By Ilda.Hoxha

On December 6, pupils at collective schools will take exams to assess their knowledge in Albanian Language and Mathematics, upon order of the Ministry of Education. This decision was announced one week after Faktoje’s report that collective schools and classrooms are undermining the education of thousands of children across the country. The most notorious case was that involving a pupil who was repeating the first grade for the third time at the “Hamdi Mansaku” collective school in Zall Dajt.

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“Pupils in basic education collective classrooms in grades II-IX shall take exams on December 6, 2021” – the instruction of the Ministry of Education and Sports dated November 18 writes.

Among others, the instruction establishes that the exam will commence at 10:00 a.m for a duration of 60 minutes, through which students will test their Albanian Language literacy skills and mathematics skills.

Screenshot of the MoESY instruction

The testing of pupils in collective classrooms was announced nearly a week after Faktoje brought to light the serious teaching issues in collective schools by presenting the case of an 8-year-old pupil attending the “Hamdi Mansaku” school in Zall Dajt, who was repeating the first grade for the third time.

In regards to this case and the collective classroom phenomenon in general, we submitted a request for information to the Ministry of Education and Sports on November 8. The MoESY replied on November 26, following the complaint filed with the Information Commissioner.

Request for information addressed to the MoESY, November 8

Among others, the Ministry of Education explained to Faktoje that the case of the 8-year-old pupil is being investigated and the case has been notified to Tirana Education Office.

“As regards the repetition of a school year, namely grades I-III, pursuant to Order No. 31, dated 28.01.2020, Article 8 expressively stipulates the repetition of the first, second, or third grade. This takes place through a request initiated by the person exercising parental responsibility.

The request is submitted to the pre-university education institution’s principal for approval. The third paragraph of Article 8 of the aforementioned Order, sets forth that the repetition of grades I-III will only be done once.

The factors that may lead to repeating a grade are numerous, including pandemic impacts, child development, etc. As regards the case in question, verification procedures will be performed and the case has been notified to Tirana Education Office” – MoESY’s reply writes.

“Hamdi Mansaku” 9-year school, November 2021

One of the questions addressed to the MoESY was whether the latter has any plans to improve teaching quality in collective classrooms.

The Ministry of Education responded as follows:

“The establishment of collective classrooms results from the lacking number of students, thus providing education opportunities to each child, who may fail to attend education due to distance. Collective classrooms are provided for in Instruction No. 14, dated 28.07.2021 On Some Addenda and Amendments to Instruction No. 3. Based on needs, it was deemed reasonable to merge schools into one, in order to improve teaching quality.

However, during Faktoje’s verification in early November in Zall-Dajt, parents reported that no kindergartens or preschool education were available in this area. Children attend first grade directly, thus posing major difficulties to children, parents, as well as teachers. We asked the Ministry of Education directly regarding the reasons why this area has no kindergartens or preschools, but the MoESY stated that this is not its direct responsibility.

“We would like to note that preschool education, nurseries, and kindergartens are not the sole exclusive competence of the Ministry of Education and Sports, pursuant to Order No. 7244, dated 14.03.2016 On the Reorganization of the Organizational Structure of the Economic Center for Development and Education of Children, an institution subordinate to Tirana Municipality, this is part of local administration and, as such, establishing a public kindergarten is at the discretion of the local administrative unit. Establishing and shutting down classrooms and groups is based on MoESY Instruction No. 30, dated 12.09.2018” – the Ministry explains.

The collective classroom phenomenon, that will continue according to official statements, poses a risk to more than 20 thousand students enrolled in 2500 such classrooms across the country.