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March 6, 2021

We learn from our mistakes. Literally!

Early one morning, three women are discussing, at a street corner, about school. As they are talking about deductions, protractors and complements, I assume they are teachers. Afterwards, they complain that they spend all their day, until late in the evening, to help children with their homework and that they are tired of so many changes in school books. Oh, wait, they are moms.
Exhaustion is obvious on their faces, as well as a certain amount of hopelessness. Afterwards, they talk about the many mistakes in school books. They bring up examples that could be amusing if they were not tragic, they mention additions and multiplications with wrong results, misuse of the Romanian language and prompting children to alcoholic beverage consumption (beer and wine) and recommending unhealthy food (“mici”, a sort of Romanian grilled sausages), but they also talk about the absence of school books, having to seek a loan for books and requisites, and the fact that “it is not as in the old days, when you had one book for each subject as, now, teachers decide the books children in one class will study from and they confuse us completely.”
I leave them behind and wonder if there are three other women having a similar conversation in any other country of the European Union. Probably not. Because, obviously, things are more complicated in Romania than anywhere else, and anyone who intends to contradict this statement is invited to analyze the school system in the last year. No, no, in the last three years. Actually, in the last two decades.
Chaos is the word that best defines what happens in a field dominated by deficiencies and changes that are so radical and frequent, from the lowest level to the ministry, that we end up considering that olympic award winners who are able to make it through this spider web and bring us acclaims and medals due to their achievements at international competitions have some sort of superpowers.
Yes, one of the most eloquent examples of this chaos is represented by school books. Even if the proverb says that we learn the most from our mistakes, what are we supposed to do when they are included in the pages of the books when they are included in the pages of the books that are supposed to educate the future Romanian generation? And what are we supposed to do when there are no new school books on students’ desks, and students receive books from last years, which are not actual at this time?
Each year, from contributors’ money, the state supports publishing houses editing such school books, full of mistakes and insufficient, and parents have to buy not just books that are not to be found, but requisites teachers claim they cannot do without. They cost approximately RON 200. And this is why many parents are legitimately wondering whether education in Romania is indeed free.
For the first time this year, the Minister promised that money spent on school books will be refunded, to the limit of RON 55. The sum is too small though for students’ needs.
All of these, added up to the fact that many states in the EU pass from notebooks to tablets, in Romania, almost 30,000 school units still have their toilets in the yard and children are not provided drinkable water, are wearing gloves in winter and wash in bowls of water boiled on stoves. In 2015.
It is no wonder, therefore, that we are on highest place in Europe in the illiteracy chart, with a percentage of 30 per cent, and we have a school dropout rate of 16 per cent, according to statistics.
Although, before the beginning of each school year, authorities promise that the situation will be better than last year, the educational nebula continues and children and teens, on whose education the future of this country depends, continue to be captives of a system where everybody seems to scratch their right ear with their left hand.
Faced with all these problems, each Education Ministry makes promises, and when society and media corner him, he apologizes that he is not given any help by the Government. And present Minister Sorin Cimpeanu also made a recent promise: that all school book issues will be solved by a future school book law, that will be adopted as soon as possible, perhaps by a new emergency ordinance. We wonder, besides parents and teachers, how many Ministers and laws do we need so that the education system in Romania will be well established, fair, solid and most of all, stable.

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