The Ethnopedagogical Mosaic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Ethnopedagogical Mosaic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Contemporary pedagogy as a science has been going through a crises similar to that of other humanistic sciences. Humanity faces problems that indirectly and directly relate to education. Attempts to resolve these problems and challenges often, especially in the so-called transitional societies, end up as unsuccessful reforms of the formal educational system. This failure has led to the beginning of a new discipline. Ethnopedagogy began in the second part of the 20th century as a result of efforts to study folk pedagogy scientifically and apply the results to the contemporary system of education. As a relatively new and modern discipline, the roots of ethnopedagogy are found in both anthropology and ethnology. The term ethnopedagogy was first coined by G. N. Volkov (Геннадий Никандрович Волков), who explains ethnopedagogy as the history and theory of ethnic education, that is, a science that studies people’s upbringing, native pedagogical views, and everyday educational practices within the family and the community.

The pedagogical culture of people in everyday life resides in the material and spiritual sphere of culture that is connected with the phenomenon of upbringing. Pedagogical culture is closely connected to all spheres of human life and has a synthetic character. The preservation and development of a spiritual culture is unimaginable without adequate and developed pedagogical practices. The focus of any pedagogical culture is a child’s successful upbringing. By accounting for the essence of upbringing, one sees the unique aspects of pedagogical culture of different people and so humanity in general. All people exemplify original as well as universal achievements that are related to the upbringing of a person. The specificity of a pedagogical culture is evident in the process of upbringing where people gather spiritual wealth from generation to generation and from changing, improving, developing, and enriching pedagogical practices. Every upbringing aims for the integral unity of the social and the personal, which generates the feeling of belonging to society in every person and gives social identity to the work and behavior of the individual.

Every person has been brought up and every person will bring another up. Upbringing includes not only a people but also a human as well as natural environment. Most everything that surrounds people is somehow related to the aims of upbringing. Pedagogical knowledge stands in close relationship to life philosophy, morality, and a general knowledge of people. Through folk pedagogy, one can witness the work and action of upbringing where educators are craftsmen, singers, story tellers, namely, those who have concrete and practical abilities. The essence and direction of upbringing for all people is the upbringing that shows by virtuous examples what is good and exemplifies genuine love.

As a means of upbringing, people use different styles of verbal creation such as proverbs, riddles, songs, fairy tales, and stories. The important component of a proverb is its lesson, its explanation. In the proverb, there is much educational material. Through the proverb, one sees pedagogical ideas that are related to a child’s birth and place in life. The proverb provides the goals, means, and methods of upbringing; it engages in encouragement and punishment, provides the content of education, work, and moral upbringing, and gives the child an inheritance from the parent’s own characteristics and behavior. In the riddle, one finds a combination of influences on the child’s understanding of the world with the goal of establishing an intellectual upbringing that is in harmony with all other aspects of personality formation.

The role of the song is likewise enormous. The main task of the song is to develop a love of beauty, building up aesthetic views and tastes. The pedagogical value of the song is that in singing one internalizes what is beautiful and good. The goal and function of the lullaby is, before all else, to calm a child and help the child to go to sleep. Makers of lullabies are mothers and grandmothers, and everyone who takes care of children uses them as well. In the lullaby, there is an optimal balance between thoughts, actions, and mood. The lullaby is an amazing achievement of ethnicpedagogy. Attention is given to odgajalice (songs that have an educational message), njihalice (songs used to rock a child to sleep), and posalice (songs that have a funny or ironic tone to them). The song is a clear example of the complex system of aesthetic and ethical upbringing in a community. Fairy tales and stories have for centuries been an important means of upbringing. The role of the fairy tale is educational because it has didactic value. Although all fairy tales contain different didactic elements, there are fairy tales that are thoroughly dedicated to some moral problem.

The social history of every nation has used moral, intellectual, aesthetic, and ethical modes of educating. Years of folk pedagogy has crystallized the ideal means and methods of influencing a person. In folk pedagogy, language is an important factor of upbringing. In relation to this, there are various forms of oral influence on the feelings, cognition, and behavior of the person: explanations, counseling, messages, verifications, allusions, lessons, approvals, judgments, reprehension, threats, wishes, pledges, orders, and sermons. Work takes a central place in ethnopedagogy. Traditional upbringing gives important value to work, both paid and volunteer work. Social relations and contacts are partly determined by the basic postures of ethnopsychology, which are related to the expressing and showing of emotions. Interpersonal relations in the social community are basically determined by the family tradition that has always been the most powerful among village families. Ethnic tradition is a kind of connection between generations, and it is a ground for the spiritual-moral life of people. Religion in ethnic upbringing is also a center of the factors that influence spirituality of a person. There are no factors or means of ethnic upbringing that exist independently, moving away from one another. In this manner, everything is connected in ethnic pedagogy, and it has a unique influence on every person.

The subject of our research endeavor is the ethnopedagogical problems of growing and upbringing in the traditional Bosnian-Herzegovinian culture through the example of one small rural community which includes several villages (Zahirovići, Kurtići, Straža, Jasenica) in the northwestern side of mountain Majevica in the northeastern part of Bosnia. This community is multilateral, and it includes settlements with Muslims (Bosniacs), Catholics (Croatians), and Orthodox (Serbian) population. The collection and processing of relevant data that were related to the ethnopedagogical problems of growing and upbringing in the traditional Bosnian-Herzegovinian society through an example of this case study of a multilateral social community made it possible to see the important processes of forming a person. We studied the relationship between different types of upbringing influences with different phases of growing (pregnancy, birth, first years of life, childhood, youth, marriage, adulthood).

Having this in mind, we can say that in traditional rural Bosnian- Herzegovinian culture daily life is a haven of ethnic pedagogical practices. These practices were born out of one concrete community and included a total life cycle from birth to death. In every life situation upbringing was evident in influencing the creation of harmonious relationships between individuals and communities. All phases and processes of growing up and upbringing with the traditional, rural culture at its base had acculturative moments, but not complete acculturation processes because we are not talking about connection between totally different cultures. Actually, we can speak about meeting of different elements of culture as well as contact between different religious teachings which were the ground source of specific factors which influence processes of growing up and upbringing. This was because there is an overlap of joint traditional cultural elements in different ethnics groups. There is a ”space” of interpersonal “merging” and shaping of different elements of traditional culture and religious teaching. In the words of one informant who was interviewed during the research: “And God said: ‘If you are good according to people (all ethnic groups), then you are good according to me, if people (all ethnic groups) love you, then I love you. God is most merciful. How much is a mother to her baby gracious, God is again seventy times more gracious according to his servant (human being) without differences of a man’s faith. This is God’s creation … Let the man be good whatever faith he is.”

This research gathered, studied, and popularized geographically concrete traditions of pedagogical culture in a region that included several villages in the same vicinity. Studying the concrete traditional pedagogical culture in Bosnia- Herzegovina is an important task for ethnopedagogy. The more the research is concrete and detailed in regards to specific areas and regions of our country, the greater the value it will have for development of ethnopedagogy in the scientific community. By taking the ethnopedagogical approach to culture, the past should not be idealized. The main goal of folk pedagogy is the spiritual growth of the human being with the largest and most gentle ethnic values.


Волков Г. Н. (1999): Этнопедагогика, Москва: Издательский центр „Академия“ [Volkov, G. N. (1999) Ethnopedagogy, Moscow: Publishing Center “Academy”]

Tufekčić, A. (2012): Osnove etnopedagogije, Sarajevo: Dobra knjiga i Centar za napredne studije [Tufekčić, A. (2012): The Basics of Ethno-pedagogy, Sarajevo: Dobra knjiga and Center for Advanced Studies]

Translated by Adnan Tufekčić and edited by Keith Doubt

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