On September 5, 2005, Stanislav Nikolayenko, Ukraine’s minister of education, and Paul Bermingham, World Bank Director for Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, signed the Loan Agreement for the Equal Access to Quality Education in Ukraine Project. The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved an $86.59 million loan for Ukraine on May 24, 2005, as part of the Adaptable Program Loan (APL) to support Ukraine’s reform initiatives in education. These funds are pegged to a reform of the school education system, raising the professional level of school teachers, training instructors for the system of postgraduate studies for educators, and monitoring the quality of education. The loan will also be used to purchase educational materials, support innovative initiatives in schools, and improve the efficiency of educational administration, in part by introducing IT management systems.
What would be the most rational way to divide these funds? What are the high- and low-priority spending areas? The Day asked some experts for their comments.
Volodymyr LOBAS, Ph.D., professor at Krok University of Economics and Law:
“It would be a very good idea to use these funds to send teachers abroad, where they could learn educational techniques used in the West by observing them in classrooms and lecture halls. This would create the best conditions for borrowing from Western experience and implementing it in our educational system. Blind copying of foreign techniques dooms the nation and the state to eternal inferiority. After all, they only share techniques invented in the past, not recent breakthroughs.
“In the increasingly globalized world the problem of protecting our unique identity based on the nation’s historical past has never been more relevant. This is also true of education, which is an element of culture. A good example is Japan, which cherishes its unique identity while gradually assimilating into the global space and miraculously converting everything they borrow into something that is essentially their own. All cultures that currently exist in the world, and educational systems that are part of them, are viable, because unviable cultures died a long time ago. If a nation remembers its past, its culture will never die. The same holds true for education. We should not blindly duplicate the achievements of other countries, since they too can learn something from Ukrainians.”
Olena ONATS, president of the Ukrainian Association of School Administrators, principal of School No. 41 in Kyiv:
“It’s no use squandering funds borrowed from the World Bank on developing education. It would be more effective to focus spending on individual schools that have already taken the initiative and are introducing innovations. Such schools could become hubs of innovation in their respective areas. Teachers from nearby schools would be able to raise their professional level at such centers, thus spreading cutting-edge experience throughout Ukraine. After all, teachers undergo retraining at postgraduate institutes only once every five years, while current knowledge can become obsolete much sooner than that. Moreover, since it is important to bring information technologies to schools, it would also make sense to provide funding to hire system administrators, who would maintain computers in working condition and provide guidance for teachers.”
Viktor HROMOVY, meritorious teacher of Ukraine, head of the Education and Science Department at the Kirovohrad Oblast Administration:
“Given Ukraine’s size, this amount is not all that large, but if used to resolve individual problems, it is a quite substantial sum. After all, teachers’ wages and utility bills account for the bulk of spending on education in Ukraine. I would like the mechanism of disbursing these funds to start working from the bottom up, not the other way around, i.e., for the money to be spent on stimulating teacher initiatives. After all, those who are in immediate contact with students are aware of their problems better than anybody else and can propose effective solutions. As for spending, I would place different accents. Speaking of teacher retraining, it would be a good idea to pay more attention to training educational administrators: school principals, curriculum directors, or university rectors. These people should be able to do a Master’s degree in educational administration, not to mention training abroad. A school is a reflection of its principal, and a good principal always knows how to keep his teachers in step with the times.
“Accents should be also shifted in terms of logistics funding. We report on the numbers of computers installed in schools, but we say almost nothing about the availability of software that would help generate real information and communication technologies in teaching. In Tokyo, for example, this type of software is developed for every subject, including software for administrators. By itself a computer is not important. It has to be a tool for introducing cutting-edge information and communication technologies in the teaching process.
“Ukraine lacks this kind of major lever for developing education as the third sector, i.e., nongovernmental organizations of educational workers. Even if there are such organizations, they are at the beginning stages and lack basic resources for their own development. I would use the loan money to support nongovernmental organizations of educators. Speaking of foreign experience, the American system of education, for example, is centered on such organizations. The Association of School Administrators in the US is a nongovernmental organization, but it organizes all kinds of seminars and conferences, not the government. This differs markedly from what is happening here. There, conferences are geared to consumers. Otherwise, no one would agree to pay membership fees. These organizations are not in opposition to the government; they are becoming the government’s serious partner. Therefore, in Ukraine we must support a system of nongovernmental teachers’ organizations. Otherwise, there will be no chances for development. Given the current low salaries in the teaching field, educational administrators can ill afford to pay large membership fees that will support the association of school administrators and foster serious projects.”