A year ago, the State Inspectorate of educational institutions was set up. Today it is clear to everybody what the purpose is.
Probably, it is the first time that education authority in Ukraine has become the epicenter of so many debates, discussions and even quarrels. Every reform brings a violent reaction in the community. And an innovation, which will be one-year-old in April of this year is unjustly deprived of popular attention.
‘The State Inspectorate is a kind of ‘diagnostic cente’ (or ‘field researcher’), which collects operational information about the real state of affairs in the ‘field of education’, information that is needed by the Minister and the Government for making the best management decisions in the educational sector’ – explains Michael Goncharenko, Head of the Inspectorate.
In a review ‘School inspection: a recent study in the highly educational systems’, compiled by the authoritative British CfBT educational fund and an independent educational agency NFER pointed out that developed countries have two models for the inspection of schools: first, the most popular is the study of each school separately. The second (less popular) involves the assessment of some aspects of a school activity rather than the inspection of a whole school. There has been suggested a third approach, under which the inspection must determine whether (and how well) the government policies are followed. This model isn’t used in any civilized country.
On surface, we seem to be approaching the third model. But in reality, we still remain in the barracks of the old Soviet model, the basic axioms of which are as follows: ‘1. Inspector is smart, and all others are fools. 2. The inspector is always right. 3. If you do not agree with this – see the first paragraph.’
‘What brings anxiety is the fact that the issue of protection of the rights and interests of both objects and subjects of monitoring isn’t found in the Procedure for the quality of education monitoring (2011). In this document, as in the current practices of monitoring studies, there are no standards and practices to ensure the absence of interests conflict’, – says head of the Center for test technologies Igor Likarchuk.
In other countries the verification of educational institutions is performed either by the government departments, working with independent agencies, or independent agencies themselves without government interference. In this case, the principle of peer inspection is applied: teachers are checked by teachers, administrators – by administrators. Recently, such teams started including students.
But we, on the other hand, the dependent are checked by the dependent. Working for an inspection, which is coordinated by the Minister of Education, those involved into the inspection do not dare to contradict even the misuse of its decisions, because they know what troubles provided by the Ministry they may get.
The imitation of the independent expertise during the inspection is a scientific advisory council. And it would be too naïve to consider it an independent one. Since the site of the State Schools Inspection (SSI) hasn’t got a complete list of this structure (which shows lack of transparency), let’s pay our attention to the management. The Council is headed by the rector of the Poltava National Technical University, member of the regional council of the Party of Regions, Vladimir Onishchenko. According to nbuv.gov.ua, he is also the deputy head of the advisory council for the economy of the State in Accreditation Commission MONMS of Ukraine, member of the presidium of scientific-methodical commission of Ministry of Education, Science, Youth and Sport (MESYS) in Management and Administration, member of the scientific-methodical commission MESYS for Economics and Entrepreneurship (subcommittee ‘Finance and credit’).
A European expert, Jean Perry, in his article ‘The quality of higher education,’ notes that, being engaged in self-development and self-improvement, independent agencies are increasingly focusing on their attention on how to stimulate the development of universities, rather than control them. Reputation of a good university the expert compares with ‘Rolls Royce’, which is so popular and prestigious, because its every detail is perfectly made.
Universities are interested in the quality of their work, otherwise they will not have trust in the community. The task of agencies is to help them do this.
It seems that the SSI is not a means of monitoring but an ultimate weapon of senior officials from the education against those who have done something wrong. As we know from history, absolute weapon is the weapon from which there is no salvation.
The way of implementation of an absolute weapon scenario in practice is well illustrated by the Uzhgorod National University, who dared to openly disagree with the results of testing and bring the results to the court. Others discuss it in whispers behind closed doors.
The cause of all their troubles Rector Prof. Nikolai Vegesh considers an attempt of the authorities to give the rector’s chair to ‘their’ person on the eve of parliamentary elections, that is why ‘anything is good for the achievement of the result, including outright fraud.’
Over the last two years UzhNU survived twelve inspections, whose results have not given an official reason for the dismissal of the rector. Meanwhile, as Professor Vegesh said in his interview, Mr Sulima telephoned again and ‘offered to write a letter of resignation.’ And the professor did not agree, again.
The consequences were immediate – braking, suspension, postponement or cancellation of the decision of urgent issues in the university, and then the disruption of his work: no funding for fundamental research projects, failure to reaffirm specialized scientific council for doctoral dissertations, the inhibition of accreditation and licensing of educational trends and awarding academic ranks.
Significant violations were observed during the organization of examinations: artificially lowered scores by changing the scale of assessment, in many cases the task hadn’t been discussed with teachers, conducting an unplanned and uncoordinated questioning of students during the time allotted for the test, – such petty tricks were played by inspectors in order to understate results.
Message from the Rector UzhNU to the Minister of Education with the request to stop the tyranny of his subordinates were ignored. Now UzhNU forced to defend its position in court.
All these problems are caused by the fact that the external evaluation of schools we have is not guaranteed to be transparent and objective. The results of the external evaluation of schools can be manipulated, because in Ukraine there is no independent agency to external evaluation activities, which – at least in parallel with GIUZ – would provide the public unbiased information on the situation in education.
The message from the Rector of UzhNU to the Minister of Education with the request to stop the tyranny of his subordinates was ignored. Now UzhNU is forced to defend its position in court.
All these problems are caused by the fact that the external assessment of schools we have is not guaranteed to be transparent and objective. The results of the external evaluation of schools can be manipulated, because in Ukraine there are no independent agencies for external evaluation activities, which – at least in parallel with SSI – would provide the public unbiased information on the situation in education.