More than two thousand more schools are opening their doors today than last year. Teachers greet students with smiles, and children sit down at their desks. Some of them are doing it for the first time in more than a year and a half.
In total, more than 1.7 million students start full-time studies, which is 400,000 more than last year.
Full-time training for a country at war is a challenge. But at the same time, it is necessary: to return children to the school routine, the joy of joint breaks with peers and communication with teachers.
However, it is impossible to open all schools, because safety is in the first place. Only schools with ready-made shelters and where the security situation allows can start learning offline. Regional military administrations make individual decisions for each school. Because communities even in the same region can have different levels of security, and in the same city, different schools may or may not have shelters.
According to operational data from the oblasts, of the 12,975 schools that started classes on September 1, 10,869 have shelters (83.7%). They will work either face-to-face (6,593) or in a mixed format (3,894). Another 2,488 schools will study remotely.
About training formats and who chooses them
- The face-to-face format is standard learning with a physical presence in the school.
- Mixed – a combination of face-to-face and remote formats. For example, if a shelter at a school cannot accommodate all students, then some can study in school and some can study online. Then these groups replace each other. It is also possible to broadcast a face-to-face lesson for those children who cannot be in the classroom physically because they are abroad or their parents are against offline due to security reasons. It will also be mixed learning.
- Remote – exclusively online training (for regions that suffer from constant shelling or are located close to the front line).
The decision on how this or that school will work depends on the regional military administration. It looks at the security situation and the entire network of schools, and determines where it is possible to study face-to-face and where it is not. It is obvious that in Donetsk region and to a large extent in Kharkiv region, Mykolaiv region, Kherson region, a large number of students will not be able to go to school this year.
In addition, the capacity of the shelter is affected. For example, if the school has 1,000 students and the shelter is for 250 people, the school will need to organize mixed learning.
Parents also influence the decision on the form of education. For example, they may be against the child going to a full-time school. In this case, the student can study remotely. If the home school does not have distance learning groups/classes, then the education authority must offer another school for distance learning.
Apprenticeship studies abroad
Externship and family education are relevant this year, as well as last year. While studying under them, the student does not need to participate in online classes, but he/she can receive advice from the teacher and must pass semester and/or annual evaluation.
Such forms of education are most often chosen by apprentices who were forced to leave abroad. However, many of them spent the entire last academic year carrying two schools: a local one in person and a Ukrainian one at a distance.
For such children, in the spring of this year, we recommended schools to include grades from a foreign school. So the only thing left for apprentices was to complete subjects that are not studied abroad: Ukrainian language and literature, history of Ukraine, defense of Ukraine, etc.
This school year, we want to make life even easier for such students: to introduce distance learning of subjects of the Ukrainian studies component in separately designated schools. Assessments from other subjects that coincide with the Ukrainian curriculum will be counted by our schools.
A typical educational program has already been approved. The next step will be to identify approximately five schools in each region that will teach children abroad remotely.
In addition to reducing the workload, we believe that this program will also be the thread that will connect apprenticeships abroad with Ukraine. Every child is important, and we, as a state, must do everything so that they all return after our victory.
What is happening with the “New Ukrainian School” reform
The new Ukrainian school continues! Despite the fact that last year, some steps to implement NUS were not taken, this is a fundamental and very necessary reform for education. Approximately 2 million are already studying under the new programs, and we have no right to betray them.
To restore the reform, we are already taking the first important steps – returning the NUS subvention, printing textbooks for the 5th and 6th grades, and preparing the start of the senior specialized school.
Last year, due to the sequestration of the State Budget, the NUS subvention was directed to military needs.
This year, the Cabinet of Ministers has the opportunity to return part of the funding to the New Ukrainian School. These funds can be allocated thanks to the balance of the Education subvention in the State Budget and directing them as a separate subvention. That is, the MES does not attract additional funds from the State Budget. Currently, the government is in the process of coordinating the directions and size of the subvention.
The funds can be used for the purchase of teaching aids for grades 5-6 and for supporting the pilots of NUS who are entering the 7th grade: for the purchase of teaching aids and teaching-methodical literature, multimedia and computer equipment, and furniture.
In addition, with this subvention, we will be able to finance teacher training. It will follow a model similar to primary education: trained trainers will train teachers in the field.
This year, UAH 754.9 million was allocated from the state budget for the publication and delivery of school textbooks. Another UAH 138.1 million was raised by the Ministry of Education and Culture from donors.
The most urgent need for textbooks is in the fifth and sixth grades of NUS.
66% of the total need for textbooks for sixth-graders was printed with state budget funds. As of August 30, 4.52 million books have already been delivered to the region. These are textbooks on Ukrainian language and literature, foreign literature, foreign language, history, mathematics, natural science, technology.
It is very important that we can print textbooks for the fifth graders, who should have received textbooks last year. In particular, we print books on the history of Ukraine at the expense of the state budget, and international partners within the framework of the Ministry of Education and Culture’s initiative “School, we are together!” volunteered to help with the printing of some textbooks: mathematics, Ukrainian language and literature, foreign literature, foreign languages, science cycle, computer science.
Senior specialized school
In the fall of 2023, the MES plans to present for public discussion the Concept of a senior specialized school (grades 10–12) and the Standard for it. These documents will provide that apprentices will have the flexibility to choose an individual educational trajectory. That is, they will be able to choose the direction of study and focus on what they will really need in later life.
Prior to the launch of the senior specialized school, the piloting of new teaching models and the Standard will take place.
We understand that the pilot of the senior specialized school is even more difficult than the pilot of the basic school (grades 5–9). After all, it is not only about new programs, but also about the fact that lyceums will be separate educational institutions with a fundamentally new quality of education and security. Therefore, we plan to start piloting not in the 26th year, a year before the full functioning of the senior specialized school, but in the 25th year, so that we have two years to test the new work model, new programs and free choice of the student’s educational trajectory .
Access to education
Another priority for the Ministry of Education and Science is to provide schools with buses. After all, it is about access to education for all students. There was a need for buses even before the full-scale war, but hostilities deepened the challenges. Some of the school buses were destroyed by shelling, others remained in the temporarily occupied territories, and another part of the school was transferred to the needs of the Armed Forces.
However, now is the time to compensate schools for these losses, because education cannot wait.
UAH 1 billion has been allocated from the state budget for the purchase of buses. Regional and local administrations can spend these funds under the conditions of co-financing from their budgets.
As of August 29, 18 regions signed contracts for the purchase of 493 school buses (1.47 billion hryvnias). 165 buses should be delivered by September 1. The rest will arrive in October, November and December 2023.
Also, by the end of 2023, more than 300 buses will arrive from the European Union as humanitarian aid. 192 of them have already been transferred to schools.
In addition, any region can apply to the Fund for Elimination of the Consequences of Armed Aggression (Ministry of Community Development, Territories and Infrastructure of Ukraine) to purchase buses instead of those that were handed over to the Armed Forces or destroyed or damaged. 15 applications for 721 buses are already awaiting a decision.
What to expect next
In times of uncertainty, when you don’t know what will happen next, it is extremely difficult to plan. However, we plan, because education does not tolerate random decisions. Therefore, the Ministry of Education and Culture is working on the Education Development Strategy.
We are not yet ready to present the document, but there are points that will definitely be there: attention to the safety of students, the quality of education and, at the same time, the joy of attending school.
Andriy StashkivDeputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, specially for UP. Life
Publications in the “View” section are not editorial articles and reflect exclusively the author’s point of view.