Constitutional Court abolishes Health Education Curriculum

22. May 2013.

The Croatian Constitutional Court on Wednesday abolished the Health Education Curriculum, which took effect in February, and ordered that until the adoption of a new curriculum Health Education be taught according to the curriculum that had been in force before the start of this school year.

The court assessed the constitutionality of the curriculum at the request of the civil society organisations Grozd and Reforma, the HSP 1861 party and private citizens who sought the revocation of Education Minister Zeljko Jovanovic's decision to introduce the curriculum.

Even though only the curriculum's Module 4, which deals with sexual and gender equality and sexually responsible behaviour, was disputed, the Constitutional Court decided to abolish the entire curriculum because the disputed points related to the entire document.

"In this case, the government has not fulfilled its procedural constitutional obligation to align the Health Education Curriculum in state schools with constitutional law and parental freedom to choose education for their children," Judge Mato Arlovic said.

The applicants claimed that the curriculum was in violation of the Constitution, the Education Act, the Family Act and international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Parties divided in opinion of court's decision to abolish health education curriculum

The Constitutional Court's decision to abolish the Health Education Curriculum has divided parliamentary parties - some support the decision while others claim that the ruling refers to a procedural error in introducing the curriculum which will be corrected. Croatian National People's Party (HNS) MP Igor Kolman said it was "sorrowful that such a quality programme was abolished with such a shabby excuse".

Kolman is convinced that with this decision the Constitutional Court has confirmed that it is a political body and he rejected the constitutional court judges' explanation that the state should have aligned lesson contents with the freedom of parents to choose their children's education.

Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) President Tomislav Karamarko said he welcomed the court's ruling and hoped that everyone would negate this incorrect approach and rape of parents and children, excusing himself for the harsh word he used.

Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Rajko Ostojic, however, said the court had put the curriculum out of force but only temporarily due to an error in procedure.

Dragutin Lesar of the Labour Party said that it was "obvious that the government and Sabor in future would have to take more care with procedures as well as listening to and respecting the will of citizens be they organised or not".

PM respects const. court ruling, still advocates health and sex education

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic on Wednesday said that his government respected the Constitutional Court ruling to abolish the Health Education Curriculum in schools but that he would continue to advocate that Croatian children be taught health and sexual education at a level equal to the wealthiest and most organised countries in Western civilisation.

"I haven't seen the ruling. This is an Education Ministry document and our position is that everything was in line with the Constitution and law", Milanovic said on Wednesday in Brussels.

He commented that as far as he was aware the ruling referred only to procedure and that there had not been any consultations or public debate over the matter and that some documents had been released too late.

He added the Education Ministry had a different opinion but that rulings by the Constitutional Court had to be respected whoever the judges may be and whoever may have appointed them.

"That is not the point of the story, the point is that one very aggressive group of people is conducting a cultural war in Croatia and that is legitimate", Prime Minister Milanovic said in Brussels where he is attending a European Union summit.

"What I can promise for the umpteenth time is that my colleagues and I will do everything to have health and sexual education in Croatia at the level that most children have in Germany. I believe that is something Croatian children deserve. They who believe that this isn't necessary don't think like I do and I will not give up in that civilisational battle", Milanovic said.

He underscored that Croatian children have to have health and sex education at the level of the wealthiest and most organised countries of Western civilisation. "Who wants Byzant can go to Byzant", he added.

Asked whether he considered the court's ruling as a political decision, Milanovic answered in the negative. "No, but we have a problem anyhow. We have to agree about appointing several constitutional judges but there is some obstruction to this, and things aren't going as we expected. I do not want to go into the character and biographies of certain judges and that is not the question. They made their decision and that decision refers to procedure, as far as I am aware. We are a rule of law state and we respect that", Croatia's PM said.

Educ. Min: Contents of curriculum not contentious

Minister of Science, Education and Sports Zeljko Jovanovic told a press conference on Wednesday after the Constitutional Court passed down a ruling to abolish the Health Education Curriculum that it had not been abolished and that not one fact of its content was brought into question, adding that a public debate over the curriculum would be organised.

Minister Jovanovic said he still had not seen the court's ruling but the "only thing that is contentious was part of the procedure which we in the ministry do not agree with but naturally we will respect the Constitutional Court's decision".

He announced a public debate on the issue that is to be held during June. "I invite all those interested, from teachers organisation, to NGOs to submit their proposals and then based on those we will conduct a review in July, an international one", Minister Jovanovic said and announced that a German reviewer would be organised.

"After an extensive review by domestic and international experts and the public, in August we will make some final adjustments and introduce the curriculum in the 2013/2014 school year which will be the same or even better", Jovanovic said.

The minister is not even thinking of resigning and believes that health education is "one of the best, if not the best" move by his ministry. "Had anything about the content of the curriculum been contentious, I would have resigned immediately", he said, stressing that he was even more determined to implement health education in schools.

The Constitutional Court ruling notes that the new curriculum contain content in line with the programme at the beginning of this school year while Jovanovic interpreted that the programme has almost already been completely implemented.

One of the authors of the health and sexual education programme Aleksandar Stulhofer did not wish to comment the court's ruling but said that the ruling referred to procedure and not content. Stulhofer is the head of the Sexology Department at the University of Zagreb.