Separate Schools and Curriculums

The structural organization of the DPA created a de facto segregated school system. As a result, three school systems have emerged, and ‘public schools across BiH each have a dominant ethnic “flavor” depending on the dominant group in that location. School names and symbols, holiday celebrations and curricular and educational resources primarily reflect the dominant constituent people’ (Perry & Keil, 2012, p. 12). This situation was realized very early after the war. ‘Education as it is organized and inspired today serves to deepen internal divisions and aims to create or consolidate ethnically pure territories’ (Magas, 1998, p. 9). Unfortunately, in the post-war era, no legally mandated, concrete, or comprehensive actions have been taken to integrate and/or standardize schools in BiH.

The separate school systems still exist 20 years after the end of the conflict. ‘Almost all the schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina besides maybe some schools in Sarajevo and Tuzla are uni-national. Children live in a separate environment and they know only their own culture’ (Zoric). Above and beyond the physical separation of Bosnia’s peoples, the separate school systems create a number of problems. Most towns and villages are dominated by a particular ethnic group, and minority children may have no school to attend. ‘In one part of Bosnia there is one group who constitutes the majority, and minority students have no local school. I know in some parts of BiH students [who] go over 10 or 15 km to right school’ (Jankovic).

In certain towns, there are no nearby schools for minority children to attend, which can lead to feelings of alienation. ‘What is wrong if you get one child, Croatian child, in Bosniak school? What are you going to adjust to that child and make environment friendly for that child not to feel different, not to feel separate’ (Zoric)? Children from mixed marriages also pose a problem. ‘What about children who are not in one of the second or third national corpus? Some people, they are in mixed marriages and they don’t want to send children to that school and religious classes’ (Zoric). Separate schools are particularly a problem for returnees coming back to where they lived before the war only to find that the area is now dominated by another ethnic group. ‘Go to Livno. There used to be majority Bosniaks people and then during the war it was taken by Croats. Now returnees, they come back, but they don’t have a Bosnian school. They have to go to the Croatian school’ (Zoric). This situation has also occurred in the RS:

They’re returning communities in East Bosnia and parents are protesting against their kids not being taught the Latin alphabet and being taught the Serb group of subjects even though in some of these schools up to half the pupils are Muslims. This just started this school year (2013) a couple weeks ago where parents are like, ‘we’re not sending our kids to school until this is resolved’. (Roberts)

Despite these problems, from the perspective of Lovrenovic, a social psychologist, separate schools fill an important psychological need:

A Croat family who believes their kids should only exclusively learn Croatian language and Croatian history and that is their need. Consequently, I think we should aim, even though it sounds ridiculous, but I think we should aim to satisfy those people. Otherwise, you would have unsatisfied needs that would then produce conflicts.

The results of this type of education are highlighted when the feelings of students from segregated schools are compared with those from integrated schools. When asked what would happen if new laws were passed to circularly and ethnically integrate schools, students from Brcko were decidedly more positive than students from Zepce. Some Croat students from Zepce stated that ‘schools probably wouldn’t obey’ or ‘schools would obey, but students wouldn’t go’ (Smith).

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