A group of rectors and activists discussed this question and came to a positive conclusion, provided that there is a complex change in the education system.
The model of education, as outlined in the new draft law, will address the key issues in this area – lack of complementary connection between secondary and higher education and a lack of students’ motivation because they are overloaded with subjects they do not need. This position was unanimously announced by representatives of the leading Ukrainian universities at a discussion held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “We need to reform the entire education system and find a mechanism to coordinate all actions both in the whole system and in each sector [secondary and higher education] separately. The law, adopted in the first reading, significantly pushes us forward,” stated Taras Finikov, rector of the International Foundation for Education Policy Research. “We can create a complete ecosystem where each element will support the other and have certain common values,” noted Taras Dobko, first vice rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University.
Panelists noted that preserving the current model will only deepen the existing problems and even more of “strong” students will move abroad. “Universities cannot rely on people’s poverty and immobility as their recruitment tool. We should finally start competing not just with each other but with the world for a good applicant,” stressed Taras Dobko. “Our education becomes a place where you can create proposals that bring us closer to international models. We must believe that it is possible in Ukraine (…) Made in Ukraine may be leading,” added Bishop Borys Gudziak, President of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Bishop of Saint Volodymyr the Great Eparchy in Paris.
Decision: eliminate the gap between school and higher education
For a long time there has been a tendency when school graduates who enter the universities not having enough background knowledge to study the chosen specialty. This situation will change after the implementation of profession-oriented high school. “This will provide better career guidance to those who consider entering a university. They will be more motivated. In higher education, we may move to “3 + 2″ scheme – 3 years for a Bachelor’s degree (due to the 12th grade of profession-oriented high school) and 2 years of Master Program,” said Taras Dobko.
Volodymyr Bugrov, vice rector of Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University (KNU), said that KNU has been running Ukrainian Physics and Mathematics Lyceum and two highly specialized colleges for quite a long time. As a result, their graduates come with a good basis and move to postgraduate studies to continue their research.
As to the profession-oriented senior classes, it is to try out the practice, which has successfully proved itself in the US: high school students will be able to choose the depth study of the profile subject agreed with the university program. “This test will be passed in as the university education. This will make pupils and students more mobile – they will take two bachelor degree courses over three years,” noted Taras Dobko. If at some stage Ukraine, according to global trends, will move to a paid higher education, this advancing training will allow them not only to be prepared for enrolling but also to save money.
“Related job” as the key to motivation and success
A typical for Ukraine tradition to go to the prestigious faculty at a university without real interest and motivation just for a Diploma should be changed. “Much of what is taught in Ukrainian high school is not as useful as it seems. The lack of interest in education since middle school is a vivid demonstration of this. Each family should look for the option, which will allow a child to receive such an education that will correspond to his abilities and inclinations,” noted Taras Finikov.
He stressed that more than 70 percent of school drop-outs go to universities in Ukraine, while in many successful countries – only 50-60 percent.
Education reform is not only a change in legislation, but a change in the world outlook
The panelists noted that they expect significant resistance to the proposed reform primarily from the older generation of educators and conservative strata of society. “The education reform requires a change in people’s thinking, which is very difficult to achieve, especially in our society that has not yet completely freed from the Soviet Union. This is actually the process of creating a new education environment,” noted Taras Dobko. “The resistance is very often associated with fear. We should not be afraid, because we have no choice but to move forward,” stated Borys Gudziak.
They called for consideration of the draft law in the context of usefulness of the proposed changes and not as part of the political struggle. “Certain personalities are attacked, but actually this is a struggle between the new and the old – the forces that want to preserve what we have, and those who want to change something. If we do not change the education system, we will change nothing. […] People who do not want Ukraine to remain on the sidelines of the European space should support both the law, and the people who defend it,” stated Vil Bakirov, president of Karazin Kharkiv National University.