Application for Harvard University, JFK School of Government - Leadership experience
In the beginning of my high school education I became very interested in advocating for improvements in the educational system in my native country – the Republic of Macedonia. At that time (and even now) it was not hard to notice that the educational system was in an increasing need for radical and thorough changes. I decided to take part in the activities that the Union of Secondary School Students of Macedonia (USM) – a non-government organization - was undertaking in order to advocate changes in educational policy in the country as well as to fight for an increased inclusion of high school students in that process. After actively taking part in USM’s activities for two years I applied for the position of secretary-international and was elected for the post in September 1997. As a secretary-international my role within the organization was two-fold. First, I was responsible for the communication and representation of USM’s work to the “Organizing Bureau of Secondary School Student Union” – (OBESSU) in Amsterdam, and, second I was assigned a project on the “Evaluation of Quality in Education” sponsored by USM across the country. My role in this project was to prepare a detailed questionnaire addressed to a representative sample of Macedonian high school students, perform the evaluation, interpret the results and present them to the Ministry of Education and to the General Assembly of USM.
I started undertaking the preparation of the project by formulating the questions relevant for such an analysis that would encompass all aspects of the high-school education and that could be answered by all students no matter their ethnic background or location of the school. Throughout the process I learned to consult experts who helped me with the methodology needed to be used in such projects. After determining the schools across the country which characterized a representative sample for the evaluation, a troublesome process started in which I was persuading the headmasters of those schools to allow for such questionnaires to be distributed within their schools. I also assigned students responsible for the distribution and collection of the questionnaires in each school and many of them were very enthusiastic in helping USM in its project. After collecting data from approximately 500 students from 10-15 schools a body of activists of USM was assigned to count and register the results of the evaluation. Once this phase was completed I presented the results, together with some clear, specific and simple interpretations, first to the Board of USM, then to the General Assembly and in the end to the Ministry of Education.
The project was assessed as successful from the activists in USM, as well as from the Ministry of Education, whose people promised to take into consideration some of our ideas in their brainstorming in the future. With this project, USM showed, at that time, that it is capable of undertaking large, significant projects aimed at a better education, it also showed high self-consciousness about the problems associated with high schools across the country and it again emphasized its demands to be more actively involved in the formulation and implementation of new educational policy.
As far as I am concerned, with this project I learned the basics of the methodology of preparing a research on the opinion of other people on a given topic; I learned how to co-ordinate different people, their opinions and activities; how to encourage students to express their opinions even when they are almost certain that no one is listening; to encourage them to participate more actively in something that concerns them most; and, the most important, how to be assertive and persistent in your demands.
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