REFORM AND OUR SYSTEM:
Where are We Going?
author: Vladimir Unkovski-Korica
It is clear that the State education system around the world, as it is, does not perform its tasks as well as we would have it do. There are many problems, as we have seen. Among them are: the lack of investment; teachers being above the students with no one to control them; lack of democratic procedure; curriculum as a way stuffing people with useless information, curtailing free thought; dogmatism; and rigidity in social relations. Furthermore, we have seen that, especially in the former Socialist Bloc, schools often reflected the economic situation of the given country. Thus, when all was going well, the schools were running relatively well (for the conditions, historical and other), and vice- versa. With the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, and "socialism" in the former Yugoslavia, the school system slid into mirroring the state of society. Teacher apathy and abuse, corruption, poor standards, nationalist dogmatism, drugs, alcoholism, and even suicide marred the lives of our youth in the FRY. No one saw a future for himself, since schooling neither prepared one for life nor gave one the broad education it had once done. Change was obviously necessary. The DOS has recognised this. We have seen words like democratisation, transparency, European standards and methods, reform. Despite all the seeming good intentions, we have seen little progress for a year, and fewer good ideas. Where, exactly, is the DOS intending to take us? Where are we going?
In one word, to the West. The DOS, in its programme, openly talks of the Bologna Process, European values (how then, would that be freedom of thought?) and "the transition process". There is talk of needing to alter teaching methods to accommodate "the needs of the market", talk of privatisation, and of the lowering of the number of people who would study at university. The processes of democratisation, the establishment of the rule of law, and the autonomy of the universities, all feature as well.
Before we go on, it would be useful to quickly examine the ideas of some of the leading forces within the DOS. This would be beneficial if only to illustrate the possible roads of development in the case of the break-up of the eighteen- member coalition. A glance at each possible route, centrist, centre-right and centre-left will suffice.
The possible centrist path, represented best by the Democratic Party, or DS, is rather vague. Perhaps being illustrative of the importance that the DS assigns to the system of education in Serbia (for there is no mention of Yugoslavia), there is little said about schooling in the DS programme, as presented on the Party web site. Education is often associated with the need for the re-education of the working class to help the country gain efficiency (i.e. the increase in profit in industry) and for Serbia to be competitive on a European level and gaining EU membership. We can presume, from viewing this, and other rhetoric connected to economics and politics, like that about "private initiative", that the DS is likely to carry on with the basic ideas presented in the DOS programme. The only fundamental difference is that the DS would probably give more space to the Social-Democratic value that material inequality (which is accepted and mentioned more frequently than equality) should not be the basis for inequality in opportunity. So, even if perhaps not advocating equality in educational opportunity, the DS talks of giving opportunity for and priority to "education, educational up-grading, and investment in people and their knowledge". This course can probably be equated to, or broadly identified with, the policies of some European governments like Tony Blair's New Labour, which shall be discussed later.
The fundamental course to be pursued by any centre-right government, likely to be grouped around the Democratic Party of Serbia (the DSS), would probably be only slightly different. It does have some guarantees and ideas which are generally positive. These include such notions as the involvement of parents in schooling; protection of minority rights; freedom from dogma and the autonomy of the universities; universal and free primary education; and the role of the state as guarantor that essential professionals shall not leave the country and shall participate in the planning for the future of the country. Still, the DSS is a proponent, much like, one presumes, the DS, of private education, and the subordination of the curricula to the needs of the market. It also proposes the introduction of Religious Education as a school subject (and it has been supported whole-heartedly by the DS). How is this so very different to the fact that Marxism was a subject during the "socialist" era? At any rate, the ideas of the DSS clearly tend toward the models of the traditional centre-right in the West, to which we shall also return.
Finally, we have the centre-left, of which an apt representative could be the Social Democratic Union (the SDU). Perhaps more akin to the old-fashioned Social-Democratic parties of Western Europe, from the period of the 1950s and 1960s, the SDU has the most egalitarian and human-oriented programme. The programme of the youth of the party, or the SDO, speaks of both the good of society and the possibility of the "perfecting of the self"; the inadequacy of current plans for the reform of education; the need for further experimentation; and the need to give everyone the opportunity to go through education and benefit from it. All this being as it is, the Yugoslav centre-left speaks of the need for urgent economic reform with the aim of being reintegrated in the global economy and in tune with global politics. A major aim is the accession of the FRY to the European Union. Consequently, the analysis of the educational ideas of the SDU and others will have to be made in conjunction with, broadly- speaking, the Western model, which will be done in due course.
From all of these, it is clear that, despite some differences (a few significant), the major emphasis of educational and other policy is on Western models. In order, then, to know what to expect from the reforms, it is crucial for us to take a closer look at education in the West. We must analyse some of its more important facets, balancing the advantages and disadvantages it offers, and determine whether Yugoslavia should at all persist in the type of reforms that the DOS (and its major component blocks) has propagated and set in motion. Before that, however, we must ascertain the role, goal or point of education as it is in the West.
Topics of heated debate in the West, schooling and education have attained both great heights and shameful lows over centuries of development. Going through various changes during the twentieth century, schooling has clearly served two, rather controversial main roles. These are best demonstrated in the British model, perhaps because the British model was the most clear-cut example.
During the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, the function of university, in particular, was to give the sons (and, much less, the daughters) of the ruling class the necessary education to administer industry, the nation, the colonies, and the army efficiently. The university was to provide training in orderly thinking, to foster methods of independent scholarship, to lay down a common cultural background and the informal ties based on this background between 'elites' in all areas of social life, and so on. It would take too long to focus on this period, which is not entirely relevant to our discussion. One has to mention it, though, in order to illustrate the shift in educational policy and the nature of the shift. It is also important to note the existence of state and public (or, private) schools in Britain, largely reflecting the class divide.
It is, at any rate, undeniable that British society was polarised in class terms, and it is equally undeniable that Britain made huge economic strides during this period precisely because of its exploitation of the colonies, their resources, labour force, and strategic military importance, and because of its own class nature. It is also quite easily demonstrated that the nature of education was to maintain people, from a higher-class background, in positions of higher authority than others. The existence of special primary and secondary schools, and, of course, universities, which were open only to the higher class, attests to this fact. Names like Eton, Rugby and Winchester all ring a bell. The names Oxford and Cambridge must do so as well. Graduates from these universities dominated, and still dominate, British politics, its economic life, its social hierarchy and so on. Is it accidental that forty of the forty-two Prime Ministers in Britain were graduates from either Oxford or Cambridge? Or that every bishop of Canterbury was an "Oxbridge" man, save the last one, who had completed a course at King's College in London, another prestigious university? Or that many high-ranking civil servants, politicians, military officers and secret service agents are men from "Oxbridge"? Or that graduates from these elite schools and universities, even today, hold positions often unrelated to their degree, such as English Literature graduates becoming high-ranking business officials? Or, worse, that there are still less than fifty per cent of students from state schools being admitted to Oxford? No, these are not accidents. They were and are the products of an economic and educational system developed for particular uses, namely, dominance by a social group and the robust efficiency of an economic model (shown in the rate of British development between 1800 and 1939). The two, the state and mode of economic development, and educational model, are clearly linked.
Some things changed at the end of the Second World War, during the 1970s, and as a result of the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR.
The main changes during the first half of the Cold War were that, with the development of the Welfare State, education became more open to people of lower class background and more and more people began to attend university. The reasons for these changes can be seen in the history of Europe and the nature of international relations at that time. Firstly, Europe feared a return to the wild and destabilising capitalism that had ravaged it and led it to war during the 1930s. The recipe was to reconcile as much as possible class tensions (by making education more open to all, for example) and to increase the role of the State in the economy, including the emphasis on planning in economics (as by increasing the number of people at university). Secondly, class tensions had to be decreased and economic performance improved because of the fear of socialism, which had spread as a result of the economic successes of the USSR and its wartime victories, as well as because of the chaos of the world capitalist crisis of the pre-war period. The nature of education began, also, to change, and become more specialised, in order for the Western states to be able to better cope with an ever more complex economic situation.
The 1970s, the beginning of the process that we today call radical globalisation, further accelerated the process of the functionalisation in universities and schooling as a whole. The appearance of new industries, such as the new technology sector, and the increasingly fierce competition between international and national companies for markets, required increased productivity of labour. This meant that schooling as a whole had to become more specialised. Specialisation, or functionalisation, offered the advantage of having a work force better qualified for doing a certain job, and more able to start working immediately after graduating. As a result of these economic and educational changes, among others, the Western economies reached ever higher (but also more unstable) growth rates, and began to rapidly outpace the stagnating Stalinist Eastern Bloc.
After the fall of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc, there were two major effects on the economic and educational development of the Western world, including Britain. One was that there were increased opportunities for profit for the major corporations in the now more easily accessible resources and cheap labour of the former "Communist" Bloc, but, thus, there was also greater competition. This meant ways had to be found to decrease costs to maintain profit-rates. The other major effect was that there was no longer as pressing a need for class reconciliation.
The major results of this were the increased functionalisation of education; the slow but evident beginning in the dismantling of the Welfare State, including less funding for education and greater privatisation of schooling; and the persistence in the greater regard for education for people as a means to attaining profit than as a means to providing for people's needs and their wants, material, emotional, intellectual and other. In all, although huge economic success has been achieved, one wonders about the desirability of the end-result. This can be taken up at a later stage. Here, though, we must survey the main facets, methods and characteristics of education in the West.
PRIVATISATION - has a number of negative results. One of the more significant ones is that there begins to be a void between the wealthier and the less wealthy; the better schools begin to charge more, while the others, just to survive, lower prices, and, simultaneously, standards. Understandably, too, the better private schools reach higher standards than state schools. This is well demonstrated in Britain and America. Many cannot afford to go to school: in the former country, there are 150 000 children who do not attend school at all, with that figure expected to reach 450 000 by the end of the decade. That is likely to be an indication of the poor-rich trend. It must also be indicative that, in February of 2002, thousands of university students in Britain wrote letters and demonstrated against the current system and the abolition of university fees, because they run into debt while trying to pay for their university tuition. Furthermore, as noted, more public school graduates attend the better universities (like Oxbridge), and gain social position in life.
Regional differentiation was also a result of privatisation and the resulting rise in the cost of education. In March 2000, for example, the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission wrote a report on the state of schooling in the country to the Australian government. It was stated that the rural students, in comparison to the urban-dwellers, were, less likely to participate in schooling, more likely to be absent, less likely to complete the compulsory school years, less likely to complete Year 12 and less likely to participate in tertiary education and training." Up to a million children, almost a third of Australian students, were disadvantaged because of where they lived, it was suggested in the report. How is it possible that, in such a well- functioning economy, geographical location should still be a factor? This is a problem in itself, but the fact that schooling was private, and government spending on education cut (in fact, for example, funding for the Country Areas Program was frozen by the Howard government), must have exacerbated the problem for the poorer, rural, children.
With the economic situation in Yugoslavia as it is, and the class division as it is, what are our students to expect? Will everyone be able to pay the fees for university? Are we educating the current elite, the politicians, the new nomenklatura, the industrialists and the mafia? Or are we trying to give everyone a fair chance? Why, when the youth ask, when we ask, why people do not invest in us, are we not answered, or are told the blatant lie, "there is no money"? How is it, then, that the police can get new cars, and be financed to ensure useless raids on cafes working past the recently-prohibited times, and education be made less and less accessible for lack of funds? Is this where we want to go?
Some will tell us that private education ensures standards. Perhaps in some cases this is true. No one will deny that Harvard and Yale, and practically independent universities like Cambridge and Oxford, are in most ways better, or more useful to society, than the Universities of Belgrade, Nis or Skopje. Not entering at all into whether the wealth of the nation counts, or where that wealth came from, or, indeed, into definitions of "better", for one could definitely question it on moral grounds, one can look beyond the superficial comparisons and deeper into the effects of privatisation, discrimination and plutocracy in the Western world.
We have seen that privatisation can polarise society in class terms, or, in the case of more meritocratic society, in terms of ability. Yet, this can have a very negative effect on the psyche of people as well, and, thus, on society as a whole. Increasing alienation, division and exploitation can bring tension in the whole of society, making its potential (objective) effectiveness slide, and, perhaps, leading society to the brink of social upheaval or even bloodshed.
More interestingly, we have to ask ourselves, what drives most private owners of any industry, for a private school is little different from a private industry? Most of us, except idealists like A.S. Neill, will answer, if being truthful, that their motive is money, or, more precisely, profit. What will be of most importance, then, will not be just standards, but minimising cost and making as much profit as possible. Ideas for large-scale privatisation and similar plans (like the US voucher system) have been initiated or implied in many Western countries, including the USA, Spain and, again, Britain. There can be little doubt that, with the rightward turn in politics in the rest of continental Europe, including that of the "centre-left", Germany, France and others will soon follow suit. The admiration voiced for Tony Blair's New Labour policies is indicative. So, Britain can, again, be taken as an example of the potential dangers.
In the last country, evidence of private sector profiteering in education has surfaced. OFSTED (or the Office for Standards in Education) is a government body which inspects schools, and privatises non-profitable or inefficient ones. In fact, it has occurred that OFSTED has privatised efficient schools as well, as in the case of Surrey County Council. When a private owner takes over, in some schools it has been alleged that the teaching body is cut, so as to have to pay fewer teachers. Meanwhile, fees go up. So, not only do people pay more for such an essential service as schooling, they get schooling of questionable standard. What teacher can cope with more classes and, as has often been shown to be the case, less pay, and still keep his or her standards high? Some would argue that such a situation can only be temporary, and once the school is making more money, fees could go down, teachers could return, and so on. Yet, why should this be necessary in the fourth largest economy in the world? Why should this economy bear such burdens as buying nuclear submarines, when its schooling system, and for that matter its transport and healthcare systems, are collapsing, and when this is publicly admitted? Is this how we see the future of our country as well?
Privatisation may create an elite, and raise standards for a minority. Figuratively speaking, too, the country would benefit, as statistics may often suggest. But what would the distribution of wealth be like? Where would the masses be? At whose expense would the country's image and the interests of a narrow, rich caste, be built? The third world and its working population? It appears that that is what the DOS would have.
SPECIALISATION - has its positive and negative elements. It can hardly be denied that our country does not need people who are professionally competent as soon as they finish a tertiary course or education. It can hardly be denied that our educational system has, by far, been too academic and too little concerned with connecting the academic to the practical. But the idea absolutely has to be rejected that we should subordinate the educational system to the market as is done in the West! Why? For no other reason than that is not humane, moral and fair. People should not be treated as commodities, and traded as such, or, worse, as resources. We, each and every one, is a human being, an individual, a person with a right to certain liberties, material standards, and emotional fulfilment. It is often the perception that, if we are (and too often, academically) qualified in the West, there is no reason for us not to be free, well off and fulfilled in emotional and other ways. It is simultaneously forgotten that we do not all get an equal chance, as demonstrated, in the Western system. We are not all guaranteed a job. Due to the specialisation, we may often be made to have an occupation not related to us, because there is no need on the market for our services, or worse, we can be left with no job at all: a terrifying prospect! The number of unemployed may vary from a five per cent figure, as in the US, to almost twenty per cent, as in Poland. We may be left with no support, as many of those who lost their job in the US, after the 11th of September, had happen to them. Furthermore, should it not be a motivating factor to avoid the Western model if only because we know that our work as workers, in whatever field, and however well paid, is exploited work, and that, with extra effort by ourselves, we could think of a better and more efficient system? Should it not be a motivation to change that, in the West, people work long hours? Or that, for anyone traversing the streets of London, Paris or Berlin, people seem disconnected from each other, empty, soulless...like the characters T.S. Eliot wrote about almost a hundred years ago? The well being of a person emotionally, as well as materially, must be of importance. Our values should, surely, transcend the merely material, such as whether people will be able to buy a television tomorrow, or not? And encompass the fact that our standards are (perhaps) had at the expense of millions of people in the developing world, who also get no chance in life? Perhaps not all of these are reasonable claims to the reader, but some, surely, cannot be denied?
What can, furthermore, specialisation achieve? With an ever more complex and hierarchical system, which most large businesses have come to have, economic power, efficiency and profit can only be ensured for and by those people at the top of the hierarchy, who possess the necessary information to make large-scale decisions. The worker does become more efficient in his own work because of specialisation, but because he is only competent in his branch of the industry, he can only decide on issues within that branch. The rest of the company is inscrutable to him and his fellow workers. Thus it is in every branch. So, who is competent enough to decide? Only the small group at the top, which may leave smaller decisions to competent professionals, but which is the only group to have the final outcome of the (hierarchical) information-gathering process, can be such. Clearly, he who holds a monopoly on information holds economic power, and with it other privileges. In such a society, furthermore, the workers, both manual and intellectual, become alienated not just among each other. They gain the feeling that they have no control over their work, and, hence their lives. Again, one has to pose the question: is this where the youth of Yugoslavia will be happy to take our country? Will they be satisfied as workers in trans- national corporations, which will decide their fate, including when and who can have a job? Or, whether anyone can have a job? For how can we, the workers, make sure that another Enron tragedy (or those of many airline and other companies we have seen collapse recently) does not happen to us, and on a large scale? Is this where we want to go, competing with each other in our own country in order to survive, while the corporations are making billions of dollars here and elsewhere, at our and others' expense?
HIERARCHY - and division in some Western countries begins as early as school. Even though class and nationality come into it (this shall be dealt with below), hierarchy is often encouraged in another sense. Basing many activities on so- called "meritocratic" values, children are divided and separated in terms of academic ability, in sports and sometimes in terms of outright authority as well. Elites are separated and made to excel at their talents (as a type of "setting" does in the US and Britain), while others' activities are watered down in terms of content, creating a large pool of undereducated people who more easily fitted into differing unskilled forms of labour, and placing them at the mercy of the market. Is that equality of opportunity? Furthermore, the competition that results from this prepares people for a stressful competitive life. Need things be like this? We all have our talents, and should be allowed to develop them, but also learn to work as an integrated community, not as an atomised one, where individualism rules, and greed and callousness become virtues in the place of generosity and tolerance.
CLASS AND NATIONALITY-RELATED PRIVILEGE, AND CORRUPTION- all still feature in Western systems, as we have already shown. Talk of meritocracy in society is ludicrous, and must be recognised to be a veiled plutocracy! We have mentioned the case of Oxbridge in Britain. We must also point out that there are similar malpractices in other Western nations, as we also mentioned. We see a push for privatisation and voucher schools in the US. Furthermore, if the systems are not based on plutocracy, how else can one explain the rise of George W. Bush and similar figures (from rich families or corporation-backed) in the United States, when they are clearly not even educated enough to tell the difference between deflation and currency devaluation, as revealed by Bush's recent comments in Japan? Or, for that matter, the fact that there are only ever two viable, or, rather, realistic, candidates for US president, each from a well established party, every four years? Why do we not see the rise of a third party, or more parties?
When talking of class, one should not only have state and private schools in mind. People in many Western countries, in so-called Welfare States, have to buy uniforms for their children, textbooks, stationery, and many other necessaries. A recent survey in Britain showed that uniforms cost over 150 pounds for secondary school children, and that, consequently, many children cannot choose the schools of their choice. The rate at which this is occurring is increasing. In August 2001, the Family Welfare Association (FWA) saw a 16% increase in the number of needy families applying for grants to pay for school uniforms - and this was on top of a steady rise of applications over recent years. When parents asked the government for help and grants, the education chairman of the Local Government Association, Graham Lane, said authorities could not afford to offer more grants. He continued, "It's a very expensive business. We would rather spend the money on teachers' salaries, books and equipment for schools". Other government reports also emphasised the need for higher salaries for a long time. Ironically, months down the line, a teachers' strike in London is imminent over salaries. Similar problems occur in areas such as the supply of modern technology to schools. Yet, the British government has the funds to send troops on missions in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Macedonia and Afghanistan. Needless to say, it is the children of poor families who suffer most from this kind of hypocrisy.
As regards nationality, rather than class, why do we still see so-called "race riots" in England, calls for independence from Basques and other peoples in the West, race discrimination in education and besides in Australia, the rise of right-wingers like Haider in Austria, and so on? And so few figures in politics who are from minority peoples?
In addition to all this, the extent of racial discrimination can be demonstrated easily enough by quoting some statistics and stating some facts. According to research presented to the Royal Economic Society s Annual Conference at the University of Nottingham, the Labour Force Survey data for males in Britain states that between 1992-6: Black Africans and Caribbeans (blacks) had an unemployment rate of 28%, Pakistanis 22% and Indians 12%, while the figure for whites was 10%. Furthermore, Indians on average earned 6% less than whites while the figures for blacks and Pakistanis were 12% and 29% respectively. These figures, it was stated in the research documents, show a deterioration of the position of the ethnic minorities since the 1970s. In the US, to further illustrate this trend, there has been a return to racially segregated neighbourhood schools (which also implies class divisions). Perhaps this also suggests that people's nationality or ethnicity and their class status, more often than not, coincide in Western countries. Equality of opportunity for all is a myth.
All of this should come to our minds, as we seek our future in the West.
TEACHING, THINKING AND FREEDOM IN THE WEST - There is less thinking and freedom in the West than it appears to many in our country and worldwide. We may be broad in this respect, since it is a wide topic.
Freedom of speech and expression is now certainly allowed to a greater extent in the West than it was, for example, in the Stalinist Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. It must be made apparent, however, that there are limits to people's freedom and thought, and not reasonable ones at that. To a lesser (in comparison with the so-called "socialist" countries), but still visible and horrifying extent, schooling involves less thinking, practice and interconnection than it does the bare learning of information. What, after all, is education all about [this will be dealt with in the next article]? Is it about learning how to think, and to be in synchrony with one's emotions, environment, society and so on? Or is it about the beating into children's heads of information, given social rules and relations (like hierarchy, racism, sexism, etc), and various dogmas? If it is the former, why are such experimental (or, perhaps, avant- garde?) schools, like Summerhill in England, being constantly threatened with closure? Why are their ideas not allowed to be put in practice, at least within the confines of their own little area? Why is it, moreover, that other private schools, like religious institutions, are allowed to take children under their wing, while libertarian ones are not?
Be it because they are too backward? No, that cannot be stated, partially because normal examination standards cannot be applied to them, and even when they are, many of the pupils from these schools show excellent standards (the rate of increase in vocabulary on the part of the average student in the libertarian Shaker Mountain School was 2 1/2 times the U.S. national rate in tests a number of years ago, for example). Is it because the children are unhappier at such schools? A simple survey would negate that possibility. So, can it be that the reasons for this reactionary policy in the West are of a different nature? Can it be that the West does not care about alternatives and ideals, but only about that type of education, which, to the conservative mind, ensures the highest rate of profit? Can it be, indeed, that the "free world" is afraid of freedom and decision-making when they are placed in the hands of its youth? One has to wonder.
The talk of Western-style democracy may sound good in other areas, perhaps. An example may be that there is talk of student participation in reforms, a student parliament and student participation on committees (according to the DOS programme, these students would be appointed by the government and its organs). We see in the West, though, that students' wishes are not above the needs of business and desires of government. For example, in December of 2001, 100 000 protestors marched in Spain against a set of laws which students fear would privatise tertiary education and diminish their rights. The laws were duly passed by parliament. Where is democracy evident here? Is democracy about voting once in a number of years, and leaving things to politicians, or is it about participation in the actions society takes? What do You want it to be?
It would perhaps be apt to comment at this point that the US system, unspecified elements of which are to be incorporated into our system, according to education officials, produces students who, at primary and secondary education-level, are worse than their counterparts in many other Western and non-Western states. This can be illustrated, among other ways, by pointing to the results of US twelfth- graders (seventeen to eighteen year-olds) at The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), held in 1998. With the unexplained absence of many Asian countries, traditionally excellent in these areas, twenty-three states from around the world participated. The US children ranked fourth from bottom in combined mathematics and science literacy, second from bottom in mathematics, and last in physics. Doubtless, changes are necessary to our own educational system, but surely we shall not want to copy that of the US, the standards of which are definitely questionable? The West has its advantages, but not everything there is something we should look up to!
The DOS coalition in many ways has much that appears good-natured and highly ethical in its rhetoric, as do the mainstream political parties within it. Talk of equal opportunity, the role of professionals in state planning and the need to offer workers continual education in more modern skills is all very noble and necessary. A question has to be posed, however. Is the general westward course one that can provide what the DOS has promised our citizens? Even if the DOS can deliver on its promises in education, can it guarantee the permanence of the reforms? More precisely, is what the coalition promises (which one can question in itself) compatible with the economic, political and social policy that it advocates?
As shown, that is very dubitable. Not only because, if we join the global economy, will our nation be shaped in the Western model and because much is wrong within the Western model. More importantly, the needs of our youth, workers and others will be subordinated to the needs of international Capital. Capital will attempt to minimise expenses and maximise profit, even at the expense of education and healthcare. This is, hopefully, evident in retrospect. If there should still be doubt, a quick study of the results of ten years of "transition" in Eastern Europe should dispel it.
A report from UNICEF on ten years of transition provided a horrid picture, even if it did not examine the causes of it, of the transition's impact on the youth of the former Socialist Bloc. Here, too, analysis will not be necessary. The facts shall speak for themselves.
- Almost 500 000 children, aged between five and fourteen, who lived in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union at the time the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, have since died. Most of these deaths were caused by accidents, violence, homicide, suicide, infections, malnourishment, and problems associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Clearly, these are problems that could have been solved or minimised had a different social and economic system been in place.
- While in 1989 almost all children completed secondary school, in the CIS the number graduating had dropped 10 to 20 percent by 1997. In other countries, like Bulgaria and Romania, the decline was even more severe: for the latter country, around 80 percent fewer children graduated in 1997 than in 1989. The report points out that those worst affected were young people from poor families, rural areas and ethnic minorities or those with handicaps.
- In most of the examined countries, youth unemployment was about twice as high as the general level of unemployment. This problem was virtually non-existent before 1989. Worse, the phenomenon is also quite visible in Poland, one of the "success stories" of the transition.
- Many current ministers, "experts" and officials in the Yugoslav and Serbian governments and agencies had at some point participated in the reforms conducted in the other countries of Eastern Europe. (Does it appear from their time in office that they have learnt their lesson?)
It must be apparent to all of us that the path the DOS has chosen for us in is not the right one to go down.
Where, then, are we headed? Not just to the West, but into an abyss! All is not well in the world, and this is beginning to be seen internationally, with various protests and voter apathy. All people see is increasing polarisation of wealth, war, suffering, alienation, destitution...We are undoubtedly a world and society in crisis. The past offers some answers, but, as we have seen, it is not a past to be returned to. All is not rosy in the West either. People must be asking themselves questions. Why and how have things got this far? Who are we to turn to? Where are we to go? What is to be done? What, indeed, is to be done?