Learning together: Finland’s support to Ukrainian school reform

Jarkko Lampiselkä,
Dr., Senior Lecturer in Chemistry and Physics Didactics,
University of Helsinki,

Adviser for Learning Environments and Principal Standards,
Learning Together project,

The Government of Ukraine launched the New Ukrainian School (NUS) reform in August 2018 to modernize of the education sector and to improve teaching and learning towards the requirements of the 21st century. Currently, the NUS reform is a key reform of the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES). The main objective of the initiative is to create a school that will be pleasant to go to and will provide the students not only with knowledge, as is the case now, but also with the ability to apply it in real life. The Finnish support to the NUS reform seeks to enhance the quality of education in Ukraine as well as the perceptions the Ukrainian citizens have on their education system. The short name of the combined project is Learning Together.

Finland’s Support to the NUS reform focuses on general primary and secondary education (ISCED levels 1-3) and is designed around three main result-clusters and cross-cutting elements. The three initial, interlinked clusters are (1) teacher preparation, (2) education promotion and (3) education environment. As a new element, the EU support for enhancing the Ukrainian language instruction among the national minorities is fully integrated into the initial three clusters in a cross-cutting manner. In addition, inclusive education for all is supported as an initial cross-cutting element across the three clusters.

While the recent reform efforts aim for major improvements, the Ukrainian education sector is still facing major development needs. Despite high primary and secondary school participation and overall literacy rates, the following major issues call for action:

  • Quality and relevance – Insufficient quality and outdated relevance of education have been a key challenge in Ukraine, leading to dissatisfaction among the wider public. With outdated curriculum, teaching methods and materials, Ukrainian students lack essential skills meeting the needs of the 21st century and many do not adequately learn basic skills such as mathematics.
  • Inefficiency – Inefficiency has marked the Ukrainian education system over the past decades. The system has been bureaucratic with outdated management approaches. Partly due to the demographic decline, especially rural areas of the country tend to have oversupply of teachers and schools.
  • Equity – Lack of equity in terms of education quality and participation is a major concern in Ukraine, as it affects social cohesion in a longer term. Especially minority language populations and children in rural and remote areas lack opportunities for good (enough) quality education and, subsequently, better opportunities in life. Disparities in educational participation seem to concern the IDPs, minority children or children with disabilities and the urban-rural divide.

Finland’s support to the Ukrainian school reform addresses various issues essential for overcoming the quality, relevance, efficiency and equity challenges:

  • Teacher preparation – Teaching as well as teacher quality and motivation have a major impact on quality, relevance and equity of education. While teachers are also the key for any educational reform to succeed, the quality of teaching in Ukraine is insufficient in general and especially among the vulnerable groups including linguistic minorities. Furthermore, the status of teachers has been devalued in Ukraine.
  • Education promotion – While broad support from the education community and the entire society is needed for any major educational reform to succeed, the MoES lacks capacity for an efficient channels of communication. Information dissemination, capacity building and use of evidence help building ground for large-scale educational improvement and encourage equitable educational participation across the society.
  • Education environment – Effective implementation of any major education reform requires a conducive environment at the school level in a form of good school leadership and sufficient support resources. Adequate set of tools and materials – including ICT tools and tools targeted to specific needs such as those of teaching and learning Ukrainian as a second language (L2) – can help boost education quality and relevance in an efficient and equitable manner.

The beneficiaries and key rights-holders of Finland’s support to the NUS Reform will be the Ukrainian Government, the teachers and students in Ukrainian schools and their parents. The Finland’s Support helps the Ukrainian Government – mainly the MoES – in the education sector to ensure the realization of the right to education among all its citizens. The students will benefit from better trained teachers in terms of improved learning. The parents, in turn, can become effective advocates for improved standards and provision and they can work to support the school, monitor children’s progress and hold the school to account on its achievements.

Email: jarkko.lampiselka@helsinki.fi

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