I was going to write about this a few days ago – but became sidetracked by the two previous entries to this one.
Dmytro Tabachnyk (love him or hate him) the Minister for Education and Science, Youth and Sports made an announcement on education policy for 2013 last Friday.
Now I must be honest, I pay little attention to education policy in Ukraine as I have no child being educated in the Ukrainian system. Despite being qualified to teach English as a foreign language, I have never done so and thus I don’t even dabble on the periphery with current students within the Ukrainian education system. The only teachers I know complain about their pitiful pay – rather than their students, curriculum, or often disheveled and in need of repair schools.
Thus much of what is contained in the statement means little or nothing to me, although quite obviously any fool can recognise that rural schooling is an issue presenting many difficulties in any nation – let alone one the size of Ukraine.
However, what did catch my eye was the apparent desire to encourage more overseas students. Odessa, like many Ukrainian cities, certainly does get thousands of overseas students. Here is it mostly Chinese, North African and Arab students – whether that is true of the other Ukrainian cities I have no idea.
Nevertheless, the economic motivators to educate foreign students is recognised by most nations. Higher education has become a business and with it academic inflation has set in.
By academic inflation I mean a degree is no longer worth what a degree was worth when I got mine as far as the workplace is concerned. Now a Masters is necessary to set you apart from the millions of degree holders. Soon that Masters will have millions of others holding that same level of qualification and thus to stand out it will be necessary to hold a doctorate – You get the idea of academic inflation I am sure.
Thus foreign fee paying students are big business in education in many nations around the globe. Quite clearly Ukraine will seek to enlarge the number of foreign students (and UAH 4.5 billion is currently generates) just as any other nation would.
Now, one of the greatest learning experiences outside the lecture halls and auditoriums of any university, is often living away from home for the first time – at least as far as the UK is concerned. The Erasmus project is a rather grand extension of that in so much as you study in a different language (occasionally), in a different nation and experience that nation for the time you are there – not withstanding the expansion of friends and contacts you make and some of which you will keep throughout your lifetime.
What was missing from the latest education policy statement was any mention of Erasmus, the EU programme within higher education allowing students to study part of their degree in other nations. Necessarily one presumes that the course content has to be similar enough to facilitate such matters but as EU higher educational certification regardless of member state is recognised throughout the EU (and beyond), there exists the possibilities provided by Erasmus to complete part of any degree in another nation.
Many times the EU has stated that Ukraine can join any EU project it wants to join as long as it funds its way. It is therefore rather sad that in this, and any other statement made on education policy for Ukraine, there has never been any mention of Erasmus – both for Ukrainian students to experience life, culture and education within the EU and also reciprocally for those in the EU here in Ukraine via a tried and tested system like Erasmus.
After all you do not need to be an EU member nation to participate in the Erasmus project – Turkey is in the club and there is nothing to necessarily disqualify Ukraine – as several EU universities are now accrediting several Ukrainian degree courses at certain universities here – it is a matter of expanding what has begun and partnership building between the seats of higher education.
So, one day I hope to read an education statement from Ukraine that is simply not inward looking in its entirety – though such a statement will probably not be one written by Dmytro Tabachnyk it has to be said.