Divided Bosnians agree joint education principles

SARAJEVO, May 11, 2000 -- (Reuters) Officials in ethnically divided Bosnia on Wednesday agreed education guidelines that will apply to schools throughout the Balkan country in the hope of promoting tolerance and raising standards.

A declaration after the agreement between officials of Bosnia's Moslem-Croat federation and the Serb republic said education should help bring Bosnia's communities together.

But it added that the three groups should be entitled to preserve and develop their own cultural and historic heritage.

"The highest quality of education based on genuine European standards and norms should be sought for all children and young people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the single most valuable resource that the country has in order to shape its future," the declaration said.

Like many other areas of Bosnian life, the education system remains divided along ethnic lines more than four years after the end of the devastating 1992-95 war. There are three curricula for Moslem, Serb and Croat children.

Bosnian Croat pupils use books from Croatia and learn that Zagreb is their capital. Bosnian Serbs study from Yugoslav books which say that Serbia is their homeland.

In all future text books, Bosnia is to be used as the main point of reference.

Matei Hoffmann, a deputy to the West's top Bosnia envoy Wolfgang Petritsch, said Wednesday's agreement was important for Bosnia's future.

"A future which we all see as enshrined in a project which brings Bosnia closer to European dimensions," he said.

Gabrielle Mazza, a representative of the Council of Europe, said the agreement was an important step towards Bosnia's hope of joining the body, which aims to promote human rights and democracy.

Under the agreement, all diplomas and certificates should be recognized throughout the country.

Priorities will be to ensure teaching throughout Bosnia in both Cyrillic and Roman alphabets, of the shared literary and cultural heritage and about Bosnia's three major religions, Islam and Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity.

"We want to assure all human rights for children in the system of education," said Bosnian Serb Education Minister Nenad Suzic.

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