My last article concerned itself with ethnic and religious division in American schools, and how that division has been exploited by a political demagogue. It is, however, important to note that the United States isn’t alone in its unequal treatment of students. In the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia & Herzegovina, students of different religions are taught under the same roof, but with significantly divided curriculums.

The subject first came to my attention in the 2014 Boston Globe article, entitled “Bosnia’s Segregated Schools.” The article discussed the concept of “two schools one roof,” a very real segregation policy enacted after the vicious civil war between the three major ethnic groups (Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks, or Bosnian Muslims) in modern day Bosnia/Herzegovina. The Globe went on to discuss the implementation of integrated classes for the first time in some of these students lives. Many of the subjects taught in school would still be taught in the students’ mother tongues. But the integration program, sponsored by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, based off the contact theory of racial integration, hoped to use English as a middle ground to help students discuss difficult topics on an even playing field.

The Balkan Insight article, written in 2016, attests that the integration process hasn’t been successful, and the rights to learning ethnic history, religion, and language of all groups was not being successfully and adequately enforced. The article begins with a plea from local Bosniak groups, saying that their curriculum is being bulldozed by ethnic majorities, and requesting a new, dedicated Bosniak secondary school for their children. The insight that the BI article makes is the connection between political activism and the separate curriculums, as they pertain to student identity.

The political overtones of the ethnic and religious segregation of people within the same state is an eerie and extreme parallel to the difficulties experienced by minority students in our own country. The perceived inequality in both systems is troublesome, and leaves many questions about the political futures of Bosnia/Herzegovina and the United States.



4 thoughts on “Separate but Equal? The Two School, One Roof Policy in Action

  1. Perhaps I’ve missed something, but I was under the impression that the people of Bosnia speak the same language, regardless of their religious/ethnic background. Am I wrong and do they speak different languages?


    1. Michael, from my understanding in Bosnia & Herzegovina there are three spoken languages: Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian. All three are deeply related, but differ slightly. For example, Bosnian, because it is the language of the predominantly Muslim Bosniaks, has borrowed many Turkic words from the time of Ottoman occupation.


      1. From my understanding, it is a single language, with slight regional differences, and the desire to separate it into different languages is politically motivated, leading to more problems and difficulties, rather than addressing a practical need.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. While they are fundamentally related, Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian are all listed as distinct official languages of Bosnia & Herzegovina. There is little doubt, however, that the divisions between the two languages have been highlighted, in order to exert a sense of autonomy and identity to each group’s spoken or written word. I think your observation of the political motive is a keen one. The Balkan Insight article I reference in my blog discusses, in slightly more detail, the political climate in the country now, and may lend credence to that claim.


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