On the success of education reform in Ukraine will depend the ability of our country to compete on the international markets, based not on raw materials, but on the intellect of the nation, President Viktor Yanukovych said, speaking at a meeting of the Governing Council of the Committee on Economic Reforms, presidential press office reported.
"We have started an active reform in the area of preschool education. The law on mandatory pre-school education for children of the age of five was approved. But further work has stopped,” he said, adding that there are still no regulations that would specify the concept and functioning of preschool education.
"The Ministry of Education must clearly explain to all, how to apply the provisions of the said Law, and guarantee prevention of any possible overcharges for first-graders’ parents," Viktor Yanukovych stressed.
Second problem, he said, is the shortage of preschool facilities. "We know that many of them were closed in recent years. The 257 kindergartens that were opened last year is a lot, but not enough," he said, addressing also Prime Minister Mykola Azarov with the request to take the matter under his supervision.
"I am convinced: developing the network of preschool institutions must rely not only on the budget. It is necessary to stimulate private investment in this area. And there is such experience. We need to study it and use it,” he said.
The President instructed Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Dmytro Tabachnyk to start immediate deregulation in the area of establishment and functioning of private preschool facilities. "The situation can be improved through government acts and orders of the Ministry, without waiting for alterations to laws," he said.
Viktor Yanukovych expressed his conviction that the start of secondary education reform was also good: the provision on educational districts was approved, which opened the way to optimizing the network.
"Yet, we had a wave of protests against the closure of schools, and media messages that under the pretext of the reform the closed institutions’ assets are prepared to be sold. Incidentally, this also applies to healthcare facilities," Viktor Yanukovych said.
Viktor Yanukovych noted that last year’s closing and suspension of schools affected over four thousand pupils. "Were these decisions all made reasonably, based on an audit of the network using the criteria and methodological recommendations of the Ministry of Education? Was an explanatory work among citizens conducted?" President Yanukovych said.
"We can definitely state that this work was inadequate. I therefore demand that the profile ministers with the help of prosecutor’s offices investigated each case and reported within ten days. If there are violations or abuse, the lawbreakers will answer in accordance with applicable law," he said.
Certainly, Viktor Yanukovych said, it is necessary to optimize the network. But the optimization must be performed not for the sake of itself or cutting budget expenditures, but for improving the quality of education for students, particularly in rural areas. So, before closing a school the authorities must determine where its students will be transferred, how better will be the new conditions for them, and how will they be getting to the new place of study every day.
Provision of school buses, the President said, is a key factor of success of the reform. No school buses mean no educational district, and no optimization of the network.
"I draw your attention to the problem of school buses. This a priority issue! I know that you dedicate much attention to it, but that is not enough. Please, consider the opportunities of increasing the procurement of buses for this year. While forming the 2012 budget, please, think how to close the problem of school buses in Ukraine. Two and a half thousand buses is, in my opinion, an optimal and feasible task," he said, addressing Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.
The President drew special attention to the issue of restoring the system of vocational education. "Now, that the economy lacks specialists of working trades, there are all preconditions for solving this problem. Big employers are willing to participate in the training, but the Ministry does not use these opportunities sufficiently," Viktor Yanukovych said.
The President noted that the basic document in this area – the draft National Qualifications System, was designed by the officials without the involvement of employers, which, according to the Head of State, "is unacceptable”.
Another issue that has caused great public response according to Viktor Yanukovych was the Law on Higher Education. It was suppose to create the conditions for improving the quality of education and ensure integration into the European higher education and scientific research space. "So far, this law caused only the protests of citizens, which could have been avoided," he said.
Instead of expanding the autonomy of universities, he said, the bill prepared by the Ministry continues the practice of virtually absolute control of the officials over high schools. The bill does not provide answers to such key questions as how to tie education and science in the research universities, and education and practice in those applied.
"No new tools were proposed to improve the quality of higher education, incentives to strengthen these relations, or mechanisms of commercializing university science achievements," Viktor Yanukovych added.
He expressed confidence that it is time to modify the concept of government order in higher education. According to him, it must correspond the mid-term forecast of the labor market. Budgetary funds should be spent on ordering the professions that are needed by the economy and the country.
The President reminded that at the February meeting of the Committee on Economic Reforms the Minister took a responsibility upon himself to elaborate the draft law taking public opinion into account by April 22. "We would like to hear today, what changes have been made to the text of the bill during that time," Viktor Yanukovych said.
The President expressed certainty that an indicator of success of the higher education reform will be the presence of domestic higher education facilities in recognized international rankings.
Viktor Yanukovych noted progress in the formation of a unified education space. "The process has begun to move forward: the Government has adopted a series of decisions about enlarging higher education institutions in Kryvyi Rih, Donetsk and other cities, and on transferring state universities to the authority of the Ministry of Education. But the process is far from completion... I would request you, [Prime Minister Azarov] to protract the process no further and personally ensure that the interests of individual ministries were not blocking the reform.
I address the vice-prime ministers and ministers present here today: please, transfer already education facilities to the Ministry of Education," the President of Ukraine said.
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