The “Better education, better Croatia” column used 24sata’s strong journalism and news media to rise audience engagement.
The “Better education, better Croatia” column used 24sata’s strong journalism and news media to rise audience engagement.

What are you painting?” a teacher asked a little girl of six.

“I am trying to paint God,” answered the first grader. 

The teacher said, “But no one knows what God looks like.” 

Full of confidence, the student quickly replied, “You will find out in a minute.”

The world’s most famous education guru, Sir Ken Robinson, always retells this story. His ideas spark debates. The methods he is suggesting are changing him. It’s about the students and their creativity. It’s about the teachers and their potential, scientists and their knowledge.

These same thoughts are driving the editors and journalists at 24sata.

In November 2014, 24sata launched a unique column: “Better education, better Croatia” (Bolje obrazovanje, bolja Hrvatska”). In this initiative, we used the greatest media brand in Croatia, 24sata, for a worthy cause — putting education into the centre of public debate through the strongest newspaper, the most-visited Web portal, the No. 1 television network, and the top social media outlet, with 1.5 million users a day.

In the nine months since the beginning of the campaign, the topic of education has occupied the readers on all platforms; they have commented, liked, shared, and made suggestions. 

The project has attracted worldwide attention and support. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that it was education that brought prosperity to Korea when it was on its knees.

“I grew up in a country devastated by war. The schools were destroyed and had no desks or chairs. The knowledge saved us,” Ban Ki-moon said to encourage our project.

“The word about this unique idea has spread all the way to Finland, the country, which has created Nokia. They were a paper mill; they were manufacturing car tyres, boots … everything but the kitchen sink. But soon they became a technological giant, thanks to the utilisation of the best resources — brains.

“Today, Finland is a country that is literally producing knowledge and represents a role model in education. In order to succeed, it is important to be diligent, innovative. and to learn from those who are better than you. I wish you success,” Finnish Minister of Education Krista Kiuru wrote to us.

24sata has succeeded. Our initiative has helped to create the future of our children. We have published 600 fantastic stories about little geniuses, teachers breaking boundaries, and a system that is being changed by individuals. Though this campaign, we have sent the message, “It can be done.”

Prior to this campaign, top doctors, the best mathematicians, and physicists were mentioned only with regard to the Croatian brain drain. Today, as in the case of the little girl from the beginning of our story, we let children “paint God,” so they could show us medals from top competitions, projects that no one else in the world has taken on, and intellects of which we are proud.

With each article we have created a better Croatia.

The “Better education, better Croatia” column has reached 800,000 unique page views and this number is still growing. There are more than 100,000 comments on Facebook and Twitter and thousands of letters, e-mails, and phone calls from parents, teachers, and school principals.

This project has engaged absolutely everyone, and that is perhaps the biggest success of the whole campaign.

At the beginning, our colleagues were cynically commenting, “Oh, the media is once again thinking they know something about education.”

But during this campaign, 24sata gave schools a chance to crack open classroom doors and show us the small wonders that are going on in there.

The project shows us that students and teachers are true shooting stars,” commented Lidija Kralj, one of the most successful and internationally recognised teachers, who was recently awarded the American Global Educator Challenge Award.

Our editors and journalists are proud because they have reached not only 10-year old children, but also their grandmothers and grandfathers aged 74.

In the first nine days, we had 18,000 comments on all platforms. The message was the same: You woke up society; this is just what we needed. If we have encouraged one teacher or one student in some small town to change, if the Minister has heard our message even once, we have succeeded.