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October 4, 2022

A Baccalaureate that accuses

Even before the end of the previous edition of the Baccalaureate exam, Education Ministry officials were jubilant over their initiative of putting the exam halls under electronic monitoring proved to be very useful. Hundreds of high-school graduates from many counties – also from Bucharest – were caught cheating and were expelled from the exam. But, as always when our authorities praise their achievements, there is always a downside to it, which they seem to ignore. The mass defrauding has become a habit in Romania during the last two decades. Pupils and students cheat various exams on a large scale, from Baccalaureate to Bachelor’s degree examinations, from license tests to doctorate examinations and dissertations that allow their holders to occupy an academic position. A recent survey at high-school level revealed that more than 47 pc of boys and 33 pc of girls admitted that they cheat the end-semester exams and other school tests. However, being able to more accurately evaluate this ethic, moral and social disaster, with statistical tools, is no jubilation reason for our rulers, who instead should feel they are responsible for this state of facts.

Noting the disastrous results at the Baccalaureate 2011 (less than 50 per cent passed the exams), dozens of questions and accusations come to my mind. The Romanian education system continues its involution, which goes to a new low each time authorities announce “the end of the crisis.’ The main reason for this collapse, which is more detrimental for Romania’s future than any other result of the current governance, is deeply rooted in the Romanian society, which assimilates capitalism to general corruption.

When people known as interlopers and illiterates become wealthy businessmen overnight, exclusively by illegal means, when they parade their limos at opulent parties, it is unavoidable for teenagers to take them as models in life, especially as the parents of these children sometimes are pushed near suicide by precarious living conditions. Add to this the interference of authorities with school, which forced many teachers to abandon their ideals and turn into mere executants of political orders. The Romanian tradition, the creative vocation consecrated school, army and church as the main pillars the national unitary state was built upon. Today, when all values collapsed, a prestigious teacher is rewarded with a pension that is only one tenth of the retirement benefit received by a high-ranking officer, or even a high prelate.  The increasing number of such examples demonstrates that the stability of the Romanian state is in great peril.

This peril was once again demonstrated by what happened this year, during the Romanian Language and Literature exam of the Baccalaureate. This proved that Romanian pupils no longer read substantial books, which would develop their creative thinking and their ability to express themselves adequately. Rather than the failure to learn the subjects for the exam, the real problem here is their inability to even express themselves in writing as an adult should. In its present structure, whose value was revealed by the dramatic succession of the 12-14 pretended “school reforms,” the target of our Education system has become obtaining a graduation diploma by cheating and bribing, rather than building the creativeness of young generations. A recent – and controversial – proposal in Parliament refers to eliminating paid places from state universities. But the very existence of such places (occupied by students that were unable to qualify for a free place), proves that even prestigious state universities have an acute need for financing, which forces them to operate with lower education standards in the case of paying students.

Such disregard of the fundamental principles of Education is the consequence of a defective system. This kind of attitude is reflected by the explanations of the minister, who sees the recent Baccalaureate as a success mainly by revealing the fraud. Some school inspectors and principals “explain” the poor results by the fact that the decisive tests of the Baccalaureate were the written examinations. But this accuses the ever declining quality of didactic creation. Unfortunately, an increasing part of school lessons relies upon mechanically memorising the information. Synthesis and creativeness, with its inter-disciplinary aspects, are less and less present in our schools, also because in the dialogue between teacher and pupil, the latter is by no means an active element. Pupils are mostly evaluated as the object, rather than the subject of school training. With this reality in mind, it is easy to understand why pupils read… by watching TV, and they are unable to put their ideas into writing the coherent way.

Teachers are the main target of accusations, mainly voiced by the leaders of local administrations that coordinate the activity of schools. But this, too, is wrong. The whole society is responsible for this debacle, and only society may cure the evil. The capacity and prestige of our teachers mainly rely upon their social status, as promoters of a socially crucial activity, and upon the quality of their professional training. With the former aspect deriving from the latter, it is natural and necessary to resume the process of continuously training all those involved in school activities. Instating 5 or 6 didactic grades based on professional skills, also reflected by salary bonuses, would strongly increase the quality of Education.

Another method of supporting the overall quality of the education provided to young generations would be banning the practice of school abandonment. Like any intrinsic reality, a generation that has the vocation of creativeness can be guided, but not divided, split to its basic components. The very existence of illiteracy undermines the creative virtues of a society. Under the pressure of this fact, scientists from all over the world plead for a future “knowledge-based society,” in which the right to education becomes tantamount to the right to life. This is even more important in Romania, where the number of high-school and university graduates barely exceeds one third of the total population of the country, on pair with their proportion in the total number of the jobless population. Then, why should pupils be interested to acquire quality and pass the Baccalaureate, when this will have little impact on their prospects of finding a job?

The debacle of the recent Baccalaureate accuses precisely the serious mistakes of orientation present throughout our whole society.

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