In an act of courage, Kosovo’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) agreed to initiate participation in international assessments by joining the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2015. This decision brought both serious risks and potential benefits to the educational system in Kosovo and its national standing in Europe. The risk was exposing its weaknesses as a national educational system, raising short and long-term challenges to the government, and require intensive and extended commitment by MEST to meet the potential challenges. The benefits were by raising the quality of education and orienting the system toward a European school model there would be increased recognition of the country’s commitment to Europe and its potential integration into the European Union. By recognizing the standards of Europe and assessing the current level of performance Kosovo could move toward parity in education with its neighbors. This paper reviews the initial commitment, the student performance results on the PISA 2015 tests, the impact of the results of the country. Looking forward the paper also examines the country’s ability to address the demands of the assessments and outline the steps already taken to meet these standards. Finally, the paper address steps needed to continue moving the educational system toward parity and integration with European nations. In sum, the paper attempts to answer the question “Can PISA drive improvement in a national system of education?”
The dissolution of Yugoslavia, the rise of “parallel (home) schools”, the Kosovo War of 1998-1999, and the establishment of Kosovo as a nation in 2008 shaped Kosovo’s education system as it began the anticipated integration into the European Union. In the face of these disruptive elements, MEST brought in experts from Europe and North America to develop a curriculum to meet international standards. After a start in 2001, and completion of a revised curriculum framework in 2011. MEST determined that PISA could become the standard for the current performance of students internationally and set a bench mark for its aspirations. The 2015 results, the first-time participation of Kosovo, were humbling, but not unexpected. The country realized there was a long road to parity in the educational system.
Kosovo’s response to the results was first to assemble community and international advisors to discuss results and recommend steps to improve the education system and increase performance on PISA. Concurrently with the conference on PISA, MEST completed and piloted a new curriculum linked to international standards. Introduced country-wide in 2017 the curriculum was only in place for a year when the 2018 PISA tests were administered. Prior to the 2018 administration information was given to schools and a public information campaign was undertaken. Other administrative actions were taken by MEST, but the use of PISA results, linkage of results to the new curriculum, development of text materials and teacher training remain a challenge.
Kosovo attempts to support improvement of its educational system continue to face challenges beyond implementation of an assessment system and developing curriculum standards. The remainder of the paper addresses the complexities and challenges facing Kosovo’s educational system, including curriculum materials, teacher training, leadership, pre-service education and endemic corruption in the system. Short-term and long-term recommendations are presented with specific strategies for addressing Kosovo’s challenges related to the PISA examinations and their role in the raising the quality of education in the country.
The lens used for this paper’s analysis is a policy process approach that focuses on the changes in policy, developments in curriculum and variations in school implementation that highlight the goals and actions of stakeholders as they address the challenges in the performance of the schools on PISA. The scope includes comparisons of international, national and local level analysis of the country’s performance and strategies to address issues of educational policy and implementation of the curriculum. The analysis takes a specific look at the attempts to address assessment. The study relies on curriculum documents, public statements of politicians, researchers and critics assessments, participant-observer responses, focus groups and semi-structured interviews. The political lens permits examination the interests and goals of elected officials, researchers and teachers and specifically looks at the implementation of the curriculum framework, teacher training and school implementation and their ties to PISA performance. While document analysis was a major strategy used in this mixed-method research, the study is exceptional in its use of participant observers. The authors have a combined history of over 60 years’ experience in Kosovo. They have an intimate knowledge of the decision process in the schools and MEST within the historical context. Their experiences included attending as students in the Yugoslavian Educational System that permitted Kosovo’s semi-autonomous control, studying during the break-up of that system, attending home-schools in the Albanian-Kosovar-led resistance period, undergoing expulsion during the Kosovo war, teaching in Kosovo schools, and currently serve as specialists for MEST. Three of the authors are staff of MEST, sit on committees and boards that oversee the implementation of the curriculum and the PISA assessments. This source adds an additional dimension to the study by contributing to the context of the movement of Kosovo’s educational system and the role PISA plays in its development.
It was anticipated that the new curriculum and other changes would lead to improved performance on PISA. As part of the analysis, results of PISA were considered of enough importance for MEST to create an internal committee to examine the process of implementation of the upcoming 2018 administration of PISA. The committee focused on administrative changes that included greater attention of the upcoming assessment, alerting the local schools of their participation, and visiting schools to discuss the examinations and explain its purpose and value. However, other possible steps were not undertaken prior to the 2018 assessments that would have focused on the linkage between PISA and the curriculum. Examination of the new curriculum and its correspondence to PISA or Kosovo’s high school examination were not undertaken at any time since the curriculum’s development in 2011. The previous performance on the 2015 PISA was not made available to schools and their municipal governments for review. Analysis of the performance data was not communicated widely throughout MEST. Furthermore, recommendations on any know weaknesses were not communicated therefore curriculum materials or practice questions were not developed or sent to the schools to increase attention in learning of areas of identifiable weakness. Implementation of curriculum in many subjects across multiple grades and the potential contribution to improved performance on PISA remains only partially met. The impact of disruption in the educational system in the 1990s on current education, the influence of international agencies, governments and treaties on the curriculum and the effect of PISA testing on the country’s perception of its educational system are interwoven and central to any analysis. These topics and challenges will continue to be central to Kosovo’s future in its goal to reach parity with European nations and world standards.
______________, (2011). Curriculum Framework for Pre-University Education in the Republic of Kosovo. Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Pristina, Kosovo M & Buckland P.(2004) Parallel Worlds: Rebuilding the Kosovo Education System, International Institute for Educational Planning. Paris http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001361/136152e.pdf Retrieved 4/22/2018 Trbovich, Ana S. (2008).A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia's Disintegration. Oxford University Press.ISBN978-0-19-533343-5. VeneKlasen, L. and V. Miller (2002). A New Weave of Power, People and Politics: The Action Guide for Advocacy and Citizen Participation. Oklahoma City, World Neighbors. Wachtel, Andrew (1998).Making a Nation, Breaking a Nation: Literature and Cultural Politics in Yugoslavia. Stanford University Press.ISBN978-0-8047-3181-2
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