Serhiy Dyatlenko, educational expert of the Central Reform Office under MinRegion, continues responding to comments to his first interview. He told how to resist urbanisation, implement school buses and deal with bad school directors.
By Dmytro Synyak
“Everything I'm talking about does not at all concern underfilled schools with forty pupils. Nothing will help them. But it is still possible to save schools, attended by about hundred children. I address primarily hromadas that have such schools. If you want to develop your schools, develop hromadas, look for grants, write projects ...”.
“Just when there are 6 pupils in the class, we have a team! There, the results of studies will be different than in the classes of 35 children! The main thing is that such “reformers” take responsibility for their reforms, for destruction of education, and not escape!”
- I'm not escaping, and I'm just ready to answer for the proposals I put forward. But is the teacher accusing me, ready to take responsibility for how he/she teaches children? Will he/she hide behind general phrases about the destruction of education? I kindly ask you, analyse your work according to the parameters that I have provided in the previous responses to the comments of the decentralisation.gov.ua readers. Unfortunately, many have seen what they wanted to see in my words.
Let's go back to the comment. Isn’t the work with six pupils in the class similar to individual lessons? So the quality of learning should be higher, is not it?
- It is so! But only theoretically. In practice, unfortunately, we have a completely different picture. As a rule, when there are 5-6 pupils in a class, the teacher works half-steam, classrooms are not well equipped, there are no interest clubs and extracurricular activities in these schools, pupils are not involved in social work, they are not taught to be active. In modern educational system, skills are becoming more important than knowledge that can be easily obtained in the Internet, in fact, teamwork and honest competition skills are hard to be trained in a small team.
“Now, looking at Europe, we send small citizens of independent Ukraine few kilometres from home to study in classes of 30 children to be competitive. Perhaps, in 45 minutes, the child will be seen and heard there... It's a shame that the health of the nation is not a priority for the state, not to mention the dedicated work of teachers!”
- Yes, the health of the nation is a priority, and that is why physical training should be one of the most important subjects of the educational cycle. I am very curious how physical training lessons are conducted in a school with 5-6 pupils per class? Is there a gym at all in this school, and whether it is heated in winter? Does it have sports equipment? Show me a school of twenty pupils with all of this available.
You said that the phrase “school saves the village” has no grounds and asked to name at least one village saved by the school. But your opponent in one of the comments asks to name at least one village saved because of closure of the school.
- If a school in the village has to be closed, it's too late to save this village. It's already dead! And the fact that 5 children are born a year in the village is not an excuse to keep this school. Let's look at this problem from the other side. In Ukraine, the urban population is now 69%, while in developed countries: the UK, Canada, Japan, the USA, etc. – this figure is 75-80%. Do we aspire to be a developed country? If so, then we must be prepared for the fact that the number of urban population should be approximately the same as in the UK and Canada. People want more to live in cities than in villages, because there are more amenities, higher salaries, wider opportunities, and we cannot do anything about it.
“The function of the state is to create conditions for the population in any part of the country. It is not a person who should escape from a village to a city, because there are amenities, the Internet and jobs, but rather the Internet, amenities and workplaces should come to the village, and if not, then this is the result of incompetence of the authorities. The expert says that schools are closed, because of demographic reasons... This is so, but such a demography is the result of the state's work. We are always trying to change the result without correcting the reasons that lead to it.”
- Tell me, are there any villages that have gas, water, Internet connection, and where a house can be bought for a penny, but still people do not go there? There are so many such villages! And why don’t people come back? Because there is nowhere to work, because there are no conditions for development in comparison with the city, and they will never be there, no matter who and what will do. Tell me, should Ukraine remain a definitely rural state? Or will we follow the way of the most powerful states in the world? It is on the creation of jobs that hromadas should work in order to preserve their villages. And the state should support only the developing villages, but not those that are decaying.
But the state, too, should not be a passive player. It should create conditions for the development of the village. “If the state had the goal to develop the country, then schools and kindergartens would not be closed...”
- Do we have villages that began to develop rapidly as a result of decentralisation? We do! So why do not others develop? After all, the state has created conditions for the development of the whole country. Someone just took advantage of them, and someone – did not.
Though, apparently, there are certain worldwide ideas on how to keep people in villages?
- The Soviet Union used probably the most effective measures: by the beginning of the 1970s, passports were simply not issued to the peasants. Incidentally, in the comments to my interview, someone suggested to apply this restriction nowadays as well. But time is no longer the same to openly discriminate the rural population, seizing their development opportunities. According to the results of the 2017/2018 academic year, the average filling of rural classes of І-ІІ degree schools in Ukraine, that is, schools having only 9 grades, is 7,4 pupils. And in rural schools of I-III degrees (grades 1-11) – 14,3 pupils. Does anyone believe that the state should maintain such classes and schools, which, in addition, show a very poor quality of work?
In the comments the main message was as follows: yes, now everything is bad with demography in our village, but who knows, maybe now some investors will come to the village, and everything will improve. “It would be better if the school is maintained in our village for some time. And then everything may happen. There may be farmers, eco-settlements, programmes...”. Then the school will be a significant element of infrastructure, which, in fact, may affect the investor's decision to establish his business exactly in this area...
- This is a very naive thought. People are used to sitting and waiting for a miracle. They do not realise that while they are idling, miracle will not happen. The investor will come, whereto he is invited, where there is, for example, the general plan of the territory, where people are active and ready to work for the benefit of the hromada.
What about those villages where there are no such people? After all, in many villages there was only one candidate running for the position of the village head in the last elections ...
- We can only feel pity for such villages. Their residents must realise: if they do not become active, their village will disappear from the map in some 10-20 years, and maybe even faster.
“The village is a cradle of Ukraine, and now it is dying. And instead of making the conditions for people to live in the village, they do everything to make the villages empty. Is the territory vacated to sell the land plots later? You can make sewing units, gardens, chicken breeding cooperatives (why do people sell milk, but not eggs?) You can negotiate and restore the opportunity for people to live with nature and earn! But what for? It is better to destroy people, send them to work and grab their land plots...”
- You cannot force people to organise a cooperative, you cannot create this cooperative for them. Only people can do it themselves. Due to the latest technologies, land is not critical to agriculture. Israel, having practically no agricultural land, successfully grows a lot of vegetables and fruits. Form amalgamated hromadas, struggle for transparent land tax payment, understand how the land lease mechanism works, and then you will have less thoughts about the worldwide rebellion against you.
“It is not the analysis of the activities of rural schools that cause so much indignation, but a disrespect towards them. Rural school already sounds like a stigma.”
- I have no disregard for the rural school, because I myself graduated from the rural institution in the Kyiv Oblast, studying in a class with 14 pupils. But I wish the teachers’ community shook, I want it to work. Moreover, I want to explain that if teachers of rural schools continue to remain passive, they will condemn their own villages to gradual decay. It is worth creating the best class in school, the best school to which children from other villages will start to be transferred.
“The expert said: “Which underfilled school has physical and chemical laboratories?” It's a pity that he does not know that city schools have not seen these laboratories for a long time as well (including lab assistants).”
- Last year, many hub schools acquired their specialised equipment on a particular natural cycle subject. The average cost of such a classroom equipment is about UAH 400 thousand. This year, UAH 1.8 billion have been allocated to the New Ukrainian School from the state budget. But when the state purchases equipment, it primarily gives it to large schools, and this is logical.
“In fact, it is necessary to work for the result! And what about when the director or deputy director comes to the lesson and demands to follow the certain lesson type structure? And the teacher carefully “adheres to it”, “fits in the time frames”... The result is not even considered, when it is necessary to show “skills in applying innovative methods”, “different forms of learning”, etc.?
- Are there bad teachers? There are. And what about bad school directors? Of course! And there may be bad educational department heads, as well as bad ministers. But if the director works not well, that does not mean that a teacher should work the same way. It is necessary to persuade, substantiate your viewpoint, defend own stance.
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