Borce Davitkovski, Faculty of Law: We return to the old oral examination
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Guest for the Inbox 7 interview this week is the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Borce Davitkovski.
Inbox7: First I would like to ask you about the introduction of external examinations for second and fourth year university students? Do you think it is well-founded?
Davitkovski: Well, it is completely not well-founded to me. It is unconstitutional and illegal; especially if we consider that the existing Law on Higher Education has more mechanisms that can perform external review of students’ knowledge. Namely, there is an Accreditation and Evaluation Board, which comprises 21 professors from all public and private universities, who evaluate our programs, that is accredit them, but also perform evaluations every three years. At any time they can come, check and see if and how we conduct examinations to check students’ knowledge. Secondly, under the law, we are required to make internal evaluation. We at the Faculty of Law, each semester make evaluation because all subjects are semester courses. Results are published on the website and annual report is sent to the Rector, and it is part of the university annual report. Furthermore, we have a mechanism of international external evaluation. Three years ago UKIM, that is, the Faculty of Law was evaluated by experts from the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden that fully evaluated us over three-four months. These are mechanisms that the law respects and are within the autonomy, and the academic community is involved in the method of conducting the educational process.
Why am I against it? Because this government law amendments since 2006 has so far had 35/45 project, where those who work can study, for women the age of 35, men 45. Automatically someone will enroll and certainly will not take a year for two years, does it mean he should drop out? Furthermore, we have a project for lifelong study, where also someone at the age of 60, 70 or 80 can enroll university. Does this mean that if he does not pass the second year he should lose the status of a student?
We perform a public activity, we are authorized to give degrees. Our diplomas for specific occupations can conditionally be under verification. For example, if you want to enter the administration you must take five tests: integrity, psychological test, computers…It is however verification of our degree. One who fails to pass the test will not be admitted, but he still has the status of a graduated lawyer. The same happens if you want to take an exam for judge, lawyer, in the Ministry of Justice you are to take judicial law exam; it is also verification of our degree. There are specific certifications for accountants, engineers. In fact it is verification. But during the studies, which is optional, and is still a private issue, to tell somebody who is in the fourth year that he is unable to go further is just not fair vis-à-vis freedom of choice of education. In the end, no one has to graduate or not necessarily has to get hired with that degree.
I do not know someone who is smarter and who will have to verify the university exams, especially for example Roman law, of all faculties in the state, only the Law Faculty has Roman law. The question is who will evaluate the Roman law exam? Nobody else has this subject. What will be the quantum of the questions and what will be the Examination Centre that will verify the knowledge of students from the fourth year. It is good that it was said, one should hear all the arguments. But all the cards are to open and see what the idea and the purpose is. We also want real degrees, but not this way. There are many other ways. Accreditation and Evaluation Board can at any time close those that have given accreditation if the evaluation is negative. It is faster and less painful way than all students to be lumped together.
Inbox7: Do you think the quality of private higher education institutions, which on the Shanghai list were ranked below the state, is poor?
Davitkovski: It is not fair to judge it. Especially foreign companies when admitting candidates from the legal profession, always insist on choosing students who have completed our faculty. We are the oldest, relatively speaking, I guess the best Law Faculty in the state. Our degrees are recognized everywhere especially because we have studies in English. From Strasbourg, which is ranked 74, we give a joint degree in intellectual property. 16 eminent specialists from Strasbourg come. Someone verifies their assessment. It is very unserious. On the one hand we have a legal obligation to have lectures in English, and someone to test them. Incorrect vis-à-vis them and students who try to complete the studies in English. I do not think anyone else in Macedonia has joint degree with someone who is under 100th place at the Shanghai list.
Inbox7: How much has Bologna contributed to improving the quality of higher education, as the debates on this subject have not stopped?
Davitkovski: In terms of the legal profession, I do not think Bologna is good. It is not applicable in France, Germany, Austria, and Bologna process does not apply even at the Bologna School of Law. We apply the system 3 + 2 years because the state funds the first three years and does not fund the other two. 8 years ago we started to apply the classic Bologna system with computer-based testing. Now the curriculum has been reduced so that the written part is only 15 percent, and again we returned to the good old oral examination. We have activities, essays, but crucial is the oral exam because we train lawyers who will be judges, attorneys, notaries, enforcement agents, where they should orally express and return to a system between Bologna and classical type. In fact at the Faculty of Law oral examination has been dominating for the last two years. Then we had 80-90 per cent passes, now again reduced to 50-55 per cent passes within the specified deadline. Previously, you were likely to get 51 percent on computer and get a degree without having to open your mouth. It was non-sense but projected that way. Now we are back to the old. I think Bologna in pure form is very difficult to realize.
Inbox7: How much do you think that dispersed studies have contributed to lowering the quality of higher education in Macedonia? There were comments that dispersed studies go more on quantity than quality…
Davitkovski: It is true. Until three years ago we went to Veles. We were the first to introduce the electronic student record book 8 years ago, where the presence of students is verified, it enters into their file.
We had an experiment. For five years we had been giving lectures in Veles in the municipality, a lecture hall was a wedding hall in Veles, we used it as a classroom. We went there with laptops, we had nowhere to turn them on. We simply stopped the dispersed studies, then moved to Tetovo, but it has been a second or third year that the figure is not even 10 percent of the quota, so they moved to Skopje, too. We neither have a room, nor can give lectures, and there is no interest because there are other faculties of legal profession. In my opinion, here in Skopje the conditions are ideal.
There are dispersed studies in 22 places in Macedonia. Obviously the quality that is given at the parent faculty with the one given in secondary schools, primary schools is not the same. I think it is not a big problem students from Kumanovo, Tetovo to come, to see how they live. I think this project of dispersed studies simply has to be left for the legal profession especially because we cannot give the same quality.
Inbox7: In your opinion, how constitutional are the proposals for substitute teachers during the strike?
Davitkovski: I think that the government rushed. Apparently the line ministry and the union do not read the laws. There is a Law on Institutions, adopted in 2005, by accident written by myself, where the right to strike for public service employees is guaranteed and under the law when they want to strike they must provide minimum working conditions. For example, surgery or education must provide minimum conditions. Services cannot stop, it is regulated. And if they want a strike decision, they should make a program, one part can strike, and another part has to continue. Here it is understood literally. But where public activities are performed, because of the continuity principle that activity must be carried on.
They changed the law on primary, secondary, they mixed everything. There was no need for substitute teachers when there is already legislation on it.
It is a psychological war between the union and the government. If only someone had read the regulations, this would not have happened.
Inbox7: At the conference marking the anniversary of the Framework Agreement this summer, you mentioned that this document was not implemented as it should and that there was no analysis of how much the language was applied in public institutions…
Davitkovski: We passed amendments, on that basis we amended laws. There is nothing to read. What is written should be implemented. For example, if Skopje became a bilingual city, all streets under its authority must be bilingual. You cannot seek bilingualism in Berovo. As Skopje is bilingual and toponyms to be monolingual. Same with Tetovo, where everything cannot be in Albanian. Same with flags. We have Laws on flags, but we witness many celebrations without the Macedonian flag. We want to interpret the spirit of the Framework Agreement. There is nothing to interpret. The Macedonian flag has to appear on the mast. Someone respects the law or not. Whenever we do not want to implement something, we look for the spirit of the Framework Agreement. Therefore foreigners react, as we have governed it, but do not want to implement it. The problem is not in the laws, but in their implementation.
Inbox7: Where is not the Framework Agreement implemented?
Davitkovski: Everyone implements it as he wants it. There is no consistent approach. If signed, if they changed the Constitution, laws, it is part of our legal system and they need to respect it. We cannot now review whether the Framework Agreement should have been passed.