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When school doesn’t teach you everything – Zagreb

When you want to hear young people complain, ask them about their education. This is
something which we have learned early on during this Europe on Track project. Wherever we
have gone, the same shortcomings of the formal education system have been reiterated. While
it does teach you a lot about the topic of your choice, it “does not teach you how to live in the
world” (Silvia, 23, Law) and “does not tackle the issues which surround young people” (Marko,
22, Political sciences).

Another problem according to many, is that our education systems “do not provide us
with any working experience” (Antonija, 22, English and French language and literature),
something which is highly sought after by recruiters. Internships while at, or shortly after
university, could offer a solution here, but then again, these are often underpaid or even
below qualifications. So where to turn to for a broader education and some valuable first
experiences?

Non-formal education does perform better on a number of these problems—including a greater
adaptability to young people’s lives and mixing training with experience. But in many countries
it lacks one vital characteristic of formal education: a widely recognised certification system.
In a country where “non-formal education is still very much terra incognita” (Anna-Maria, 30,
staff member at Croatian Youth Council), this leaves many people reluctant to give it a try.

So the Croatian Youth Network is trying out a different approach. In cooperation with the
Ministry of Education, they are test-running a curriculum of civic education for primary and
secondary systems, using methods from non-formal education and focusing on topics such
as human rights, sustainability, and intercultural communication. The aim of the programme,
says Anna-Maria, is to give young people the opportunity to “experience what it is like to be an
active citizen, to participate in decision-making, in making your community a better place.”

At a moment where education budgets are under increasing pressure, Croatia is innovating. “It
is easy to put young people aside, saying they are the future and we will deal with them later.
If there is any time you should really think about young people and invest in young people, it
is now.”