FEATURE ARTICLE: Character Education as a Key to European Integration

By Carol Dimovski, M.Ed.

The reform vision for the Republic of Macedonia, appropriately titled “Rebirth in 100 Steps”, released by VMRO-DPMNE and future Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, is the most impressive document that has come from any political party in the country’s young history.  The ex-Finance Minister and his ruling party have set ambitious goals that are supported with detailed steps that should be taken in order to achieve success.

The fact that the future Prime Minister’s area of expertise is finance is quite fitting, since strengthening the economy is the primary objective for the Republic of Macedonia.  However, one of the many interesting aspects of the “Rebirth” proposal is the outline of a strategic plan to fight against incidents of corruption that have negatively affected Macedonia’s image in Europe and throughout the world.  Dealing with corruption cases should be as high a priority as the growth of the economy.   

A report released on July 17, 2006 by the Center for Civil Communications in Skopje demonstrates corruption on the part of educators in the Republic of Macedonia.  The findings of this research outline weak institutions not willing to follow through with the investigation of corruption as one of the reasons that these illegal practices have been allowed to continue for so long.  While the governing body of the Ministry of Education and Science cannot be held solely responsible, the group should come forward and use the information that has been revealed to develop a systemic reform vision and identify the current practices and curriculums that need to be changed.  Failure to provide quality and corruption free education in the public schools is not a problem of any one political party, but an issue for the entire society.

Private universities and colleges in Macedonia, like the Euro College University Studies (www.eurocollege.edu.mk) among others, are taking education in Macedonia to a new level by creating a solid basis for the development of a professional workforce in the country.  Although expensive, these private educational institutions are proving serious competition to state owned schools by providing a modern approach to higher level learning, as well as a hands-on approach to teaching the latest technology trends.  These institutions are quickly becoming a desirable alternative to public education.

In order to make the transition into European society Macedonian educators should be held to the highest standards and set a good example of how citizens should behave in an orderly and democratic society.  The institutions that are responsible for cracking down on corruption should reevaluate their plans to eradicate this problem so that a clear message will be sent to the world that such behavior will no longer be tolerated in the Republic of Macedonia.  The initiative lies with the government to make stringent policies against corruption and introduce new policies that deal with character education so that a new generation of Macedonian citizens will rise to a higher level of moral and ethical responsibility.  The “Rebirth” plan mentions the inclusion of ethics in education, an objective that is similar to the core democratic principles that teachers in the United States must demonstrate in their curriculum.

How can policies in character education impact reform?  The main principles of character education: Citizenship and Patriotism, Responsibility, Good judgment, Honesty, Self-respect, Respect for others, Courage, and Compassion should become the goal of a unifying mission of reform.  The policies that are developed should include a system of guidelines that provide educators with a coherent framework for including character education in their curriculum, and suggestions for a common assessment method to ensure that the ideals are being taught in all parts of the country equally.

The United States Department of Education includes character education and core democratic ideals in a nation-wide initiative to prepare their children for success in the global market.  Their effort can be looked at as an example of how to decide what to include in a restructured curriculum.  Although the educational system in the United States has its share of critics, it would not be an exaggeration to say that despite the criticism, the system is one of the best in the world.  One important factor is its propensity to be self-critical and reflect on both its successes and failures.  In the United States, failure is not looked upon as a weakness, but it is utilized as a tool for change.

If the citizens of Macedonia are not sold on the need for systemic reform in public education, then they should decide how important European integration is to their future and realize that failing to undertake major reforms would not be looked upon kindly by countries with Western ideals.

“We must become the change we want to see.”   Mahatma Gandhi

Carol Dimovski works as an educator in the U.S.A. and is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Educational Administration.  Both of her parents are of Macedonian descent.


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