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13 Ноября 2018
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Will School Transformation Lead To Civil Democratization?

Will School Transformation Lead To Civil Democratization?
By Marina Zagorskaya
BDG. Delovaya Gazeta
From the outside, the Belarusian educational system seems to have been radically transformed. Today’s graduates went through all the changes during their school years, including the centralised testing, and increased number of school years. Their school life had the periods of Belarusian revival, humanitarianism, democratisation, and formalisation.
Expert from the Humanitarian Technologies Agency Svetlana Matskevich reckons that such controversial trends resulted in a “strange” generation of Belarusians. They are versatile computer-users, they speak foreign languages, they are able to absorb large volumes of information, but they do not have their own opinion and are willing to reproduce anything they are told by somebody in authority.
- These reforms did not change educational technologies. The main idea was to change the structure – it was 10 years at school before, now it’s 12; the top mark was 5 now it’s 10; school graduates had to take University exams, now it’s the centralised testing. However, it wasn’t decided what to teach at school and what quality standards should be in education, said Svetlana Matskevich. The knowledge control in schools did not replace the system of lesson and classes, but turned education into total control. There is less time now to pass on knowledge, and as a result pupils are overloaded. Now they have to learn by themselves; teachers only control this process.
- What do you think about such a control option and testing?
- By large, the centralised testing did sort the University entrance procedures. However, this form of control cannot provide a 100% accurate result. The test is good to evaluate pupils’ general knowledge, accuracy, and discipline, but it’s useless to check their creativity, mobility, communication skills, or even thinking process in general.
- What do you think the results are from regular changes in the schooling program, University entry rules changes, or jumping from 11 years in school to 12 and back?
- These constant changes are evidential of the Ministry of Education not knowing what to do really. The lack of clear strategy in education is covered up with verbal declarations, local transformations, inspections, and inner conflicts in this state institution. Annual changes in University entry rules do nothing but hassle parents, pupils, teachers – thousands of people. They just can’t stop and think what it’s all about. Constant changes in these procedures impair normal reflexes and thinking among all those involved in the system of education. In fact, the main task is simple – to clean up the system, and to form loyalty and subordination – people are getting used to nonsense.
- One of the novelties in this year’s University campaign is a special interview and recommendations for “particularly accountable from the state’s viewpoint” professions: “state management, state management and law, state management and economy, international relations, international relations and law, law, economic law, journalism, international journalism, and customs law.” What is the main idea behind this innovation?
- I am not going to say anything about breaching people’s freedom for education and personal choice of an educational institution – it’s obvious. Another obvious thing is that civil society cannot respond to this innovation, as there are no ways for people to have their say in the educational system.
From the state’s point of view, it’s the future state machinery in the making particularly the middle administrative level, bureaucracy. It’s understandable. Belarusian bureaucracy will have an effect on so many issues – stability in the country, relations with politicians, and the quality of changes in the Belarusian public. At the moment, education among state officials leaves much to be desired. Today’s officials are unable to deal with basic social problems– they are administratively illiterate. Therefore, the training system for state officials is being revised. An interview before University is a just professional selection for state duties. This procedure is rather ideological rather than democratic. Such a selection would be understandable after the University, but in Belarus ideological criteria are more important than professional. This is why the selection takes place as early as possible. Still, the quality of training for the future state officials is hardly expected to improve significantly because of the lack of the strategy in education.
- The fact that the Ministry of Education keeps going from one extreme to the other resulted in teachers taking any changes very sceptically. What is it going to be like in the future?
- It happened because unsuccessful attempts to transform education discredited any possible changes in the future. Doing more administrative transformations will break the system of education once again. With all their scepticism, teachers are to do what they are told. The educational system is stronger than some people’s disagreements.
- Where is the solution?
- It will take solidarity among professionals as they form their professional communities. Unfortunately, Soviet traditions are so powerful that public life is non-existent as such. The Soviet way of life is the main obstacle for the public opinion, and for territorial and exterritorial communities in Belarus. The main task for Belarus is to do away with soviet traditions and to found strong public society. It’s naive to think that a complex task can be dealt with in a simple manner. Civil education and upbringing is becoming more important now than specific and focused training.
Large-scale civil education can really advance if those in charge of educational reforms are highly educated humanitarians themselves. A more humanitarian approach is to be implemented. It has been substituted with ideology, and is being strictly controlled. The real progress will require renewed thinking in education at all levels.
The system of education will also benefit from the introduction of European standards and from our Universities providing classical higher education with global European thinking, creativity, and self-sufficiency.

 

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