The state again offers its electorate cheap but low-quality education; however, the time of undemanding employers is the thing of the past, claims Professor Uladzimir Dunaeu.
"Enough of these reforms in education - we must improve what we have", - said Aliaksandr Lukashenka on August 9 said on 9 August as he heard out a report on the progress in the enrollment campaign and the preparation of the education system for the new 2016/2017 academic year. “The system of education does not need more reforms, it is needed to improve what we have. Normal textbooks, first of all, history books, are needed because children must understand what was happening in our country in the past. A look in the past is a look in the future. I am not going to teach you. And we become focused on less important issues leaving topical and pending issues without attention,” the President emphasized. The President noted that reforms will just ruin an old, normal education system, and nothing will be build instead of it, BelTA quotes Lukashenka saying. Lukashenka even mentioned some “Western specialists”, who are reported telling Belarus “not to ruin an efficient education system”.
Uladzimir Dunaeu, professor of philosophy, the member of the public Bologna committee, has been telling about the “conservative revanche”, opposing the implementation of the Roadmap that accompanies the full accession of Belarus to the Bologna process. As we can see, the sabotage of the implementation of the Roadmap is confirmed.
- Reform of higher education is stipulated by the Roadmap – it’s a condition, under which Belarus entered the Bologna Process. On May 15, 2015 the Belarusian side has undertaken these commitments. And it couldn’t have been done without the consent of the President's Administration, it could not be initiated exclusively by the Ministry of Education, - says Uladzimir Dunaeu in an interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service. - Belarus is really falling behind other countries, given the current challenges of higher education. The old Soviet system of education is not at all suitable for new conditions. We must understand that in the Soviet times, only 10-15% of young people got higher education, but today this share exceeds 80%. That is, the situation with mass higher education is simply incomparable. And the Bologna process is one of the responses to these challenges. It’s impossible not to reform the education system. Belarus has been seeking the right to be a member of Bologna club for a long time, the entry condition in which was our agreement to introduce reforms. And it turns out that we have undertaken obligations, and now suddenly we have decided not to comply with them. Well, then we have to announce that we refuse to participate in the Bologna Process.
- What reaction from Europe should follow if we fail to implement the Road Map?
- Report on the implementation will take place in Paris in 2018 at the next Summit of Ministers of Education of countries of the European Higher Education Area. In fact, it is not an ultimatum that we are facing. Rather, those who already have experience of reforms are ready to help Belarus. The road map is not only about Belarus’ obligations, but also about promises from the Europeans to assist our country in performing reforms. But it is impossible to assist if the country doesn’t want it. Well, if we signed an international agreement, we should implement it. Because otherwise Belarus will be treated as the state that is incapable of fulfilling any agreement. In this context, it would be quite logical on the part of Europeans to say: well, if you do not comply with your obligations under the Road Map, then perhaps you shouldn’t wait for any tranche from the IMF, because you wouldn’t comply with these obligations either. Refusal from education reform is a blow for country’s reputation.
- But what if suddenly Belarusian education system finds its own special way?
- This is largely rhetoric: the head of the Belarusian state often indulges the tastes and fears of the majority of the electorate. After all, we still should carry out reforms. No one says that the Bologna process is a panacea; it isn’t. But it is - a collective experience that can be, actually, very useful for those who are serious about the challenges facing the higher education system now, such as mass education, connection with the labor market and so on – exactly what is in a very bad state in Belarusian education.
No one wants a serious competition in the labor market, everyone would like to see undemanding employers. And if they were undemanding, why anyone should bother and study? In fact, the authorities are now offering its electorate a cheap low-quality education and undemanding employers. But the time of undemanding employers is the thing of the past. And in this case cheap and low-quality education can be a career dead end for many young Belarusians. It is irresponsible and populist stance. We should move onto serious reforms, we should have started them long time ago, and now the need to reform the higher education system becomes crucial.