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Education system is deeply unethical, study finds

Education system is deeply unethical, study finds

By Sonja Methoxha The Mary Ward Loreto (MWL) Foundation in Albania has conducted a study regarding the ethics of education in Albania. The research was made in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, and MWL hired Albanian Center for Economic

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Poland 1918: Regaining lost statehood

Poland 1918: Regaining lost statehood

By Andrzej Chwalba Many states were born or reborn that created a new political architecture between the years 1918 and 1921 in Europe. Most of them defended and preserved in the following years the autonomy gained in the aforementioned period.

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German values and education hand in hand at DAS

German values and education hand in hand at DAS

It was Halloween when my colleague and I entered the Deutsch-Albanische Schule (DAS) down the Nikolla Nishku street in Tirana. As we entered the three-story building, we were flooded by the laughter and callings of the pupils playing in the

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Only one out of five Albanian PhD holders willing to return home, study shows

Only one out of five Albanian PhD holders willing to return home, study shows

TIRANA, Nov. 8 – Only one out of five Albanian PhDs holders living and working abroad say they would be willing to return and contribute to the country’s development through know-how gained in top North American and European universities, according

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Albania illegal logging, animal cruelty continues at slower pace, watchdog says

Albania illegal logging, animal cruelty continues at slower pace, watchdog says

TIRANA, Nov. 7 – An Albanian environmental watchdog says it has identified illegal hunting, logging, animals kept in captivity and fires endangering rare species during this year, defying moratoriums and sanctions in place, although at a slower pace compared to

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Albania’s Ksamil named among top 10 under-the-radar places to visit for 2019

Albania’s Ksamil named among top 10 under-the-radar places to visit for 2019

TIRANA, Nov. 1 – One of Albania’s most popular destinations, southern Ksamil has made it to the top 10 under-the-radar places to visit for 2019 in a rating by Booking.com, one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies and the number

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Transition deepens Albania’s gender inequality, report shows

Transition deepens Albania’s gender inequality, report shows

TIRANA, Oct. 25 – High levels of unemployment, poverty and low access to economic opportunities has strengthened the inequalities between men and women in Albania during the last two decades of the socioeconomic and institutional transformations taking place in Albania,

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Albania makes it to Lonely Planet’s top 10 affordable adventure destinations

Albania makes it to Lonely Planet’s top 10 affordable adventure destinations

TIRANA, Oct. 25 – Albania has made it to Lonely Planet’s top 10 affordable adventure destinations for 2019 as one of Europe’s final frontiers that offers hiking amid beautiful mountain scenery, superb beaches and a unique history. Albania ranks eighth

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Daily Mail article forces gov’t to place under protection animals held in shocking captivity

Daily Mail article forces gov’t to place under protection animals held in shocking captivity

TIRANA, Oct. 17 – The Albanian government says it has ordered the relocation and protection of some malnourished and mistreated wild animals kept at a private zoo in Fier, southwestern Albania, following an article by the UK’s Daily Mail showing

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Polish Secretary of State: “Albania, important stabilizing role in the region”

Polish Secretary of State: “Albania, important stabilizing role in the region”

Interview with Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, Polish politician, party activist and local government official. From 2018, he has been serving as the Secretary of State in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.   Q: The number of Polish tourists coming

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                    [post_content] => By Sonja Methoxha

The Mary Ward Loreto (MWL) Foundation in Albania has conducted a study regarding the ethics of education in Albania. The research was made in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, and MWL hired Albanian Center for Economic Research (ACER) to prepare it. In a conference held in the city of Vlora on Oct. 27 the foundation invited local pupils, students, teachers, professors, and shared the findings of the research through Ministry and MWL representatives, as well as others who participated in conducting the research, such as dr. Zef Preci who led the ACER team in preparing the document.

Even though there have been previously conducted studies regarding the unethical behavior in schools in Albania, this specific one from MWL is the first to cover in a national spectrum all levels of education, starting from kindergarten and preschool up to Master’s levels. The research wanted to study the variation of severity on unethical behavior in all levels of teaching and used a mixed methodology with a representative sampling for each level of education nationwide.

The conference in Vlora sought to encourage a discussion between the students, teachers and researchers, that would spark various strategies and initiatives that would help improve the situation of education around Albania, and most specifically in the southern regions of Albania.

The findings were numerous, counting from lack of ethics, to corruption and dysfunctional buildings. 

‘’This research has revealed the most shocking results of high level lack of ethic and corruption in the system of education,’’ said Imelda Poole, president of MWL foundation.

The foundation was shocked to discover the school buildings in the rural areas and some of the smaller towns of Albania to originate from as long ago as 19th century. There was no reconstruction or rehabilitation done in these schools. The researchers found missing or broken windows, no heating system to keep the children warm during the winter, thus they would have to keep their jackets on during the classes, and the toilets were in such disastrous states beyond repair, that challenged any sort of human conditions. 

Disturbing grading practices were also noticed in the mid-schools especially, but not contained only there. The teachers would grant better grades or positions to the pupils that would buy them gifts or that would directly give them monetary tips. In terms of higher education, the practices followed start from buying the exams as mentioned above, but also paying for grades, passing the class, buying of the diplomas, the dissertation papers, and outstanding high levels of plagiarism noticed from the students. 

Other than unethical behavior, was also the unscrupulous punishment practices, which sometimes are illegal. Teachers would give failing grades to students who didn’t participate in the corruption process, or that contradicted the teachers either in teaching, lectures, or biased behavior. They would exclude the students from the class, use sarcastic language, derogatory nicknames and use verbal, emotional and even physical violence as means of education. This practice comes due to a wrong culturally inhibited practice of accepting violence as a means of discipline. Another dark side was discrimination and prejudice based on gender, ethnicity, religious, social and economic status, and even inappropriate remarks to children with special needs.

Also, there was a lack of reporting to the students’ behavior both from teachers and parents. What is more noticeable here is the lack of interest of the parents, accounting to the education of their children as only in the in-class sphere. They would indulge in teacher favoritism or pressure towards them, and there is a lack of collaboration from them with the education system and schools.

‘’Scarce attention has been paid to ethical education as a direct tool for working towards quality education and life-skills learning, which help to develop healthy societies and sustainable democracies,’’ it is written in the report regarding the importance of ethics in the education system. This perhaps is the drawback of the education laws and system plannings to have an accessible education to all pupils and students around the country. The focus has also been in providing a quality in education, but noticing the high percentages of unethical behavior that is dubious.

The numbers the study concluded regarding the lack of ethics were 36 percent for preschools, 74.1 percent in upper secondary education denounced by the teachers themselves, whereas 83 percent of the students in upper secondary education denounced unethical behavior, and 73 percent occurred in higher education. 

What was interesting in this finding were that the actors were aware of their unethical behavior, however, there was this idea that the others’ unethical behavior had a more significant impact in the system, and thus no one was really focusing on how to stop this phenomenon but rather point the blaming finger elsewhere. That is, even if parents were unethical towards their children, or previous teachers to their pupils, when passing to another teachers in another class, that teacher would still act unethical towards the pupils, and notice an unethical behavior from these students, however, instead of trying to stop this lack of ethics, he would blame the previous teacher for this behavior. 

But why is this happening? The study claims that ‘’this pattern of perception derives partially from the persistent lack of communication among teachers, students, parents, and institution principals in regard to issues of ethics. When communication happens, it is fragmented and shared within respective groups. Thus, teachers receive information mainly through staff meetings, while students and parents receive it through informal channels such as child-parent communication and shared information with peers and other parents. This limited institutional and organized communication between teachers, parents, and students in regard to school ethics, explains the insufficient information parents and students have about teachers’ codes of ethics, institutional regulations, expectations of ethical behavior and the consequences in cases of ethics violations.’’  

This lack of communication, and also the lack of trust in the authorities or institutions, add up to this level of unethical behavior. But more than that it is also the unwillingness to report this behavior to the respective institutions, as from parents, students, and teachers. Multilevel interventions are needed to fix this rotten system which demands a focus on legislative regulations, a stronger communication between the educators, parents and students regarding the duties and responsibilities, as well as a higher collaboration between all actors of the system. A monitoring and reporting system is also a suggestive strategy to tackle this phenomenon. 

Mary Ward Loreto Foundation is a non-profit organization providing development programs for vulnerable communities in Albania. Its core values are freedom, justice and sincerity, and the work related is fighting human trafficking. The aim is to eradicate poverty, the prime cause for human trafficking, through works of justice, education, grassroots action and systemic change. 

The Albanian Center for Economic Research seeks to promote economic reforms in Albania by conducting independent research on economic growth and helping to create an appropriate institutional framework for economic reforms. We seek to encourage public debates on a number of issues related to the country’s economic transition, by becoming a party in drafting laws, defending country policies and decision-makers and promoting the strengthening of the non-governmental sector.

 
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                    [post_content] => By Andrzej Chwalba

Many states were born or reborn that created a new political architecture between the years 1918 and 1921 in Europe. Most of them defended and preserved in the following years the autonomy gained in the aforementioned period. Among them, some, as was Poland, returned to the state-building history interrupted in the late eighteenth century. While others, like Latvia or Estonia, Slovakia in the context Czechoslovakia or Slovenia within the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian Federation appeared on the map for the first time. None of the new states was able to regain all the land it owned before the fall.

The re-born Republic of Poland at the end of October 1918 was aware of the inheritance and traditions of its predecessor: the Polish-Lithuanian Republic. It concerned a country that, among other things, had elaborated the idea of ​​the unions of sovereign states. Today's European Union refers to the Polish-Lithuanian union. Despite the differences in the interests of the political classes of both countries, the primary interest was always triumphant and the conviction that the union remained a beneficial bond for both sides. At the same time, civil liberties and joint parliamentary elections (Sejmi) were considered. The Polish parliament of the 21st century is aware of the inheritance of the period called Sejm. This tradition is also followed by the Lithuanians who call their parliament Sejmas, but also the Latvians – Saeima. Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, but also Ukrainians and Belarusians proudly proclaim the first constitution in Europe and the second in the world, adopted on May 3, 1791. The Polish political thinker, Hugo Kołłątaj, introduced in the constitution a provision on political responsibility of the executive power (government) and the the legislative power (parliament), whose members were elected by the people and made the parliament a representative of the people’s sovereignty. In the XIX-XX centuries, many countries of the world embraced Kołłątaj's principle. Nations and states that are inheritors of the Republic respect the beautiful tradition of political and religious tolerance. In 1573, the Polish political class adopted the provision on religious tolerance through the Confederation's act in the lands of the Republic, as this act became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its authors referred to Polish openness and tolerance. The community of Jewish faith, persecuted in Western Europe and driven from there, found its safe haven in the Republic. Thanks to the care of kings and Sejm, Jews gained rights and freedom comparable to those of the locals. They even had their own legislative body. The opening of the political class of the Republic to vulnerable groups led to the appearance of the expelled Mennonites from the Netherlands in the 16th century as well as the Scotsmen who were fleeing religious persecution. Among the refugees there were also Greeks, Italians, Armenians, Karen, Russians and German Protestants. These communities enriched the common culture of the Republic and conveyed their values ​​to the common treasury.

Despite the reform efforts undertaken at the end of the XVIII century, the Republic fell. In dealing with three powerful imperial states: Russia, Austria and Prussia, it had no great prospects for survival. Yet for the Poles, freedom and independence remained inseparable. This was evidenced by the national uprisings organized after the fall of the state by the freedom-loving illegal movements of the nineteenth century: the Carthaginian uprising of 1794, the November uprising of 1830-1831, the January uprising of 1863-1864. The Polish people have witnessed active participation in the European wars for the freedom of peoples and states and in the People’s Spring of Austria, Prussia, Hungary, France, West Germany, Italy, based on the Polish currency which was then embraced by others as well – "for our freedom and yours". During the November uprising of the Romantic Period, the Polish insurgent Sejmi recognized the song "Poland is not dead yet" as the national anthem and the white colors on red as national colors and symbols, still in effect today. The Poles were convinced that only their state guaranteed their spiritual and material development according to their expectations and traditions and progress in the field of education, science, technology and a dignified representation in European politics and culture. That is why even in the national pantheon there are those who, with their rifles and with their pens, have fought for the return of Poland to its former place in Europe, among the free peoples and as equal among the equal. The greatest of them, the Kościuszko and Poniatowski fighters, as well as the poets Mickievic and Sllovacki, deserved their resting place in Wawel, Krakow, in the royal necropolis. As equals to kings. Upon death, in 1935, the remains of Marshal of the Republic and the person who resurrected Poland in 1918 Józef Piłsudski, were brought to Wawel by Juzef Pillsudski.
Throughout the 19th century, with varying intensity, the Polish question remained vital, meaning the question of the Republic's return in any kind of territorial configuration. Thanks to the Napoleonic era within the French Europe, the Principality of Warsaw was created and after its collapse, until 1832, there was a liberal Polish Principality in the union embodied with the Romanov dynasty, and until 1846 the free independent city of Krakow was functioning. Though the national uprisings did not succeed, they still animated European history and gave weight to the Polish question. As long as the alliance of the three partiers – Prussia, Austria and Russia – existed, regaining independence was virtually impossible. At the end of the 19th century, however, two military blocks were formed: the central states and Ententa states. The first block involved Prussia and Austria-Hungary, and the second Russia. For the first time since more than 100 years, the ways of Poland's separators finally parted. This brought about the revival of Polish hopes. However, at the time of the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, none of the captive states wanted to address the Polish issue as an international matter. Also, France and Great Britain, in coalition with Russia, despite sympathy for Polish efforts, formally remained in agreement with Russia. In 1916, the political situation in Europe and the world was beginning to change in favor of Polish interests. First, Prussia and its ally widely occupied lands in the East at the expense of defeated Russia, which was populated by different nations. Berlin had decided to create a system of states formally independent and actually dependent on each other politically and economically, but also led by German monarchs. These states had to form the German Union in Europe. Berlin wanted at the same time to weaken Austria-Hungary, subdue war-occupied Romania, and create the Flemish country as western borders of the German Europe. In the idea of ​​creating the Polish state, the Germans were even more convinced by the Polish Legions, meaning the volunteering formations that fought alongside central states since the beginning of the war. The informal leader of these formations was Pillsudski. In 1916, the Germans and Austrians recognized the Polish Legions as the best military formations on the front of the east. The first document for the international rank marking the start of Poland's revival was the act of November 5, 1916, signed by two emperors: Vilhelmi II and Franc Juzefi I. The Act envisioned the creation of the Polish Kingdom with the capital Warsaw. In the coming months, besides the invasion, the Polish authorities, the government, the triad regimes were created. Immediately after the November 5th Act, the German general governor in the Polish kingdom called Polish volunteers under the flag of the Polish army under German command. The answer was too tepid.

The year 1917 brought excellent news that was in line with Polish hopes. Initially in Russia, the new government born after the Russian revolution predicted that Poland could be recreated, but that they would long to have this happening in a free alliance with new Russia, while in April, the United States entered the war on the allies' side. In a famous message addressed to the US Congress in January 1918, President Woodrow Wilson at point 13 warned the establishment of free access to sea (the Baltic Sea) as one of the goals of the war. The decisive influence on the content of point 13 was the Polish renown artist, pianist and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who had friendship with the American president. In line with the Americans, European allies were also starting to come to terms with the Poles' right to create their own state. In France, an allied Polish army was created under the command of former Polish Legion General Józef Haller. This army was politically subordinated to the Polish National Committee (KNP), headquartered in Paris and headed by Roman Dmowski. The committee in question was accepted as Poland's official representative. It had the right to issue Polish passports and to take loans on behalf of Poland in its future account.

In 1918 the future of Poland was secured. The Renaissance was safe, as well as the defeat of the central states. The question of which Polish political camp would take over in reborn Poland remained, as well who of the leading politicians Pillsudski or Dmowski. The fall of Austro-Hungary and the defeat of Germany in the fall of 1918 allowed Polish conspirators to disarm the armies of both states. The disarmed forces were quietly returning to their homes. The rivalry of two leading politicians for power was won by Pillsudski, formerly known as the ally of the Austrians, and from July 1917 imprisoned by the Germans and held in the fortress of Magdeburg. He returned in Warsaw on November 10, 1918. They welcomed him as savior, as a god. He became the Provisional Head of State. Together with the government and the Poles, he founded the Republic of Poland - in the republic system, open, tolerant and democratic. Citizens were guaranteed a broad framework of civic freedoms, while women had equal political rights with men.

Meanwhile the problem of border determination remained open and at the same time difficult to solve, because the heirs of the Republic were Polish, Latvian, Belarusians, Ukrainians and all of them were creating their own national states, often in controversial territories. It happened that two or even three states claimed the possession of the same land. In diverse ethnic and religious lands, it was difficult to determine the right frontiers. In such circumstances the conflicts and wars among the heirs of the Republic for the biggest territories were inevitable. There was tension in the relations between the Christian population, among other things the Polish and Jewish population which were big in number, who hoped that the new state would guarantee them national-cultural autonomy. Post-war poverty, famine, devastation, epidemics-had their impact on inter-human and inter-ethnic relations.

The Polish frontiers were defined in 1918-1923, among others also thanks to the victorious war with the Bolshevik Russia in 1920. Reborn Poland could not be monolithic from the national point of view, just as its neighboring states, because the inhabitants who had populated for centuries the lands of the Republic near each other and who had used different languages belonged to different ethnic cultures. All the New European states consisted of different nationalities and beliefs. In Poland there was a big number of minorities, among them the largest Ukrainian and Jewish, at a time when more than 2 million Poles lived in neighboring countries.

The legacy of the Great War and the wars of 1918-1921 would influence the difficult relations of Poland with its neighbors as well as the mutual relations between the Poles and the national minorities. The difficult material conditions of millions of Polish people, as a result of previous wars and encroachments, certainly would not make coexistence easier for understanding.More than 100 years of Poles' attempts to restore the independent state ended in the tradition of American Hollywood films - with a happy ending. But the movie about Polish efforts was filmed in Central Europe. Among the directors and at the same time the midwives of the Polish independent statehood, we have so many popular and respected personalities in Poland and abroad: Tadeusz Kościuszko, cleric Józef Poniatowski, cleric Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, General Józef Bem, Romuald Traugutt, Józef Piłsudski, composers Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Without their wisdom and courage, without their vision, the dreams of the Poles to unite their country made up of lands of three partitions - would never have become a reality.
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                    [post_content] => It was Halloween when my colleague and I entered the Deutsch-Albanische Schule (DAS) down the Nikolla Nishku street in Tirana. As we entered the three-story building, we were flooded by the laughter and callings of the pupils playing in the gymnasium. The children were dressed in colorful costumes, as the tradition requests. Little fairies, princesses and princes, superheroes and even grim reapers were playing together in games designed to bond a stronger friendship.

The German-Albanian school is a mid-school consisting of six grades, which was established as a necessity to meet the demands of the parents whose children went to the German kindergarten Topolino. The education received in the kindergarten is German and so is the language spoken and taught there by the caretakers. The parents thus wanted their children to continue their studies in the discipline.

In addition, the school is also open to the children of embassy employees and other German citizens living in Albania, the returning emigrants from German-speaking countries, and the children whose family members live in any of those nations or are preparing to leave.

Thus, more than a business model, this school only serves the purposes of an educative institution in a foreign curriculum, to meet the requests of a very much demanded didactic model.

All 60 pupils of this school learn an exclusive German curriculum from German and Albanian teachers. All the subjects are taught in German - sports, math, science, geography. The Albanian pupils also attend Albanian language and history classes, as the law requires, whereas the foreign students have preferential choices over Albanian or English as a foreign language.

Walking through the classes one notices decorations on the walls, posters around the board, a map of Germany, the alphabet, neat desks with books. There are also the pictures of the pupils on a small board that marks their progress. Those who might score poorer usually take extra lessons and are paid more attention by their teachers, so they can succeed as much as their peers.

The newcomer pupils who don’t speak German at all, or very well, are put in the same classes with their peers and abide to the same timetable as their group. However, they take intensive language classes and an additional math class in Albanian, so their language skills can better. Yet, as Headmistress Rina Kazazi expresses, even though the parents might claim the language is hard, ‘’the children really are like sponges, they learn really fast.’’

But this doesn’t only come from the ability of the students to learn fast. It is also the teachers who make it easier for them by creating more interactive classes through games and contemporary techniques. Even though mostly younger than 30, the teachers are already experienced in their fields, and the German teachers have already taught in public schools back in their home country.

Teacher Christopher Butsch started teaching on Sept. 2018 at DAS. He has previously taught at public German schools, so he brings some first-hand experience from the German education system. He teaches various subjects in all classes. Kazazi says that he focuses 100 percent on the children and he constantly tries to figure out creative ways to make the classes easier for the Albanian pupils. 

‘’From 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. when the classes end, he is 100 percent with the pupils, not 50 nor 80 percent, but 100. This is a big difference, as we come from a system where teachers in Albanian schools except the 45 minutes with the students in class, she’s is gone,’’ said Kazazi, trying to draw a distinction of the difference between the education pattern in the school she governs and the public ones. Yet, her point being that the teachers should try to pay more attention to the students needs.

Butsch loves his job and seeks to raise happy kids, that’s why he shows up everyday. He admits that although it isn’t the easiest job in the world, there is always one magic moment of the day that proves to you you’re doing it right.

‘’We have this new kid, his name is Enkli, and when he came here he didn’t speak a word in German at all, so he couldn’t understand me. Today, I was trying to teach him the German expression for bon appetit, which is guten appetit. And this afternoon we were sitting together for lunch, and we started our meal, and he was like ‘hey Butsch, guten appetit’. And this is the moment when you know that you are doing something good, and be part of the education,’’ said Butsch, sharing a short occurrence with one of his pupils during lunch. 

There are differences from German kids and Albanian ones that Butsch draws attention to. First, the Albanian kids have much more energy than kids in Germany, and secondly, the kindergarten system is much more different there. The German teachers have had a hard time trying to get the kids to pay attention. Even though this is a pattern that every teacher teaching first grade faces, perhaps the discipline the German kids receive in kindergartens has a lot to do with their calm characters. Another difference the school’s coordinator Robert Ludtke has noticed, is that no kid here wants to return to school after summer vacations.

‘’The summer vacations in Germany are six weeks, so it is easier for those children to return to their routines. Whereas here it is three months and they go to the mountains, to the beaches, and they don’t want to come back,’’ said Ludtke. 

Yet, there is something astonishing they all notice from the kids play and how they interact without the necessity of using a language. 

What else is different? 

The school was initiated by current executive director Orieta Jazxhi with the informal help of ex-German ambassador Helmut Hofmann and his wife. The licence was given in May 2016 with a government decision allowing a German curriculum to function, and the teaching method to be made solely based on the German education system. The school was opened in Sept. 2016 with only 20 students and has since grown into 60 pupils and six classes. 

There has been a high demand from parents to register their children in the school, but the current building’s space does not allow a higher number of students. Ludtke said however, that on Sept. 2019 they are moving into a another bigger building and taking in more students. 

There is the question of the new trend of Albanians emigrating towards Germany, and whether this high demand to register their children to the school meets this purpose. 

‘’From a survey we’ve conducted with the parents, they have explicitly said they want their kids to receive a German education. They like their discipline, the habits, punctuality,’’ said Jazxhi. 

When moving into a new building the school will also extend to higher classes, as the licence allows a high-school program. All the books used are the same ones used in German schools. Half of the pedagogical staff is German, and kids are encouraged to finish their homework at school if they have time. However, not all kids show the right motivation to complete this task indoors, but no pupil shows up unprepared. 

Clubs are an additional part of the schooling program which seeks to engage kids in various extracurricular disciplines to develop their skills and language. Coordinator Ludtke is the one responsible for the clubs and organizing various events. He inspects their progress and does the planning, however, each of the German professors has their own club accounted for to teach the kids.

Cooking club, theatre, environmental club, arts and painting clubs. They organize various activities, as staging theatre plays in German, learning musical instruments, cooking together. The environmental club for instance takes its members on a tour around the neighborhood to clean the garbage from the ground. 

Thus, there aren’t only the values of discipline or strong educational system with well-prepared students, but the staff seeks to raise conscientious individuals and citizens as well, that can easily communicate with others, hold various skills, and respect the habitat around them.  

 
                    [post_title] => German values and education hand in hand at DAS
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 8 - Only one out of five Albanian PhDs holders living and working abroad say they would be willing to return and contribute to the country's development through know-how gained in top North American and European universities, according to survey.

A recent UNDP-commissioned research study examining the brain drain situation in Albania, ranked among top countries for tertiary-educated emigrants globally, shows a grim situation about the prospects of the Albanian scientific diaspora returning home at a time when Albania continues losing qualified workers in an ongoing upward trend during the past quarter of a century of the country’s transition to democracy and a market economy.

“Our survey data show that 17.1 percent of Albanian PhDs ‘would like to return’ to Albania, 49.7 percent say they ‘have not decided yet,’ and 33.2 percent say they ‘will not return.’ A breakdown of answers from the group that would like to return shows that this desire is higher among PhD candidates (20%) than it is among those already with a PhD (15%),” says the UNDP study.

Yet, more than half of those who wished to return pushed back the return for at least five years, long enough to assess the development of the social and economic conditions at home and progress made in the research system.

Asked about the conditions that should be in place in order for them to return, the majority of PhD respondents looked for greater economic and political stability, reduced levels of corruption at home, higher job security and social security, better public order and infrastructure, a clean environment and a rich social and cultural life.

The study says that due to lack of socio-economic conditions and proper research infrastructure at home, for many of the Albanian PhDs living abroad the option of a sustainable return of representatives of the Albanian scientific diaspora would not be a realistic, durable and long-term policy but, rather, would lead to disappointment and their eventual re-emigration.

“I have returned twice to Albania, after completing my Master’s and my PhD, and on both occasions I was badly disappointed and felt impelled to return to the West,” a Luxembourg-based Albanian PhD is quoted as saying in the study.

Some 62 PhDs returned to Albania from 2006 to 2011 under a brain gain programme, but some of them have emigrated again.

Back in late 2016, a major summit on Albania’s large diaspora was held with much fanfare in Tirana, discussing a series of issues on the topic, including how to engage Albanian intellectuals abroad in the country’s economic development.

However, two years on, there have been sporadic cases of successful Albanians abroad returning home and what’s worse a rising number of Albanians, including professionals like doctors and nurses have been leaving the country in search of better alternatives such as Europe's leading economy, Germany, the destination of dozens of thousands of Albanians seeking ungrounded asylum in the past few years.

 

New brain drain wave

The UN study shows brain emigration in Albania has now picked up again, with certain groups of mostly younger-age professionals such as engineers, IT specialists, doctors and nurses, leaving the country and heading mainly to Germany.

The situation is especially concerning among Albania's poorly paid medical professionals, more than three quarters of whom said they were willing to leave the country if given the opportunity, according to a recent survey by a local Albanian NGO.

“Germany has relaxed the doctor-recognition procedures. They accept them from all Balkan countries, though they first have to work in a rural area and undergo training,” says Dorina, an Albanian PhD holder as quoted in the UNDP study.

“Almost 30 percent of students that completed studies in the same year as me have gone to Germany. Each year, around 180 doctors graduate [in Albania], and in the last 3–4 years around 30 percent have emigrated to Germany. This is, regrettably, a very high percentage, because there has been a six-year investment for these doctors,” she adds.

Albania has around 1.2 million migrants abroad, almost 40 percent of its 2.8 million resident population, making it one of the countries with the highest per capita migration around the world, with a series of social and economic consequences for the country's future prospects.

Experts says Albanians are mostly leaving the country because of economic reasons, looking to escape poverty in their homes, but also to integrate into leading European economies and take advantage of better education, health and social protection infrastructure for their families.

 

Way out

The UNDP study suggests the Albanian government needs to identify and locate Albanian academics and researchers in OECD countries and create a database that should contain the social and demographic data of the person, their degree, field of study, university of graduation and current job position.

“The return of part of the academic and research elite to Albania will be determined to a considerable extent by the economic and social development of the country and the sustainable progress of an efficacious national research system, so that the gap with industrialized countries in which this elite works grows smaller. Furthermore, the process of brain gain or competence gain is closely linked with the frequency and quality of exchanges taking place between the country of origin and the scientific diaspora,” says the study.

Experts say the Albanian government needs to offer incentives to attract highly qualified people to return to or visit the country by establishing quotas in the local public administration and universities through legal provisions and well-defined criteria.

“I could contribute to writing project proposals for EU funds. I am willing to sit together with Albanian colleagues and write project proposals, exchange experiences and discuss how to assist in obtaining funds from the EU for conducting research,” says Anila, an Albanian who earned her PhD in England and now lives and works in another EU country.

 

 

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_139188" align="alignright" width="300"]hide More than 9 hunting hides were placed at a small area at the central Albania Fllake-Sektori Rinia wetland, outside Durres earlier this year. Photo: PPNEA[/caption]

TIRANA, Nov. 7 – An Albanian environmental watchdog says it has identified illegal hunting, logging, animals kept in captivity and fires endangering rare species during this year, defying moratoriums and sanctions in place, although at a slower pace compared to a year ago.

The Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania, PPNEA, says it has identified illegal hunting at a wetland just outside Durres, animals kept in captivity and offered for sale online, logging and intentional fires in the northern Albanian woods of the in the Munella Mountain, the country’s sole sanctuary of the endangered Balkan lynx.

Brown hares and bears being killed and advertised as trophies on social networks or endangered species such as the Balkan Lynx kept embalmed at restaurant bars in addition to caged bear cubs held in captivity are some of the cases the local PPNEA watchdog has identified on its dedicated syrigjelber.info portal serving as a hotline to report cases of abuse over the past couple of years.

The watchdog says it identified 18 cases of environmental and animal abuse from Sept. 2017 to Sept. 2018, down from 25 a year earlier. Cases of abuse include illegal hunting, logging, fires, animals kept in captivity and embalmed with environmental crime also taking place in protected areas.

While a slowdown in environmental crime is reported for the past year, the real number of cases of abuse is estimated to be far bigger as the figures reported by the watchdog only include sporadic cases reported by environmentalists, local residents or online posts of wild and protected animals advertised for sale with owners unaware of legal consequences for their actions.

More than 9 hunting hides placed at a small area at the central Albania Fllake-Sektori Rinia wetland and used by hunters to practise illegal hunting were identified by environmentalists earlier this year. Environmentalists says they also found hunting cartridges and other materials proving ongoing poaching at the wetland, one of country's most important sites for water birds situated some 10 km outside Durres.

Elsewhere in northeastern Albania, environmentalists reported illegal logging and fires posing a threat to the already critically endangered Balkan Lynx, a handful of whom live at the Munella mountain region. Local PPNEA environmental watchdog says declaring the Munella Mountain a protected area would save the current few Balkan lynx from human-caused extinction and protect several other locally endangered species breeding there such as the brown bear, the wolf, the wild goat and the roe deer.

The latest reported case of animal abuse identified by local environmentalists involves two wolf cubs advertised for sale for €200 at a local trade portal last October.

Whistle-blowers earlier identified hares caught in traps in northeastern Albania and offered for sale online. Reported cases earlier this year also include two roe deer being held in captivity at a small bar on the banks of Tirana’s artificial lake and a tortoise on sale for as cheap as 1,000 lek (€8) at a downtown open-air market in the capital city, showing what experts warn that “environmental crime does not only occur in rural areas and far away from the public’s attention, but also close to the center of Tirana, seen by thousands of people and relevant institutions.”

Earlier this year, a German researcher assessing the effectiveness of the hunting ban that Albania has been applying for the past four years collected evidence proving that illegal hunting in Albania continues even in protected areas although the cases identified are sporadic and significantly lower compared to early 2014 when Albania imposed the ban.

Four Paws watchdog has earlier described Albania as home to some of the saddest bears in Europe with dozens of bears and cubs trapped in tiny cages as ‘tourist attractions’ at restaurants, petrol stations or hotels as a way of luring customers.

An estimated 180 to 250 brown bears currently live in the wild in Albania while another 50 are believed to be held captive, mainly for entertainment purposes.

Environmentalists have also identified golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), the symbol of Albania’s national red and black flag, kept in captivity, the killing of red foxes and a restaurant which had turned into a museum of embalmed species in a northern Albania beach areas.

Albania has banned hunting for the past couple of years and imposed a new five-year moratorium until 2021 to put an end to uncontrolled and illegal hunting, which has decimated wildlife populations in the country over the last two and a half decades after the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s.

In late 2017, animal rights activists submitted more than 37,000 signatures in a petition addressed to MPs seeking to make animal cruelty punishable by fines and even imprisonment by amending the country’s Criminal Code, but the legal initiative that needs a qualified majority of 84 votes, three-fifths of the current 140-seat Parliament, has not been examined yet.

 

Fier zoo animals relocated 

[caption id="attachment_139189" align="alignright" width="300"]lion Eight-year-old 'Lenci,' a lion with a black eye in need of surgery whose pictures went viral. Photo: Four Paws[/caption]

An animal abuse scandal featured last month by the UK’s Daily Mail forced Albanian authorities to close down a private zoo and relocate malnourished and mistreated wild animals kept in shocking conditions.

Three lions, a three-legged bear, a zebra, fox, a waterbuck, a red deer and three fallow deer were relocated last month to the zoo in Tirana where new enclosures for the rescued animals were waiting.

Four Paws, a Vienna-based international animal welfare organization, said the eleven neglected animals including eight-year-old 'Lenci,' a lion with a black eye in need of surgery whose pictures went viral,  were safely taken away, but the zebra unexpectedly died following relocation to the Tirana zoo.

"There is always a residual risk when using anaesthesia – especially if the animal has been kept in poor conditions. Sedation and the two-hour transfer were obviously too much for the weakened zebra," says the Four Paws which in 2016 pushed Albanian authorities to enforce a ban on the cruel keeping.
                    [post_title] => Albania illegal logging, animal cruelty continues at slower pace, watchdog says   
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 1 - One of Albania's most popular destinations, southern Ksamil has made it to the top 10 under-the-radar places to visit for 2019 in a rating by Booking.com, one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies and the number one destination to book any type of accommodation.

The Ksamil islands and the nearby beaches in southernmost Albania offer one of the most breathtaking views of the Albanian Riviera and regularly make it to promotional spots of the country’s emerging tourism industry.

Ksamil is a popular destination only 15 kilometers south of Saranda, close to the archaeological UNESCO site of Butrint, just off the Greek island of Corfu.

The Ksamil islands remain covered in lush, green vegetation throughout the year and can be easily accessed by small boats, although environmentalists have voiced concern over lack of rehabilitation projects following the 2014 demolition of some illegal constructions that served as restaurant-bars.

“The world is getting smaller. Thanks to faster, cheaper, longer flights, far-flung destinations are easier to reach than ever before. That doesn't mean there aren't still a few stones left unturned, though. On the list are countries you may not have expected, like Uzbekistan, and places you may not have even heard of, like Ksamil in Albania,” writes the Business Insider portal referring to the booking.com rating.

The travel site used insight from over 163 million verified guest reviews and research from 21,500 travelers across 29 countries to come up with its travel predictions for next year.

“If you didn't associate Albania with pristine white beaches and pristine waters before, then you may want to reconsider. Located on the Albanian Riviera, Ksamil is a peaceful village with three islands a stone's throw from the shore. Booking.com users endorse the area for seafood, seaside, and friendly people,” the Business Insider reports.

Back in 2016, Brussels-based European Best Destinations organization rated the Ksamil islands in southernmost Albania along the country’s Riviera as one of Europe’s best beaches.

While a quiet village throughout the year, Ksamil becomes quite overcrowded with tourists during summer. The small islands are the main attraction, also featuring a number of isolated beaches.

During the past five years, Ksamil has been home to the mussel festival opening the tourist season in Saranda region in mid-May.
                    [post_title] => Albania's Ksamil named among top 10 under-the-radar places to visit for 2019
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 25 - High levels of unemployment, poverty and low access to economic opportunities has strengthened the inequalities between men and women in Albania during the last two decades of the socioeconomic and institutional transformations taking place in Albania, according to a study by the United Nations office in Albania.

Examining the economic diversification for women living in Albanian rural areas, the UN report shows women face discrimination when it comes to land rights, labour market participation, education and training, access to financial support and agriculture advisory services.

The main issue regarding gender equality with regard to access to assets in rural areas is land rights. While the legal framework is not discriminative towards women, the application of legal norms in rural areas is frequently unsatisfactory, says the report.

“I had no idea, my husband just went to apply for the certificate and it came out on his name,” the report quotes on condition of anonymity a 45-year-old woman from Dvoran village, Korça, southeast Albania.

The study shows more than 80 percent of land titles in Albania rural areas are named after current or former male heads of households and suggests awareness campaigns about legislation on women’s land rights and promoting gender equality.

“The distorted application of the legal framework norms and regulation is rooted in the poorly organized and implemented process of land distribution in the early 1990s, the prevalence of customary rights, as well as the low awareness of the rural population on land rights,” shows the report.

The report also finds that the weak role of women in contributing to family income increases their propensity to be involved in unpaid work and be responsible for domestic chores.

The traditional role of men as breadwinners is still dominant in rural Albania with only 7 percent of women stating that they contribute more than half of the money in the household.

"Women contribute significantly to farm activities, but since men deal with commercialization of farm produce, it is perceived that such income comes from men. Cash management is also a prerogative of men. Men have more access to services and enjoy freedom to move and travel, while women are impeded by their routine work in agriculture and family chores,” shows the study.

The report also shows that remote rural women face higher unemployment rates compared to men and are clearly discouraged from seeking off-farm jobs, mostly working informally.

“Whatever the job is, it’s never well-paid. I have been working for three months now, at an agro-processing company. I get paid 750 lek (€6) for eight hours, which is less than 100 lek (€0.8) per hour, and I cannot even move my head for eight hours in a row. Of course, there is no social insurance. If you don’t want it, you can go home,” the report quotes a 47-year-old women from the northern Albanian region of Malesi e Madhe as saying.

The report shows women’s access to advisory services and vocational training education is constrained by patriarchal perceptions concerning the participation and role of women, improper venues and time for meetings and a male dominance in the advisory services staff.

"No agronomist has advised us about how to take care of tobacco. We have become agronomists by our own means. Officially, we have an agronomist, he gets paid by the agriculture directory, but he never shows up here," women in northern Albania regions are quoted as saying in the report.

An earlier report by FAO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, has shown Albania’s rural women are overrepresented in informal employment, unpaid work in family farming and domestic and reproductive activities.

Stereotypical attitudes and practices in rural areas also remain widespread.

“In family farming, there is a rigid gender-based distribution of tasks. Male gender roles are associated with tasks that involve control over agricultural assets, mobility and decision-making, and female gender roles are associated with manual work in agriculture and livestock, including pre-harvest and post-harvest activities, food processing and household tasks. This distribution of labour has resulted in women’s limited access to, and control over, agricultural assets and decision-making,” says FAO.

 

Gender gap narrows 

Albania climbed a huge 24 steps to rank 38th among 144 global economies and become the Western Balkans best performer in the 2017 Global Gender Gap, a report measuring the gap between men and women in economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival rates as well political involvement.

The 2017 rating, when Albania registered its best ever ranking 12 years after the annual World Economic Forum report was first published, was mainly dedicated to major progress in women’s political empowerment following a sharp increase in women MPs and women holding ministerial positions ahead of the mid-2017 general elections.

The report however shows Albania still has a lot to do in narrowing gender gaps in educational attainment and economic participation and opportunity.

“Gender parity is fundamental to whether and how economies and societies thrive. Ensuring the full development and appropriate deployment of half of the world’s total talent pool has a vast bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide,” says the 2017 Global Gender Gap index.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_138978" align="alignright" width="300"]Head to Albania for crowd-free sights and superb beaches © Landscape Nature Photo / Shutterstock Head to Albania for crowd-free sights and superb beaches © Landscape Nature Photo / Shutterstock[/caption]

TIRANA, Oct. 25 – Albania has made it to Lonely Planet’s top 10 affordable adventure destinations for 2019 as one of Europe’s final frontiers that offers hiking amid beautiful mountain scenery, superb beaches and a unique history.

Albania ranks eighth on a top 10 list led by Egypt and Poland, but which also includes Maldives, two US destinations, Argentina, Bangladesh, Ecuador and Slovenia, being the sole Western Balkan country to make it to the list.

The rating is made by Lonely Planet, the world-renowned travel guidebook publisher that has long been a standard for backpackers, budget travelers, and people seeking off-the-beaten-path destinations.

“Albania has been Europe’s final frontier for a while. Here’s a pocket of great value hiding in plain sight, with some superb beaches, a unique history and none of the crowds of Montenegro to the north or Greece to the south. The country’s exciting food scene celebrates the fruits of its unique local flavours and offers seriously distinctive dining,” says the 2019 ‘Best in Travel’ guidebook, Lonely Planet's annual search to find top countries, regions and cities to visit in the next twelve months.

“Although its archaeological sights, such as Apollonia and Butrint, and its one-of-a-kind blend of Balkan, Mediterranean and Italian influences are no secrets, Albania remains a destination where you can hike amid beautiful mountain scenery, stay in tiny and timeless villages and explore the buzzy capital Tirana for far less than pretty much anywhere else in Europe,” adds the guidebook.

Earlier this year, Lonely Planet also rated Albania's capital city, Tirana, as one of the top ten European hotspots for 2018, describing it as a vigorous metropolis that has undergone transformation and offers much to visitors.

Albania has regularly made it to Lonely Planet's top 10 destinations since 2011 when the popular travel guide ranked long-isolated Albania under communism as the number one global destination to visit as the Balkan country was branding its emerging tourism industry as ‘Europe’s last secret’ and a “New Mediterranean love.”

Taking an adventure trip to Albania has also been rated as one of the top tours on travelers’ to-do-list for 2018 by National Geographic France which suggests discovering the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Berat and Gjirokastra, the Greco-Roman amphitheaters, the Adriatic and Ionian beaches and above all the country’s unexplored landscapes such as alpine summits, green valleys, wetlands and rich fauna.

Several outdoor tour operators in the country offer hiking, rafting, biking, horse riding and birds watching adventures in the country, while cross-border tourism is gaining an upper hand with the opening of several mountain hiking trails.

The communist past is also what fascinates tourists about Albania, which was cut off from the rest of the world under a hardline Stalinist dictatorship.
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                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-10-17 13:26:04
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 17 - The Albanian government says it has ordered the relocation and protection of some malnourished and mistreated wild animals kept at a private zoo in Fier, southwestern Albania, following an article by the UK's Daily Mail showing pictures exposing the shocking conditions of the animals and the zoo.

Environment Minister Blendi Klosi says he has ordered an operation by the Environment Inspectorate which is cooperating with the Fier Police and an animal welfare association to immediately relocate the mistreated animals held in captivity and place them under protection to put an end to what he calls a “shameful event.”

The relocation of animals at the Safari Park, a private run zoo that has been operating for years in Fier, Albania's third largest city, comes only after an article by a British tabloid despite the critical conditions of the wild animals held in captivity there already known by visitors to the zoo which also has a restaurant bar.

"Pictures taken at the Safari Park Zoo in Fier show a 'severely malnourished' lion living in cramped conditions with what appears to be an untreated eye injury. Other animals, including a zebra, a thin-looking wolf and several deer, were seen locked up in desolate concrete cages in the privately-owned zoological park," writes the Daily Mail.

Four Paws, a Vienna-based international animal welfare organization, which in 2016 pushed Albanian authorities to enforce a ban on the cruel keeping of bears, leading to more than a dozen bears and cubs being rescued from captivity, called the situation at the Fier zoo 'absolutely unacceptable'.

"Signs of the mental and physical impact of being kept in such abject surroundings can be clearly seen on each of the poor animals at the zoo. If something is not done soon, these animals will continue to suffer and most likely die in these unspeakable conditions," Ioana Dungler, the head of the Four Paws Wild Animals Department is quoted as saying.

“Once again, we see the horrific treatment of wild animals in poor captivity, all for the sake of tourism!” she adds.

Brown hares and bears being killed and advertised as trophies on social networks or endangered species such as the Balkan Lynx kept embalmed at restaurant bars in addition to caged bear cubs held in captivity are some of the cases the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) watchdog has identified in Albania.

Four Paws says that Albania is currently home to some of the saddest bears in Europe with dozens of bears and cubs trapped in tiny cages as ‘tourist attractions’ at restaurants, petrol stations or hotels as a way of luring customers.

Dozens of other protected wild animals live in captivity as a considerable number of the identified abuses were advertised as trophies on social networks by perpetrators themselves, apparently unaware of the legal consequences that include heavy fines and even imprisonment.

The latest reported case involves two wolf cubs advertised for sale for €200 at a local trade portal.

Earlier this year, a German researcher assessing the effectiveness of the hunting ban that Albania has been applying for the past four years collected evidence proving that illegal hunting in Albania continues even in protected areas although the cases identified are sporadic and significantly lower compared to early 2014 when Albania imposed the ban.

Environmentalists have also identified golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), the symbol of Albania’s national red and black flag, kept in captivity, the killing of red foxes and a restaurant which had turned into a museum of embalmed species in a northern Albania beach areas.

Albania has banned hunting for the past couple of years and imposed a new five-year moratorium until 2021 to put an end to uncontrolled and illegal hunting, which has decimated wildlife populations in the country over the last two and a half decades after the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s.

In late 2017, animal rights activists submitted more than 37,000 signatures in a petition addressed to MPs seeking to make animal cruelty punishable by fines and even imprisonment by amending the country’s Criminal Code, but the legal initiative that needs a qualified majority of 84 votes, three-fifths of the current 140-seat Parliament, has not been examined yet.
                    [post_title] => Daily Mail article forces gov’t to place under protection animals held in shocking captivity 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-10-11 19:55:33
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-10-11 17:55:33
                    [post_content] => Interview with Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, Polish politician, party activist and local government official. From 2018, he has been serving as the Secretary of State in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

 

Q: The number of Polish tourists coming to Albania has increased significantly. In a way, Poland is rediscovering Albania through tourism. What is your evaluation of this development?  What have been the impressions that you have received?

A: Polish tourists are rediscovering Albania in tens of thousands, with growing numbers year by year. Albania in the season 2017 and consequently in 2018 has become one of the most popular tourist destination for Poles. In 2017 and 2018 Poles recorded in Albania the highest increase among foreign tourists. According to the Polish Institute of Tourism the dynamics of growth in 2016/2017 for Albania was 124% - second highest of all destinations (after Egypt but before Portugal, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece and Croatia). I hope that our economic relations will also grow as fast as the number of Polish tourists travelling to Albania and soon, as in tourism, we record three digit numbers in turnover growth.

 

Q: Poland has been a consistent supporter of the European accession perspective of Albania and other countries in the region. How do you see the perspective now, with all the delay in the process as well as the complex situation within the EU?

A: Poland and Albania have a very good bilateral relationship confirmed by significant number of mutual visits and bilateral initiatives creating many opportunities for exchange of experience in various areas. I have to stress that no common border and long distance dividing Albania and Poland has never been an obstacle in mutual contacts. We see Albania as a country that plays an important stabilizing role in the region, keeping the positive relationship with all its neighbors. Albania remains for us also a reliable partner in NATO. We are very satisfied that very good political relations are followed by good economic cooperation. Despite the fact that, on the background of economic cooperation with other countries in the region, Polish-Albanian trade is not so big, the trend of exchange between our countries is growing. One of initiative aimed to strengthen economic ties between our countries is the Polish-Albanian Economic Forum - third session was held in the end of September in Tirana. 

 

Q: What is your assessment of the current bilateral relations between Poland and Albania? What is the potential for the development of these relations and what should both countries do to reach it?

A: We continue to support the EU “open door” policy in general and individual aspirations of each Western Balkan country including Albania. Poland understands importance of the EU accession for Balkan partners, their societies and economies. We are truly glad about renewed momentum in the enlargement policy that translated into an ambitious and forward-looking Western Balkans strategy that encompasses all the WB countries. We hope that "enlargement fatigue" is becoming history. However, before all member states can take a decision on opening negotiations with Albania, mutually agreed criteria in key priority fields must be fulfilled.

 

Q: Poland is taking over the Berlin process and organizing the summit in Poznan in 2019. This process is very important for the Western Balkans countries. Which will be the focus areas of discussion in this summit next year?

A: Poland is very satisfied with joining the Berlin Process and organizing the Western Balkans summit in July 2019 in Poznań. We look forward to cooperating with Balkan and EU participants on connectivity, economic integration and development, security and other areas that contribute to the region’s progress on the European path and its stability. We believe that our own experience of challenging reforms before joining the EU will provide an added value for the Process.

 

Q: In the meantime you have started a tour of consultations in preparation for the summit in the region. What has been the feedback received so far? How do you asses the current situation and developments in the Western Balkans?

A: It is still ongoing process. So far our Western Balkan partners have been very positive about ideas  and the content of the agenda of our presidency in the Process. Western Balkans still have a lot of challenges ahead with ensuring security, fighting illegal migration, people smuggling, radicalization, terrorism or hybrid threats on the top of the list. We cannot forget  the need for reconciliation and solving bilateral issues as well. Overcoming the past and bringing the Western Balkan societies closer together is necessary to boost economic cooperation and prevent conflicts and disputes that sometimes stall the integration process. We closely observe dialogue on normalization between Belgrade and Pristina, forthcoming election in Bosna and Herzegovina and implementation of the Skopje-Athens agreement. All those factors are crucial not only to the future of the countries involved, but also to the stability of the entire Western Balkan region.

 

Q: Can you share with our readers the significant reasons why Poznan was chosen as a site, instead of let’s say, Warsaw?

A: The explanation for choosing Poznań as a host city of the summit is very simple. Poznań is a great example how we should link the past to the future, make historical preservation relevant for today’s culture, society, and development. Poznań, one of Poland’s oldest city with over 100-year-tradition of holding fairs, is now leading, modern regional center of business, trade and fairs with great experience in hosting big events - for example, the 2008 Climate Summit.

 

Q: There is a lot of debate about the role of third actors such as Russia, China, Turkey and others. What is your view on the influence of these actors and on the relevant geopolitical developments in general?

A: I agree that in recent years, the slowdown of the EU enlargement process has allowed other powers to intensify their presence in the Western Balkans. Especially Russia has become proactive in the region since the annexation of Crimea. Russia doesn’t accept that the Western Balkans move towards the EU and NATO. The Kremlin intervenes in local politics and promote an anti-Western and populist narrative. Moscow has been increasing its investment in key strategic sectors in the region for some time – military, security, finance and energy, which remains a key target for Russian influence. Since that, we are glad that the European Commission, in the end of its term, has enhanced its commitment in the Western Balkans. Poland is consequently engaged in supporting the Western Balkan region in its European integration reforming efforts not only in EU political dimension but also in bilateral and regional formats of cooperation (e.g. expert-to-expert meeting as the Tirana conference format launched this year, Enlargement Academy or twinning projects).

 
                    [post_title] => Polish Secretary of State: “Albania, important stabilizing role in the region”  
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            [post_date] => 2018-11-16 10:38:25
            [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-16 09:38:25
            [post_content] => By Sonja Methoxha

The Mary Ward Loreto (MWL) Foundation in Albania has conducted a study regarding the ethics of education in Albania. The research was made in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, and MWL hired Albanian Center for Economic Research (ACER) to prepare it. In a conference held in the city of Vlora on Oct. 27 the foundation invited local pupils, students, teachers, professors, and shared the findings of the research through Ministry and MWL representatives, as well as others who participated in conducting the research, such as dr. Zef Preci who led the ACER team in preparing the document.

Even though there have been previously conducted studies regarding the unethical behavior in schools in Albania, this specific one from MWL is the first to cover in a national spectrum all levels of education, starting from kindergarten and preschool up to Master’s levels. The research wanted to study the variation of severity on unethical behavior in all levels of teaching and used a mixed methodology with a representative sampling for each level of education nationwide.

The conference in Vlora sought to encourage a discussion between the students, teachers and researchers, that would spark various strategies and initiatives that would help improve the situation of education around Albania, and most specifically in the southern regions of Albania.

The findings were numerous, counting from lack of ethics, to corruption and dysfunctional buildings. 

‘’This research has revealed the most shocking results of high level lack of ethic and corruption in the system of education,’’ said Imelda Poole, president of MWL foundation.

The foundation was shocked to discover the school buildings in the rural areas and some of the smaller towns of Albania to originate from as long ago as 19th century. There was no reconstruction or rehabilitation done in these schools. The researchers found missing or broken windows, no heating system to keep the children warm during the winter, thus they would have to keep their jackets on during the classes, and the toilets were in such disastrous states beyond repair, that challenged any sort of human conditions. 

Disturbing grading practices were also noticed in the mid-schools especially, but not contained only there. The teachers would grant better grades or positions to the pupils that would buy them gifts or that would directly give them monetary tips. In terms of higher education, the practices followed start from buying the exams as mentioned above, but also paying for grades, passing the class, buying of the diplomas, the dissertation papers, and outstanding high levels of plagiarism noticed from the students. 

Other than unethical behavior, was also the unscrupulous punishment practices, which sometimes are illegal. Teachers would give failing grades to students who didn’t participate in the corruption process, or that contradicted the teachers either in teaching, lectures, or biased behavior. They would exclude the students from the class, use sarcastic language, derogatory nicknames and use verbal, emotional and even physical violence as means of education. This practice comes due to a wrong culturally inhibited practice of accepting violence as a means of discipline. Another dark side was discrimination and prejudice based on gender, ethnicity, religious, social and economic status, and even inappropriate remarks to children with special needs.

Also, there was a lack of reporting to the students’ behavior both from teachers and parents. What is more noticeable here is the lack of interest of the parents, accounting to the education of their children as only in the in-class sphere. They would indulge in teacher favoritism or pressure towards them, and there is a lack of collaboration from them with the education system and schools.

‘’Scarce attention has been paid to ethical education as a direct tool for working towards quality education and life-skills learning, which help to develop healthy societies and sustainable democracies,’’ it is written in the report regarding the importance of ethics in the education system. This perhaps is the drawback of the education laws and system plannings to have an accessible education to all pupils and students around the country. The focus has also been in providing a quality in education, but noticing the high percentages of unethical behavior that is dubious.

The numbers the study concluded regarding the lack of ethics were 36 percent for preschools, 74.1 percent in upper secondary education denounced by the teachers themselves, whereas 83 percent of the students in upper secondary education denounced unethical behavior, and 73 percent occurred in higher education. 

What was interesting in this finding were that the actors were aware of their unethical behavior, however, there was this idea that the others’ unethical behavior had a more significant impact in the system, and thus no one was really focusing on how to stop this phenomenon but rather point the blaming finger elsewhere. That is, even if parents were unethical towards their children, or previous teachers to their pupils, when passing to another teachers in another class, that teacher would still act unethical towards the pupils, and notice an unethical behavior from these students, however, instead of trying to stop this lack of ethics, he would blame the previous teacher for this behavior. 

But why is this happening? The study claims that ‘’this pattern of perception derives partially from the persistent lack of communication among teachers, students, parents, and institution principals in regard to issues of ethics. When communication happens, it is fragmented and shared within respective groups. Thus, teachers receive information mainly through staff meetings, while students and parents receive it through informal channels such as child-parent communication and shared information with peers and other parents. This limited institutional and organized communication between teachers, parents, and students in regard to school ethics, explains the insufficient information parents and students have about teachers’ codes of ethics, institutional regulations, expectations of ethical behavior and the consequences in cases of ethics violations.’’  

This lack of communication, and also the lack of trust in the authorities or institutions, add up to this level of unethical behavior. But more than that it is also the unwillingness to report this behavior to the respective institutions, as from parents, students, and teachers. Multilevel interventions are needed to fix this rotten system which demands a focus on legislative regulations, a stronger communication between the educators, parents and students regarding the duties and responsibilities, as well as a higher collaboration between all actors of the system. A monitoring and reporting system is also a suggestive strategy to tackle this phenomenon. 

Mary Ward Loreto Foundation is a non-profit organization providing development programs for vulnerable communities in Albania. Its core values are freedom, justice and sincerity, and the work related is fighting human trafficking. The aim is to eradicate poverty, the prime cause for human trafficking, through works of justice, education, grassroots action and systemic change. 

The Albanian Center for Economic Research seeks to promote economic reforms in Albania by conducting independent research on economic growth and helping to create an appropriate institutional framework for economic reforms. We seek to encourage public debates on a number of issues related to the country’s economic transition, by becoming a party in drafting laws, defending country policies and decision-makers and promoting the strengthening of the non-governmental sector.

 
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