Education Reform in Ukraine: Transition from Soviet to Democratic Education
In a presentation at the Kennan Institute, Dr. Mykhaylo Zgurovsky detailed the success of education reform in Ukraine. Beginning in 1991, Ukrainian leaders introduced a series of reforms aimed at converting the Soviet-style educational system to a more democratic European model. According to Zgurovsky, the Ukrainian educational system, under Soviet control, was extremely advanced in technical areas such as engineering and sciences, but largely ignored subjects that addressed cultural and humanities topics. Zgurovsky further explained that the reforms originally started as a state program, but were later adopted at the inaugural All Ukrainian Congress on Education in 1993.
According to Zgurovsky, the Soviet system of education had many drawbacks that needed to be reformed. Disadvantages included excessive centralization, failure to address national, cultural and historical traditions, especially nationalization, and isolation from foreign theories and practices. Zgurovsky noted that although the program addressed all levels of education in Ukraine, the most important reforms occurred at the highest levels of education. Zgurovsky further stated that the changes in the ideology and structure of Ukraine's universities would not have been possible without the market reforms of the national economy.
Zgurovsky explained that the current educational system in Ukraine is patterned after the European three-tiered model of primary, secondary, and senior level schooling. Following the senior level, students have the opportunity to pursue higher education at a number of colleges or universities. Zgurovsky noted that currently there are approximately 1.5 million students in higher education and nearly 17,200 doctoral candidates and 4,000 students pursuing post-doctoral work at Ukrainian universities. The 1993 reforms also created an electronic network for Ukraine's largest universities, making it easier for students in Ukraine's outlying areas to receive higher education. Zgurovsky pointed out that the funding sources for education, particularly at the university level, have diversified to include money that is received from various legal frameworks and individual donations. Currently, nearly half of the funds used for the development of higher education are from private sources.
Zgurovsky summarized by noting several key developments of educational reform in Ukraine. According to Zgurovsky, the development of a national legal basis for all levels of education was the most important reform enacted. Another significant reform was the establishment of a network of universities that addressed the needs of the individual, regional and national economy. Finally, Zgurovsky noted that that the admittance procedures of Ukraine's universities are now more democratic. Students are able to apply to several universities at the same time and many who have received only technical or vocational training are eligible to take part in advanced university courses.