An outdated education system results in a lagging economy – 04 October 2012

The worst is the quality of doctoral training.
For management training, the World Economic Forum ranks Ukraine 116th out of 142 nations.
The situation is just as bad in economics, law and languages, as we see
of the excellent public debate of Zerkalo
and a CASE report.

Depressing, Minister of Education Dmitry
Tabachnik hardly cared about the real problems of Ukrainian education
– corruption, excessive regulation, waste and poor quality. His attempt at sovietization
Ukrainian historiography and the promotion of Russification attract the most attention. His
the biggest “reform” was to reduce the ordinary school to the European standard
from the 12th to the 11th, apparently inspired by the destruction caused by the deceased

As everyone knows, the biggest problem of
The Ukrainian education system is corruption. Students or their parents pay
admission to higher education institutions, and if necessary also for examinations
and degrees. The orange government of ex-president Viktor Yushchenko and
former Prime Minister Yulia Tymosheno introduced independent national tests for
entrance to university.

In place
to correct certain anomalies of these tests, Tabachnik modified the
university admission rules, allowing additional testing and requiring
preferences, especially for children of minors in Donetsk. In Zerkalo Nedeli, Lidiya Surzhik rightly complains
that this leads to negative selection. Besides,
rectors and professors can indulge in their old ways of corruption. Commendably, the
the government is promoting electronic applications, but the ultimate problem is the
acceptance practices.

The best universities in the world, the best in America
universities, are private non-profit foundations, and the second best, the
the main British universities, Oxford and Cambridge, are public but they enjoy
great autonomy. Ukraine should transform its universities into independent universities
foundations with appropriate governance in the form of boards of directors. Then
education, research policy, appointments and finance could be decentralized to
the universities. Instead, the old Soviet detailed and centralized funding
system persists. Unsurprisingly, none of the 501 Ukrainian higher education institutions
learning ranks among the top 500 universities in the world ranked on the
Shanghai University List.

International integration is vital for
educational development. Fortunately, the Ministry of Education promotes
large-scale study abroad, saying 18,000-20,000 students go
abroad for studies every year. This is the best part of Ukrainian education

Ukraine should also do its utmost to attract
good foreign partners and supporting private institutions, but the state dominates
and stifles the education sector. International education companies can rent
lucky themselves, if they are not closed by the Ukrainian bureaucracy,
and the state offers them no help. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, has
established an elite state university in cooperation with 10 outstanding
foreign universities. Even Russia made such an attempt with its Skolkovo
Business School with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For years, President Leonid Kuchma has been
engaged in the so-called Bologna process of European unification of
university degrees, but one of Tabachnik’s first decisions as minister was to
get Ukraine out of this process. Accordingly, a Ph.D. who graduated
from a major Western university is not recognized as competent to teach any
substandard Ukrainian institute. It is a reliable method to keep
incompetence. Ironically, Tabachnik Sovietized Ukrainian education
system, while Russia pursued Europeanization, adopting and accepting
foreign diplomas.

The qualifications required of a rector of a
Ukrainian University are Ukrainian citizenship, a Soviet style
Doctor of Science degree and teaching experience at a Ukrainian university
for a decade. A person with such qualifications can hardly contribute to the
major renewal that is needed. For now, the Ukrainians who aspire to
PhDs can only be advised to study abroad.

Contrary to popular belief, Ukrainians
the education system is well funded. Public expenditure on education amounted to
7.3% of gross domestic product in 2009, more than in most European countries
countries, but much of the funds are wasted on real estate and

Due to low birth rates and emigration,
the number of children attending school in Ukraine fell by 40%, from 7.1 million
in 1991 to 4.3 million today. Education real estate and personnel
system must be adjusted accordingly.

However, during these two decades, the number of
schools has only decreased by 9%, which means that a growing share
the education budget goes to the maintenance of surplus real estate.
Tabachnik boasts that he closed only 300 schools, while Tymoshenko closed
650 in two years. Instead, it should prepare to close the excess 6,800
schools. Unnecessary real estate should be sold and the funds used to
improvement of education.

Persistent Soviet budget standards force schools
maintain a large unnecessary bureaucratic staff. Probably half of them
be made redundant in a decentralized budgetary system. There are too many teachers
good. Over the past two decades, the number of teachers has remained
nearly constant at just over half a million. As a result, the student teacher
fell from a reasonable 13.3 in 1991 to 8.4, which is not profitable
moo. The number of teachers could be reduced by 40%. Most Qualified
teachers should be retained and their salaries could be increased by 80%. In
in this way, Latvia saved very successfully during the financial crisis.

After these elementary steps, there is still a lot to do
be done. State funding should be tied to students rather than
establishments; good international textbooks need to be translated and adopted; computerization
should advance; programs always need to evolve; and resources must be
concentrated in the best institutions.

Anders Aslund is a senior researcher at
Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C. This opinion piece was originally published by Forbes Ukraine at

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Janice G. Ball