OpEd

The three dimensions of a tangle

Education in Kosovo today has taken the form of a tangle. To the one who the system put him in the position he is in today. Near the bottom of the list of places tested in reading, math and science. And for the third time in a row. Not even the tiniest thread of this thread that would be tied to the needle that would deprave it can be found anymore.

He is pedantic and uncombed whenever you happen to meet him. It's been 30 or so years. Close to 40 I guess. Teacher in a well-known school in the capital. Strict as can be. He is known as the man who knows how to discipline even the most undisciplined. Since it is such, it is chosen every time the problems need to be put into perspective.

This year the mission has the "worst" class, as it is called. The one who is always known for trouble. Which is identified with noise and absence. That he doesn't "draw" any of his teaching colleagues to happily conduct a lesson there. We are talking about 30 or so students, each with their own unique nature. The burden to put them in some order falls on his shoulders. This teacher, who in this article is teacher A, starts the work with his own and proven methods. He says that so far they have started working.

"Good for good. For the worst, even the worst", is the mantra that he thinks brought him the current successes. And on the way to success, he always looks for allies. To other teachers, technical workers, parents... and what is most important, to the students themselves. He begs that everyone, as far as he knows and can, report to him even the smallest evil of the class. If the information they serve is confirmed correct, the reward for the "faithful informant" follows. A plus in his subject.

In today's conditions, the plus is pretty much a luxury. Teacher A complains that he has filled the diary with the names of students who have two or more units. I don't know how to solve weak success. In the end, he says without a single evil, even so in the end, no one will be left. They will all come out a class away. That a great "someone", whose name I do not give, gives orders like this.

*****

Advanced in age, but modern and young in spirit, teacher B. Goxha dedicated a part of his life, from the mid-70s until the outbreak of the war, to this profession. He was never strict. With problems and problematic students, I don't think it happened that he had a job continuously. That during his long career as a professor, he has taken care of countless classes. The good ones, with excellent students in the majority, but also those with weaker success, with absences, remarks, pre-exclusions and what not.

The teacher, young at the time, set two goals for himself. It would encourage all students to think critically for easier problem solving. He challenged them first with drawings. He would choose one, completely at random, take it out on the board and push him to make lines and scribbles that only his mind can produce. He always found a solution to the mess he created with chalk on the board. Sometimes in the form of a needle that hangs there somewhere at the end tied to the thread of that made-up nonsense of shapeless dashes, sometimes like some animal, plant or mermaid. More imagination work.

The solution was always appreciated with laughter by the students. The lesson never got stale.

The second goal was more challenging. To make them love reading. On a school day, sometime in his 80s, he enters one of the classes that was constantly causing problems for his colleague, with as many books in his hands as there were students. Thirty-two.

Some he bought for this reason, and some he took from his home library. He gave one to each of the students. He set a deadline of I don't know how many days to read them. When the deadline passed, he asked to exchange the books he had read. At the end of the half year, everyone would have read 32 books.

Yes, he admits it himself. Not all of them read the thirty-second, but he says that at least 80 or 85 percent did.

He remembers the long-ago event during a completely spontaneous conversation, in the company of a glass of black wine, one evening this early December, one of these students comes to mind. It shows that today he has become a well-known doctor somewhere in New York, where he has been living since the war. Even though both are in the same city, he has never met the student. But what reminded him of his son was his earlier Facebook post. In this post, the boy, who is now a man, held himself "guilty" for not yet reading books, such as those he needs for his profession as a doctor, and others, anyway. The professor, who has been retired for years now, calls this a "living" proof that the goal has been achieved. Even if only one of those 32 students.

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He is proud that all the nine-year-olds he teaches in class have mastered reading, even fluently. When talking about children's success in general, teacher C mostly praises. Here and there he counts some trouble. The lack of conditions, of any closet or coat rack. Of this nature.

But the conversation turns out differently when it comes to individual meetings with parents.

"So-and-so does this to me in class", "that other one is never comfortable" and "this guy should learn more". "I know", she says, "I know things, mother..... When the pistachio appears on the board, it pleases the heart, like a nightingale", she says as she asks the parent to deal more with the child. The child is not that he does not learn, but "somehow he is not satisfied" like Pistachio. The teacher wants them all to know, to be "nightingales".

In the period when I was in primary school and also in high school, "bilbila" was said to those students who knew how to recite the lesson without a single missing point or a single comma. Fixed as in the book.

As then, even now there are those teachers who like this form of knowledge. There were and still are eyes that value learning the essence and going beyond the lines of the textbook. But it turns out that these are not many.

The PISA test showed us this again. In addition to the poor success, education in Kosovo this year was labeled "regressive".

Regres demonstrated to us that it is done separately in understanding what is read. According to the "PISA 2022" report, it appears that 83 percent of fifteen-year-olds who took this test failed to understand a medium-length text. The consequence, based on the report, machine learning. Learning only to please a teacher A, B or C. But not to know.

Reading is required to know. No Facebook texts, Instagram or Tik-Toku content. Books.

Today, based on a research by the ETEA organization, 70 percent of high school students in Kosovo are unable to count even three book titles that they have read all their life. The educational curriculum asks them to read from a book every month. They don't mind this much. At least one of all school students must have read and written the report anyway. And others, lamely copy what is served to them.

In the end, who knows. They will spend the year like that... as teacher A says who mentions the orders of the "big ones".

The big ones fall to be the system that has been created for years. The system that brought education to the level it is in today. At the bottom of the list of places tested in knowledge of reading, mathematics and science. And for the third time in a row. That produced a tangle that does not even have that string of yarn that teacher B knows how to neatly tie through slashes for the needle drawn to debauchery.