05/30/16 Letter to Minister Sustar on the Draft National Curriculum Framework

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Ministry of Science, Education and Sports
Attn: Mr. Predrag Sustar, Minister
Donje Svetice 38
10 000 Zagreb

May 27, 2016

Subject: Animal rights protection in the Draft National Curriculum Framework

Dear Mr Sustar,

We hereby respond to your invitation for consultation with the interested public on the Draft National Curriculum Framework. We would like to welcome the National Curriculum Framework as a whole and the enthusiastic efforts of experts who invested their time and knowledge to produce a comprehensive curriculum reform document. We would also like to present proposals associated with the field of work and interest both of our Association and of other animal protection associations in Croatia.

We believe that Croatian school reform is an extremely important social step that is necessary in view of profound social changes and the rapid development of science in the last few decades, all of which require creative and efficient application of information in order to develop skills and competencies.

We believe that the draft curriculum for school subjects and cross-subject topics should also include the area of animal protection, bearing in mind that, among other things, a comprehensive curriculum reform aims to produce educational outcomes that ensure the development of opinions, critical thinking, responsibility and relationship to oneself, others and the environment.

In reviewing draft subject curriculum frameworks we noticed positive tendencies aimed at ensuring that pupils are offered more useful and meaningful education, adjusted to their age, interests and everyday life. When talking about animal protection and rights and eating styles, this is especially evident in the draft curriculum for secondary education, in particular within the subjects of philosophy and ethics, which we warmly welcome.

In the draft national curriculum for the subject of philosophy, domain C.2.3 ''Actions and orientation," it is positive that the following issues are included: nature/environment, anthropocentrism and biocentrism, as well as the issues of the traditional relationship of humans to animals and how it affects the current treatment of animals; what are all the purposes of exploiting, torturing and killing animals today; in which areas changes could and should be made; are animals the objects of moral duties and do they have any rights; what is the full meaning of the concept of "animal rights." The width of the proposed topics regarding the morality phenomenon and moral judgement and action also provides room for discussion on vegetarianism and veganism, which are part of the topic of "alternative living and eating styles" within the subject of ethics.

It is also important that the draft national curriculum for the subject of ethics in the 4th grade of secondary school, via domain A.4.1 ''moral and ethical considerations," proposes as obligatory topics ''genetic engineering'' and ''ethics and science'' so that, as part of optional topics, it is possible to address the topics related to cloning and genetically modified organisms and health.

Also, through domain A.4.2, pupils define the basic ethical concepts in the area of ecology, such as: ecological ethics, nature, environment, anthropocentrism and biocentrism, sustainable development, etc. We believe that it is important that pupils have the opportunity to learn about pertinent and urgent issues of today also through the proposed optional topics: loss of biodiversity, animal testing, alternative eating and living styles, criticism of anthropocentrism and human responsibility for other living beings, ecology and economy, sustainable development, responsibility for the future and rights of future generations, integrative bioethics, etc.

Within domain B ''moral and ethical action," pupils are offered an opportunity to "transfer their developed ethical sensibility to concrete actions showing care for the welfare of themselves, other people, other living beings, nature and future generations."

As we all live in a time and society when the number of children who are vegetarians or vegans increases on a daily basis (due to ethical, religious or health reasons), we believe that it is also important to include these topics in the draft curriculum for school subjects and cross-subject topics in elementary education. It is essential that pre-school children are aware of the fact that some of their peers do not eat some or any animal food products either because they love animals, are allergic to some ingredients or for some other reasons. This teaches children to be tolerant, respect differences and to be non-violent towards all living beings.

The draft national curriculum for the subject of nature and society shows that pupils can learn some basic information on animal protection and different eating and living styles already in the first grade. This may be achieved through the following educational outcomes: A.1.1 ''The pupil compares the organisation of nature by observing immediate surroundings''; B.1.1 ''The pupil compares changes in nature and describes the importance of taking care for nature and personal health"; C.1.2 ''The pupil compares the role and influence of rights, rules and duties on an individual and on the community, the consequences of disrespect, and the importance of responsible behaviour''; A.B.C.D.1.1 ''The pupil is led to compare and present the results of observing nature, natural or social phenomena in the immediate surroundings and to use various sources of information''; A.2.1 ''The pupil compares the organisation of nature and explains the importance of organisation''; B.2.1 ''The pupil explains the importance of a responsible relationship of humans to themselves and nature"; C.2.2 ''The pupil discusses the role and influence of rules, rights and duties on the community and consequences of disrespect, and the importance of responsible behaviour''; D.2.1 ''The pupil recognises various sources and forms of energy, its transmission and transformation, and explains the importance and need of energy conservation based on examples from everyday life''; A.3.1 ''The pupil draws conclusions on the organisation of nature''; B.3.1 ''The pupil discusses the importance of a responsible relationship to oneself, others and nature''; B.3.2 ''The pupil draws conclusions on changes and relationships in nature and the interdependence of living beings and the environment based on examples from immediate surroundings''; C.3.2 ''The pupil discusses the influence of rules, rights and duties on an individual and on the community''; B.4.1 ''The pupil evaluates the importance of a responsible relationship to oneself, others and nature''; B.4.2 ''The pupil explains and associates living conditions with diversity of living beings in different habitats and describes cycles in nature''; C.4.2 ''The pupil draws conclusions on the influence of rights and duties on an individual and on the community and on the importance of freedom for an individual and the community."

In the draft national curriculum for the subject of nature, in the 5th grade, within educational outcome D.5.2 ''The pupil explains the purpose and role of science and the relationship between science and society." Through a discussion about the difference between myths and scientifically grounded knowledge, pupils may be encouraged to think critically on various information sources and traditional attitudes towards vegetarian/vegan eating styles and historically imposed rules on routine - at minimum concerning the exploitative and abusive treatment of animals.

It is praiseworthy that in the 6th grade, as part of educational outcome C.6.2 "The pupil discusses the importance of maintaining balance in nature and causes of its disturbance," pupils are encouraged, "to consider their personal contribution to solving problems in the environment and sustainable development, to roleplay a discussion between a nature protector and a businessman, and to determine their ecological footprint."

Educational outcome D.6.2 ''The pupil explains the basic principles of science and relations between science, technology and social progress'' provides an opportunity to link the topics such as pesticides and harm of exhaust gases (greenhouse effect) with mass industrial production of animals raised for food as one of the causes of these harmful phenomena.

The draft national curriculum for the subject of biology in the 7th and 8th grade of elementary education, through the examples of the impact of biological discoveries on everyday life and natural processes, creates an opportunity to discuss the ethics of using animals in scientific research, cloning, GMO etc. These and similar topics may also be addressed in the 3rd grade of secondary school, within a discussion on the justification of research on living organisms and the consequences and justification of human actions affecting natural processes.

In the curriculum for the subject of biology in secondary schools, we propose to include examples of sustainable development, economical energy use and human impact on the ecosystem, which is associated with the production based on plant energy sources. Preservation of the environment and personal health, determination of one's ecological footprint, examination of the emergence and impact of acid rains, and the effect of unhealthy eating habits on human health may be associated with choices about food and the impact of food of animal origin. Keeping an eating diary and analysing the quantity and caloric/nutritive value of food may provide an opportunity to compare energy needs of vegetarians and vegans.

Within educational outcome C.2.1 ''The pupil associates the emergence of new features with changes in the complexity of organisational levels in an organism," it is stated that, among others, the outcome may be achieved by doing a dissection of organs/organisms (e.g. fish, squid, heart). While it is not clear whether live organisms are to be used, we would like to point out that Article 29 of the Animal Protection Act provides that: "Experiments on animals which cause them pain, suffering and injury or death may not be performed for educational purposes." The same is provided in Directive 2010/63/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The use of live animals is considered an outdated practice of past centuries, while modern science and education are based on a wide range of alternative methods, without the use of animals.

In the 4th grade, particularly commendable is educational outcome B.4.1 ''The pupil analyses human impact on maintaining and disturbing the balance in nature and biodiversity by associating personal behaviour and responsibility with sustainable development'," where pupils may discuss genetically modified organisms, risks of applying controlled cross-breeding and artificial selection on the breeds of dogs or other artificially obtained breeds/varieties, introduction of invasive species, and habitat destruction.

With regard to cross-subject topics, we note that basic information on different eating and living styles may be presented within the draft curriculum for the cross-subject topic of health, through the domain "physical health." In the first cycle (pre-school, 1st and 2nd grade of primary school), this can be achieved by distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy eating habits as well as the healthy eating pyramid, where a vegan healthy eating pyramid may be mentioned.

In the 2nd cycle (3rd, 4th and 5th grade of primary school), these topics may be further discussed through their integration into the subjects of nature and society, art, and Croatian, while in the 3rd cycle (6th, 7th and 8th grade of primary school), they can be integrated into nature, biology, Croatian and art. In the 4th cycle (1st and 2nd grade of four-year secondary school and 1st grade of three-year secondary school) and the 5th cycle (3rd and 4th grade of four-year secondary school and the 4th grade of three-year secondary school programs), vegetarian and vegan eating may be discussed as part of topics on various eating styles, and adoption of healthy lifestyles may be discussed within the listed subjects, professional subjects and class meetings.

A great opportunity to consider key issues linked to the relationship with nature and survival of the planet is provided in the draft curriculum for the cross-subject topic of sustainable development, as part of all education cycles and proposed domains. In primary schools, these topics can be addressed within the following subjects: Croatian, nature, nature and society, art, biology, foreign languages, geography, chemistry, physics, history, class meetings, and out-of-class and extracurricular activities, as well as other cross-subject topics. In secondary school, in addition to some of the above subjects that are also taught in secondary education, the same purpose may be achieved through the subjects of politics and economy, ethics and philosophy.

In this regard, we welcome the proposed topics such as: human relationship to nature, human relationship to animals, non-violent solution of conflicts, empathy, renewable and non-renewable energy resources, sustainable exploitation of natural resources, human impact on nature, healthy food products, waste management, consumer society, green production, animal rights, (un)polluted environment (water, air, soil), waste, noise, light pollution, pesticides and artificial fertilisers, climate changes, greenhouse effect and global warming, acid rains, ozone holes, biodiversity, ecosystem values, ecological footprint and impact of social differences on sustainability, volunteer work and civil activism, solidarity and equality, (urban) permaculture, sustainable development principles, food production and climate changes, social justice, etc.

The draft curriculum for the cross-subject topic of civil education provides an opportunity to pupils in all cycles, through the domains of ''human rights'' (consideration and representation of children's and human rights in general, discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices) and ''civil society'' (promotion of social solidarity, non-violent behaviour, active involvement in solving social issues of civil society, participation in voluntary associations), to consider the relationship towards children who are vegetarians or vegans, vegetarian/vegan rights to a meal in public institutions as the basic human right, the role of animal protection associations in solving civil society problems associated with the treatment of animals, etc. All this can be achieved through listed school subjects and cross-subject topics, as well as visits to institutions and associations, projects, workshops, forums, roundtables, etc.

Furthermore, through the draft curriculum for the cross-subject topic personal and social development, the topics of animal protection and rights and vegetarianism/veganism can be considered through their integration into the curriculum for all subjects, class meetings, all school activities and cross-subject topics, and through all cycles.

In domain B ''me and others,” these topics may be included in the following key content areas: understanding the feelings and needs of others and acceptance without judgement; empathy; standing up for own rights and the rights of others without violating others; linking attitudes, choices and actions with consequences and non-violence in solving conflicts; while through domain C "me and society," these topics may be included in the following key content areas: voluntary work, stereotypes and prejudices, cultural identity and multiculturalism, personal responsibility for social behaviour, responsibility for preserving social values, etc.

As illustrated above, the topic of animal welfare and protection and the associated topic of vegetarianism/vegan eating should be included in almost all areas of the Curriculum in view of their social, political, ecological, economic and cultural context and the context of human rights. As it gives rise to extremely diverse and conflicting opinions (for and against), the topic of animal exploitation and alternative eating styles provides a good opportunity for the practice and development of knowledge and competencies, from providing arguments in favour of own opinion to respecting the opinions of others, learning about democratic forms of discussions and debates, accepting differences, rights and worldviews of others, right to freedom of speech and thinking, tolerance and critical thinking.

Furthermore, dealing with the issue of animal protection develops in pupils their humanity, empathy, and compassion and stresses non-violence as a desirable and the only acceptable way of acting and behaving. Speaking from experience, we can state that animal protection is an issue which children can address through voluntary and humanitarian activities in schools and the local community, through organisation and implementation of activities to commemorate special days or participation in the work of local civil society organisations. All this is in conformity with the comprehensive curriculum reform and can enhance its quality.

We hope that you will take into consideration our proposals and suggestions and integrate them into the Curriculum. We stand ready to assist and cooperate in its implementation, either by providing recommendations to achieve desired outcomes or in any other useful way.
Yours sincerely,

Animal Friends president
Luka Oman

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