SEAMY SIDE OF A REFORM
Research and Methodological center of Svyatoshin gymnasium is investigating educational reforms actively promoted in Ukraine. Today our attention is attracted by idea to merge three lessons such as Ukrainian literature, Ukrainian language and foreign literature into one school subject. We’d like to share with you our reflections on this topic.
SEAMY SIDE OF THE REFORM: if three different lessons such as Ukrainian literature, Ukrainian language and foreign literature should be united into one school subject.
Nowadays an issue of necessity to perform revolutionary reforms in Ukrainian education is brought up commonly and frequently. It is said out loud that “...the time to reorganize an educational structure has come because a traditional education has become an anachronism and we are ready to implement transformative, coherent and significant changes!”
These changes will cause fundamental changes in existing educational model in Ukraine!
To be honest it sounds like a threat whereas it is declaimed with self-righteousness... And it reminds of a promise to build an absolutely new world. It also reminds of two great proverbs “breaking is not making” and “measure thrice and cut once” because the value of the matter in dispute is our children’s future, our country’s future.
And are things in such a bad way indeed? Does the national system of traditional education “nurtures ignorance”?
And is the Finnish education so perfect indeed as it in camouflage of innovations removes from the school curriculum all subjects which teach to think and help to form a consistent worldview (math, history, physics, chemistry and so on) and replaces them with an unknown mix called “topics”?
And why despite mass rallies of thousands Poles to “stop changes in education”, it is Polish model of education that was chosen as a model to emulate in Ukraine today?
To answer this and many other questions a careful analysis and comparison of a freaking image of Ukrainian education created by media and the real situation should be performed.
In this article we’d like to examine in detail only one of the publicly declared reform initiative — an idea to MERGE UKRAINIAN LANGUAGE, UKRAINIAN LITERATURE AND FOREIGN LITERATURE INTO ONE SCHOOL SUBJECT "literature"
This innovation has caused extremely mixed reaction across a great many of Ukrainian teachers, scientists and parents. And it looks like it has more opponents than supporters. (Go to http://www.radabatkiv.kiev.ua/?p=2167#more-2167)
An author of this reform is unknown as far as the project wasn’t published officially. And although it’s not clear, why this issue is even discussed, it is well-known that “there is no smoke without a fire”, so after all, some changes are being prepared. So let’s puzzle them out.
THE REFORM — PROS AND CONS
Our school is believed to have the biggest number of school subjects (more than 20). Children are too busy and school curriculum should be shortened by merging similar subjects.
Ant we are offered to start with Ukrainian language and literature and also with foreign literature.
And what is the real situation?
Nowadays, according to the curriculum, there are 7 hours per week per 3 subjects: 3 hours are for Ukrainian language, 2 hours are for foreign and two hours are for Ukrainian literature.
After implementation of the reform there will be still 7 hours per week. But a focus will be on Ukrainian language. So there will be only one subject in the curriculum called “literature”, where Ukrainian language is the major and Ukrainian and foreign literatures are just an accompaniment for studying language. It’s the first thing!
The second... Nowadays the curriculum involves a study of 18 literary writings during a year (8 writings by Ukrainian authors and 10 writings of foreign authors). So a student has to read 18 books per year. Nor much, neither little. A perfect fit.
Just 1,5 book per month. Rather feasible and even necessary task to our mind.
According to the reform, which is based on the Polish model of education (why this particular model?), a list of compulsory literary writings should be reduced by 3,6 times!!!
Polish educational program involves reading of 5 books in 3 year, it means 5 books per year... Moreover, not all of these books are belles lettres. It can be documentary, non-fiction, publicistic writing and any other genres, depending on needs of Ukrainian language curriculum.
It is announced that such decision will guarantee a formation of all necessary skills: an ability to analyze text, to understand its meaning and artistic significance, a development of oral and written communication skills, etc. (http://ru.osvita.ua/school/52907/).
In addition, it is expected that this integrated program will allow children to develop critical thinking and good literary taste, to enjoy the beauty of a style, to read a book slowly, delve into a subject, and to form and articulate their own original thoughts and opinions as well.
It’s hard to believe that reading of 5 books will cause such progress.
And even if modern school kid has some free time, he’ll probably spend it on something else but searching a beauty of style. Much more likely he’ll spend this time to play around with a computer or a tablet.
Diminution never results in enrichment, only impoverishment. It is impossible to foster a competent reader by keeping him on a short rations. Nowadays there are two different subjects. How should students develop their skills if after implementation of the reform there will be only one shortened literature course? What kind of comprehension of Ukrainian and world literature it will be? How to show children a place and a value or their native literature in European and world literature in such circumstances?
And instead of being an intellectual elite, able to meet competition with youth from other countries, we will provide European labor-market with a service staff and operatives as a result of this "reform". And nothing more!
The third, a merger of three subjects may raise a possibility of 17000 unemployed teachers of literature (assuming there is one teacher in each school). Their profession will be non-demanded any more.
The fourth, this reform brings up a question with writing textbooks and pilot programs, which need time we do not possess, and we’ll find ourselves in a situation "we tried our best, you know the rest” once again...
The fifth... The sixth... This list is to be continued. The idea of merge is raw, incoherent and in many ways is driven by foreign experience without taking into account our realities.
We agree that existing curriculum is to be revised. And revision should be thoughtful, competent and free of desire no matter what to meet European standards.
Existing criteria are pursuing a goal to stuff children with all possible knowledge. As a result “...Ukrainian school leavers are cramed with knowledge but they don’t know how to apply this background in a real life. They are like stuffed fish: seem to be fish, but can’t swim».
So without any doubts literature’s curriculum should be shortened but not that mechanically. It needs to be restructured to create synergy between Ukrainian and foreign literatures, not a merger. So in fact the idea to merge subjects doesn’t solve any problems in school system and isn’t helpful in optimization of a learning process.
To get the right result a deep and professional revision of curriculum content should be performed with participation of scientists and teachers. Nobody knows existing academic programs better with all their pros and cons than practicing teachers. They are professionals who can analyze offered changes from a practical standpoint.
It is also very important to study and analyze an existing world experience in teaching of literature and different educational models, to use the best and the most efficient of existing experience, to scrutinize and analyze potential risks and expected results. A thoughtless reflection of someone else’s experience is a major mistake!
The reform also offers to shift equilibrium in favor of Ukrainian literature in ratio 70 % to 30 % of foreign literature. This is not a well-judged action to our mind.
While learning foreign literature children get acquainted with the best world literary works. While learning Ukrainian literature they discover literary works of only one country. Ukrainian literature reflects the spirit of our nation. Foreign literature helps to foster a multicultural person, teaches to be tolerant and to respect foreign cultures, it can be compared with a remedy for xenophobia, Nazism and separatism.
Besides, we should remember we live in 21st century, in age of globalization and Internet. Perhaps, we should think over the literature globally too?
As follows from all mentioned above, a merge of three subjects is inappropriate. It will definitely deteriorate a quality of literary education and cause a loss of a whole range of essential skills. Education will forfeit its apprehensibility and systematicity, and modern students will lose possibility to gain full and robust knowledge and skills.
IT SEEMS MORE APPROPRIATE to:
• make curriculum less busy;
• establish direct interdisciplinary connections;
• coordinate connected disciplines;
• and, according to all mentioned above, use advanced qualification-based training for expert pedagogues and modern training for young teachers.
This approach will help to solve an issue of massive reskilling of teachers, as far as professional distinctiveness of Ukrainian literature teacher and foreign language teacher has differences because of evaluation of translated and non-translated literary works.
It is preferred to conduct pilot search in the field of literary and language reforms without hurry. It is well known that reorganization of education in Ukraine, unfortunately, is uncompleted, unproductive and is performed by implementation of different concepts without any analysis. This goes against the world practice of reorganization, when it is given at least 10 years for an experiment before its legitimacy is recognized.
Let’s remember that in order to destroy the country, according to a famous author, all you need is to reorganize an education. That is why any reform, especially in a field of education has to be considered and weighted thoroughly.
We have to abandon populist’s slogans, to describe in details expected results and to realize our real goals. This is the only way not to “make a lot of blunders” and not to destroy previous achievements, but to be sure that we’ve chosen a right way, which will lead us to development, inspiration and hopeful future!
Research and Methodological center of Svyatoshin gymnasium