Education plays an essential part in the sustainable development of a country. Yet, it is often the most disregarded policy in newly developed economies. The little short term benefits disincentivise authorities to take sustainable action. After all, small children do not vote. Less than 4% of the Romanian GDP is spent on the education budget. Therefore, Romania is the country that allocates the least on education form the whole EU.
Old equipment, underpaid professors and outdated programmes are all immediate problems of the country’s educational system. The problem with not addressing issues in the educational system is that it creates an unprepared workforce. As such, a country which is one of the largest exporters of mechanical parts in the EU finds it hard to employ young and prepared professionals. Students are discouraged from joining practical schools, and manual workers are being stigmatised.
The roots of the problem are deeply impregnated into the Romanian society. It becomes hard for young students to live with themselves when they do not want to become doctors and engineers. Solutions to the problem are proposed, yet the current generation acts as if it does not have choices. Many young adults that could not find their place in the Romanian workforce prefer working low standards jobs in Western Europe to working in manufacturing in their own country. The stigmatisation of children that have manual aptitudes should spot as soon as possible if the country aims to correct its past mistakes and create a more stable political climate.
The educational system in Romania implies 11 years of mandatory schooling, from the age of 6 to the age of 17. Children finish elementary school at the age of 15 and take a repartition exam that is meant to assign you into high-school. How I see it, this is where the trouble begins. The exam is a standardised and centralised test in mathematics and Romanian language and literature. Before the exam is taken, there are hours of preparatory work meant to help students get top grades. As such, the exam is not an accurate assessment of intellectual capabilities and knowledge, but just a test on how well one memorises the answers. This already creates a division and a sense of discouragement for children that are not inclined towards exact sciences or academia in general. The higher the grade for this exam, the more likely you are to get into the high school of your choice. However, what happens when your choice does not really exist?
At the beginning of the 2000s, the Romanian Education Ministry decided to close professional and industrial high schools. The reasons are vague, but in a nutshell, it was not working anymore. As such, there are now only three possibilities. You can go to a theoretical, a technological or a vocational high school. The diploma obtained after four years at any of those high schools allows you to attend university.
From all those 3 types, I would like to focus on technological schools. These high schools are a mix of theoretical and practical work. They are underfunded, filled with unmotivated professors and children that want to leave the classroom to work in construction in Western Europe. Students that get sub-passing grades at the aforementioned repartition exam are usually assigned into such high schools. Less than 10% of those who finish with a technological school diploma end up working in that specified field. This was a significant problem, so something had to be done.
At the end of 2016, the Ministry of Education decided to reinstate professional classes within technical high schools. This idea was inspired by Germany’s professional school system, where companies sponsor a classroom and provide the students with practical work within their company. The new “dual-system” certifies students within specific trades and ensures them with a workplace, within the sponsoring company, immediately after graduating. This would solve both the lack of a specialised workforce and also the problem that companies were facing with finding young personnel. The idea that sounds great on paper had one small problem… No students signed up for these courses.
From the start of elementary school, everything is focused on academia. You must excel in mathematics, physics and Romanian literature. The little hours that should be practical education are just mocking session of both the professor and the syllabus. When you grow up in an environment that ridicules manual work to such a degree, despite you not being academic, it is hard to wrap your head around having a possible job in this field. Parents do not help either. They often discourage attending practical classes, despite the stable job and decent pay that such qualifications might offer. So the context of nobody signing up for dual classes starts to take shape.
Despite works to promote such classes, the interest is still low. People tend to feel stupid if they choose to attend a practical school. They are surely not! The little focus on individual child department is probably at the core of the problem. At the moment, there is no aptitude test until the highschool repartition test. In addition to that, the current Minister of Education wants to eradicate that one as well. Parents are not informed about their child’s vocation and tend to either overwork or underwork them. Everybody needs to learn complex mathematics and physics, yet the rate of functional analphabetism is peaking.
Of course, Romania is not the only country dealing with such a problem in the educational system. A reform is needed in many other countries. More funding and more attention aimed towards the people that form the future of the country are of paramount importance. The country has the potential to maintain growth, yet economic development through education seems not to be the priority. Employers that can barely find people willing to work are going to take their business elsewhere. They already have it hard enough dealing with massive amounts of bureaucracy, let’s just stop this stigmatisation. Not everybody needs to go to university, and not everybody has to be forced to study abstract concepts. Founding should be increased, teachers should be rightfully compensated and children should no longer be judged. Benefits of a full reform are not going to be seen until the end of this political term, yet they are going to be picked by the next generations.