Slađan Tomić for UNICEF
In cooperation with UNICEF, the Ministry for Education, Science and Youth of the Sarajevo Canton has organized 20 virtual workshops over a period of three months. Due to high interest, the number of participants increased from 100 to 250 per workshop.
Since mid-March, all primary and secondary schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in around 400,000 children not going to school.
The closing of school buildings did not stop learning. Educational institutions in BiH have applied good practices from the very start and introduced teaching via online platforms.
In partnership with UNICEF, the educational authorities started implementing projects adjusted to local needs. On top of the acquisition of technological equipment and access to the internet as preconditions for online teaching, it was necessary to enhance professional capacity for teachers in order to improve online teaching.
“Education in BiH is facing unprecedented challenges when it comes to ensuring access to quality education for all children. This pandemic opened windows of opportunity for innovations in the education system and the introduction of digital content, during and after the pandemic. The quality of education is dependent on the quality of teaching, and it is, therefore, crucial to supporting teachers to develop their professional skills to adapt to the new environment. UNICEF will continue to support the educational authorities in BiH in ensuring that every child, regardless of their background, has an opportunity to learn and develop their potential,” said Dr. Rownak Khan, UNICEF Representative in BiH.
Ministry for Education, Science and Youth of the Sarajevo Canton immediately started educating both parents and children, but this method of teaching had to be learned also by teachers and administrative staff. Although some schools have had one week of online school for years now, which made the adjustment period easier, most teachers had to go through additional training in order to improve the quality of online teaching.
Cooperation between the Sarajevo Canton Ministry for Education, Science and Youth and the UNICEF resulted in 20 virtual workshops held between April and June. On average, each workshop was attended by around 250 teachers from the Sarajevo Canton, other cantons, but also from the countries in the region. A total of 4000 participants were given an opportunity to acquire new digital skills while staying at home.
Minister for Education, Science and Youth of the Sarajevo Canton, Anis Krivić, said that virtual workshops were a fast and efficient way to train teachers and equip schools for online teaching, to acquire knowledge and enable communication and exchange of experiences and good practices. “The standard methods of education were not possible during the pandemic, and even if they had been, they would have cost more and required many more people and longer time to implement,” he said.
One of the trainers, the principal of the elementary school Safvet-beg Bašagić, Namir Ibrahimović, whose lecture was about instructions with examples of project-based learning, talked to the participants about comprehensive education and the context for online teaching in a general education system. “We thought about all paradigm changes that needed to be done in order for teaching to be more flexible, meaningful, verifiable, and for evaluation of students' work to be concrete and detailed,” Ibrahimović said.
In one workshop, Professor Lejla Kafedžić had to explain the standards of easy readability to participants, in order for teaching content to be easily understood by all children, including children with intellectual disabilities. Write shorter and simpler sentences, don’t use metaphors, use readable fonts, are some of the basic guidelines for preparing “easily readable texts.” Prof. Kafedžić said that simple information does not have to be understandable to all students. “That is why it is important to know our students and know if that which is simple is also easily understandable,” she explained.
Member of the Support Team for implementation of online teaching and lecturer at workshops, Adin Begić, said that there was more interest than anticipated and they increased the planned number of 100 participants per workshop to 250. Although this training method was the only one possible at the time, it could become the usual practice in the coming period. “Considering the positive reactions and large interest we have experienced, we plan to continue with this type of training and some online workshops with smaller groups. After each workshop, the participants were given the opportunity to communicate directly or ask questions of lecturers, which is why some workshops took longer than planned,” Begić said about the plans of the Ministry.
After evaluation, the Ministry will give more space to virtual content, and the workshops are available on the YouTube channel of the Ministry.