Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik announced that religious education will become part of the curriculum for high schools in Republika Srpska from September.
Starting from September, when the new school year begins, pupils in high schools in Republika Srpska will have mandatory religion classes.
Over the next few months, officials from Republika Srpska and the Serbian Orthodox Church will work on a detailed plan for the classes.
“This will be done, for sure, there is no reason to doubt it… the Serbian Orthodox Church is a very important part of our national identity, here in Republika Srpska and in Serbia, and we must work together,” Republika Srpska’s President Milorad Dodik told.
However public opinion in Republika Srpska is divided between those who strongly support the idea and those who do not see the purpose of such classes.
“There are so many problems with education here… we have high school where pupils do not learn anything useful and now this with religion… We should teach them how to be able to work and produce,” Sasa Trivic, vice-president of the Association of Employers of Republika Srpska.
Supporters of mandatory religious education believe however that it will benefit pupils.
“Ethics are something that is not in focus at the moment and our pupils can only benefit from this, and I am sure that most of the directors agree about this,” Dusko Djuric, director of a high school in the north-eastern town of Bijeljina.
Republika Srpska has a total population of 1,228,423, of whom 81.5 per cent are Serbs, 14 per cent are Bosniaks and 2 per cent are Croats, according to the 2013 census, while another 2.2 per cent are categorised as “others”.
In primary schools in Republika Srpska, religious education is optional, but once selected, becomes mandatory from second until ninth grade, and parents can decide if their children will learn about the Orthodox or Catholic faith or Islam.
The curriculum for these classes at primary schools is prepared with the representatives from three major religious communities in Republika Srpska.