Total Ukrainization and Mass Staff Dismissals: What the Education Reform Adopted by the Rada Means

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada announced the start of education reform. In the first plenary day of the new session parliamentarians adopted a law that set the reform in motion.

The document was already supported by the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, who declared that the new Ukrainian school opens its doors for a new generation of Ukrainians – competent, patriotic, open to the world.

The introduction of most of the provisions of this reform is planned for September 1st, 2018.

What innovations are actually waiting for Ukrainian education – “Strana” found out.

1. Millions of Ukrainians won’t be able to teach their children in their native language

Until now in Ukraine there were many schools that taught in the Russian language, and also in other languages of national minorities – Hungarian, Romanian, and others.

The existence of Russian-speaking education (although the number of Russian schools was gradually reduced) was one of the main arguments in favor of the thesis that Ukraine respects the rights of the Russian-speaking population, perceiving them as fully-fledged citizens of the State.

Now this is all in the past.

The law imposes an actual ban on education in any language besides Ukrainian.

In the second reading the law was adopted with the following norm: as of 2018 only in elementary schools will there be classes that teach in the languages of ethnic minorities. From the 5th grade teaching subjects in the languages of ethnic minorities was removed. From 2020 for elementary grades this norm will be cancelled. I.e. from 2020 education in Ukraine will take place entirely in the Ukrainian language.

“In the first grade Ukrainian is studied and disciplines in languages of national minorities can be studied. From the 5th grade all disciplines are taught in the Ukrainian language and can be taught of in the languages of national minorities. There are no schools for national minorities, only classes,” said the deputy from People’s Front Viktoriya Syumar, commenting on the innovations.

Small exceptions are provided by the law only for representatives of “indigenous peoples” (they will be allowed to have separate classes), and also for English and languages of the European Union, which can be taught at schools for “one or several subjects” (probably, a small concession for Hungarians and Romanians). But Russian-speaking education will disappear completely.

The blogger and active participant of the preparation of this project Taras Shamaida on his page on Facebook collected enthusiastic reviews of this idea.

It should be separately noted that the concept “indigenous people” isn’t defined accurately anywhere. Thus, the authors of the project refer to Crimean Tatars, Krymchaks, Karaites and Gagauz as “indigenous people” .

The opposition rigidly criticize the language innovations.

“When the middle classes in their native language can be taught only two classes per day, and in the senior classes of secondary school no one can be taught in their native language, it is not the European way. The language that is native for children will be practically forbidden for graduates of secondary schools because in the senior classes it simply won’t be learned,” said the People’s Deputy from the “Opposition Bloc” Aleksandr Vilkul to “Strana”.

Experts note that depriving Russian-speaking citizens of the right to education in their native language will have serious political consequences, increasing the split in society.

“The percentage of those dissatisfied with the actions of the authorities will grow, and the request for a hard reset of power and for a change of course for the country will reach a critical point,” considers the political scientist Andrey Zolotarev. “As of September 1st parents will find that Russian-language schools are closed everywhere and that senior classes were switched over to the Ukrainian language. And in the southeast regions this can have an explosive effect. Moreover, we mustn’t forget that in September, 2018, the campaign for presidential elections will de facto begin”.

2. The introduction of 12-year education in schools

The introduction of 12-year education in schools became the second most discussed innovation of the new project. In 2018 six-year and seven-year-olds who will come to the first classes will study for 12 years at school.

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This innovation also generated a heated discussion in the session hall.

“In reality today there are no prerequisites to increase by a year the term of learning at secondary school. The authors refer to the western experience, but even in European countries in some countries children study for 12 years, in others – 11. In the Czech Republic study is 11 years, in France school ends at 16-17 years of age, and these countries quite successfully prepare their workforce. I know that many of my colleagues visited district and regional conferences of teachers who participated in solemn events, and communicated with parents and teachers. Tell me, who did you ask to support the increase in studying to 12 years? Let’s not turn school into a marriage agency, let’s give the chance to our children to continue vocational education after 11 years at school,” said the Deputy from the Radical party Igor Popov, urging his colleagues, but there weren’t enough votes for the preservation of 11-year learning in schools.

The Minister of Education Liliya Grinevich, in turn, explained the transition of schools to 12 years of education by the fact that, as a result of the reforms the last 3 years will be specialised – students will be able to put an emphasis on the subjects that will be necessary for them at University. But if the duration of study at school increases by 1 year, at Universities it will be necessary to study as a bachelor for one year less – not 4 years, but 3.

However, opponents of this innovation say that often even graduates of schools have little understanding what they want to become in the future. And now such a choice will have to be made 3 years earlier – at 14-15 years of age. Secondly, seven-year-olds who will study at schools for 12 years, indeed, will become graduates at 19. Many parents already now bitterly groan because weddings and the birth of grandchildren will be directly celebrated at school. Here is what readers of “Strana” wrote underneath the news about the introduction of 12-year education in schools.

Igor Yesaulov: “It would be good for them to vote for 65 years of school. Then like this they would simultaneously adopt two reforms – education and pension”.

Also many users of social networks are unaware why in the conditions of a difficult economic and social situation for the State, the “school” life of hundreds of thousands of people will be prolonged.

3. Reform will require 87 billion hryvnia, which doesn’t exist

However, many of the innovations provided by the bill can remain on paper. The reason is simple – there is no money.

Even in the summer a financial scandal erupted around the reforms. The Prime Minister of Ukraine Vladimir Groisman called the education reform too expensive for the State, having estimated that it will cost taxpayers 87 billion UAH. The head of the Ministry of Finance Aleksandr Danilyuk urged the Rada not to support the project, stating that there isn’t and never will be the means in the budget for its implementation.

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The minister Liliya Grinevich responded, saying that the cost of reform is divided across many years, and the most cost will be in 2029-2030, when future first graders finish the 12th grade.

4. An increase in the salaries of some teachers is compensated by the dismissal of others

Meanwhile, funds should be allocated already in the near future – teachers are promised increased salaries.

The bill provides a stage-by-stage increase of the official salary of teachers to three minimum wages up to 2023 (by today’s standards it is 9600 hryvnia). Thus, the salary of educators of every following qualification category will be increased by no less than 10%. Also monthly bonuses for pedagogical and scientific pedagogical workers for long-service are being established: more than three years – 10%; over 10 years – 20%; over 20 years – 30% of the official salary. Another 20% will be given to teachers who passed certification. It is planned to establish a minimum wage for teachers at the level of 6400 hryvnia.

Already recently the minister herself stated that in Ukraine on average a teacher of the highest category received 6,500 hryvnia, and that from next year the salary of such a teacher will grow twofold.

But, we will repeat – as of now the government has no understanding where this money will be taken from.

The opposition believes that the problem will be solved due to a reduction of the number of teachers.

“Experts already calculated that about 2/3 teachers will simply lose their job,” said to “Strana” Aleksandr Vilkul.

5. Instead of 22 subjects at school, 9 will be studied

A mass reduction of teachers indeed can start because of a universal introduction of “integration of subjects”, which means a reduction in their quantity.

“Strana” already analyzed this idea in detail. We will only remind that a reduction of obligatory subjects with 22 to 9 will happen because instead of physics, chemistry, biology, geography, and astronomy, the integrational courses “nature and people”, “people and world” will be created. Languages and literatures will merge into the subject “philology”, and algebra and geometry will return to the general course of mathematics.

At the moment there are no teachers trained for such universal subjects in the country. But the ideologists of reform promise a mass re-education. Although, according to the logic of things, teaching 9 subjects requires obviously fewer teachers than for teaching 22.

Even in the spring the National Academy of Sciences criticized the idea of the Ministry of Education on the unification of natural disciplines into one subject, stating that it will lead to the further falling of the general intellectual level of graduates, a reduction of the need for teachers of these subjects, and in the future – to mass dismissals of school teachers of natural disciplines.

The expert in the education sphere Andrey Chernykh also considers that the number of scientific and pedagogical workers will decrease. “There is a big risk of a reduction of teachers who teach their ‘separate subjects’,” he said to “Strana”.

6. Obstinate directors will be reigned in by contracts

One of the important innovations is the introduction of a mechanism of hiring teachers for work according to a contract. Directors of schools will allow to hold this position for no more than 6 years. Teachers themselves say that they will fall under a complete dependence on those who will issue these contracts. The Director of one of Kiev’s specialized schools in conversation with “Strana” predicts mass non-signings of contracts with obstinate and too basic from the point of view officials and Directors.

“For more than 10 years I have defended the territory of our school, which DIY builders have their eyes on. We have an old school, here people from the Regional State Administration regularly come with persuasions to demolish the old building and to construct a new one in its place. But it is clear to all that after the demolition of old school there won’t be a new one. This is an attractive place to build high-rise buildings on this territory. I don’t make such concessions, it means that tomorrow another Director will simply be appointed, who will sign everything that is necessary,” said the Director of the specialized school to “Strana”.

7. Tutoring will be put on a conveyor belt

The bill actually legalized tutoring for school teachers. The document allows teachers, or any persons registered as an Individual entrepreneur to be engaged in teaching activity.

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In principle, it’s not a secret for anybody that most teachers gave private lessons to pupils. Now there is a desire to take such activity out of the shadows, and for tutors to be obliged to pay taxes.

8. School students in villages will be obliged to go to school 50 kilometers away

The bill opens the road for a further reduction in the number of schools in rural areas.

This process is already ongoing in the form of the creation of so-called supporting schools. I.e., when only one school for all the integrated community is left. If for September 1st, 2014, in Ukraine there were 17,600 schools, for September 1st of 2016 – 16,900 schools, then for this academic year only 16,566 remain.

During consideration of the draft Deputies urged colleagues to support the decision so that the supporting school are no further than 15 kilometers from the villages where pupils live. In the final draft it is about 50 kilometers.

9. Vocational training will be assigned to local budgets

The norm on the preservation of the budgetary financing of vocational training was left without support.

Technical training colleges were assigned to local budgets.

“According to the program of decentralization, technical training colleges completely move to the balance of local communities, which physically won’t be able to provide their existence. In the short term there will be no place to receive a qualified working profession,” believes the Deputy-majoritarian Vladimir Pilipenko.

10. For sedition in schools – crime proceedings

It is interesting that in the adopting in general all of the text of the bill, Deputies adopted also one amendment that wasn’t separately put to vote in the session hall. This concerns the amendment 814, which grants the right to begin the administrative prosecution of teachers who will pejoratively speak about Ukrainian symbols or the State itself. This amendment was introduced by the deputy from the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko Oleg Musy.

“If we leave this in my formulation, then we will be compelled to introduce the corresponding proposals in law on work and on administrative offenses. If there isn’t this norm, then it will be said that it wasn’t provided, and in general let teacher-separatists further teach the ‘Russian world’ in our schools. And moreover, it will be even impossible to fine them for any violations,” said Musy, urging his colleagues in parliament to support his amendment.

One of the authors of the draft, Aleksandr Spivakovsky stated that this amendment touches on “pedagogical workers who discredit Ukraine, who discredit its attributes, the National Anthem, etc., can’t work in the education system“.

Despite the fact that nobody saw the final text, the amendment was put to vote automatically, together with all the text of the bill.

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