Veljko Drobnjakovic - Creating an entrepreneurial school

This case study was prepared by Dragutin Šćekić from Veljko Drobnjakovic, edited by Joseph Tixier from the OECD LEED Programme 

Introduction

 Primary School “Veljko Drobnjakovic” is a small primary school at the seaside deep in the Montenegrin province. In 2010, a new head was appointed to the school who was already deeply involved in educational policy and entrepreneurial learning at various levels: as a teacher, researcher, teacher trainer, policy analysts, consultant… The new head recognized this situation as an ideal opportunity to promote entrepreneurial learning and to initiate a transformation towards a student - centred school.

The challenge was to initiate and support a change that would direct school curriculum toward entrepreneurial learning, and eventually switch from traditional to entrepreneurial school, and to do that even before Montenegrin educational system would fully understand and endorse it. This case study will consider what was planned, how the change was conducted, and what the impacts of this process were.

 

Veljko DrobnjakovicEntrepreneurial school

 

Still ongoing, an education reform in Montenegro started in year 2000. The basic principles for the education reform process were decentralization, equal opportunities, making choices according to individual abilities, compatibility with European standards, establishment and functioning of quality assurance system in education, life-long education, openness and flexibility, possibilities of transfer (vertical and horizontal interconnectedness of the system), and gradual introduction of changes.

Renewed primary education system, structured in three cycles (through nine years) with a lower school entry at age of 6 was launched gradually in 2004-2005. From 2012/2013, the new system and new curricula is implemented in all Montenegrin schools.  Obligatory education in Montenegro finishes at the age of 15. Secondary education is still not compulsory, but it is free and accessible for all students after obtaining primary school certificate.

Secondary education is provided in general education (gymnasia), combined secondary schools (which offer general and vocational education programs), vocational schools and art schools. Both gymnasia and art schools (music, art and ballet) offer four year programs.  Vocational schools provide two year (lower level) and three and four year programs which prepare for further education or entering the labour market.  Students take the Matura exam, introduced in 2010, on completion of secondary education. All students with a four year high school diploma can enrol higher education.

 

Veljko Drobnjakovic chart

 

Curricular reform emphasized the need to fundamentally deflect from the traditional perception of teaching, in methodical, content and organizational terms, and to create a student – centred curricula, which will encourage continuous intellectual development and be based on interdisciplinary approach and improve ability of students to adopt to the social environment. 

The new curricula have been modernized and non-relevant factual knowledge has been significantly reduced. The subject curricula set teaching/learning objectives, skills and competences that students should acquire, and, as already mentioned, are based on a student-centred methodology. Subject curriculums are “opened” to some extent, giving opportunity to schools and teachers to independently plan 20-25% of the content taking into account specificities, needs and interest of students, teachers, parents and the local community.

However recent researches on outcomes of curricular reform, as well as results of international tests (PISA 2012: Mathematics: 410 points (OECD average 494), reading 422 (496), science 410 (501)), hint that efforts still need to be made to make the modern curricula efficient in practice.

In short, Montenegro is a country with a well-structured, pretty efficient educational system, considerably open and outcome-based curriculum that gives individual teacher great freedom, but also with poor outputs and performance on international tests and internal evaluations. Only recently entrepreneurial learning is recognized and introduced at ISCED 1 and 2 as a cross - curricular subject and strongly supported and promoted by Ministry of education.

Elementary school „Veljko Drobnjaković“is situated in Risan, small coastal town in the Boka Bay, at the Montenegrin seaside. Risan is the oldest settlement in the coastal region, with rich cultural and historical heritage. Nowadays, Risan is a small town with nearly 2500 inhabitants, 20 km away from the center of the municipality, Kotor.

Although geographically close to tourist and university centres of Kotor and Herceg Novi, Risan cannot claim close connections, or share information and resources with these cities. There is no high school in Risan, and young people are forced to travel daily to the nearest high school or to change their place of residence if the selection in the environment does not meet their needs and ambitions. This fact indicates that Risan doesn’t` t offer young people enough opportunities to plan to stay in town and contribute to their community.

Tourism is the most important branch of economy in the Risan bay. There is a clear tendency towards further development, but for now the main problem is lack of organization of the tourist facilities. The only hotel in Risan is now closed permanently. Tourism is based only on private accommodation, within relatively short summer season. Trade is also closely connected with tourism industry so the business flourishes during the tourist season.

Most of the Risan citizens are employed in shipping and naval industry. Apart from these, citizens are also active in fishing trade and public health sector, since there is a special orthopaedic hospital and nursing home situated in the town.

Veljko Drobnjakovic school offers primary and lower secondary (ISCED level 1-2) educational institution. School has approximately 200 students in 2014 and 25 employees (18 of them are teachers). Overall education conditions may be considered as satisfactory, since teachers are qualified for their positions, and majority of them are motivated and quite enthusiastic. Spatial and material conditions are satisfying, as the school have enough classrooms, adequate teaching tools and resources, gym etc.

Rationale

When the new head of the school took office, the school operated very traditionally. Moreover, an atmosphere of hopelessness, apathy and a feeling of abandonment prevailed in the mind of teachers and staff. The small, provincial school was still waiting to be involved in ongoing educational reform that was largely takin place in rest of the Montenegro.

The first steps of the school’s transformation, and the key factors of success in implementing change, was to recognize inner strengths, weaknesses and capacities in the school, primarily in terms of human resources and motivation for change, and to seek support externally

In accordance with the above, school curriculum was quite rigidly planned. It was mainly teacher-centred, curricular activities were lesson-oriented, and consequently, the main emphasis was placed on the adoption of information and developing of the basic skills (reading and writing, basic mathematic and science literacy and socialisation)

Extra-curricular activities in school were mainly directed to meet the minimum of publicly prescribed by educational authorities. Cooperation with external partners in the previous period was reduced to isolated cases, and it was manly focused at the improvement of material and technical conditions in the school (repairs, construction works etc.).

Taking into account all that was mentioned above, it was expected students to be mainly inert, deprived of any kind of responsibility and indifferent to school activities. This was particularly noticeable with gifted students that were deprived of any structured support through individualisation, differentiation and opportunities to be in charge for any school activity.

Inspite inadequate work conditions and lack of in-service trainings and professional development, teachers and other school school staff were mainly enthusiastic about possibility to participate in change, and that was the start point, and crucial base for transformation of the school.

At that moment, the head teacher’s deep involvement as a local Montenegrin expert in preparation of the large scaled regional project led by SEECEL[1] , South East Europe Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, made it possible for the school to be involved in a supported and mentored change. The first few months were dedicated to estimatin the school’s inner strengths and weaknesses, mainly through some small scale projects and team building activities, looking for the signs of the possibility take over the responsibility for the project realization and successful transformation of the school curricula. The decision to try to engage the school in the SEECEL led regional entrepreneurial learning project was not made made until a common vision and dedication to change was established in school and an agreement between all internal actors was reached. Finally, the school’s community agreed to ask to be included in the regional Entrepreneurial learning project as a pilot institution. Reaching an Agreement on the necessity of change was the toughest step, but it was an essential part of the process.

First of all, the school teachers and staff agreed on our new vision and mission:

Description of the activity/project

Lasting change have to start from within, so the first impulse in the transformative process was to change how the school plans, teaches, communicates and collaborates, and to change the teachers and staff attitude towards the school.

After a first assessment of the situation, the school applied for and wasselected to be a pilot institution in the regional project “Entrepreneurial Learning: A Key Competence Approach” led by a SEECEL, as one of four Montenegrin primary schools, and the smallest pilot institution. From September 2011, with the support of our Ministry of education, the school officially became SEECEL pilot school, and consequently received special support through experts, theoretical framework and financial aid to implement the school’s vision of change and to become an entrepreneurial school.

By becoming a pilot institution in the project, the school agreed to the definition of entrepreneurial learning as set by SEECEL member states:

“Enterpreneurial learning is concept of education and training which supports an entrepreneurial way of thinking and is based on the development of individuals, including basic principles of efficiency in everyday life without a particular focus on business start-up - all of which leads to entrepreneurial literacy for the society as a whole” (Entrepreneurial Learning: A Key Competence Approach - ISCED Level 2, SEECEL, Zagreb 2011.)

The piloting phase of the SEECEL "Entrepreneurial learning" project started with empowering the teacher team through teamwork in the preparation for the project, peer learning activities and with specific training aimed to familiarize teachers with the theoretical foundations of entrepreneurship and direct them to student-centred learning strategies and entrepreneurial learning. Teachers inittialy received two basic trainings (Entrepreneurial learning and Effective communication in the classroom), and advanced training (Student centred learning)

 

Veljko Drobnjakovic thumb1

 

Next phase of the project was to incorporate entrepreneurial learning into regular school curricula in form of cross-curricular subject. In order to achieve that, teachers had to develop and deliver entrepreneurial learning outcome based learning activities at ISCED level 2. Entrepreneurial learning outcomes were developed by the SEECEL expert group at three levels: knowledge, skills and attitudes. As an integral part of piloting, the teachers developed considerable number of EL learning outcomes based learning activities.

 

Veljko Drobnjakovic thumb2

 

The school have also organized more than 40 extracurricular activities (school based activities, projects, study visits, and events in community in just one school year). All of these activities such as the one selected as an , were carefully documented. The main learning point at that moment was that any activity only makes sense if it aims to achieve clearly set goal. Teachers had to leave some old habits behind, and practice outcome based planning, and student centered activities. Strong support for the implementation of the project came from the communication and exchange of experiences with other pilot schools from around the region.

Teachers involved in the project eventually became much more satisfied with their practice, communication with students improved significantly, and their willignes to take over more responsibility came as an unexpected spill-over of the whole programme. Significant change occured in the school unexpectedly early, and set ground for deeper systemic change.

 

Veljko Drobnjakovic thumb3

 

As the school is rather small, teachers that were not directly involved in the project began to show interest, and then actively engaged in planning entrepreneurial based lessons. Also, for various extracurricular activities it was often necessary for majority of teachers to participate in some way, so the spirit of entrepreneurial learning began to spread among all teachers.

The main learning point to this is that success is contagious, and the school succeeded to present entrepreneurial learning not as an issue and obstacle but as an opportunity to improve itself and thereby fostered enjoyement in the teachers work and its outcomes.

After piloting phase Veljko Drobnjakovic continued promoting entrepreneurial learning. In order to enable financial sustainability, the school successfully applied for support by writing small entrepreneurial learning based projects. Meanwhile, official education policy authorities started to strongly promote entrepreneurship values in education, and the school had opportunity to continue its entrepreneurial education journey without any major constrains.

The school staff realized that this was the right moment to put much more emphasis on students, to motivate them to take over more responsibility, and to empower them to recognize and promote entrepreneurial values through youth activism.

At the same time, the school organized various community based activities and cooperation with local community (entrepreneurial fairs, charity bazaars, traditional local manifestations, ecological activities, visits… The school have established intensive cooperation with local retirement home, tourist organization, several NGO-s, local entrepreneurs, but also with universities (e.g. Jonkoping university, Sweden – their students conducted their practical placements in the Montenegrin school), and the British Embassy in Montenegro (the students made a handmade crafts, and the Embassy sold them for charity).

Teachers at ISCED level 1 started incorporating learning outcomes based entrepreneurial learning in their teaching activities as a horizontal element in all subjects at all levels.

Parallely with activities in the school, the head master was actively involved in developing foundations for entrepreneurial learning at ISCED 1 to 3 at the national level. In that moment there were two conflicting views on how to implement entrepreneurial learning in general education at the level of policy makers. One advocated that nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit in students required the establishement of a separate compulsory school subject at the ISCED 2 level, while the other view was that a more effective and efficient approach is to incorporate entrepreneurial learning in all subjects at all levels as a cross curricular area. Finally, thanks to the vast practical experience gained in the SEECEL project, and through the head teacher’s involvement in the entrepreneurial learning movement in South East Europe, the schools’ approach was officially recognised.

Starting in 2014, entrepreneurial learning became first cross curricular area that is obligatory to every teacher at all levels of general education.

Anchoring of the activity/project in the school

Entrepreneurial learning was strongly supported in the school by the head master. The school had a critical mass of teachers motivated to engage in the change, and finally, the school got strong external support through the SEECEL project to move toward creating of entrepreneurial school, those factors made a solid foundation to anchor entrepreneurial learning in the school.

Sustainability of the transition toward entrepreneurial school was from the very start ensured by involvement in the SEECEL project. Being a member of a large family of schools (32 schools in eight countries) that are moving in the same direction, taking into account all the specifics, similarities and differences between them, helped a lot in overcoming initial doubts about the feasibility of changes.

The school received a strong confirmation of the validity of its aspirations of supporting the development of the entrepreneurial spirit among students, when the government of Montenegro decided entrepreneurship to be one of the priorities of its education system. This convinced the most sceptical teachers and parents to get involved in the school’s transformation. As the school started its transformation before governmental validation, it suddenly became a role model and source of information for other institutions. Since the official education policies and SEECEL project activities are complementary, the transformation of the school is more likely to be sustainable and stable.

The most important resources needed for the implementation of the change were the human resources. Because of the school’s small size, human resources have been a continous challenge to tackle. On the other hand, the small size of the school constitutes as well an opportunity, as all are obliged to participate to the personal and organisational change. While larger school can quickly reach a critical mass of teachers engaged in entrepreneurial learning to organise transversal activities, it can be much harder to implement a deeper holistic organisational change.

Gathering technical and financial resources was not a particular constraint for the school. In fact, implementing entrepreneurial learning in the school has greatly enhanced its capacity to raise funds and manage technical resources. The school thrived to finance the activities through external funding by cooperation with NGO-s and local community.

Anchoring entrepreneurial learning at Veljko Drobnjakovic was deep enough for teachers and staff to recognise that teaching entrepreneurially meant also learning to act entrepreneurially, with all the challenges that it poses to teachers.

Links of the activity/project with the external world

From the very beginning, one of the first learning points for the school was the need to cooperate with external partners and seek for support in order to suceed.

The first support, advises and partnership came from SEECEL, an organisation that made unvaluable impact to entrepreneurial learning in the region since its establishment in 2009. Becoming part of the SEECEL community allowed the development of a safe environment and provided the school with both expert knowledge and financial support. For more than three years, SEECEL (both organisation and other schools involved in the EL project) was, and still is safe platform for the development of the school.

The school created a strong bond with NGO's involved in youth work and education. With support of NGO ForumMNE, Veljko Drobnjakovic established and now successfully runs the first school based youth club in Montenegro. The aim is to raise a sense of responsibility in students, and to serve as a platform for student training with external trainers. Numerous trainings for students were realized by external trainers from NGO's and teachers on various topics:  volunteering, teamwork, youth participation and advocacy in community, organization of youth events etc. Since the school decided to direct the entrepreneurial learning activities to the local community, it has established strong bond with various local NGO's and is participating in planning, organizing and delivering activities and events in the community.

The school takes great pride in its students who took an important role in creating better conditions for the residents of the nearby nursery home. Through various activities and mini projects, the students and teachers in cooperation with nursery home specialists delivered, and still do that, numerous actions aimed both at developing entrepreneurial skills and attitudes among students and helping nursery home residents. Some of them included involving older people in student activities as a mentors and advisers, others aimed at improving the quality of life of the nursery home residents.

Through other activities, the school also established partnership and cooperation with Kotor municipality, local Tourist board, Home for children without parents, museums and various local entrepreneurs.

Having in mind the wealth inequalities in the town and region’s traditional marine and handcraft activities, the school also successfully engaged parents in curricular and extracurricular activities. Their active involvement in curricular and extracurricular activities has provided useful inputs, and has especially strengthened the influence on students’ attitude.

The school recognises the most successful components of entrepreneurial education activities to be cooperation with external partners.

Achievements and impact

In a fairly short period the school managed to transform itself into an institution that really promotes the entrepreneurial mind-set, and ensured sustainability and permanence of changes. It managed to raise both sense of responsibility and autonomy in their students but has also influenced teachers in a positive way. The learning strategies are predominantly directed toward student-centred learning, and development of entrepreneurial competences.

The school successfully demonstrated that even a small, provincial school that at a first glance couldn’t be capable of significant improvements, given the lack of resources and isolation, can be a driver of change in society and a role model for others.

Furthermore, the school has thoroughly documented their change, so its influence on other schools and policy makers can be evidence-based. This documentation will contribute to disseminate the experience of the school head, teacher and staff to others.

Since entrepreneurial learning was recently recognized as one of a priority for the future development of Montenegrin society, decisive actions are undertaken to immediately incorporate entrepreneurship in general education. Along with adopting strategy for implementation of entrepreneurial learning in primary education, policy makers have encouraged peer learning between schools, and the school’s experience became a source of good practice for other schools.

The SEECEL project is continued for the next school years, and the school will be piloting entrepreneurial learning at ISCED 1 level. Simultaneously, the school mentor the new pilot institution to effectively integrate entrepreneurial learning in their schools.

Besides making comprehensive database of the school’s activities in electronic form, our entrepreneurial learning activities are published to the school’s website (www.skolarisan.org) and also to its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/skolarisan3) and YouTube channel.

Success factors

Main success factors of the school’s transformation are:

In addition to these factors, the school is obliged to strive to develop key elements of an entrepreneurial schools agreed between all SEECEL member countries.

Obstacles and ways to overcome them

Regardless of evidently successful ongoing change in the school, there are numerous recognized difficulties that are usually combined

“That also influenced my professional engagement in the school, since in Montenegro school principal is, apart from quality of teaching/ learning responsible for six other areas school life, and devoting  majority of my time to this matter in some cases consequently led to insufficient time for other important issues.” Dragutin Šćekić – Head teacher of Veljko Drobnjakovic

 

Veljko Drobnjakovic poster

 

 

 



[1].                South East European. Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, based in Zagreb, Croatia (www.secel.hr)