EDITORIAL

Investment of ideas

A recent international study on education shows that an extra 1.7 million teachers are needed in order for all of the world’s children to benefit from the support needed in order to avoid illiteracy by graduating at least four primary grades. It’s not just the deficit of teachers that catches the attention, but especially the fact that illiteracy is growing at world level instead of being lowered to match the great contemporary scientific and cultural successes.

Successes that, given the fact that they are increasingly frequent and substantial, define and at the same time call for a veritable society of knowledge featuring an investment of ideas as a priority. In these conditions, to have a percentage of illiteracy is, for the country that has it, the equivalent of being outside contemporaneousness. Despite this incontestable truth, the EU itself is threatened by the bug of illiteracy.

 

And this bug comes from not just the intensification of migration, but also from each country’s socio-economic contradictions. Because the current society has not benefited for long from the much desired generalized balance, but it registers, almost everywhere, a maximum polarity hostile to solidarity and the joining of efforts. Hence the need for factors of synthesis in world politics. Increasingly sporadic and unfortunately unsatisfying factors. From this perspective, Romania occupies a contradictory place. One owed, primarily, to political factors and their cronyism, factors that disregard the truth of historic experience too. For instance, the interwar period is unanimously eulogized today. With no mention of the fact that, among other things, at the level of 1936 for instance over a third of school-age children did not have access to education. A reality recorded by the Romanian Encyclopedia published towards the end of the reign of King Carol II, under the editorial chairmanship of the great savant and Professor Dimitrie Gusti.

Yes, in what concerns enrollment in mandatory primary education the level stood at only 59.8 per cent. Hence, a percentage of 40.2 per cent was feeding illiteracy each year.The education reform of 1948 had, among its imperfections that are highly debated today, a positive factor that is completely ignored today: the fight against illiteracy was registering the highest extent and intensity in the whole history. A history inaugurated by Liberal minister Spiru Haret at the limit between the 19th and 20th Centuries. Indeed, numerous gymnasia and high school were established after 1948, including in rural areas, the enrollment in the primary education became mandatory and completely tax-free through the quasi-generalization of scholarships. In school year 1947-1948, of the 15.8 million people that made up Romania’s population only 11.4 per cent were enrolled in schools. While in 1989-1990 of the 23.2 million Romanians 24 per cent were enrolled in schools. Hence, from the 1960s illiteracy was basically eliminated in Romania. Also thanks to night-time classes organized in schools, classes frequented by illiterate elderly persons. After that, the duration of free, mandatory and generalized education was taken from 7 to 8 years then to 10 years and was scheduled to reach 12 years in a short while. Romania’s EU accession was conditioned by analyses – that pointed out goals to be attained – in all economic, social and cultural domains, with the exception of the education domain unanimously recognized in the West in the 1990s as having an optimal character. At any rate, the germs of illiteracy, about to appear after 1989, were back then far behind those registered in Western countries. But, unfortunately, the disease of servile imitation, characteristic of our rulers, occurred in this case too and threw Romanian education back in time. Romania lost a great part of its competitive capacity when its politicians decided to lower the duration of mandatory and free education from 10 to 8 years. All kinds of legislative blunders followed, such as the return to 9th grade and its introduction in the gymnasium and then in the high school education. Then there was the lowering of the duration of humanist tertiary education from 4 to 3 years, lowering the training of future teachers. What followed then was the reduction, both numerical and value-wise, of scholarships, the canceling, for the most part, of the gratuity of school textbooks, the hike in the price of didactic products, the lowering of the GDP percentage for the education system and so on. In this negative context, increasingly painfully amplified through the growth of poverty, illiteracy rapidly returned. So that today it reaches a percentage of over 20 per cent, unimaginable only two decades ago. And since, in our case, trouble never comes alone, the very quality of Romanian education has massively dropped and continues to drop. Not just through the fact that an increasing number of competent teachers leave the education system because of their tragicomical salaries. But also because of the growth of private education, whose main “strategic goal” is to issue, for a price, as many diplomas as possible. Precisely this kind of “diploma invasion” explains to a great extent the fact that the percentage of unemployed Romanian university graduates is increasingly high. The rest of the problems for the unemployed stems from the fact that, given the disappearance of industry and of other modern economic sectors, modestly-qualified labor, even low-qualified labor sometimes, is primarily demanded in Romania. Confronted, by the mass-media, with this tragic reality, Romanian politicians feign “not knowing” the situation or invoke “the European crisis that affects us all.” Hence, the tragic condition of today’s Romanian education system, featuring the rapid growth of illiteracy and all the other specific problems, is whitewashed by politicians who present it as the positive expression of Romania’s alignment with the state of things in the EU.

Where illiteracy, the lowering of scholarships and even the “buying” of diplomas are not phenomena about to disappear. Although everywhere in the EU such phenomena are refused including from the point of view of the fact that an increasing number of persons resort to the internet and other modern means of communication. In these conditions, the process of instruction and education gains an absolute priority in every modern society, being the most profitable medium and long-term investment. The development differences between countries will deepen or, on the contrary, will be lowered in relation to the investment made in education. Analysts point out that precisely on this basis of the priority of educational investment some countries will burn the stages of underdevelopment. Here is a historic chance that each nation can put to good use in relation, first of all, to the way in which its political leaders are aware of it. Political factors in Romania can be aware of it only if… they themselves are aware of the historic responsibility they have. And this awareness of responsibility can, in turn, stem solely from the generalization of the investment of ideas.

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