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.