Bet­ter schools, please

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

When Pink Floyd sang “we don’t need no ed­u­ca­tion” they might have given ac­ci­den­tal in­spi­ra­tion to the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem of mod­ern Ukraine.

Of course, par­ents in ev­ery coun­try com­plain about schools, but in Ukraine there are ob­jec­tive rea­sons to think ed­u­ca­tion is in a dire state. One of them is this year’s re­sults of high school grad­u­a­tion tests, a Ukrainian ver­sion of SAT. A whop­ping 30 per­cent of high school grad­u­ates failed to iden­tify Ukraine as a uni­tary state. Al­most half didn’t rec­og­nize Ukraine’s par­lia­ment build­ing from a pic­ture.

There is an even surer sign. Rich Ukraini­ans send their chil­dren to study abroad. Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, Prime Min­is­ter Volodymyr Groys­man, ev­ery oli­garch and many top of­fi­cials pay big money in tu­ition fees to schools and col­leges in the West.

The ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in Ukraine hasn’t seen much change since the col­lapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It’s also un­der­funded. Even af­ter a salary raise this year, pub­lic school teach­ers get just $230–300 monthly.

Change is hap­pen­ing, but slowly. This year marks a new ap­proach aim ed at in­still­ing crit­i­cal think­ing in pri­mary school chil­dren. Higher ed­u­ca­tion should be next in line. Only a cou­ple of Ukrainian univer­si­ties are listed among the world’s top 500 col­leges.

Last year, among 6,000 grad­u­ates with the high­est scores, a quar­ter of them didn’t ap­ply to Ukrainian univer­si­ties. They likedly de­cided to study abroad.

To­day, the world is look­ing for tal­ent. Other coun­tries and for­eign busi­nesses are fish­ing for it, of­fer­ing high-pay­ing jobs and spe­cial visas while Ukraine has been a tal­ent donor.

Fix­ing ed­u­ca­tion isn’t easy, or quick, but there is no way around it: With­out smart peo­ple, there is no smart coun­try.

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