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Secondary Education Activity (SEA)


Inside SEA

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The Secondary Education Activity (SEA) seeks to better prepare students in Macedonia’s secondary vocational schools for future employment. The project incorporates several strategies for achieving this result, including:

  • improving vocational instruction through the training of teachers,
  • improving school environments by helping make school directors more effective managers and agents of change and supporting school boards in their new responsibilities and roles given them under decentralization,
  • providing students with opportunities to practice and develop important business and leadership skills and providing the information they need to make smart choices about their careers.

SEA activities are grouped into four component areas:

     1.   Teacher development
     2.   Career development
     3.   Director certification
           School Board Association Strengthening
     4.   Research, monitoring and evaluation

Teacher Development

SEA’s teacher development component aims to instruct vocational teachers in the use of contextual learning methodologies and to encourage the use of these methods in the classroom. Contextual learning is the application of academic and theoretical principles to real-life applications. Contextual learning promotes problem-solving skills and encourages students to work together and learn from one another. It also integrates the use of technical skills. For these reasons, contextual learning methodologies are particularly well suited for vocational instruction. Over the first four years, the project has trained over 2300 teachers in 50 schools 17 interactive learning methodologies. The focus has now shifted to mentoring teachers at the school level, student assessment, and study groups within the schools. Training materials have been developed in both Macedonian and Albanian. The ultimate goal of the teacher development component is to increase students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills through interactive teaching methodologies and leave a legacy of professional development that is self-sustaining

Career Development

Working in 50 vocational schools, SEA is helping schools increase and improve practical, business-related experiences open to students. The project forged closer links between schools and businesses by forming a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) called MASSUM. So far, the organization has held two national “Educational Rendezvous” events, the most recent of which attracted over 30,000 people. Held at Skopje Fair, the largest convention center in Macedonia, the three-day event gives schools the opportunity to present themselves to public, especially 8th graders looking for a high school to attend the following year. Vocational students compete for top honors in leadership and business related contests. Last year 1,700 students participated in such career development events. Faculties and Universities rent booth space to promote their institutions to the hoards of high school students attending the event. A main stage adds to the ambiance, with music and theater provided by the students and cameo appearances by pop stars who are recent graduates from the music schools. The fair culminates with the election of national leaders for the following year. SEA has been providing leadership training for national leaders who, in turn, pass on the training to local officers. 71 local chapters have formed with a total of 4000, dues-paying members to date.

The Supervised Occupational Experience program has evolved during the project. Schools elected to form one of two forms of school companies that would give both teachers and students the opportunity to experience the world of business first hand. The first was virtual firms. Most applicable to the business curriculum, these are imaginary companies run by students in a virtual world where they can develop and trade products. They can trade with other firms and a central service center run by the Ministry performs the function of various agencies such as banks, customs and taxes. Working in collaboration with the Austrian aid organization Kultur Kontakt, the project has set up firms in seven business high schools that now have at least 21 firms. In 2007-2008, the firms will become part of the curriculum for many students.

The second form of company is a real company. Although the ultimate goal of SEA was to provide students with real workplace experiences, the closure of factories and budding micro-industry in the gray market all but eliminated established programs for placing students in industry. That, coupled with lack of business experience of teachers and directors, made it difficult to them to transition to the market economy. So, teachers and school directors put their heads together to come up with a viable business plan to start up a school business related to the profiles taught. This would provide a real-life example of a business they could run in a relatively safe economic environment. In other words, they could go bankrupt without catastrophic consequences normally encountered by businesses. The project provided start-up money in the form of equipment and supplies for the company. In addition, almost all schools raised additional funds. Forty four schools answered the challenge. The project is now working with teachers and the ministry to integrate various elements into classroom experience. All schools will be encouraged to use the company in their business classes for financial analysis and business plans. The class becomes the de facto board of directors.

Director Certification

SEA’s director certification component is helping the Ministry of Education and Science develop a certification program for school directors. Some Macedonian school directors have been politically appointed without necessarily having any experience or knowledge in education management. SEA is working to provide the knowledge and he training school directors need to be effective and dynamic leaders of school and education improvement in their communities. Originally planned to include the certification of Macedonia’s 90 secondary school directors, the program has expanded to include over 300 primary school directors as well.

Today, the certification program has been incorporated into the laws on primary and secondary education. All school directors are required to attend six weekend workshops at one of six accredited institutions. The program developed by SEA is the core curriculum used. The directors then pass before the director’s exam commission for certification. As a follow-on to the certification program, the project is developing a handbook for practical application of the principles covered in the training program.

School Board Association Strengthening

Macedonia’s school boards have been given additional responsibilities and power as a part of the decentralization process. SEA was asked to help train the school boards made up of nearly 4,500 people. After researching how other countries support school boards, it became apparent that school boards typically operate within the framework of an association that disseminates information and advocates common causes among schools. In 2006 SEA conducted a series of workshops in collaboration with the MoES to disseminate information on the law defining the responsibilities of school boards. During these workshops and task force of volunteers from various boards was established to form an association. This came to fruition when ZAOUM (Association of School Board Members of Macedonia) was registered in 2006. The association is currently working with the MoES and ZELS (Association of Mayors) to produce a practical guide or handbook for school boards. A new round of workshops will be held during the last year to disseminate and explain the handbooks.

Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation

SEA’s research, monitoring, and evaluation team is responsible for providing essential information and feedback for effective and responsive project management. This responsibility involves developing and revising indicators, developing instruments for data collection, storage, and analysis, and reporting. Research activities also include the development of studies on subjects important to the Ministry of Education and Science. Such studies are intended to provide information and analysis on key issues impacting the development of the Macedonian educational system.

SEA also conducts an annual assessment of overall (i.e., portfolio-wide) progress under USAID’s Strategic Objective 3.4, “Students better prepared for employment through education programs.” The research instruments created by SEA for this effort include a teacher survey, a student survey, and an assessment of students’ problem-solving skills. The surveys are administered annually at secondary schools, both vocational and general, that are receiving programming from one or more of the three projects. Teacher and student surveys incorporate questions designed to measure behavior, attitudes, and skill levels relevant to the increased employability of students. The assessment of students’ problem-solving skills is designed to measure the impact of project-taught instructional methods on students’ problem solving and critical-thinking abilities. This assessment is administered in 2004 and 2008.

EQUIP1 Partners

Award Amount
$10 million

Award Duration
August 8, 2003 to August 7, 2008

Key Personnel
Chief of Party: Nancy McDonald
Teacher Development Coordinator: Snezana Jankulovska
Director Certification Coordinator: Divna Sipovic

Lejla Nebiu, School Board Support Coordinator
Career Development Coordinator: Gjorgi Kushevski
Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation Coordinator: Zoran Stojanov

Project website:

Natasha Murdzeva,

For more information, contact:
Dan Oliver,

Secondary Education Activity logo

• Press Release: USAID Mission Director visits an EQUIP1/SEA “Real Firm” in Bitola, Macedonia

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