New state standards of school education: boon or burden? Two perspectives on everyday problems of primary schoolchildren

Interview by Mykyta Kulenko, specifically for   10 September 2013 13:55  226545700 046445
Two perspectives on everyday problems of primary schoolchildren

Instead of epigraph: "All they talk about now schools at is the new state standards of primary education."

 Already for two years primary schoolchildren have been learning according to new requirements. Or rather, standards. Not just any, but the state ones. That is, initiated and implemented by the highest education authority - the Ministry of Education and Science.


 There is no need to talk about the standards themselves - the entire Internet is full of them. So, for those interested, the full information is just two clicks away. We will only clarify that major changes are the introduction of a foreign language from the first grade, and the second foreign language from the fourth frade, basics of information science - from the second grade, absence of evaluation grades on some subjects, in-depth study of specialized subjects in schools and similar "improvements."

We tried to find out whether the innovations, that have affected students in grades 1-4 in Ukrainian schools, are good or just another problem that students will have to overcome. To do this, we talked to representatives of the two largest adult "armies" pertaining to primary school - parents of students and teachers who have to adapt to new requirements of the Ministry of Education, follow them and, consequently, deal with them.    

 Teachers do not think of ministers highly

 The first interviewee is Marina Lyubomyrivna - a primary school teacher of an Uzhgorod school. An educator with nearly a quarter-century of experience, a specialist who clearly understands what she says:

- Mrs. Marina, what is your personal opinion of the introduction of new state standards of education in schools, that affected younger students the most?

-  The new state standards now are the most important topic of discussion in elementary schools.    

I am not too happy about them. It became much more difficult.

I teach the second grade and for the second year have been working with children according to the new, so to speak, rules. Their introduction scared both parents and us, teachers. We received new books. Some schools have new textbooks in mathematics, but the old primer. Other schools received new primers, but they are working with old textbooks in mathematics. We were not very lucky - our school received new math textbooks. The book is complicated. It is full of terms that are hard to explain to children, and even harder to understand. They, first-graders, have to understand and perform tasks such as "select a plurality by color", "plurality by size". Out of my 36 students, maybe ten have understood this subject... Well, fifteen at most. The rest, and we have been working with them for two years, still can not understand what they are supposed to do. It is good that we do not have a complex for children of this age "crossing over a ten." But we have finished multiplying and dividing by five. And now, in the second grade, under this textbook we are finishing multiplying and dividing by nine. It's complicated. I do not know how we are going to work further, but it's very difficult for children and, therefore, for parents.

 Pros and Cons

 It is good that textbooks are good, new, and all are provided with them. And as a mother, I will tell that it is good that there is no need to look for them in bookstores and buy at great expense, as has happened before.

- Is there anything else positive about the innovations other than provision with textbooks?

- One good aspect of the new program is that we do not give grades on some subjects. Because of this, there is less paperwork in journals, less reports. We do not give grades on physical education, music, art, basic health and primary information science. Not everyone can be athlete, artist or musician. As for computers, almost all the children even in preschool know about them. What disturbs is that parents often bring documents, which release children from physical education. And that makes their children a disservice.    It is not a positive aspect of the new standard. As well as the new doctrine of education in general.

- Why is that?

- Read the new doctrine of Ukrainian education by 2021. Sometimes it seems that it is some kind of a sabotage.  You will read a lot of things: merger of subjects, merger of schools, absence of grades on some subjects, their reduction, reduction of school hours. It seems that teachers will soon start looking for another job. Although, maybe by 2021 something will change for the better.


 The second interviewee is 43-year-old resident of Uzhgorod Vasyl. A father of an adult son and a 9-year-old daughter who is in the third grade. We asked him similar questions.

 - Mr. Vasyl, what is your daughter's experience of studying in elementary school? Have you felt the new school trends?

- I think when I was in elementary school, we did not learn the multiplication table. Now we have been given the task for the summer: teach children the multiplication table. Teachers are good, qualified, but the program is imperfect. They have to do more reporting than actually teaching. Teachers are torn between parents and the system: they have to teach children while trying to please the management - to deliver reports. Children of 6-9 years of age must be taught mostly in game form. I know that this is not given too much attention.

 Identifying talented children

- In my opinion - our interlocutor continues - first of all they need to identify children's talents. The school's aim should not be to overload them with academic knowledge that may never come in useful in life. The school's aim must be to identify talented children and show them the right path of self-education. According to their talents, vocation. Then, in 10 years, children will learn everything they need.   

You know, in Singapore, a few decades ago the Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yu established the Department of Education, which had to identify talented children and send them to study to England at the expense of the state. The aim was so that they would come back and develop the country. And npw we can see where Singapore is 30 years into this program, and we can see where Ukraine is 23 years into independence.

 Despite the innovations, the elementary school remains Soviet

- Don't they have such things in our schools?

- In our schools, unfortunately, they often simply make money on education. For example, art studies. They introduced a textbook. Rather than let children draw, reveal their fantasy, they forced them to buy a textbook. Yes, it's only 10 hryvnias, but across the country - it's millions that went into someone's pocket.

There is no after school monitoring of students: which university they enter, which professions they master. By studying these data, they could make good decisions, amend the curriculum. But nobody cares about this.      

How do you, as a parent, compensate for these shortcomings of elementary school?

- Additional classes. My daughter is learning another foreign language, goes to needlework classes, I personally spend time with her. I explain her what she needs in life. Encourage her to learn languages. I draw her attention to what she will need in her practical life: the ability to communicate with other children, some other skills.

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