The parliament of Ukraine has registered a draft bill, according to which religious organizations have a right to establish educational institutions.

The draft bill stipulates that education institutions can be established by not only the state executive power and local governments, but also by legally registered religious organizations. Thus, religious organizations can establish kindergartens, schools, colleges and universities. Education institutions established by religious organizations will be ruled by governing bodies of these religious organizations.

"The goal of the draft bill is to secure the right of believers to education and training of their children in accordance with their religious beliefs," the explanatory note to the draft bill says.

ForUm has asked church representatives and experts why Ukraine needs religious schools.

Ludmyla Filipovich, religious scholar:

- Children must be brought up in love and faith. They must know what is good and what is bad. They must know how to treat the nature and people. Earlier, we were offered the communist code. Today we need an alternative.

The Church has a wealth of experience in establishing educational institutions. In fact, the Church was the first teacher ever. Nonsectarian educational institutions appeared later. Under the crisis of modern education system, the Church can make a difference. Corruption and teacher violence issues in schools will be solved from a different point of view.

However, I suspect MPs will not pass this law, as well as they did not pass changes to the law on separation of School and Church. We will see what current parliament is capable of.

Vitaly Kulik, director of the Center for study of civil society problems:

- On one hand, there is certain logic in this draft bill. Religious organizations already have education institutions, like seminaries and madrassas, affiliated with them. However, this draft bill speaks about "external market" of education - schools and universities, and I wonder how it meets the principal of separation of the Church and state, as well as with equal rights of all confessions.

Volodymyr Kornilov, political scientist:

- At a certain stage of history of Ukraine and Russia, the Church played a significant role in education and elimination of illiteracy. Parishional schools were the only establishments where children could learn ABC. The Church must have the right to establish educational institutions. In many secular states, there are similar institutions where people study the Bible, etc.

However, it is a very delicate issue, and it is important not to exaggerate, not to provoke the negation of boning up on religious texts. The Church must be careful not to cause rejection of religion by children.

Viktor Nebozhenko, political scientist, head of the sociologic service "Ukrainian barometer":

- Opening of church educational institutions is a normal practice, necessary for the development of any religious organization. However, it is a risky path to enforce state and nonsectarian educational institution to cooperate with religion. It may happen that in different regions schools will teach different subjects. It will end badly, not for the clergy, but for the country. Separation of the Church and state has bicentenary history, and it is better not to break this tradition. The Church is better to enlighten the masses on its own.

Archimandrite Longin, Farther Superior of Holy Ascension monastery:

- Ukraine is a multi-religious country. To regulate interfaith relations there is All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organizations. Meeting representatives of the authorities at various theological and public conferences, the Council always raises the question on that confessions must have a right to establish educational institutions, like schools and lyceums. I believe religious organizations must be given this right but under the control of the state and agreed with the Education Ministry.

There are many families, which want their children to be raised in accordance with certain religious beliefs. Public schools simply cannot do this. However, there are so many confessions in Ukraine, that the state must pay attention to their history and origin. Unfortunately, there are many confessions or sects, established for commercial purposes, which may be dangerous for the society.
It is a very delicate issue to determine which confession is harmful. However, there is sufficient number of registered religious organizations for people to choose.  We must work with already existing confessions and prevent opening of new ones of doubtful reputation. Moreover, people must have a right to choose where to send their children - to a public school or a private one affiliated with one of the confessions.

Bishop Eustratius, head of information publishing department of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchy:

- Existing system of education grew out of the church system. The first schools and universities were established by the Church. The first education institutions "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy" was founded by metropolitan Petro Mohyla. It taught both theological and secular sciences. The leading educational institutions like Harvard, Oxford, Yale still have relevant faculties, engaged into religious issues.
It is little wonder that religious organizations along with private and national cultural organizations used to establish education according to the state standard. The council of churches has been supporting this initiative for years. If the Verkhovna Rada adopts this draft bill, the churches will welcome it. Religious parents must have the same rights as the rest of people.

Ihor Yatsyv, head of the information department of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church:

- To permit religious organizations to establish education institutions is not a new idea. Such tradition existed even in Ukraine, before Soviet times though. We still have educational institutions, which were founded by the Church.

To my opinion, it is nonsense that individual persons can open schools and universities and churches cannot. A person must have a free choice where and what to study. Thus, this draft bill should be adopted.


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