On 22 September, the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development organised the “For the Wellbeing of our Children – Inclusion of Parents in the Education System” conference.
The aim of the conference was to promote a culture of appreciation, cooperation and partnership among the various actors involved in the education system, to highlight examples of good practice, to identify obstacles faced by parents from vulnerable groups and to point out the importance of involving all parents in the education system in order to contribute to the education of every child.
The conference was opened by Anamarija Viček, State Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development. On this occasion, Ms. Viček highlighted the inclusive component supported by the Ministry by organising this conference and added that inclusive education includes all children. Furthermore, she reminded that support to parents was also envisaged by the World Bank Loan for Preschool Education and Care. At the beginning of her speech, Severine Leonardi, the Deputy Director of UNICEF in Serbia, said that parents were the first teachers of their children, and in order to provide adequate support to children, first support to parents must be provided. Ivan Sekulović, the Manager of the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit, pointed out that, in 2009, a good inclusive theoretical basis had been established, but the practice had been neglected and added that only joint ownership of that wonderful idea would improve the situation in society. Apart from providing the overview of initiatives from the field of education, the introductory speakers also shared their experiences and challenges of being a parent.
Doloris Ašković, the representative of the Union of Secondary School Students of Serbia, also addressed the participants. She pointed out that children and young people should be more involved in the decision-making and planning process related to education and upbringing because everyone involved had the same interests and a common goal. Žana Bogunović, Junior Education Policy Officer (Tempus Foundation) presented the conclusions from the “Parent involvement in schools and preschool institutions” conference which was held in May of this year.
Dragan Ilić, a psychologist, and radio and television host, spoke about his parenting experiences in the education system and reminded that parents usually go to school after there had been a problem with their child. He added that in order to establish trust and cooperation, communication between parents and teachers needed to be developed. He also emphasised the importance of organising activities which involve both the school and the parents, with which school activities could be changed significantly, and children could be shown how important the education actually was.
After the plenary part of the conference, the participants took part in three parallel workshops during which they presented their proposals for improving the role of parents in education and upbringing, topics covered were: how to achieve partnership – partnership and cooperation of representatives of local self-government, parents and education system employees; children from vulnerable groups – benefits stemming from inclusive education; mutual strengthening of parents for providing active support to children – common understanding of educational and disciplinary needs of children living in municipality/city area and initiating changes.
Recommendations and conclusions derived from these workshops will be presented to the general public and sent to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development for further improvement of cooperation with parents.
The conference was attended by representatives of local self-governments, school management, parent and teacher associations, other parent associations, Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, and partner organisations (UNICEF, CIP, MODS, NARNS). A large number of partners contributed to the organisation of the conference, which speaks to the importance of recognising parents as a significant resource in the education process.
The conference is one of the activities within the “Inclusion of parents in the education system” programme which was initiated by the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia in order to strengthen the collaborative relationship between parents, teachers and local community, and therefore contribute to the development of democracy and fairness in the education system. Furthermore, the programme will support the activities implemented by the National Association of Parents and Teachers, as well as the future establishment and work of Municipal Parent Associations.