On medium and long-term this will have a snowball effect.
As long as the education system is not working strategically, assuring a certain degree of coherence between the theoretical knowledge, skills and abilities that students should acquire by the end of their studies, and the requirements of the labor market, graduates will either migrate to other countries or find it difficult to get employed in their field of expertise.
A change of approach is to be made. Performance in business should be the main target of universities, which have to constantly improve their curriculums and university profiles, as well as the number of students they teach every generation, in order to better respond to market requests in terms of specializations they offer. Some of them do so.
Making a difference
Now, talking about actors that can really do something... the Ministry of Education could really make a change if they would base changes on research and concrete data, and if the political environment changes would not come, every time, with proposals that “demolish” everything that the previous minister proposed. NGOs can also give great best practices in terms of educational approaches, and they are actually constantly doing that.
Past interventions in the educational sector in Romania were a breath of fresh air from more than one point of view.
There are really a lot of organizations and foundations to be mentioned here (apart from grant making institutions of the EU) but some of them have made a serious impact that is sustainable even nowadays.
To be mentioned fore and upmost the first initiator in the Romanian civil society, including education that is the Open Society Institute. Their intervention was tailor made inside different projects and programs that have tackled educational aspects such as early school leaving, professionalization of educational experts etc. The close connection with the projects was good in order to implement both the mission and vision of the foundation but also the aims of the projects.
Other tailor made grant making schemes to be mentioned are the Central and East European Trust, which focused on the capacity building of educational organizations and institutions, the Conrad Adenauer Foundation, Charles Stuart Mott Foundation, USAiD scheme.
In relation to the educational environment in Romania, it is interesting that in the absence of many public funds to be given directly to organizations and/or institutions. Some foundations have made their own local grant schemes – like the Civil Society Development Foundation – Civic Innovation Fund scheme.
It appears that local needs have to be addressed more directly at local level, so the cross-border initiatives have a tendency to be scarce or specific.
European programs have made a considerable input of cash into Romania in the past years, in the previous years that Romania joined the EU but also after this point. Most of the money that entered into educational programs was made through European Structural Funds programs, addressing up and foremost primary education programs and school after school programs. Besides the Structural Funds there has to be mentioned that the Lifelong Learning Program and the Youth in Action program of the European Commission have made an outstanding impact for the educational providers in Romania and these programs were used as efficient tools
How to reform
It would take 4 to 8 years to test and implement an improved education system, which means good results would take longer to appear.
A real educational reform would mean linking school with real life and a change of approach in teaching.
Also, a special focus should be given to teacher training, since university and masters programmes have the same structure and approach as all educational system: extensive focus on theory. Teacher training would mean training teachers to use innovative methods in the classroom and a different teacher-student approach in teaching their subjects.
Private and state education should work in the same educational ground and complete each other. Both of them should have a precise curriculum that is addressing the real needs of students.
It is true, on one hand, that private educational institutions are more flexible and can adapt faster their curriculums to the requests of the labour market. They can use interactive methods, innovative technology, well-prepared specialists that can teach students.
On the other hand, there’s a very high percentage of beneficiaries of state education, meaning that the emergency to change is in the state educational system. Which unfortunately changes very slow in terms of implementation of real research-based curriculums, and very fast in terms of political ideology and approaches.