Next year Ukraine will participate for the first time in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD experts conducted in advance a Survey on Integrity in Education of Ukraine 2017. This week a document has been presented by the Ministry of Education of Ukraine and Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. The findings of international experts are a kind of homework for all those interested in qualitative changes in education.
Study group has found eight integrity problems in the Ukrainian education:
1) access to school and preschool education by informal arrangements;
2) misuse of parental contributions to schools, in particular – cash flows, opacity, incomplete reporting, etc.;
3) improper recognition of learning outcomes in primary and secondary education, when marks are deliberately understated or overstated;
4) additional private lessons by teachers in the classroom, or in other words – tutoring;
5) fraud in the procurement of textbooks;
6) corrupted access to higher education (hereinafter it is primarily referred to access to masters’ programs);
7) indecency in the learning process in higher education: plagiarism, imitation of research;
8) inappropriate recognition of learning outcomes in higher education, again referring to evaluation.
Each of the outlined problems is accompanied by detailed recommendations on solving it. However, it is not a step by step action plan, but rather the areas for further discussion and policy decisions.
Essence is to reduce incentives and opportunities for corruption in education.
For example, to expand access to quality schooling, the Review recommends Ukraine to provide general equal access to education at primary levels, and to delay the selection of students for the “elite schools”, having rooted out the shadow access system. It is necessary to review the existing procedures of admission to schools. In particular, this means to develop clear evaluation criteria, to keep records and results of entrance examinations. There should be a simple and clear system of appeal against decisions on admission for the families in case of these rules violation.
Experts believe that in terms of rooting out plagiarism in higher education the consequences of failure to follow the principles of integrity for universities should be clear and steady. For example, the withdrawal of accreditation for universities and administrative penalties up to expulsion of students who claim bought course and degree papers as their own. Earlier, the Ministry of Education initiated the process of creating a repository of academic texts. This tool will make it much easier to check the papers for plagiarism. Why is this so important?
The trend of the last two decades is that the education becomes increasingly global phenomenon and is actively overcoming the limitations of the individual states’ domestic issues. This is due to complex reasons, one of them id the mobility of human capital. With the development of transport infrastructure and high-tech the highly qualified specialists are able to form international teams, work remotely when needed, and move quickly to a location where at the moment the most ambitious challenge awaits. Thus, the quality of education in each country has a significant effect on global economic and social landscapes.
Therefore it is quite natural that the issue of education quality in the past decade is taken care of not only by international organizations specializing in humanitarian issues, such as UNESCO, but players such as the World Economic Forum in Davos or the above mentioned Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Ukrainians are no exception: the number of those seeking to pursue higher education abroad and work in international companies, or bring the own startup at the international level is increasing. Those who specialize in areas such as programming, biotechnology and medicine are in the area of special attention of the “head hunters”. The attitude to our young compatriots and their success or failure along with the level of education received at home is significantly affected by the educational environment which they have come from.
The additional actions done in the direction of developing a climate of integrity were reported on by the Minister of Education. In her opinion, two structural changes: the creation of a three-year senior specialized high school and the increase of a teacher’s social status will help to get rid of the need for tutoring. This information is available at the Ministry of Education website.
However, the key question remains: who will take the responsibility for system changes and will bring them to a state of irreversibility. The Minister of Education Lilia Grinevich reported on a number of steps towards strengthening of integrity, but is there enough leverage and critical mass in hands of today’s team of reformers?
The issue becomes complicated by a number of contradictions that slipped out of the experts’ attention. For example, if one follows the logic of the recommendations suggested in the report, some innovations (e.g., a procedure of students’ expulsion) will be derailed by students’ organizations, while others (such as deprivation of universities’ licenses – by rectors). Both the parents interested in having a convenient way of resolving the children’s success issue and some teachers can stand against implementation of a tutoring control system. Creation of an aura of elite and success around some schools is advantageous for both the teachers and the administration as it influences career advancement and the possibility of filling school funds from the parents’ budget.
It seems that it would be possible to solve a number of problems connected to the lack of integrity only in an Einstein’s way. Namely, to gain a higher-order thinking with regard to the one where these educational problems were created. Among other things, the fundamental principles of academic achievement and skills assessment should be reconsidered. Today, they are perceived and used mainly as an instrument of punishment. It is necessary to change it into an effective feedback tool.
In addition to individual standardized tests such instruments as assessment of completed projects portfolio, complex problem solving capacity, ability to work in a team when prompting is not only allowed, but required, etc. should kick in. Similar approaches are already used in countries which demonstrate strong performance in PISA tests. For the switch to a new training and assessment model the existing assessment centers should be modernized, the process of entering and processing data from external exams should be fully computerized, and the staff should be appropriately trained.