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Report to Ministry of Education

Report to Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development on the Workshop held on 6-7 October 2018 on Serbian Language in the Diaspora at the Kensington Aldridge Academy

Aim of Workshop: The aim of the Workshop was to:

* promote the standardisation of the teaching and learning of Serbian in the Serbian Diaspora communities across the world

* enhance the quality and improve the way Serbian is taught in Serbian Diaspora communities

* introduce officially accredited courses for learners of Serbian, with priority being given to the introduction of a recognised qualification for older learners, equivalent to an English GCSE and A Level

Workshop Funding: Jointly funded by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Developmentand the Serbian Council of Great Britain

Organised: By the Round Table Working Group on the Serbian Language led by Olga Stanojlovic

Participants: 20 participants including: representatives from Azbukum Centre Novi Sad and Belgrade; Svetlana Matić, Academic, Officer at the Ministry of Education and Science in Austria, Vice President Serbian Cultural and Educational Society, Austria; Professor Danko Šipka, Arizona State University (by skype for one session); academics from the Universities of Nottingham and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London; teachers and representatives from Serbian Schools in Britain; representatives of Serbian community organisations in Britain; individuals with an interest in this area.

Individuals active in this area in other European countries hoped to attend but were unable to do so because there was insufficient time for them to obtain visas. Violeta Brakus, Switzerland, sent a written submission about her experience of teaching Serbian in Switzerland.  Colleagues from Europe will be kept informed of the outcomes of the workshop and will be involved in future activity.

Workshop Programme:  Miloš Stefanović, Chair of the Workshop and a member of the Round Table Working Group, introduced participants to the aims and objectives of the Workshop

Day 1

 Mirjana Lazić, Round Table Working Group, briefly outlined the experience in Britain; why standardisation of the way Serbian is taught is considered to be of such importance and how this had been pursued. Mirjana highlighted the need for a recognised qualification for older learners of the Serbian language in Britain and that it had not been possible to persuade the Serbian or British governments to introduce such a qualification and how a partnership with the Azbukum Centre could provide the solution.

The focus of the first day of the Workshop was on sharing information and experience of the way Serbian is currently taught in the Diaspora as well as on the full range of the work of the Azbukum Centre. Nataša  Milićević-Dobrominov, Director Azbukum Centre and her colleague Biljana Novković-Adžaip, Azbukum Centre, outlined the Azbukum Centre’s long experience from 1995  of teaching Serbian as a foreign language in their centre to foreigners worldwide and to foreigners working and living in Serbia as well people of Serbian origin who want to improve their Serbian. They also described their programmes for children and young adults including Azbuki Camps, and their work with the French school in Belgrade.  Since 2017 all their courses, at all levels, had been accredited by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia.( The Azbukum Association – Centre  for Serbian language and culture JPOA status).

Svetlana Matić, a teacher of Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian languages in primary schools in Austria, gave an interesting account of the educational experiences and challenges she faces in her teaching  in Vienna. She explained how her pupils were from the second or third generation, whose parents, grandmothers and grandfathers, came from the former Yugoslavia. She highlighted the importance of learning and having a good knowledge of one’s mother tongue, stressing that it was only learners, who were confident in their mother tongue, who could easily learn another language, including German. The Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Culture funds the teaching of heritage languages, and provides lesson plans and schemes of work and employs the teachers. Currently twenty six languages are taught including, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian (BSH), English, Turkish, Albanian, Hungarian, Polish, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese and other languages.

Professor Danko Šipka, Professor of Slavic Languages and Applied Linguistics, Arizona State University, joined the Workshop by skype and outlined the work he and his colleagues were doing on aligning final learning outcomes with enabling statements along the ACTFL scale and creating a system of their assessment. In addition, he gave fascinating details regarding the ranking of foreign languages according to the difficulty they pose to English-speaking learners. Serbian was included in the 3rd out of 4 levels of difficulty.


Day 2

The focus of the second day was to see if a partnership between the Round Table Working Group and Azbukum Centre could deliver a qualification, equivalent to the English GCSE, for older learners in Britain and, if this was possible, could this be a model that could be delivered in other countries. It was felt that this could be a significant contribution to standardizing the way Serbian is taught in the Diaspora.

Nataša Milićević-Dobrominov, Director Azbukum Centre, and her colleague, Biljana Novković-Adžaip, of the Azbukum Centre, went into greater detail about the nature of the courses that the Azbukum Centre offered and how they were in line with the European Common Framework of Reference for Languages, as were the examinations at the end of their courses.  They outlined the pedagogical methodology they followed, the materials they had produced for their courses, the way in which they trained and supported their teachers and they highlighted the importance of the on-line platforms that were being developed to extend the reach and impact of their offer for both pupils and teachers. 


Nataša reported that in 2017 the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, of the Republic of Serbia, had accredited the courses offered by the Azbukum Centre and that given that they correspond to the European Common Framework of Reference for Languages, it meant that the diplomas offered by the Azbukum Centre were recognised not only in Serbia but also in Europe and beyond.  Nataša went on to explain how the Azbukum Centre could see the model working in the Serbian Diaspora using Britain as a pilot:


Courses: The Azbukum courses could be taught in Britain, using the Azbukum materials ( textbooks, audio and video materials etc.) and on-line platforms for supplementary support. The courses would suit all age groups and at all levels. The courses were flexible enough to be adapted to local circumstances and would reflect the experience of teaching Serbian in Britain.

Students: Students would be given a diagnostic test at the beginning of the course to assess their level of knowledge in speaking, reading, writing and spelling, and listening and this would determine the level of the course they should follow. The importance of the diagnostic test would need to be explained to parents and students.

Examinations: These could be delivered at various times and for all levels and could be undertaken on-line and be examined by Azbukum Centre staff or accredited examiners in Britain.  The focus would initially be on A2/B1 levels, the equivalent of the GCSE Foundation and Higher Level since this was the priority in Britain.

Certificates: Students completing the course of study would receive a certificate of attendance and a diploma stating the level reached, both of which were officially recognised.

Teachers:  Teachers for the courses would be recruited by the Serbian schools in Britain but their CV would be submitted to Azbukum Centre who would interview them with representatives from the UK school to ensure that the teachers had the motivation to teach the Azbukum courses and to identify their training needs.

Teacher Training: This could be provided by Azbukum and could take place in Serbia or Britain, whichever was the most convenient. The courses would provide teachers with the skills of teaching Serbian as a foreign or second language.

Costs: Azbukum would charge a fee for the services they provided for the use of their materials and on-line platform together with the training of teachers. This could be a stand-alone fee or built into the overall fee for the course. A figure of £180 was floated, but a lot more detailed discussion is required regarding the final system of payment Azbukum.

There was insufficient time to discuss the Azbukum Centre proposal in any detail but participants felt that it provided the basis for a way forward and could guide the teaching and learning of Serbian in Britain and other Diaspora communities for children and young adults and at all levels. If, indeed, it can offer the flexibility for testing that Nataša seemed to say was possible, then it would be a great advantage and would mean that different centres/schools could test their pupils when and where they wanted, as well as offering a course for distance learners. It would also avoid the need for a cumbersome and centralised system of testing. It also offers the chance for schools teaching Serbian to very young learners to aim for an accredited level at A1. It was felt that Britain could be a pilot-country for the development of the model and that the Azbukum Centre courses could replace the Serbian GCSE Level course from the autumn of 2019 and that this should be the focus of collaboration.

The model required a lot more investigation and testing and it was suggested this could be undertaken by the Round Table Working Group and representatives of the Azbukum Centre. Representatives from other European Serbian Diaspora communities needed to be involved and this could be done by holding another conference and by use of the on-line platform that was being developed by the Azbukum Centre.


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