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October 7, 2022

Decentralisation – the mask of discrimination?

Nobody is surprised today, in Romania, when a government initiative – even a positive and necessary one – ends in a complex of contradictions. The “secret” of such failures derives from the very concept of decentralisation, often conceived and applied in our country as a centrifugal factor that rejects the attributes of complementariness and continuity of consistence and foresight efforts. From this arrogant and irresponsible rejection of what’s organic and natural derives the fact that the correct and necessary initiative of starting the school education at the age of 6 often turned into a real scandal. One that has 6 year old children going either to the 1st grade, or to the preparatory grade, or even postponed for the next year because of the acute lack of places and trained teachers, willing to work in a rural school.

And there is more to it. The demographic collapse had as logical consequence the closure of some schools – often new and modern buildings, but lacking the necessary school population. The few pupils still living in the respective areas thus are forced to commute to schools situated in neighbouring communes, while authorities had to make financial efforts and acquire vehicles suitable for the transport of children to school. But, stupor! In many such localities, these vehicles either lack fuel, or they are used to other purposes by local mayors, who often see school education as unimportant. Thus, many children aged between 7 and 15 are forced to walk each day several kilometers to school, sometimes through adverse weather and facing the danger of stray dogs and forest beasts.The public demand to equip all schools with modern devices and computers is a positive evolution, because many schoolchildren from rural areas never used – some did not even see – a computer. Let alone that even some teachers are in the same situation. Computers cannot be absent anymore from the education process, but their use cannot be made absolute and must be correlated with the whole system of school education. Otherwise, if the people in charge of schools are only concerned with installing computers, while ignoring the traditional laboratories, cabinets and – above all – libraries, the education of pupils will suffer without delay. This exclusivist attitude was the source of the results obtained during the recent simulation of the Baccalaureate in 4 technical high-schools of Iasi: the top result – obtained by few pupils – was the mark of 6.The resulting discussions were often exclusivist, as some favour a Baccalaureate with only written examinations, and others vocally advocate oral exams. There are even voices that go as far as to support the idea of replacing traditional exams with projects conceived and presented by high-school graduates. Obviously, each of these variants has its own importance, but only in an organic and unitary context. Each graduate that passes the Baccalaureate must be able to correctly and easily express his or her ideas both in writing and orally, while also possessing a wider education that will allow a subsequent specialisation in any field of activity. This is the ‘Gordian Knot’ of educating the new generations. Why?Because, in the – often savage – competition that exists in the society, the economically “monocolour” trusts seek employees competent in just one activity, which is sometimes very “remote.” The usual ‘carpe diem’ (seize the day!) blinds them. Under this pressure, the trusts tend to forget about continuity and the uninterrupted evolution of individual professional training, while also ignoring the fact that the individual, scientific and professional education does not end by obtaining a diploma and, instead, continues for the entire life. This effort of incessant self-education represents the secret of the rapid economic, social and cultural evolution of any society. This is precisely why prospective studies from everywhere foresee an unprecedented evolution of the intellectual activity, which has already begun. The profit source of social action is thus transferred from purchasing physical assets to the production of knowledge (intellectual capital). At global scale, analysts consider that, starting from the priority of a long-term investment in education, some countries will be able to rapidly overcome their underdevelopment. It is a unique historic phase which every nation can profit from, especially depending on how aware it is about these evolutions.With this regard, Romania loses much of its competitive capacity, precisely because of the discrimination it envisages for the next school year, in terms of university training. The ministry’s decision to finance each university depending on the number of students will force state universities – with a total of 17,000 places – to lower the number of tax-free places and increase the number of paid  ones. For a year of university, a student pays RON 4,000, a sum that is more than 6 times higher than the minimum salary in the economy. On the other hand, private universities prefer to admit students without examination, precisely in order to increase their incomes. Adding to this, because of the demographic collapse in Romania, the number of higher education candidates will drop by 30 pc this year.The tragicomic aspect of the situation is even more obvious when each of these “reformers” – public or private – claims that generalising and raising university fees stimulate the quality of the education granted to students. Can the exemplary vocation and devotion of professors decline so much as to depend only on the sole criterion of the monthly wage? Why are thus ignored the dedication, competence and patriotism specific to B.P. Hasdeu, Titu Maiorescu, Spiru Haret, Nicolae Iorga, Dimitrie Gusti and other Romanian professors famous in Europe, who created real schools of thinking among their students, sometimes without receiving any financial benefit, only to the benefit of Romanian science and culture?It is precisely the poorly-understood decentralisation, for the sake of the political clientele, that favours such school and university aberrations like the recent opinion of the Education minister, who allowed each university to use its own criteria when accepting new students this year. Thus, some high-school graduates that passed their Baccalaureate will also have to pass the university admission exam, while others will be admitted to other universities without any test. Even when admission tests are mandatory, these will be different, as each university will have its own kind of exam. Why did they have to enforce all these changes now, just months before the admission to universities? Isn’t it plausible that precisely such acts of discrimination, hidden under the label of decentralisation, will lead to the collapse of the Romanian education system? Who will answer for such premeditated crimes, and when?

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