IEP Breakfast Debate: “Decentralisation and Education in Ukraine – a Tough Learning Process?”

On 18 September 2018 our Institute hosted a breakfast debate with education expert Mariia Kudelia of the Ukrainian Think Tank CEDOS. After our Director Dr. Katrin Böttger welcomed our guest and the partic­i­pants, Mariia Kudelia held a talk titled “Decen­tral­i­sation and Education in Ukraine – a Tough Learning Process?”.

In her speech Mariia Kudelia took stock on the current state of the imple­men­tation of the decen­tral­ization and reform process in the Ukrainian education sector and outlined the recent measure­ments for intro­ducing the “New Ukrainian School”. This new concept on education puts an emphasis on the students and the devel­opment of their skills. A longer lasting secondary education that focuses on work related factors prepares them for the require­ments of modern society. Furthermore, a transfer of compe­tences from the regional to the local level will adapt the education management to local challenges.

Thus the reform process goes hand in hand with the ongoing process of decen­tral­ization. The respon­si­bil­ities for budget and operative management of the school system are trans­ferred to the respective regional or local levels. By now, 705 Amalga­mated Terri­torial Commu­nities (ATCs, amalga­mated hromadas) have been created that undertake important tasks in the management of schools. This includes the strategic planning of the school system, the admin­is­tration of funds for the schools, decisions on optimizing the school network (closure and fusion of schools), as well as the estab­lishment of so called Support/Hub-Schools. According to Mariia Kudelia, this process directly improves the equipment and the management of schools and will increase the quality of education in the medium-term.

Naturally this process does not come without risks. In order to be able to take respon­si­bility of the operative and financial management, employees of the munic­i­pal­ities associ­a­tions have to be trained first. Furthermore, the transfer of compe­tences partly encounters strong resis­tance by state repre­sen­ta­tives. The upcoming elections might slow down the reform process as further shifts of compe­tences are necessary and unpopular decisions could be hindered by populist parties. Therefore the European Union’s, and especially Germany’s support of the education reforms, are of great impor­tance. In the framework of the U‑Lead Program, 3,700 trainings have already been conducted but there are still munic­i­pal­ities without associ­a­tions who need assis­tance in imple­menting education reforms.

During the discussion following Mariia Kudelia’s speech, partic­i­pants talked about concrete measure­ments for the imple­men­tation, as well as oppor­tu­nities and risks of the reform process. In addition to the specific division of compe­tences between the government and the local level, further actions that are important for ensuring the success of the education reform have been pointed out. Some of these are a modern­ization of the teacher’s training, improve­ments in their salaries to prevent corruption, as well as the devel­opment of curricula. At this point Ukrainian experts can learn from practices of the German education system which is charac­terized by its high level of decen­tral­ization. Mariia Kudelia’s talk and the following discussion confirmed her assessment stated at the beginning of the breakfast debate that a reform of the Ukrainian education system is of strategic signif­i­cance of for the country’s modern­ization.

We would like to thank Mariia Kudelia and the partic­i­pants of the event for the lively exchange of opinions and are looking forward to the next assessment of the state of education reform in Ukraine.