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May 23, 2022

Zero priority adrift

The upcoming new academic year becomes a growing concern for the public awareness in Romania due to the major shortcomings our system of education has been facing for over two decades. Since its condition as a hallmark of the community, enshrined by legislation over 100 years ago through the effort of the great minister Spiru Haret, our school has suffered a worrying deterioration, much more obvious than with the rest of the state’s activities. The massive migration of young people, driven away by the quasi-generalised poverty in this country drastically reduces, month after month, our demographic indicator and the first fundamental institution that feels the negative impact is exactly the school. Based on the so-called ‘social-professional mutation’, the investment for development or, at least, for the conservation of education, especially in rural areas, are so insignificant that it should be no surprise that the educational deficit grievously affects especially the rural communities today.

Having to travel long distances every day to the still open schools in the nearby localities, children in more and more Romanian villages are forced to give up education. Including for this reason, school drop out rate has increased to 20 per cent, a figure that throws Romania 75-80 years back in history.
Under such tragic conditions, due mainly to Romanian politicians of all claimed doctrines, no one is surprised by the fact that the great personalities of our history have been forgotten, personalities to whom our education system, with all its good parts, owe a lot. One such outstanding personality is Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, the greatest Romanian encyclopaedist of European vocation. In the turmoil of the inner ruptures of the last quarter of century, the priceless educational wisdom we owe Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu have now been shadowed, exactly because many such genuine anticipations have become a cruel truth describing national education. When our great encyclopaedist was decisively stating that ‘the most relentless enemy of the Romanian spirit is the cosmopolite spirit’, he was incriminating not the Catholic influences of the West, always welcome here, but the meaningless local imitations, conflicting with our organic development. Along this line of openness to all the horizons of knowledge, but also of balance and synthesis, he stimulated the process of Europeanization of our culture, but as an organic, creating process, itself able to become a benchmark value in Europe.
However, what happens today in Romanian education is greatly the opposite of those classic teachings of Hasdeu. The current debate on the upcoming opening of the 2014-2015 academic year highlights a spirit very similar to the one in the Phanariot age. As the budget resources for education are getting scarce, the political scandal over the allocation of such resources augments. The education process becomes, in this way, a highly politicised field, with resources being often tied to the colour of the party membership book of the relevant local official. Hence the frequency and the scale of the current migration of mayors from one party to another, according to the promises they receive from party heads. Promises that turn out to be void. It is almost the rule that many Romanian schools greet their pupils in an accentuated state of dilapidation, dilapidation of the minimal conditions of hygiene. Many schools never receive the sanitary clearance to operate, a clearance the law requires but often ignored by local officials.
There are also local authorities that draw important amounts, especially from the EU, for the smooth organization and operation of schools, but which they do not seem to make the best use of, either because of inability or because of ill intention. But even in such cases, the main responsibility is not with the mayors, who are not always the most educated people, but with the national authorities, to whom the principle of administrative decentralisation is always a servile, cosmopolite imitation, inadequate to our economic, social and administrative models. The principle of decentralisation cannot be transposed in a servile manner anywhere, as an ‘all-purpose formula’. It requires organic adjustments to the area where it is implemented. Unlike other sectors, education, health and defence call for unitary, national administration structures, to prevent unnatural differences among regions and localities. That’s because education, healthcare and defence are strictly necessary values that should be equally accessible anywhere in the territory of a country.
This kind of chaotic, insufficiently adapted decentralisation has led to some tragicomic realities. On the one hand, computers, strictly necessary for a modern education system, are allocated to schools that… have no electricity; on the other hand, the computers of some urban high schools are sequestered because the mayors of those localities ‘forgot’ to pay to building companies the bills for various renovation work. The same chaotic principle of decentralisation has led to alternative manuals that, in their structure, replaced the demands of complementarity with sterile opposition, undermining national solidarity as main objective of the school of all levels. The very real and necessary need for ongoing modernization of the education system have always lacked a strategy and have therefore become as many particular views as ministers who have steered the sector and whose only priorities have been imitation and formalism.
The zero priority education should be and is everywhere in Romania adrift.

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