There is not a bit of progress about the process of digitalization of the education in North Macedonia. The pupils will still study the traditional way, from print textbooks. Of course, the other option is available – if they choose so, they can study from whatever e-books are available. Even though it promised, the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) hasn’t submitted to the Parliament a new draft law on books and other didactic materials for primary and secondary schools, after it withdrew a draft law in January 2021 following the criticism from the public for the plan to digitize all the textbooks for the pupils in the 4th grade and above and to obliterate the print textbooks, Portalb.mk writes.
Almost 10 months have passed since the Government withdrew the draft law on digital textbooks from the Parliament and MES still hasn’t prepared a new bill, as promised. At the moment, the digital textbooks are just an option, as it used to be, i.e. apart from the print textbooks, the pupils can find some of them in digital format.
MES published a call for producing and printing textbooks for the primary school education. The deadline is the 11th of May, and one of the conditions is that the books must also be available as e-books.
The effort and the failure of the bill on e-books
In the period August 2020-December 2021, the MES was headed by Mila Carovska who, among other goals, set the task to change the concept of education and envisioned total textbook digitization, which at the same time meant obliterating the use of the print textbooks.
“The digitalization is not a trend, it is a necessity. Not only because the access to the materials is easier, but because the content that can be inserted in a digital textbook is more modern, more interesting and more stimulating, and, as a result, it can arouse the pupil’s interest. Their world is the digital devices, they are constantly exposed to animations, and that cannot be put in printed textbooks,” said Carovska on the 25th of April 2021.
For months there was a media campaign, visits with presentations of the plan and the details – that starting from September 2021, the pupils from the 4th grade and up will start using digitized textbooks and the MES even submitted to the Parliament a bill that was withdrawn after the general public reacted. But it was promised that after heeding people’s opinions, a new bill will be submitted. Apart from that, in order to implement this plan, MES purchased 10.000 tablets for the 4th graders from socially endangered families, so that they may use their new digital textbooks.
The opposition party VMRO_DPMNE remarked that this is not digitalization and according to them, a similar example cannot be found worldwide.
The ruling party’s loss at the local elections led to the minister’s resignation. Mila Carovska, who was managing this ministry, with promises of major, even strategic reforms, resigned from her position when her party lost the local elections.
Instead, Jeton Shaqiri was appointed a new minister, coming from the post of a Minister for Information Society and Administration, which is directly involved into the digitalization process in this country. In February 2022, Shaqiri announced that the commenced schoolbook digitization will be a process that shall be accomplished in 5 years.
“The pupils from the 4th grade and upward are offered digital texts. Several aspects should be taken into account. Firstly the content, i.e. should be examined whether the content of the teaching programs and the textbooks meet the standards, but also the digitalization mustn’t be neglected. With the current dynamics, the schoolbook digitization should be finalized in 5 years,” Shaqiri said.
On the 23rd of April this year, Shaqiri stressed that, according to the current law, a printed version of the textbooks is necessary.
“According to the current Law on textbooks for primary and secondary education, a printed version of the textbooks is necessary for the teaching process, but it doesn’t exclude the importance of the digital version,” said the Ministry.