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Research Report

Education in BiH: What Do We (Not) Teach Children?

Školegijum redakcija

16.03.2018

Content Analysis of Textbooks of the National Group of Subjects in Primary Schools

Open Society Fund BH and proMENTE social research conducted and published a study on primary school textbooks entitled Education in BH: What Do We (Not) Teach Our Children, in 2017.  The study aimed to evaluate the curriculum policy reform in BH, using qualitative content analysis to examine 68 textbooks in all three curricula in the country.

The findings showed that the planned reform had not in effect taken place and that the concept of education was identical to that from 2007 – to serve as a basis for ethnic division, while cultivating intolerance, xenophobia and fear from others. Moreover, the new textbooks are more explicit in propagating conservative and patriarchal worldview, grounded in traditional relationships of obedience and conformation to norms. Conclusions are made on a small and select sample, without looking at the bigger picture or examining all aspects of an event or a phenomenon, which leads to incomplete understanding, stereotyping and non-critical thinking.

As an illustration, students in Bosnia and Herzegovina are expected to learn that: the Roma are nomads who engage in nothing other than petty trade, recyclable garbage collection and music; that Serbs and Montenegrins love to wage wars; that all immigrants in Europe are Muslim; that peoples with traditional lifestyles who engage in farming, hunting and fishing are, in fact, primitive; that the Middle East is characterized by conflicts, oil, Islam and terrorism; that Africa is poor and primitive; that Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans are synonymous with underdevelopment, stagnation, instability and conflict; that nation as a construct has been in existence since time immemorial; that atheist are immoral, with no clear purpose in life, doomed for disaster; that girls are pretty, kind and honorable, and that women are mothers first and foremost; that modernity is rife with challenges and disease, a time when no value is cherished, no tradition respected, a time when people are lonely and unhappy.

Based on all of the above, it follows that the dominant pedagogical function of textbooks is interpretative and ideological. That is why textbooks need to undergo a radical and comprehensive change within a wider process of curricular reform. This process should include: redefining the textbook as the main teaching tool, developing textbook quality standards, eliminating the so-called hidden curriculum, as well as redefining the position and role of the teacher in creating, assessing, selecting and using textbooks.

Read and download the study from here.

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