The reform of education is crucial. Obviously, Ukrainian education today does not meet contemporary needs of the individual, the society, or economy, and does not follow global trends. This is why a systemic transformation of this area has started with the main goal of achieving a new quality of education on all levels, from primary school to higher education.
A large-scale reform of Ukrainian education became possible with the adoption of the framework Law of Ukraine On Education. It determines the goal of education as holistically developing the human being as a personality and society's ultimate value, his/her talents, intellectual, creative, and physical abilities, shaping values and competences required for successful self-realization, raising responsible citizens who can make an informed social choice and act for the benefit of other people and society, using this as a basis for enriching intellectual, economic, creative, and cultural potential of the Ukrainian nation, raising the people's educational level to help Ukraine achieve sustainable development and support its European choice.
The science reform aims to put an end to isolation and stagnation in the area of research, create demand for high-quality training of researchers and high-quality developments in fundamental and applied sciences, bridge the gap between research and the implementation of its results, integrate higher education and science of Ukraine into the education and research space of the European Union.
The reform concerns four areas, including secondary education, vocational (technical) education, higher education, and creation of a new science management and funding system. Activities are pursued in each to achieve a common goal of transforming Ukrainian education into an innovative environment where school and university students acquire key competence that everybody now needs for a successful life, and academics have opportunities and resources for research immediately impacting the country's social and economic life.
Reform plans include introducing new education standards, improving learning facilities at educational and scientific institutions, engaging the best teaching and research staff, and implementing a fair and transparent system of education and science funding. The reform also aims to make teaching and research more prestigious.
We live in the 21st century. The country and the world have changed, as has the society and, fundamentally, needs of the economy, while educational approaches persist from the previous century. Students at Ukrainian schools and universities mostly gain a body of knowledge without being aware of how it can help them with self-realization. The educational process at vocational and higher educational institutions is out of touch with needs of the labor market and economy overall.
Educational and scientific institutions suffer from a lack of physical facilities, ineffective administration, and inferior management. National economy is based on raw materials and low-technology sectors, significantly undermining Ukraine's potential for development as a competitive country. Results of research and scientific developments only insignificantly contribute to Ukraine's GDP.
Today we have a chance to change this. A united community of creative people, responsible, active, and entrepreneurial citizens can bring up a powerful state and competitive economy. It is these that secondary and higher school should produce. The content of vocational and higher education should be continuously updated to meet the personnel needs of businesses. The issue of employee mobility, competitiveness, and qualification becomes especially burning. Education and science should turn into a lever of social equality and unity, economic development and competitiveness of Ukraine.
The New Ukrainian School concept has been approved to popularize the reform among the general public. What does it involve?
After finishing school, the student should have key competences and cross-cutting skills that will be useful in today's world. These include, among others, fluency in the official language, mathematical, general cultural, and environmental competences, entrepreneurial and innovative attitude, economic competence etc. In addition, cross-cutting skills include critical and systemic thinking, creativity, initiative, constructive control of emotions, risk assessment, decision-making, problem resolution.
The new school greatly changes the teacher's role because he or she no longer is the sole source of knowledge for today's children, who can find any information in books or online. However, it is these conditions that emphasize the teacher's great role as a partner in bringing up a personality. An educational portal is being created to aid the teacher that offers methodological and didactic materials, Ukrainian e-encyclopedias, multimedia textbooks, and interactive online resources.
The reform requires certification — an external evaluation of teaching staff's professional competences that aims to identify and encourage teachers that have a high level of professional excellence, have mastered competence learning methods and new educational technologies, and promote their popularization. Teachers that pass certification will be paid an extra 20% to their salaries and will become change advocates in school education.
It is equally important to increase the number of ways for teachers' continuing education. Now they only can pursue it through post-graduate institutes of pedagogical education (PGIPE), which unfortunately are no model of progressive thinking at times. The teacher should have the right to choose where and how to improve their qualifications. Forms of advanced teacher training are to be diversified and will include PGIPE courses, workshops, webinars, online courses, conferences, self-directed learning (certificate recognition).
A teacher should spend a total of at least 150 hours in five years towards improving their qualifications. The teacher will decide him- or herself where and how to take advanced courses, but will do it annually. Allocations for teachers' professional growth will be made as part of the education subvention in the national budget.
The reform's important achievements include starting a competitive selection of the director of a general secondary education institution (for six years and up to two terms in a row) and expanding their powers regarding the organization of their school's activities.
The Law of Ukraine On Education requires every educational institution to publish information about all funds received and their purpose. This has enabled parents to monitor the use of their charitable donations and funds from the national and local budgets.
The Law has annulled school attestation — a procedure that was discredited by corrupt practices. It also canceled inspections at district education administrations. Instead, the State Service of Education Quality is now in charge of assuring quality in education. It will employ peer experts that will advise schools on ways of improving the learning process. The main goal is guidelines rather than sanctions.
The institutional audit of an educational institution is the only scheduled activity of state supervision (control) over school. It will be conducted once every 10 years.
How does this change the school?
The school will be a place where children will be acquiring not only knowledge but also the ability to apply it and values to analyze the surrounding world and reality. It will be not only an educational institution but also a safe environment for development where children learn to communicate with each other. Such learning requires implementing new teaching methods, changing the format of communication between students, parents, and teachers, introducing project-based work and learning through action.
All of this cannot fit into a two-year profession-oriented senior school where children have to get profound knowledge of subjects they want to major in and prepare for EIE without any harm to their health. This is why we need to start a full three-year profession-oriented school where children will get adequate knowledge.
The new senior profession-oriented school will have academic and vocational lyceums. The academic lyceum will enable the student to extend their knowledge and enter a higher educational institution. The vocational lyceum will enable schoolchildren to get their first occupation together with general secondary education.
New content of primary education defined:
The learning environment modernized for the New Ukrainian School by purchasing:
As a result of decentralization, vocational establishments are to be funded locally from 2016 by oblast budgets, budgets of oblast-level cities that are oblast centers, and budgets of oblast-level cities. However, some oblast-level cities failed to fund their vocational establishments. This is why these are funded by oblast budgets and oblast-level cities that are oblast centers from 2017. Starting from 2017, the national budget allocates educational subventions for secondary education in vocational schools and funds nationally significant occupations and creates sector-specific learning and practice centers.
The national budget is funding the creation of sector-specific learning and practice centers at vocational (technical) institutions. These centers will increase the number of students and learners at VTI; graduates employed in their field of study; apprenticeship at such centers for on-the-job learning masters and teachers of special subjects.
Designing and implementing new state competence-based standards of vocational (technical) education and introducing elements of dual vocational education will provide quality, flexibility, and mobility in training the workforce based on employers' needs.
Elements of dual education allow on-the-job learning and on-the-job practical training to occur in production for 60–70% of academic hours so that practical training can be delivered on modern equipment by using innovative technologies and secure the appropriate quality of professional training of qualified workers based on the employers' needs and demands.
The reform involves active participation of all stakeholders, including employers, in designing education standards and educational programs, forming the government and regional need for workforce, reinforcing physical facilities, and restoring the prestige of vocational education and popularizing worker occupations.
The Ministry's effort in this field includes providing guidance to higher educational institutions in creating a system of in-house quality assurance of higher education and creating a system of external quality control of higher education. We have to approve new competence-based standards of higher education. They will guarantee that universities will be ensuring in-house quality of higher education.
It is crucial for us to have an effective National Agency for Higher Education Quality Assurance which ideologically should be the honor and conscience of higher education and have impeccable reputation with the society. It is these independent agency that should provide external quality control of higher education.
Massive effort is made to create a National Repository of Academic Texts, an effective instrument for detecting plagiarism and a resource for information exchange between academics. The resources of the National Repository will be helpful in expert examination of texts for derivation.
State-funded places are to be allocated through a wide competition based on entrant-defined priorities; a single subject-specific entrance examination to be introduced on the basis of the External Independent Evaluation for 081 "Law" and 293 "International Law" entrants; an entrance examination in a foreign language to be introduced on the basis of EIE organizational and technological processes for admission to the second (master's) level of higher education for specialties identified.
We are creating a system where all scientific and technical pursuits will be coordinated by the National Council for Science and Technology Development. Its members include representatives of the academic community, government agencies, and the real sector of economy. The key function of this Council is to produce strategic R&D public policy decisions.
The main function of the National Research Fund is to provide R&D grants both to individual scientists and to teams and institutions. The National Research Fund will enable researchers to get additional funding competitively to carry out specific science projects.