Ivan Kos, PhD, a private practitioner in New York City, made his fourth trip in a year in March to Yugoslavia in response to requests from the country's Ministry of Education as well as the U.S. State Department to assist with Yugoslavia's reform from an autocratic to democratic system of schooling. The process is scheduled to take 10 years.
During his visits, Kos offers seminars and workshops as part of a program called Professional Empowerment of Schools to train more than 50 of the country's top psychologists and pedagogists, called "change agents," to work with 8,000 teachers and professors of pre-college-level schools in implementing the reform. Kos seeks to reduce fears associated with the process of change, such as the fear of job loss, of not being able to fit into the new system adequately and even "that the system would lie to them," he says.
Kos, who developed a theory about fear stages, teaches that fear reduction involves recognizing which fears are realistic versus those that are exaggerated or imagined. His training also involves how to make the fears useful in the environment as well as in developing coping mechanisms useful to a specific concern. While in Yugoslavia, Kos also works with the Ministry of Education regarding communication issues.
The program is being positively received, says Kos. "This is the first time in Serbian history that psychologists are taking a lead role in such a high educational change," he says.
Kos, who is fluent in Serbian, was recognized as having a keen understanding of the needs of the country, and had in the past presented lectures in Belgrade and trained professionals of other fields how to recognize and deal with difficulties such as depression.