Coalitionsplit over Orthodox lessons

19th January 2001 at 00:00
SERBIA: Gillian Sandford on the new president's push to get religion on the curriculum.

A MAJOR row is brewing within the new government of Serbia over the introduction of religious education in schools.

President Vojislav Kostunica and his conservative Democratic party want Serb Orthodox religious teachings on the curriculum.

But, within the 18 parties that make up the new coalition government, there is wide disagreement about religion as a school subject. Education minister designate Gaso Knezevic, of the Civic Alliance party, said he wanted to see the history and philosophy of all religions taught because Serbia is a secular society.

"Serbia is a multi-faith country and we want a civic society here." He said that the country's constitution would have to be changed if Serbia wants to introduce Orthodox teaching in schools, although he admits reform is likely anyway - for other pressing reasons.

President Kostunica has no remit to bring about the change, because he is President of Yugoslavia, not of the Serbian Republic (part of the Federation of Yugoslavia). But he exercises considerable influence in Serbia because of his massive popularity, and he is deeply religious. "We will take all the president's statements into account," said Gaso Knezevic.

Critics saythe Orthodox Church has played a controversial role over the past 10 years. It did not criticise former president Slobodan Milosevic until 1999, when its board issued an unprecedented statement urging that he should resign for the good of the country.

It also failed to condemn the slaughter during Yugoslavia's wars of dissolution and still refrains from criticism about war crimes.

Plans remain at an early stage, but priests working on proposals say the Orthodox education would be voluntary and parents - or in high school, the teenagers themselves - could choose to opt out. Teaching of other faiths such as Islam or Judaism would be available to the minority in Serbia who are not Orthodox.

While Orthodoxy is a Christian faith, it differs in teaching and practice from Catholicism in several key ways. Beyond scripture, there is no written set of Orthodox church teachings and it has no formalised confession and no sermon within the church service.

After the public debate, Gaso Knezevic believes power-brokers, including prime minister designate Zoran Djindjic, will support the teaching of the history of religions as a compulsory exam subject.

But the debate looks set to fuel yet more divisions in a coalition which analysts say could collapse within six months.


Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now