Serbian Language courses for older learners 

The highest priority for the Working Group was older learners and the re-introduction of a qualification at GCSE level because there was no provision for this age group and there was a danger that their ties with the  community would weaken. 

The Working Group campaigned to get the English Department of Education and Examination Boards to reinstate qualifications in Serbian at GCSE and A Level but this proved unsuccessful. As an interim measure the Working Group decided to set up its own Serbian GCSE Level course and exam, based on the Polish GCSE model, which would meet the standards required by The Office for Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual).  The exams were set and externally examined by Drs David Norris and Vladislava Ribnikar, University of Nottingham, acting in a personal capacity and a certificate was awarded by the Serbian Council of Great Britain.  Whilst this was not a formally recognised qualification pupils could include it in their portfolios and when applying for university or employment. 

The Serbian GCSE course was a great success and four courses were delivered from 2013 – 2019 in London, Corby, Reading, Oxford and Leicester and over 100 students completed the course successfully.  Experience of teaching the course reinforced the belief that teaching Serbian as an additional language was the most appropriate approach for many pupils in Britain, particularly those of second and third generation Serbian heritage or who were from mixed marriages.   

These courses were regarded as a stepping stone to the introduction of a recognised qualification at this level.  When it became clear that that the English exam boards would not re-introduce a qualification the Working Group turned its attention to Serbia. It was agreed to try persuade the Serbian authorities to introduce a recognised qualification for this age group that could be delivered in all Serbian Diaspora communities. A presentation was made at the 2013 meeting of the Diaspora Assembly which was well received by many of the delegates and representatives of the Working Group then met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora and Ministry of Education on several occasions to discuss the proposal but it has not been taken forward.

In 2017 another option presented itself when courses offered by the Azbukum Centre for Serbian Language and Culture in Serbia were accredited by the government. Their courses correspond to the European Common Framework of Reference for Languages and so their diplomas are recognised in Europe and beyond, including Britain.  Discussions were held with the Azbukum Centre about the possibility of developing a course at GCSE level for diaspora communities, which could be piloted in Britain. Proposals were finalised at a workshop held in London in October 2018 with participants from across Britain and inputs from representatives of the diaspora communities in Austria and Switzerland, funded by the Office for the Diaspora.

 Following the workshop a partnership was developed between the Azbukum Centre and the Working Group to deliver the Azbukum Course at beginners, GCSE and A Level in London from the autumn of 2019. Students on the course receive a Certificate of Knowledge of the Serbian Language and Confirmation of Attendance, both of which are official documents which can be used for registration at universities in Serbia, and throughout the world or used to show knowledge of Serbian when applying for employments.

The courses have been delivered over the last two years and a third set of courses started in October 2021 with 22 students being taught in 5 groups. The courses are taught online in order to attract students nationwide. Our experience of delivering the courses over two years is positive and suggests that it is a model that could be adapted to meet the needs of other diaspora communities.  

For further information about courses or the work of the Round Table Working Group on the Serbian Language contact Olga Stanojlovic Email address olga.stanojlovic@btinternet.com