Thursday, January 26, 2012

Romanian Education System (brief reprise)

This is a sort of coda to my post on money in the Romanian education system (or rather the lack of it). I still have to write the third in that series, which sort of ended abruptly when things got rather hairy last year.  That should come soon, now that I have remembered that this blog exists (and that I have some time)

It's just a short one, but illustrative of so much I feel.  The government has decided to create a "Year Zero" class for children who have yet to begin the first grade (nothing to do with the Khmer Rouge, you'll be glad to hear).  This is to ensure that children entering year one are prepared for the rigours of a school education.  Or something like that.  I think in the UK something similar is called the Reception Class.  Anyway, it seems like a pretty reasonable idea on the face of it.  Kids here don't start school until they're 7, and the idea of a sort of slightly more schoolish year between kindergarten and that first year of your actual real school makes a certain amount of sense.

The problem of course is that while the idea is reasonable, the practicalities have not been thought about in the Ministry.  You can imagine someone sitting there saying in some meeting "Let's create an extra year of school, that will prepare kids for things better, and possibly enhance learning", and the others just sit around nodding their heads and saying "Excellent idea.  Consider it law".  The problem, of course, as you may already have worked out is that when you effectively create an extra year of school, you need to find some teachers to be in charge of it, and crucially you need classrooms to put these kids in.  And this in a school system which is basically being starved of any money whatsoever - teachers' pay, buildings, materials, everything is being cut.  And yet, here is this plan to put kids into these schools a year earlier.  It makes you want to weep.

What solution will be found?  Well right now it seems that the most likely solution is that the kids will have to have their reception classes somewhere other than the already overcrowded schools.  Where, you may be asking yourself.  Well, the plan will of course free up some space in certain buildings, so at the moment the most likely way of coping  and meeting the requirements of the new law seems like it will be that the reception classes will happen ... in the kindergartens.  Thus ensuring that, in fact, at the end of the day, absolutely nothing will have changed. I can think of no better example of the incompetence of this government.


Bogdan said...

The government is trying to encourage private education.

The first "reform" is going to be that the government will pay private schools the same amount of money per pupil that it pays to the public schools.

Andy H said...

Seems like the government is finally listening to the people and trying to put itself out of business....

Seriously, what else can they put "the market" in charge of?

Really, that "reform" (read: insane right wing ideological nonsense) is mad. Utterly mad. Want to make money? Come to Romania and open a school, and let the government give you a bunch of cash. You don't actually have to teach anyone anything.

Bogdan said...

What else?

Well, they've privatized already water, electricity and gas distribution and rubbish collection (at least the companies that are active in Bucharest), oil, gas (including shale gas) and virtually all other profitable resources, such as marble.

They want now to privatize electricity production (they'll start by selling this spring the most profitable: hydro and nuclear) and railroads.

There are loads of things still to sell or outsource.

Bogdan said...

The Minister of Education also wants to encourage competition between schools, which means that they'll use "objective" criteria for funding. Good schools get more money, bad schools get less money.

They started this at university level, by "classifying" universities into various groups based on some criteria such as the number of scientific publications.

I presume that the objective criteria for school funding would be the standardized tests (Examen de capacitate - 8th grade, Bacalaureat - 12th grade) Anyway, this system would only be fair if all children were equal, but I'd not find at all surprising if a school in Bucharest having awful teachers would have a better performance than a school in a mountain hamlet with better teachers.

Craig Turp said...

I have no problem with the Class Zero idea, but making obligatory is nonsense.

As you mention, there is already a shortage of teachers and classrooms, so you would have thought that the government would want as many kids as possible to stay in private kindergardens for as long as possible.