Predrag sustar.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Lana SLIVAR DOMINIĆ/ lsd

The irrevocable resignations tendered on Wednesday by the head of a seven-member team of experts working on an integral curricular reform, Boris Jokic, and his associates elicited harsh criticism of the government and demands for the resignation of Science, Education and Sports Minister Predrag Sustar.

The Preporod union of employees in the education system said that the current government had evidently not taken its last chance to maintain its reform character, as could be seen from the first reactions by government officials after the offer of cooperation by Jokic's team was described as blackmail and ultimatum without any reason.

"Instead of granting the justified requests by the curricular reform team, notably the request for the payment of all due fees to teachers involved in the project, the government decided to ignore the requests, thus bringing into question the continuation of the project. Serious work by several hundred enthusiasts has been annulled just like that. After 'courageously' refusing to respond to the requests, Predrag Sustar should tender an irrevocable resignation to at least save face since he has failed to save the national education system," union leader Zeljko Stipic said.

"... retrograde forces, both visible and invisible, have claimed another important victory against those who for the past 16 months tried to save what could be saved of our common future. Today all those who think that life in Croatia can be different and better have been defeated. A different and better life should result from a different attitude to knowledge and education," said Stipic.

He stressed that changes in the education system, devised by some 500 teachers, would obviously not happen.

"Whether there will be 'other changes', remains to be seen. Education will probably continue to be on the margins of social and political priorities. Croatia will continue to be, for a long time to come, a country of hopelessness, a country its citizens will emigrate from, a country whose citizens have given up their own prosperity," he said.

The opposition Croatian People's Party (HNS) said the resignation of the team working on the curricular reform was the biggest disgrace of the incumbent government which, it said, by interfering in the reform had prevented the autonomous work of experts.

"Instead of discussing progress and life-long learning as a must in the 21st century, Croatia is unfortunately experiencing the termination of one of the most important reforms," said the party.

Another opposition party, Hrid, opposed any political pressure on experts involved in the curricular reform.

"If yet another year is lost due to political and ideological debates or debates such as 'our expert is better than yours', Croatia will lose yet another chance to improve the education system."

"We call for putting an end to a harmful practice where with each change of government, there begins a 'new era'. Can't there be continuity in anything? Does anyone ask themselves after the latest developments how 65,000 teachers will find the motivation and will to teach children in a different way and prepare them for the future? Not to mention their being underpaid and other current problems of the Croatian education system. Politics has again failed due to its shallow and superficial attitude, while other countries make progress by investing in the education system," Hrid said.

The non-parliamentary party "Pametno" called on Minister Sustar, the entire government as well as members of Parliament, notably Gordana Rusak, chair of the parliamentary education committee, to resign over the resignation of Jokic's team.

"Since coming to power they have been destroying our present, and we must not allow them to destroy our future too. The main priorities of every modern society are education, education and education. What is now going on in Croatia is one of the biggest disasters since the establishment of the country's independence. The entire curricular reform, the most important of all reforms ever planned and launched in Croatia, has been perfidiously stopped," said Ivica Puljak of that party.

He called on citizens to oppose such policy. "The ruling coalition, in which the most responsible are the HDZ and Bridge, has stopped the Croatian future. That is the worst thing that can happen to a country, and they have made it a reality," Puljak said.

The steering board of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences (HAZU) today supported the national team for the curricular reform in continuing the reform, calling on Sustar to reject the conclusion of the parliamentary committee on education, science and culture and do what was necessary so that the implementation of the reform could start.

"The proposed changes build on numerous valuable attempts and initiatives launched in the past 25 years from which good solutions have been adopted. Taking into consideration that the preparation of the curricular reform so far has been based, with its approach, structured work, respect for legal deadlines and strategic documents and its results, on clearly defined basic values of education in the interest of children and young people, we see no reason for the inclusion of ten additional experts in the expert group as proposed by the parliamentary committee."

HAZU recalled that members of the expert team had been selected in a public procedure, after the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports invited applications, based on their CVs and in line with professional criteria.

HAZU also recalled that from March 15 to May 15, an expert public discussion was held on 52 draft curricular documents. During the discussion, 2,759 comments were submitted, including 1,846 in the form of conclusions from teacher meetings, and 913 by individual experts, institutions and organisations. A total of 64,847 persons participated in teacher meetings at which the draft documents were discussed.

The head of the parliamentary committee on science, education and sport, independent MP Gordana Rusak, today expressed regret at Jokic's decision to resign.

Jokic and his team have been supported by two-thirds of a total of 350 teachers who have worked on the curricular reform, the web portal for teachers, Nastavnici.org, said today.

It called on the government and all institutions to stop paying lip service to the reform and actively support it "so that our children could eventually become content, ideologically free citizens, equal and competent citizens of the 21st century world."

"We recall that the purpose of the reform is to benefit the well-being of children and development of Croatian society, regardless of political preferences and world-views," reads a statement signed by members of 27 out of a total of 32 expert working groups.

They expressed solidarity with Jokic and his team, calling for creating conditions for the completion of the project according to professional criteria.

Of all education reforms, this is the first in which everyone had the opportunity to participate, which many individuals and institutions did, the portal said.

It resented the ignorance and lack of information and interest of state institutions and political groups in the education system.

"The job we did is far from perfect, but the only way to correct it is according to the said principles of expertise, democracy and transparency, and not by hasty political decisions," the portal said.

Social Democrat (SDP) parliamentarian Sabina Glasovac today joined in calls for the resignation of Minister Sustar over the latest developments.

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