On “sacred cows” and “dinosaurs”. Blitz with educational expert
Serhii Dyatlenko, educational expert of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme briefly answered various questions related to educational reform and decentralisation.
By Dmytro Synyak
Since there were a great many questions from our readers regarding the educational reform, we asked Serhii Dyatlenko, educational expert of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme, to briefly answer them. The conversation came in the form of a blitz, that is, a “short question – short answer” format.
Last year, a lot of nervousness was caused by the announcement that division of pupils into groups to study foreign languages will be cancelled: at least, it should not be taken into account when calculating the educational subvention. Will this problem not happen again this year?
- The division into groups must be maintained. Norms at this time remained unchanged. And given that the rate-setting is forbidden to change during the school year, it is safe to say that everything will be as it was.
One school director said that in the first year of the New Ukrainian School he received everything he ordered. But this year, the funding of the NUS has been limited – only one laptop was allocated for two classes, the number of manuals provided decreased. Why?
- I do not think that less funds were allocated. Obviously, this is only about their distribution, and I would not like to delve into the details of this distribution. For example, you can buy one laptop or two for UAH 20 thousand. And the decision must be made locally – in the particular school and hromada.
That is, you support the financial autonomy of schools?
- Definitely! Here are the funds, Mr. Director, so please introduce the New Ukrainian School at your institution? And then the director will never say: “I was given ...” After all, this question is no longer the case when it comes to education in hromadas.
What is the role of educational departments, if schools become autonomous?
- In fact, they become supply managers: they provide, organise and so on.
I heard one of the educators was indignant that the state does not instruct on the features of the new educational model, but only controls the schools. Is that really so?
- According to the legislation, education management bodies do not control the quality of education. That’s all! Full stop! They have no right to do so. The director may not allow any “ministerial check” at his/her school. And as for the training aids department, they exist, they work.
For quality control there is the State Service for Quality of Education with its regional units.
Why are there so many unhappy people, when everything is working well?
- You know, the educational reform is affecting so many groups: teachers, methodologists, principals, educational department employees, and each of these groups sees just what it likes in the reform. It tries to ignore the rest, and even looks at neighbouring groups from its own point of view.
One of our readers asks: “When will the Oblast Institutes for Vocational Teacher Training be cancelled, since this structure is pure farce?”
- Over the past three years, the level of these institutions has increased by several points. They lack only a competitor. In general, the teacher training system has substantially changed lately, as required by the law on education. Part of the programmes for teachers should be held in advanced training institutes, and some studies should be passed by the teacher where he/she wants. And the state allocated funds for this.
When will the rating system for the purchase of teacher training programmes and trainers appear?
- Every teacher and every school can already do this. For example, the school decided that many teachers lack the conflict management knowledge. The school, having the means to upgrade the teacher's skills (those few hours that a teacher can use at his/her own discretion), may well invite such a trainer.
Teachers should work so that there is no need to hire tutors to pass External Independent Testing (EIT)?
- Yes, they have to work that way if the school really cares about its influence. Now, school education curricula can be individual, and directors will no longer be able to complain that they received “improper curricula” from above.
What is your attitude towards compulsory EIT in mathematics. Does this not violate high school specialisation?
- I support it. I would even add history to the list of compulsory subjects for everyone’s testing. The other thing is that I would change the format of the EIT itself somewhat, but this is another topic altogether.
A question from our reader: “Does the state plan to introduce annual comprehensive certification of each teacher? Since not only teachers, but also children and organisations that have guided teacher’s professional development should assess each teacher.”
- I wonder what is the job of this reader. I would like to ask his/her opinion on the introduction of annual comprehensive certification in his/her specialty? And at the same time let us annually certify doctors, drivers, journalists, deputies, mayors of cities... And be sure those assessments are comprehensive!
Should local self-government and teachers have legal responsibility for the education of children?
- Everything is like everywhere else. Is legal responsibility for treatment, road repairs, city council management necessary? Everyone has to answer this question him/herself.
Our reader writes: “There are two schools in my hromada. One has a professional chemistry teacher, the other does not. It would be nice for that first teacher to teach chemistry in both schools. Since the number of chemistry lessons is low, it would be even more convenient for the teacher. But if he starts working part-time, it will immediately affect his salary. What can be done?”
- In fact, only director has a complete picture of who should and should not be dismissed; who works well and who doesn't. He/she should also be approached for the solution of such problems.
What do you think about the problems of children living in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and what are the possible ways of solving them?
- We have been working on this problem for a long time, and the Ministry of Education has made great efforts to ensure that children on the other side of the trenches have the opportunity to receive Ukrainian education. However, it must be said that the answer to this question is changing every year, since the situation is changing both in Ukraine and in the occupied territories. And if in 2014 we saw certain ways to solve this problem, now they are different. But one point is unchanged: children living in the occupied territories have the right to be Ukrainians.
What to do about nepotism in educational departments and schools?
- And what to do with nepotism in the authorities in general? Education cannot be a sacred cow, it cannot be outside the state. Therefore, it is subject to all the faults and virtues of our existence in this country. This must be understood.
What to do with teachers-“dinosaurs” who have been working for 30 years in one position, believe they know everything, and do not develop? How to dismiss them?
- It is up to the hromada to decide. If such a teacher does not satisfy the customers of educational services, the question of his dismissal should be raised. This is where all the tools are suitable: parental contact, communication with the director, performance assessment or certification.
What is the main task of a teacher?
- To motivate children to study. The teacher should not cram pupils’ heads with knowledge. The ability to learn is more important than knowledge! Last year before the August Education Conference, Liliya Hrynevych said that Stanford and Harvard universities had conducted a joint study on the impact of professional and general competencies on human professional development. Thus, it turned out that 85% of success depends on general skills (soft skills) and only 15% - on professional ones. That is, the most important thing in life is the ability to communicate, defend your position, think critically, negotiate and so on.
But what kind of an accountant will a person be without knowing the multiplication table?
- My wife met the chief accountant of a foreign company whose salary is several thousand dollars a month. It turned out that this person did not know the multiplication table. So, this is not a necessary skill for a successful chief accountant. Since it is not this knowledge that leads the company to prosperity. We are still waiting for many stereotypes to be ruined.
Why invent a bicycle, why not take on the world's best educational models?
- That’s exactly what was done. It seems to me that the Ukrainian educational model is based on the Polish and Finnish models. At the same time, foreign samples are not copied, because each country has different features.
It is rumored that children will not be admitted to school without vaccinations this year. Is it true?
- It’s true, and in my opinion, the law is correct. However, there is no mechanism of how not to let a child go to school. If the director finds a way to prevent unvaccinated children from studying, he/she will do good job.
But this is a clear violation of human rights. I know several cases where, after a failed vaccination, parents abandoned any further vaccinations. I think they have a right to that.
- Yes, but is it not a violation of human rights to refuse vaccinations? I mean vaccinated children who can also get sick, or those children who cannot be vaccinated on medical grounds. Do they have the right to protect their health? Ulyana Suprun gave a good analogy: if you have a fire alarm, does that mean that you are safe when someone is making up fire downstairs? Note the trend: the more developed the state is, the larger list of mandatory vaccinations it has.
One school principal said he was outraged by the ministry’s ban on “extortions from parents”. But everyone understands that, in fact, there are no “extortions”. Parents are simply told how much and what for to donate. And everyone contributes. If this practice is to be abolished, then how to pay for security, make small repairs, and meet small school needs?
- No need for excesses. No one forbids parents to donate money to a school that provides education to their children. No one forbids parents to buy water coolers for classrooms. The state provides a standard package of educational services, and the rest depends on the parents.
Give an example of good “extortions”.
- In fact, in such a situation, you will not call it extortion. At one school, children held a ball announcing the collection of voluntary donations to the school, and also held a fair selling their own products. The parents were happy, children raised a lot of money, and this is definitely not an extortion.
U-LEAD with Europe has developed an expert block called EduLab. Tell a bit about it.
- This is actually an interactive lab. In the current situation, regulatory documents cannot provide direct answers to many questions. How to arrange transportation of pupils to school? How to provide methodological support of the educational process? How to find additional financial resources for modernisation? How to transfer directors to a contract employment? These questions are generated by the educators themselves, and then in specially created conditions of discussions, experiments, and acquaintance with others' experience, they find the answers themselves. These answers may not be correct or incorrect. One can only say whether there is an answer or not. And this format of work has already proven effective. Everyone is welcome to solve complex problems with EduLab!
The full version is available in Ukrainian – please click HERE
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