This is the analytical report on the results of the international comparative study ‘Divided Education, Divided Citizens?’ (DEDC) conducted by the Network of Education Policy Centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Tajikistan. The goal of the study was to assess the impact that the practice of separate schooling has on the civic attitudes of students attending separate schools with majority and minority language of instruction. The study was conducted in 2008 and 2009 and included three stages: a preliminary analysis of state policies and practices regarding separate schools for ethnic/ linguistic groups, interviews with policy makers and focus groups with teachers and students and a questionnaire survey. A representative survey of teachers and students was conducted in schools in 6 countries (Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan), and a representative survey of students only was conducted in Kosovo. This is the first international study of such scale, comparing the effect of separate schooling of ethnic majority and minority on civil enculturation of both groups.


  • In all of the countries covered by the survey, a substantial percentage of teachers and students in minority schools perceive elements of ethnic prejudice in the curriculum.
  • In some countries, the minority estrangement phenomenon means that students in minority schools feel less politically empowered and less protected by the state than their peers in majority schools.
  • While students’ civic attitudes differ considerably between majority and minority groups and between the countries, there is a tendency for a large part of the students in all countries included in the survey to agree with the paternalistic role of the state.
  • There is no significant difference of outlooks on gender equality between students of majority and minority schools in half of the countries included in the quantitative study, but students in Russian schools in Estonia and Latvia and students in Serb schools in Kosovo show significantly less support for gender equality than their peers in majority schools in the same country.
  • In many cases the idea of joint schooling of students from different ethnic groups meets with resistance of minority teachers on grounds of the need to preserve a separate cultural identity.
  • Minority students sometimes expressed concerns about the attitude of the majority towards their group, and majority students often expressed suspicions of divergent or even hostile goals and interests of the minority. At the same time, in 4 out of 7 countries where the survey was conducted, 50 or more % of minority school students expressed readiness to study in one class with representatives of the majority, and in 4 countries at least 50% of majority students expressed readiness to study together with representatives of the minority.
  • The presence of a hidden curriculum in minority schools was confirmed both by students’ and teachers’ surveys. This concerns particularly two areas: history teaching and the use of textbooks.

Where the existence of separate schools for ethnic minorities is seen by minority teachers and students as a refuge from asymmetrical power relations in society, administrative solutions to the problem of divided schools will be of no avail. A deeper change of the schools’ culture, directed towards a more democratic and open educational environment, should be accompanied by a critical re-examination of the ways in which respective states teach their young citizens about participation and living together with the others in a democratic society.


  1. The study reveals that there is a pervasive sense of unfairness of the official curriculum and resentment of power relations reflected in it among minority school teachers and students in some member states. In view of its responsibility for EDC/HRE, the Directorate General is in a unique position to alert national policy makers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia to the manifested tendencies of ethnic distrust between majority and minority school students, and lack of civic empowerment among minority students and teachers.
  2. To undertake special monitoring of implementation of EDC/HRE principles in schools in the following member states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia and Romania.
  3. To work with member states to adopt special measures to promote practices emphasising equality and interethnic trust at the level of education policy development and implementation.
  4.  There is an urgent need to address the issue of ethnic prejudices in the national curriculum and to urge the member states to adopt a more open and democratic approach to curriculum development (including history curriculum development). Ways of involving minority students and teachers in curriculum development should be identified with the help of NGOs, local communities and teachers’ associations.
  5. Democratic school governance, adopted in practice, could reduce the sense of lack of empowerment among students and teachers and could create conditions for a more open educational environment that would not be hostile to other groups. Joint learning activities for students and teachers of ethnic majority and minority schools can help to overcome the current sense of distrust between the groups. There is a need to promote joint learning activities centred about democratic school governance for teachers and students of majority and minority schools.
  6. To increase young people’s participation in the civic life of their community, increase young people’s participation in the system of representative democracy, provide greater support for various forms of learning to participate.
  7. Commission a study on the impact of segregation on youth participation, to include schools for national minorities as well as schools where the majority of students are of migration background;
  8. Assist the Member States in developing special measures to target the lack of civic empowerment in schools attended primarily by ethnic/ linguistic minority students and/ or by students with migration background.

The study shows that the existing divergence of civic attitudes between teachers and students in majority and minority schools is to a great extent linked to the sense of disenfranchisement and distrust. Minority school teachers and students in particular are vulnerable to a sense of unfairness and ethnic prejudices in official curriculum. Rather than impose the values and sense of historical justice espoused by the ethnic majority through official curriculum, curriculum development should be turned into a joint collaborative process, taking into account the opinions of different groups in society and embodying democratic principles.

Many minority school teachers in almost all countries included in this study believe that the official curriculum is unfair towards their group and contains ethnic prejudices. In countries with a unified national curriculum, to facilitate interethnic trust and democratic attitudes within the school system and in society, it is necessary to review official curricula dealing with the issues of interethnic relations, particularly history curricula, and to include minority school teachers and students into the process of collaborative curriculum development. In countries with separate curricula for different ethnic community schools, it is essential to foster informal consultations and collaboration between teachers and students of different ethnic/ linguistic groups when developing curricula for each group.

The sense of distrust among students of majority and minority groups, revealed by this study, can be overcome by increasing the number and size of exchange programmes and other joint activities between majority and minority schools. Recommendations developed by the Council of Europe Ad Hoc Committee of Experts on Education for Democratic Citizenship and other tools and best practices available internationally can be used to develop the methodology of such exchange programmes and joint activities. The Ministries of Education can provide funding and other support for such joint activities, with Local Educational Authorities and schools as implementing partners.

Lack of sense of political empowerment among many minority and majority school teachers and students demonstrates a deficit of democratic attitudes in society. There is a need to enhance the teachers’ and students’ support for and engagement in democratic forms of co-existence. In order to enhance democratic practices in schools, it is necessary for national MoEs to adopt the Council of Europe EDC experts’ recommendations on Democratic School Governance as an integral part of citizenship education and to embed these principles in national civics curricula.

In Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, students in minority schools face unequal chances to continue education after school. In Tajikistan, covert gender inequality implies that boys are sent to majority schools in order to enable them later to join Universities and to study in Tajik. In Kazakhstan the fact that centralised examinations are only in Kazakh and Russian, means that the students of minority schools have to travel far to take their exam in an unfamiliar environment and in a language different from that of their previous education. There is a need for policy makers in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan to address these issues and to remove covert obstacles to equal chances of entering higher education for all ethnic groups and both genders.

See also

Network of Education Policy Centers’i rahvusvaheline võrdlev uuring “Divided Education, Divided Citizens? A comparative study of civil enculturation in separate schools”