World renowned cultural and scientific personalities share the idea that the vitality of a society or its downfall can be anticipated, known of a simple and precise manner judging by the condition and state of mind of the youngest generation. The young generation is our telescope to the future. The Romanian tradition has a superb metaphor with this regard. Here it is, as presented in Ion Creanga’s ‘Memories from the childhood,’ under the spell of the advice given to the child by his own mother: “Get outside, you fair-haired child, and smile to the sun, so weather may clear! And the weather used to clear following my laughter,” the author assures us.
If, in the past, I was enthusiastic about the signification of this metaphor, today it makes me shiver. I don’t want to believe that Romania’s future can be predicted from the suffering and crying of many of children of this country, discriminated, condemned since the first years of their lives to have no access at least to the values of preschool education.
But this preschool education largely no longer exists as a public system, as long as there are counties with only one kindergarten, which is located in an urban area, while creches are completely missing. When such a private institution appears, access is limited by taxes impossible to sustain by the huge majority of the population of present-day Romania. And the discrimination does not stop here. The creches and kindergartens built by sponsors grant exclusive access to the children of the sponsors’ employees. In rural areas, the situation of preschool education is even worse.
These current states of facts engender many of the severe contradictions that plague the Romanian education system. Preschool education is very significant for the organic character of a generation, for its spiritual unity, its capacity to show solidarity in reaching strategic, national objectives. The existing discrimination in terms of preschool education amplifies in time up to the phase of undermining family and social values. Why, during the lives of each of us, many things are forgotten, but not those of the first years of systematic education? Because precisely these years of preschool and primary education lay the bases of the future personality. Now, in the education of this first decade of life, there is the germ of individual vocation.
And the fact that children with various degrees of training are forced to coexist in primary and secondary education undermines the educational effort as a whole, also that aimed at bridging the gaps in schooling. The abnormal differences between children maintain and amplify the school contradictions, instead of attenuating them. Obviously, this is also influenced by the quality of the teaching act, the talent and professional vocation of the educator, organically correlated with that of parents. But when the ‘family-school’ binomial often turns today in a monomial relation, or is simply negated, any school structure – be it micro or macro – degrades. Same as we see things happening in the Romanian present-day society.
How did we reach this impasse? Of an accusatorily simple manner. Very few creches and kindergartens were built over the last two decades, while many of the existing ones have disappeared. In the chaos of returning the properties nationalised by communists, many pretended former owners used forged documents and an authentic “talent” for corruption to get in control of the buildings hosting creches, kindergartens and schools. Which they either transformed into pubs and places for gaming and drug consumption, or sold to those who purchased land for the construction of megalithic hotels, shops etc. This explains the paradox of a rapidly decreasing access to creches and kindergartens, although our demographic index is free-falling. Many mothers today refuse having babies, from fear of the future they might have.
And the causes of the collapse amplify by the day. First, because the training of educators for the preschool system no longer meets the attributes of quality. For this, new employees should be selected based on their pedagogic vocation, rather than just fortuitous and momentary options. But such a quality-based selection cannot exist anymore nowadays, given the very low wages, political interferences and corruption. So, the fundamental objective of a unitary education provided to young generations is increasingly undermined, also by the fact that family itself is in deep suffering. First, because of the chronic poverty which affects over 60 pc of the country’s population. The reflex of this poverty is the emigration of many parents, who leave their children in the care of other people. This explains the fact that, along with the lower access of children to the education system, criminality and illiteracy increase.
Can we stop this collapse of education? Obviously yes! But not anyway and not by simply waiting for time to pass, as some politicians expect. We must concentrate our efforts on solving the serious problems of the education system. The financing made available for this system must rise to the strategic importance of the sector. In the EU, the average financing granted to Education amounts to 11 pc of the GDP, while in Romania it stays around 3 pc. Plus, the wages of the personnel working in this field should reflect the professional skills of each individual. Decentralization must be avoided in this fundamental sector precisely because of its unitary and organic character. Young generations should be educated only with the strategic national interest in mind, rather than the arbitrary demands of local leaders. All these exigencies demonstrate the need for dialogue, as the foremost attribute of a democratic society.
But an authentic dialogue, which stimulates value, is nonexistent in our country. Here, debates on education are frequently conducted in a totalitarian climate, between opponents, instead of dialogue partners. Each participant – especially in the case of politicians – wants to minimise his interlocutor all the way to annihilation. With reason and common sense disappearing in such circumstances, each of these “interlocutors” only speaks for himself, in his own language.