from the European Union. Under its IPA (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance) project, “Strengthening the institutional capacity of the preschool, elementary and secondary education,” the EU granted 500,000 euros to BiH to use for this project and its other components: comparative analysis, institutional development, agency networking in EU, and capacity building. The consortium partner in the implementation of this project is the Republic of Slovenia, a former Yugoslav republic and a recent EU member. The Slovenian National institute for education, National examination centre, and Centre for vocational education and training will share their experience and knowledge with Bosnian counterparts and assist the BiH Agency for preschool, middle school and high school education in becoming a totally functional institution, capable of providing quality education in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The external evaluation tests students’ knowledge in five areas: “mother tongue” (Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian), main foreign language studied during junior high, math and two elective courses in the field of social and/or natural sciences. Similar to SAT tests in the United States, the exam will be available in various practice editions for students. Preparation documents will catalogue questions from all five fields, so that students can practice and prepare for the actual evaluations. However, the BiH evaluation is more than just a test of students’ knowledge. It is also a form of teacher and curricula evaluation and it will provide insight as to how well schools have followed the curricula and whether any adjustments should be made for the following school year.

Although the introduction of external evaluations is a legal obligation for all ten cantons in the country, only students from Sarajevo Canton will in fact take part in the evaluations this school year.

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Software Developers Among Most Wanted in BiH

The ABC's of ITFollowing the global market and industry trends, the information and communication technology sector is becoming one of the fastest growing industries in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the latest research, some of the most sought after jobs in the country include software developers and IT programmers. IT companies have a hard time finding skilled workforce to fill these positions due to inadequate education and training for young people wishing to enter the industry.

Hoping to improve the situation, the Education Development Center (EDC) launched a pilot internship program aimed at providing training in the ICT skills required for some of the most common sector careers, such as web developer and software programmer. A four week program was attended by 50 high school and university students across BiH. Participants received both theoretical and practical learning, with six private companies mentoring them, teaching them theory, and helping them with their software development projects.

“The internships provided students with a bridge from the classroom into business,” said EDC’s Cornelia Janke, director of Partnership for Innovation. “The internships show them how what they learned in school—for example, in math or engineering—is applied in business. They learned the theory behind software development and how to carry out and manage their own hands-on projects.”

The internship program is just one of several Partnership for Innovation projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Four Business Innovation Centers, set up across the country, will serve  as help centers for small and medium sized businesses wishing to use ICT to enhance their competitiveness and productivity, as well as as training hubs for young people who want to learn ICT skills or start their own business.

The Partnership for Innovation project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and managed by the EDC.

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Regional Ministerial Round Table on Science, Technology, and Innovation Held in Sarajevo

ParliamentMinisters of science from several countries in Southeastern Europe met in Sarajevo for the round table on science, technology, and innovation. The meeting was organized by the Ministry of civil affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO). Among the attendees were ministers of science and education from BiH, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia, as well as representatives from ministries in Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and Moldova.

The round table was aimed at strengthening regional cooperation in the field of science and technology. The ministers recognized that science transcends political borders and that it can enhance cooperation and act as a catalyst for stability in the region. They acknowledged the relevance of the EU Framework Programs and other EU funding schemes and agreed that Southeast European countries should speak in one voice to the European Union when it comes to the issues they commonly agree on.

Some of the recommendations and conclusions from the meeting include:
• SEE countries will continue to draw attention towards increasing budgets for science, technology, and innovation.
• Facilitate partnerships between public and private sectors in the fields of science, technology, and innovation.
• Create better strategies and increase investments in international science, technology, innovative projects, and research capacities in SEE.
• Facilitate partnerships between the public and private sectors in the fields of science, technology, and innovation.

UNESCO expressly stated that SEE countries are of great importance and interest to the whole international community because of they are the proof that, despite their differences, they share many similarities that can help build a base for a solid partnership.

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Sarajevo School of Science and Technology Hosts First Google Bootcamp in BiH

The Sarajevo School of Science and Technology (SSST) hosted the first ever Google Bootcamp Workshop in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The workshop was organized in cooperation with Google Startup Weekend  and with support from Google’s Student Ambassador and the first BiH student to win Google’s prestegious «Dr. Anita Borg» scholarship, Selma Causevic.

google_logo The three-day bootcamp brought together young JavaScript developers across the country with the aim to further educate them in the field of HTML5 technologies. Lectures and workshops provided participants with knowledge on how to use Google’s JavaScript Framework and AngularJS to build a dynamic web interface, and they were able to put that knowledge to use in the practical portion of the workshop. Participants had the opportunity to pitch their ideas and compete for some worthy prizes, such as visit to the Blackbox Mansion in Sillicon Valley, CA (airfare and accomodation included), consultancy services and yearly web hosting packages, and office space in Sarajevo.

Overall, there were 80 participants, 17 mentors, and 10 team members attending the event.

SSST is the best and most renowned private university in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It recently opened a new, state-of-the-art campus in the country’s capital of Sarajevo. The new campus takes up 10.000m2 (cca.108.000ft2) of land, and with building costs of six million euros, it is the biggest private investment made in the country in the past two decades.

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Fix My School Project Launched in BiH

School.The Association U.S. Alumni in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the citizens’ association ZASTO NE launched the Fix My School website with the aim of giving  primary, middle school, and high school students an opportunity to publicly point out problems in education (more specifically in their respective schools) and to demand from proper authorities a solution to these problems.

The idea behind the creation of this website is the need for a platform where students can, without fear or embarrassment, freely express what they see as problematic in the education and school system. This, in turn, stimulates them to become more proactive and take part in discussions that pertain to their education.

Some categories of problems that students can address include infrastructure, quality of education, corruption, textbooks, curriculum, extracurricular activities, etc. Once reported, the problem is verified by an outside party, usually volunteers within created organizations. Then, it’s taken up to municipal officials, if necessary. Some of the most pressing problems reported include safety issues due to poor school infrastructure, corruption, and lack of proper textbooks that follow the teaching curriculum.

Project Fix My School was one of 38 winners of the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund 2011 (there were 700 entries) and is partially funded by a United States government grant.

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Kim Jong Il’s Grandson Begins His Senior Year in Bosnian High School

Kim Han Sol, the grandson of the “dearest leader,” former North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, is entering his final year at the United World College in Mostar. Last year, the then 16-year-old Han Sol enrolled at UWC Mostar for his final two years of high school, after being denied a visa to study at the same school in Hong Kong. The arrival of Han Sol in Mostar was met with media frenzy, both at home and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, UWC officials urged reporters to respect Han Sol’s privacy, stating that, as a minor, he is not of public interest and that he will not be treated any differently from any other student.

Sign for United World College in Mostar Gymnasium - Mostar - Bosnia and HerzegovinaHan Sol’s reasons for choosing BiH are unclear. However, some believe the choice will serve to benefit him, despite the fact that the country has suffered from recent conflict and is ethnically divided. “I think it’s a good school for Kim because I think it will give him insight into other conflicts – the ways in which they’re being handled or mishandled, as the case may be. I think it will broaden his perspective of something that I know matters a lot to him, and that is the division on the Korean Peninsula,” said Stephen Codrington, former principal of UWC Hong Kong.

In a recent interview on Finnish television, Kim Han Sol expressed his dream of going back home and making life better and easier for his people. “I also dream of unification because it’s really sad that I can’t go there and see my friends over there, and yeah, its a really sad story,” Kim said. His plan is to work on building peace in the world, especially in his motherland.

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