EDITORIAL

The new school year – another challenge

“However, these painful setbacks appear precisely under the pressure of “models” agreed by our rulers. The criteria currently used to judge people’s value, which rely more on money made by fraud, corruption and betrayal, than on natural skills augmented by education, might be seen as a premeditated murder of the education system.”

The generalisation of the free compulsory primary education has been proclaimed in Romania on 25 November 1864, at a time when this fundamental goal of modern society was not present in countries like Hungary (1868), England (1870), Switzerland (1874), Bulgaria (1870), France and Serbia (1882). Thus, by a tradition that goes back in time nearly 150 years, the first day of a new school year is treated like a national holiday in Romania. This is a special day, when nicely dressed children take their schoolbags and go to the celebration events staged in schoolyards, with flowers in their hands. Often they were accompanied by their parents, grandparents or older brothers and sisters, in moving reunions that were later fondly recollected by the whole family.

Unfortunately, this year, the day of September 12, 2011 – when the new school year begins – has been deprived of this joy, by the crisis that has caught Romania in its grip some two decades ago.

Similar to the rest of Europe, the Romanian legislation consecrates the free and equal access to school as the foremost fundamental right of a human being, although in fact, today, it is submitted to the cruelest form of discrimination. The beginning of the new school year is not exempted from the effects of this state of facts. This comes at a time when the preschool education – unanimously appreciated as decisive for the success of the whole education system – is largely compromised by the lack of adequate premises. Tens of thousands of preschool children from all over the country – Bucharest included – cannot enjoy the benefits of systematic education, either because they have no place in kindergartens, or simply because their parents cannot pay the skillfully dissimulated taxes, because a really tax-free education system is just a memory from the past nowadays.

These memories of old times, and the many setbacks that plague the new school year since its very beginning, are as many accusations against our ruling authorities. Today, as the new education year begins, many schools are still closed, forcing their pupils to commute over long distances, sometimes even to schools situated in other localities. Even some of the schools that are receiving their pupils today have not been issued sanitary operation licenses, while others still look like construction sites, where overhaul works have been indefinitely put on hold, from lack of cash – as we are told – but also because of other “secret” reasons. One of these motives is the chaotic decentralisation of the education system, which allows local mayors – who were put in charge of schools – to adopt “politically personalised plans” that are break the continuity, even negate the plans devised by previous mayors. Thus, each new mayor wants to do “something different,” that goes “another way,” with “other purposes” than his predecessor.

Because of this frequent change of plans, the construction of new schools and the renovation of existing ones starts over and over again, year after year. Meanwhile, the quality of the Romanian education system sinks lower and is split into as many different levels as the number of local administrations in Romania. Because of this state of facts, in some schools pupils are forced to learn in two shifts, with shortened durations – a situation that encourages absenteeism. These problems in the way schools are organised might also be an explanation of the very high rate of school abandonment in Romania: over 20 pc.

How can the members of the Parliament and Government, and the local elects – regardless of their political affiliation – accept without questioning, even explain as natural, the fact that only one in four graduates of rural schools go to high-school, and only 2-3 pc of those who graduate rural high-schools go to an institution of higher education?

How is it possible for an Education minister to jubilate over the fact that this year’s “extremely correct” Baccalaureate exam “faithfully reflected” the quality of school education? Perhaps the low quality of the training received by the 90,000 high-school graduates that failed the Baccalaureate this year is a big accusation against those decision makers who rule over the education system. Is it enough, for a nationwide system, to just unveil and announce the extent of a tragedy? Should we postpone for the next years dealing with the reasons of this tragedy? Isn’t it logical and imperiously necessary to prevent an evil, rather than notice it and counter its effects, as the main justification of government’s competence? Perhaps such flawed forecasts and anticipated/complementary evaluations are setting back the new school years, since its very first days.

Is it normal to blame the young generation for the poor level of its education? The youth’s disorientation is real same as the low motivation of teachers. However, these painful setbacks appear precisely under the pressure of “models” agreed by our rulers. The criteria currently used to judge people’s value, which rely more on money made by fraud, corruption and betrayal, than on natural skills augmented by education, might be seen as a premeditated murder of the education system. Meanwhile, the extreme difficulty of the mathematical exercises of the Baccalaureate examination, which exacerbated or ignored the school curriculum, might fuel the suspicion that this was aimed at stimulating the “industry” of personal training courses at home.

Under the pressure of so many disturbing interrogations, the weeping of the new school year cannot stop. The only light of encouragement is in the eyes of the 1st graders who see the icon of school for the first time in their life.

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