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March 27, 2023

The Collapse of the Baccalaureate

For the second year in succession, the baccalaureate examination yields some disastrous results, with hardly 44 pc of the test takers managing to pass the exam. And this rate only refers to those who took the examination, circa 170,000 of the total 330,000 who could have taken it this year. This makes the passing rate even lower, way under 40 pc, with the Ilfov County the lowest ranked, at 15 pc, not to mention those schools where the passing rate was close to zero if not nil altogether. Once the final results, following the over 50,000 complaints lodged were out, debates began over these catastrophic realities. Most of the opinions expressed refer to the countless discrepancies and gross contradictions in the baccalaureate program or the education process, with some accusing the poor quality of the lessons taught by teachers poorly motivated to their job, given they are among the lowest paid professional categories.

While this may be true, it nonetheless loses sight of a correlative aspect a lot more serious, namely that salary is the teacher’s only motivation when professional vocation is actually the most important professional feature. When a specialist has a professional vocation, poor pay should not make them useless. Yet, the cruellest reality consists not only in their poor pay but also in their often-insufficient professional skills, which is due mostly to the length of studies being cut to three years from four, a reduction not due to some internal demands but in order to “align ourselves” with some European practices controversial enough in their place of origin as well. Chaotic administrative decentralization also negatively reflects on those instruments of essence for the value of the education system as a whole, since Education, along with health and the Army are key areas for the unitary, organic features of any modern society. To section them or improvise their content according to the demands of some local factors means to dismember and break the “fabric” of the national-unitary state. It is exactly such centrifugal attitudes that are at the root of many negative manifestations, including the corruption of those Ialomita teachers recently arrested for bribes claimed from pupils at the baccalaureate examinations, or the inadequate wording of some Math subjects, which proved a lot more difficult for graduates of technological schools, who, unlike their general education counterparts, had fewer match classes during the high school years. School years get increasingly packed, although synthesis, interdisciplinary correlation and logical reasoning are often missing from school activities that continue relying too much on memorization. The “European alignment” imperative is often mentioned, yet, in connection with school activity, Romanian political decision makers often fail to grasp an essential fact, namely that in most of the European states, the last year of secondary education is mostly dedicated to synthetic recapitulation. This is where lies the secret of baccalaureate success stories, given that it is exactly the flexible thinking and organic correlation that matters most in a modern society, and which, unfortunately, are increasingly less present in the Romanian school of today, where the last year of study is overcrowded with new chapters and topics at about every discipline. This in turn leads to less time allowed for synthetic, recapitulative training by pupils with a view to the baccalaureate examination.While all of the aforesaid observations and many more are quite correct, they nonetheless don’t to the deep roots of the collapse of the Romanian education system, namely the low appetite for learning in the Romanian society pose December 1989, which is related to the current state of the Romanian society deeply harmed by poverty and corruption, the plunder of public assets and the priority given to non-values. The political landscape too contains such flaws, as governances are at the root of most of the evils in our society. Equal opportunity as a basic organic and quality principle to any education system is but cheap talk here, as far as nearly 50 pc of the preschoolers don’t have access to kindergartens. This in turn generates discrimination with deep negative consequences on the self-consciousness of  a generation, contributing to future social conflicts, and that since, given over 40 pc of Romania’s population lives below the poverty line, how could poor families afford to pay for private kindergartens?The issue remains more or less the same in the case of junior and senior high school education, where systematic preparation for senior high school and baccalaureate examination respectively is most of the time accomplished by means of tutorials, which could go up to RON 200 for a mere two hours, namely more than 25 pc of the minimum pay in the Romanian economy. What such family with a minimum of two children could afford such luxury? We should not forget that it is exactly the high appetite for private tutoring that diminishes the quality of the school lessons taught.When such discriminations are accompanied by “emphasizing” the example of multi-billionaires who got so rich exactly by showing their contempt to learning, how could such teenagers not take refuge in illiteracy? The more so as gaps are widening between Romanian families today.Poverty lies at the core of the growing rate of divorces and emigration in the pursuit of job illusory more often than not. Therefore, family support to children’s school education is very much reduced to smithereens. The “homeless children” notion has become a reality so toxic and apprehensive today that strictly individual action is not enough anymore. What is needed is some comprehensive, systemic, nationwide action, lying emphasis on mandatory school attendance and quality education. This is where the imperative of a modern Romanian education system should start from, an imperative stated by each successive education minister, which unfortunately, has never been put into practice actually, given the strictly political criteria employed to choose them. This led to the problems growing worse from one minister to another. The remedy is an education system that is unitary, organic and national, an apolitical education that is. However, this is an aspect we will refer to more extensively in the next editorial.

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