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May 24, 2022

The urgency of apolitical education system

The forged diplomas row I referred to in one of my previous editorials is but an episode in the education system’s decline. Unfortunately its servitudes are far more numerous and very frequent, so that they become quasi-daily realities. The recent national exams for eighth grade graduates and high school graduates have shown that a lot of youngsters refuse to take part in them, out of various reasons. Others cheat in written exams, despite the presence of surveillance cameras installed in most schools. An ever higher number of youngsters admit they treat such exams as one treats the lottery: “it’s good if the subject happens to be something I know, if not it’s still good: to hell with learning, I’ll work somewhere and I’ll buy a car.” It’s just that this is precisely the illusory mask of the education system’s collapse in the murky waters of rising illiteracy and ever more threatening illegal labour. The national budget is deprived of over EUR 2 bln every year “thanks” precisely to illegal labour.

This kind of anti-educational and implicitly anti-social backsliding is seen ever more often, from preschoolers to college graduates. Violence is present even in kindergartens: the violence of teachers towards children but also mutual violence between children. Not to mention the acute street violence that has dramatic implications on children abandoned by parents that emigrated because of poverty. The basements of buildings that were abandoned because of their seismic vulnerability are frequently populated by homeless children and teenagers that devolved to the stage of communicating exclusively through gestures and guttural sounds. Basements in which theft, knife fights and evading police are intensely taught talents. All these dramas and tragedies could be eliminated by an education system that would have a degree of compulsory attendance and of exigency a lot higher than the current one has. The political-social impediments that affect our education system are frequently seen in the case of new college graduates too. The best of them cannot become university assistants because university structures are overstaffed exclusively with professors, many of whom are the expression of unwarranted political interference. But the rest of the college graduates are not luckier. At job fairs the employers – usually people without college degrees but that are “efficient” when it comes to business – select young specialists not based on the quality of their training but simply based on the graduate’s practical experience. But, as is well known, after the Romanian industry collapsed through chaotic privatizations the university programme of productive practice no longer exists in the curricula so that the graduates frequently return empty-handed from job fairs.That explains the growing emigration of young specialists on one hand and the preponderance of lower-qualified labour in today’s Romanian society. And all these troubles stem mostly from the ill-fated and unwarranted political interference in educational structures. The unemployment rate is growing and, under its threat, young employees working in the private sector are the first to take part in political protests outside the government, parliament and presidential buildings, protests that sometimes result in political enmities that escalate into brawls. In fact, event today we notice how the electoral campaign is generating an ever increasing number of open confrontations that are worrisome given the arsenal of mutual lies and insults. Many of which are transposed in the education sector, which is precisely the sector that should feature the highest solidarity and complementarity of creative efforts in order to optimally prepare future generations. Under political pressures the education process is thus becoming ever more fragmented, featuring discontinuances that painfully impact mostly youngsters, because mutual political accusations degenerate in the refusal of intellectual, moral and social norms. In a consolidated democracy, an essential condition for social creation, the citizens’ option for one of the political platforms should not divide them, should not turn them into irreconcilable opponents as we now see happening even among the senators and deputies. No, differences of opinion should unite them under the imperative of a synthesis identical to a great national ideal, an imperative that should top the programme of each party. But, exclusively preoccupied with their current condition, politicians often lose sight of our national future. The recent electoral confrontation in parliament confirms this truth. It confirms it and warns us that the education system, the essence of national strategy, has to be placed above any party policy. That is how it is treated in authentic democracies and that is how it should be treated in our country. But the exact opposite can be seen in our country. As the budget resources for the education system grow so do the political rows over how to distribute those resources. The localities whose mayors represent opposition parties receive meagre sums in contrast to neighbouring localities whose mayors represent ruling parties. And this has been the practice for approximately 16 years. That is why many school buildings are in a severe state of degradation, lacking minimum conditions of hygiene. It has become almost an annual rule for numerous schools to fail to receive sanitary permits that are stipulated by law but are ignored by political mayors. Mayors that when they receive appreciable funds for a school year end up squandering them either out of ignorance or out of ill will. But the main culprits in these cases are not these mayors that have a beef with education, but Romanian governing officials for which the principle of decentralization takes concrete shape in administrative chaos. Although, unlike other sectors, the education, health and defence sectors call for unitary nation-wide structure that should not allow for unnatural, contradictory discrepancies from one county to the other, from one locality to the other. The only policy allowed in the education system should be the policy of national, not group interest that is specific of party clientele. Only thus will the Romanian education system manage to implement the unanimously-demanded reform programme that was frequently fragmented and stopped by party influences. Only by having education ministers elected not on the basis of political criteria but from among the most prestigious education managers and professors will the Romanian education system manage to train the country’s human resources at a high level of European competitiveness. Only by depoliticizing leadership structures within schools and universities will the Romanian education system manage to follow its true vocation, that of being the laboratory of Romanian future and the mold of our national identity. Hence, let us opt for an entirely apolitical education system. This is the first condition for the success of educational reforms that have been forecast for a long time but many of which are still in draft form. A draft that is permanently resumed by each new minister.

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