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News 11 Dec 17

Macedonia to Purge Textbooks of Offensive Language

Macedonia's new government says it plans to remove hate speech and discriminatory statements from the country's educational textbooks.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
 
 Macedonia's Education Minister Renata Deskovska. Photo: MIA

Macedonia’s Education Ministry said it will dedicate time and money next year to revising some textbooks and deleting or rewriting parts of them that have been described as discriminatory.

“We will be focusing on false facts,” Education Minister Renata Deskovska said, as well as mistakes made in translations from foreign languages.

The minister explained that she could not vouch for the speed of the entire process, especially when they opt to write a brand new textbook.

Some NGOs have long complained about the current educational textbooks published in the past decade, saying they are full of false or discriminatory definitions that do not correspond to modern science and reflect 19th-century beliefs.

“Homosexuality is a stagnation of the psycho-social development at a lower level”, and “homosexual relations are parasitical as opposed to heterosexual ones,” the students' "Basics of Personology" textbook declares, for example.

Other questionable statements say that “drug users are depressive persons who were seeking for heaven but opened the gates of hell”, and that “the children of divorced parents are a criminogenous [crime prone] category.”

A textbook for ethics teaches that “staying away from adultery is the only way to protect yourself and your partner from contagious diseases and [keep] the relationship dynamic worthy.”

Dragana Drndarevska, from the Coalition for Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities, an NGO, said they have noted similar definitions in at least 15 textbooks, but need institutional help for a more systematic revision that would completely modernize them.

“There are many examples – but what is scary is that these textbooks are being used in faculties that produce our future social workers, politicians and sociologists, who will have to work with these [categories of] people and be expected to help them,” Drndarevska said.

Law professor Ljubomir Frckoski said that if the revision of the textbooks is to succeed, the ministry must harness the civil sector and media professionals – and not leave the entire matter to textbook authors and schools, which may refuse to amend the content.

The planned revision of textbooks follows the political change in Macedonia in May, when the conservative VMRO DPMNE party was ousted from government after 11 years in power and a new Social Democrat-led government was formed.

The ministry does not have estimates so far of the likely cost of the revision, but Deskovska insisted that they would prefer quality to speed when it comes to the work.

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