POSTED ON BEHALF OF KELLY RYAN
My home away from home (in terms of countries) is Macedonia. I love the people, the food, the various cultures, and in many ways this small Balkan country reminds me of my home state of Montana. I was fortunate to live in the capitol, Skopje, for nearly a year while I researched the integrated bilingual peace education model created by the Nansen Dialogue Center Skopje (NDC Skopje). NDC Skopje’s vision is of “a democratic society in which dialogue is the everyday tool for conflict resolution between individuals, groups or communities. A society in which peace, multiethnic cohesion, integration, equality and tolerance are the core values.” NDC Skopje successfully combines dialogue and peacebuilding theory with co-curricular activity to overcome local obstacles and promote peace education.
Following the violent conflict in Macedonia in 2001—largely between the Albanian minority and the Slavic Macedonian majority—schools in the country became segregated by language. This educational segregation is double edged. While all students are allowed to learn in their mother-tongue language, students are separated ethnically which creates a barrier to positive intergroup contact. For many communities in Macedonia, this has led to a “two schools one roof” situation where Macedonian and Albanian (or any other linguistically different community such as Turks) might go to school in the same building but remain completely isolated from one another. As a response, NDC Skopje designed a unique program of integrated bilingual education that works with the existing “two schools one roof” system.
In 2008 NDC Skopje opened the Fridtjof Nansen Primary School, since then NDC has worked to open a secondary school and train teachers in six other schools around the country to implement the Nansen Model of Integrated Education (NMIE). The model is unique in that it allows students and teachers to learn and teach within their ethnic groups and with their native languages for the state mandated curriculum but adds a daily or weekly co-curricular classes in which students and teachers integrate, both languages are used equally, and students and teacher collaborate on activities and projects. For example, in 2010 I was watched a wonderful bilingual rendition of Romeo and Juliet by Albanian and Macedonia students in the Mosha Pijade Secondary School in Preljubiste.
The NMIE methods targets students, teachers, and parents to promote intercultural, linguistic, and interpersonal understanding while fostering positive social contact.
The benefits from this model of education are the following:
For the students – high quality integrated extracurricular activities that will enable them acquire a variety of life skills and abilities, permanent upgrade of knowledge, strong self-esteem as well as promoting open communication, socialization, dialogue, tolerance and overcoming stereotypes and prejudices. Students also participate in various sports and cultural school and outdoor events, fairs etc.
For the parents – special programs for annual cooperation that promote their active role in school, increasing the life skills of the parents and creating habits for their continuous self-education, strengthening the cooperative relations between the parents and school staff from different communities etc.
For the school staff – professional practical and theoretical training on integrated education through the NDC Skopje Training center, variety of workshops and working literature, professional development programs and continuous upgrade of knowledge and competences etc.
For the school – improved conditions for work and a variety of equipment and contemporary didactical means, multifunctional classrooms, high quality regular and extracurricular teaching process, positive socio-emotional climate, improved cooperation between the school staff, parents and students from different ethnic communities, participation in various events and activities etc.
This peace education model is designed to meet the needs of those in Macedonia. However, their methods could certainly be adapted in different segregated school systems around the world, so long as the practitioners are careful in their adaptation to meet the needs of their respective context. I think this model could also be useful in parts of the U.S. where language barriers exist between students and communities. For example, instead of forcing Spanish-speaking students into English emersion courses, districts could start to implement an integrated bilingual program that allows English and Spanish speaking students the opportunity to learn both languages and interact with diverse populations.
NMIE is a great program and definitely touches on multiple components of peace education. I think that the two most relevant pillars of peace education that NMIE supports are skill building and community building. With NMIE students learn to develop language skills. Additionally, teachers develop bilingual and integrated teaching skills and curriculum development skills. Finally, NMIE facilitates community building between ethnic groups on the student, teacher, and parent level by promoting positive intergroup contact and collaboration. I encourage everyone to explore the NMIE resources and website!
NDC Skopje webpage: http://www.nansen-dialogue.net/ndcskopje/
NMIE resources: http://www.nmie.org/index.php/en/