International Education Programs in Macedonia
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or soon possibly known as Upper Macedonia, but most commonly referred to as just Macedonia, gained its independence from Yugoslavia peacefully in 1991.
Since independence, Macedonia has been trying to make a huge leap in development and join the European Union and NATO.
The biggest obstacle for the country’s EU and NATO membership has been the name dispute that arises from the ambiguity in nomenclature between the Republic of Macedonia and the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia.
However, this dispute has not stopped members of international bodies from supporting international education programs in Macedonia.
The United States and the European Union see education as an important step to both democratic and economic stability of the country.
For this reason, both bodies are sending aid in form of international education programs, while the country settles its naming dispute with Greece.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been supporting international education programs in Macedonia since 1993. USAID works directly with the country’s Ministry of Education and Science in order to improve education.
By improving education, USAID hopes to foster the fledgling democracy and promote inter-ethnic relations.
USAID programs have been most heavily aimed at children. From 2013 to 2018, USAID supported the Readers are Leaders Project. This project was focused on children in all primary schools across the country. Its aim was to strengthen literacy and numeracy rates among the youth.
Currently, several other projects, such as Children with Visual Impairment Project, are active. This project is run jointly with the International Lions Club. It was started in 2014 and will last to 2019. It works to increase the quality and accessibility of education services, provide individual support to children with visual impairments and facilitates early eye-screenings.
Another joint program underway is the Youth Ethnic Integration Project (2017-2022). Through this program, USAID is promoting both civic responsibility in youth but also a cultural understanding between Macedonia’s ethnic groups.
The Peace Corps
Since 1996, when the first volunteers of this organization were welcomed by the Ministry of Education and Science, the United States Peace Corps has supported international education in Macedonia.
The Peace Corps education mission in Macedonia has been two-fold since the beginning. The first goal is to introduce new teaching methodologies to the Macedonian classroom at both the primary and secondary school levels. The second is to help with the instruction of English courses.
However, volunteers do not just stick to the classrooms for instructions of English language. They also promote and start English speaking clubs and organizations.
The Peace Corps developed English Language clubs, drama clubs and summer camps. The Peace Corps works with three Ministries of the country along with other international agencies and organizations to promote international education programs in Macedonia.
The European Union
The largest monetary contributor of development and international education programs in Macedonia is the European Union.
In 2017, the government of Macedonia and the European Union adopted a program of international development within Macedonia and signed a financial agreement.
The result is that the EU released $82.3 million worth of funds for the social and economic development of the country. These funds are only a small portion of the planned aid to Macedonia that stretches back to 2014.
The funds of EU are mostly directed towards the development of education in Macedonia. They are part of the financial assistance under IPA II agreement that totals to $757 million worth of aid to Macedonia. To ensure the funds are being used properly, the EU and Macedonia have set up joint monitoring committees to oversee their usage.
At the end of September 2018, the government of Macedonia held a referendum to change the official country’s name from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Upper Macedonia.
By changing the name of the country the Prime Minister hopes to speed up the process of joining NATO and the EU. His opponents see this as an appeasement to bullies.
Less than 50 percent of the total population voted in the referendum making it void, although the tally of those who did vote was nearly 90 percent in favor of the name change.
A trend showed the youth overwhelmingly supported the change. It shows that the work of international organizations on international education programs in Macedonia was efficient in showing the youth what needs to be done in order to help the country move forward.
– Nicholas DeMarco