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Ukraine needs a new educational policy

When it comes to higher education, the state’s main purpose is to meet the society’s needs for skilled workers. Despite the large number of educational institutions in Ukraine, the education and training of suitable personnel remain difficult. Post-secondary educational institutions are not keeping up with the needs of the domestic labor market. They educate and train a large number of graduates who may have been needed several years ago but now no longer are. Recently, Labor and Social Policy Minister Mykhailo Papiyev stated that if the state did not pay proper attention to wages and social policy, the country would soon face a shortage of skilled labor. ICPS Director Volodymyr Nikitin says the main problem with higher education is poor educational policy and inadequate mechanisms for implementing it.

In January 2007, Development Ukraine Fund, a charity belonging to System Capital Management, a company, published materials from a roundtable entitled “The Quality of Professional Development on the Ukrainian Labor Market.” Participants in the 29 November 2006 roundtable included more than 70 professionals in education and professional development, and representatives of employer associations, the community, and top think-tanks. ICPS Director Volodymyr Nikitin presented the Centre’s analysis of the problems with higher education in Ukraine.

A good system responds rapidly to market shifts

Ukraine is currently in the middle of transition from the closed soviet educational system to an open, competitive system. Nowadays, the key criterion of success for a post-secondary institution is its effectiveness on the educational services market. Education today has to react to a rapidly changing labor market. A degree in higher education is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to build a career. For professionals to be successful, they must constantly reaffirm their competencies and acquire new knowledge and new skills. This is what we call professional development.

The professional worker needs to be ready for ongoing transformations on the job market. How do people handle this in the West? The academic core of a post-secondary institution is regularly enhanced with new departments or schools that develop new competencies for new specializations. These entities base their work not on simply transferring knowledge, but on organizing workshops, seminars, projects, and imitation games.

Unfortunately, state standards for higher education in their current form prevent the emergence of new ways of preparing professionals for the market. This Ukrainian reality is based on standards of an industrial era that focused attention on end products rather than on the processes that result in those products, i.e., a post-industrial era.

The Ukrainian school system is designed to fulfill social objectives, whereas western systems focus more on development objectives and global challenges. First of all, this means the contents of the humanities, that area of education that should ensure a country’s security, however surprising this may sound. Ukraine simply does not have enough designers, planners and analysts.

Independent universities: Taking care of your graduates

The Bologna process that Ukraine is also part of has certainly had a positive impact on document flow and on the mobility of graduates. But Ukraine’s accession to the Bologna process in the form of credits and modular education will not ensure the integrity of educational processes here or make educational institutions independent players on the educational services market.

Only an autonomous institution can flexibly respond to changes in the market. Ukrainian institutions are not ready to be independent and—more importantly—to take some responsibility for their graduates. Which Ukrainian institution has relevant strategies, financial management, marketing services, recruiting—the things that are actually needed to make it a really autonomous entity?

Mass higher education on the scale that is currently provided in Ukraine is not much of a blessing for society. On the contrary, it lowers the overall quality of education. In addition, there are gaps in the education and professional development of mid-level specialists in Ukraine. The objective of the state should be to fill in these gaps.

What kind of educational policy, then, does this country need?

Government officials, analysts and academics need to search for the answer to this question together. There is no doubt that the ideology and practical aspects of a multi-stage finishing system of education should not exclude the principle of “life-long education.” Along with the regular educational system, the infrastructure for such learning is needed: recruiting, informing, tutoring, and financing.

ICPS regularly works with the Government and educators to develop the capacity to formulate and implement education and science policy, and to establish an organizational system for studies that is coordinated as to goals and forms, based on evident potential.

For more information, please go to:
http://www.icps.com.ua



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