The much-evoked reform of the education system will send children to school one year earlier than now. Instead of the age of 7, starting next autumn children should go to school at 6. The decision makers of Education talked a lot about this reform, making sure that everything will go as planned. Children that will turn 6 until September 15 will enter the zero class, while those that will be under this age at the beginning of the school year will spend one more year in kindergarten. To get everything in order, admissions either to the zero class or to kindergarten should have started as early as now. But, after the first moves with this regard, several “unforeseen” things appeared that brought the operation to a halt.
These “unforeseen” things are a clear demonstration of the arrogant and superficial way in which our rulers conceive the reform of a system that has a vital importance for the country: Education. Anyone in his right mind can see that instating a zero class in Romanian schools is a crucial operation, which must be thoroughly prepared, so that to assure its complete success. This makes it necessary to exactly know the number of children that will enter the zero class, thus allowing the correct dimensioning of everything implied by this operation: extra classrooms, manuals, teachers etc.
These are basic needs for the good functioning of any initiative of the kind, but this is also where the decision makers of the Education Ministry got bogged down. Although they usually are very vocal in rejecting any criticism, this time they prefer to hide and avoid any explanation. The attitude is somehow normal, because only now have they discovered that the precise number of children to enter the zero class is still a mystery, and changes each day. Plus, they suddenly had the revelation that the number of classrooms is already insufficient, so instating a new class risks inducing even more instability in the system. Furthermore, they realised that the zero class will increase the need for teachers, at a time already marked by layoffs and understaffing.
How, and especially in what conditions could they bring more teachers into the system, as teachers from all over the country are staging daily protests before the Education Ministry and the Government HQ, for over a week. The main target of these protests is authorities’ failure to observe the acting legislation that regulates the salaries of teachers – a situation that will stay unchanged in 2012 as well, when decision makers will be as “deaf and blind” to teachers’ demands as in the year that is about to end. But the protests staged by Education employees will not stop just at salary demands, as they also accuse the chaotic administrative decentralisation that is sapping the national character of the system. Also because of this, the traditional prestige of the teacher has collapsed under the impact of arbitrary decisions made by the moguls of local administrations, which went as far as to fill vacant jobs with people of their choice, instead of organising a national contest of competencies, as it was the case in the past.
In such conditions, it is no wonder that Romanian teachers are paid 10 times less than their Danish colleagues, and even less than in Bulgaria. And it is also no wonder that the overcrowding of Romanian courts is also a consequence of the numerous lawsuits filed by teachers that want to be paid the wages set by law and cut by the authorities. Also, it is known fact that many locality mayors frequently infringe the law and refuse to pay even the transport money due to commuting teachers. And there are many teachers that commute on daily basis, because the communities where they teach cannot provide them with service homes. In many cases, authorities also do not pay the teachers the sums provided by law for the books and documentation absolutely necessary to keep them informed about what is going on in their respective fields of activity.
Such painful contradictions serve as arguments to the EU states governments that keep discriminating us, although some of them are influenced by their past as “colonial powers.” These governments now arrogantly jubilate about the “vital importance of knowledge!” even if in those countries pupils can legally use drugs, while in Romania this is illegal. Even when Romanian children have good results at international school Olympiads, while our accusers’ pupils are only mediocre. Even when their intensely exported food products sometimes contain deadly bacteria, while ours are more natural, as they have no polluting agents.
Regardless of the minor place we are forced to, on the scale of European values, and of the hardships resulting from these false hierarchies, Romanian rulers have the historic, supreme duty to secure instruction and education at the highest levels for the young generations. Invoking “the European crisis that deeply affects us” is not justified in this case. Between emphatic statements, our leaders should also read history books! They will thus learn that, when faced with more difficult situations than now, such as in 1907 – the year of a violent peasant uprising – minister Spiru Haret succeeded in modernising the Romanian education system, which it brought to the highest European standards. Countries like Japan and Germany were able to overcome the collapse after World War II precisely by laying emphasis on Education, on the creative thinking of each member of the society. Yes, the only pact that can be signed for the future is about Education.
The acting Minister of Education boasts that, as of 2012, each school will have its own Board of Administrators. But this measure will increase the disintegration of the national education system. The sad condition of the “zero class”, along with many other impediments, demonstrates this fundamental truth: the Romanian education system risks being pulverised by the lack of principles and unitary, organic criteria at country scale. Its quality will split into as many levels as the number of school Boards that will exist.
As a whole, we risk having a… “zero class” education.