1. Evaluation of reform policies of the Parliament and Government during the period of September 2019 – July 2020 and its compliance with the Toronto Principles (based on the analysis of the Government Program, the plans of the ministries and the adopted/rejected regulatory acts)
In the period from September 2019 to July 2020, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (hereafter – the Parliament) approved amendments to the Law on Higher Education and the new Law on Complete Secondary Education, which substantially changed the legal regulations of education.
Higher education envisages further integration with the European Higher Education Area and harmonization of legislation with the international framework documents; simplified licensing for educational activities in most specialties and educational programs; facilitation of the implementation of interdisciplinary educational programs; replacing "state-standard" diplomas by diplomas of higher education institutions; introduction of obligatory accreditation of educational programs; granting the opportunity to implement dual education programs for higher education institutions; allowing the universities to conclude study agreements with each student; strengthening the responsibility of higher education applicants for violation of academic integrity; introduction of performance indicators of the higher education institutions and their heads. At the same time, many issues to ensure the institutional autonomy of higher education institutions still remain unresolved.
The Law on Complete Secondary Education details and develops the main areas of education reform introduced in 2017. It aims at improving the quality of the secondary education, increasing the academic, institutional and financial autonomy of schools and the academic freedoms of participants in the educational process, as well as ensuring the right of all children to access the sound educational background. At the same time, the conflict between the law of schools for institutional autonomy and the rules on the management of education determined by the legislation on education, which contains ideologically outdated laws “On Local State Administrations” and “On Local Self-Government”, still remains unresolved. It envisages the students' rights to be objectively assessed, to choose individual courses, to have an individual educational trajectory, and to have an individual curriculum. However, these norms should be clearer and more consistent. The academic freedoms of teachers are being expanded, including the possibility of creating their own curricula and applying their own teaching methods, their right to choose a place and forms of professional development is regulated and detailed. A pedagogical internship for young teachers is being created.
A number of normative documents of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine aimed at implementation of education reform at different levels have also been adopted. In particular, a new model of higher education funding was introduced using a formula that takes into account the performance of educational institutions.
It can be stated that the general direction and performance of the Parliament and the Government are in line with the Toronto Principles. At the same time, the understanding of education as one of the foundations of personal success and sustainable development of Ukraine, its transformation into a competitive state of the modern world, creation and application of modern technologies, effective decision-making at different levels of government has not been formed yet. There are some contradictions and lags in the implementation of sectoral educational reforms. Some draft laws and draft regulatory documents contain proposals, which are unbalanced and inconsistent with other education legislation.
2. Current challenges / issues in the relevant policy area
The most pressing challenges in the field of education development and education policy are:
- Legal inconsistency. The development of education is significantly influenced by the Budget and Tax Codes of Ukraine, the Code of Laws of Ukraine “On Labour”, laws “On Local State Administrations”, “On Local Self-Government” and others. Their norms are often not in line with the terminology of educational law, which creates problems for their full implementation. There are conflicts between educational and other laws that limit and inhibit the deregulation of education and advancement of the institutional autonomy of educational institutions, as well as the academic freedoms of participants of the educational process. As a result, this has a negative impact on the quality of education.
- Inconsistency in the reform of some educational levels and sectors of education. In particular, there is a significant lag in the reform of vocational (vocational-technical) education. There are conflicts and inconsistencies between the steps taken to reform education in general and to reform certain sectors of education: military, legal, medical, artistic, pedagogical, police, etc.
- Insufficient financial support for education. In terms of funding per student, Ukraine lags far behind most European countries, which negatively affects the quality and competitiveness of Ukrainian education, impedes the development of educational facilities, and hinders the involvement of the best professionals in the field of education. At the same time, it is not possible to significantly increase budget funding at the moment.
- Deterioration of the quality of pedagogical and engineering education due to low motivation of potential entrants, outdated material base and educational technologies, low level of preparation of entrants in particular specialties.
- Increasing global competition in education, especially in higher education. This leads to an increase in external migration of the best graduates from both top school and higher education institutions, as well as of potentially successful teachers.
- Demographic processes. Significant fluctuations in the birth rate and number of people of school / student age, migration to large cities, a large proportion of officially unregistered population in large cities complicate the planning of educational development and ensuring the efficient use of available resources.
- Destruction of the links between education and the labour market during the last 30 years. In recent years, the situation has started to improve, but it is happening rather slowly. The practical orientation of secondary and tertiary education programs needs to be substantially strengthened.
- Inhibition of reforms. Many progressive norms of the new legislation do not work or do not work in their entirety due to the conflicts between new and old legislation, substantial inertia and resistance of the educational environment, which is not always fully aware of the innovations. There is distrust of reforms due to the experience of failed or incomplete educational reforms of the previous 40 years.
3. Recommendations for priority actions in 2020-2021, in particular, for the agenda of Parliament's second session
In 2020-2021, the following actions in the field of education should be among the priorities for the Parliament and the Government: