Svetlana Matskevich: Freedom can revive the education

Yauheniya Burshtyn, EuroBelarus Information Service

The lack of reforms in education is a threat: Belarus might lose human capital and face a cultural catastrophe.

EuroBelarus Information Service asked Svetlana Matskevich, an expert of the Humanitarian Techniques’ Agency, the candidate of pedagogical sciences, what is hidden behind the words of Igor Karpenko, the new Minister of Education and whether he conducts the reforms necessary for the Belarusan education.

— What are your thoughts on the reforms in the order of admission to the institutions of higher and special secondary education?

— These reforms slightly expand the opportunities for students, but the approach hasn’t changed. Now there is a possibility to pass four tests and then make a choice, but the “lottery” of moving documents from one university to another does not leave any space for the self-determination of students.

— What will bring the increase in the number of students whose education is be paid for by certain companies?

— Targeted training for university expands funding opportunities. But we have to ask how this money is allocated.

Targeted training means that a company in need of certain professionals pays for their education. But the period of study is 4-5 years, and even if a company has such a need today there might be no demand for it in 5 years. For education to be adjusted to labor market, it should have advanced views and train professionals of the highest qualification. But employers are not willing to hire them. Our economy is outdated, businesses require employees with the old sets of skills.

We are losing human capital.

— The Minister of Education said that the Belarusan education system doesn’t need any major changes. Is it really so?

— The education system has already accumulated so many problems that we have been solving for decades that nothing can be done by small steps. And people already understand that our education is of low quality. Moreover education provides not only the knowledge, but it teaches people a certain system of relations.

We need to take contemporary challenges into account and create a new system. The pedagogical school, which was preserved in Belarus, is able to solve these problems. We have had great achievements in theory on this matter but in practice we have made a step deep down.

It is obvious that the new Minister of Education is just a part of the system and he does not decide on anything. When something appears in the field of education — for example, educational business platform — it is more likely to exist against the expectations of the system. After all Belarus still has got talent. But these talents proceed to work in commercial or elitist system, and do not solve the overall problem in the country.

The lack of reforms in education is a threat: Belarus might lose generations and face a cultural catastrophe.

— So what can be done?

— Education can be revived if the initiative from below is not hold back.

It is impossible to make people working in education keep quiet. But it happens in our country. Even now our universities are supervised by KGB — what kind of situation is that?

— What will happen to the Bologna Process?

— If the Minister, when referring to the Bologna Process, continues to talk about the export of services and the expansion of the market, it means he doesn’t understand a thing. Above all, the Bologna Process means the implementation of certain values. Thus, we can forget about it.