Since 2014, Ukraine has been going through a challenging period of social change. Following the public demands for democracy, human rights and rule of law, the state has been investing much effort in introducing democratic reforms in many areas of public life, including education.
A 2017 OECD Report revealed a pressing necessity for reform of both pre-school and school education in Ukraine. The report showed a growing over-dependence on private tutoring, undue recognition of learning, and corrupt influences. It argued for the need to balance school autonomy with accountability and strengthen institutional capacity of educational institutions.
The learning environment too requires changes to meet today’s challenges. According to a recent UNICEF survey (2017), 67% of Ukrainian children aged 11-17 experienced bullying over the last 3 months, predominantly in school. One third of teachers admit the problem of discrimination at school (UNDP in Ukraine report, 2017). Furthermore, 200 000 children need urgent support to overcome trauma of the violent conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The new Law on Education, adopted in 2017, acknowledged the challenges listed above, allowing implementation of an ambitious educational reform, outlined in the “New Ukrainian School” concept (2016). The main pillar of the ongoing school reform in Ukraine is democratization and decentralization of the public school system, manifested in several key areas:
- New competence-based Curriculum
- New learning materials and methods for a democratic learning environment
- Retraining and independent certification of teachers
- New structure of school education
- Quality Assurance
The New Ukrainian School reform concept is fully in line with the UN Development Goals and Council of Europe policy recommendations. According to the Concept, ‘the whole life of the New Ukrainian school will be organized according to the model of respect for human rights, democracy, and support to good ideas’ (p.20) putting democracy and human rights as cornerstones of the Ukrainian school.
The Schools for Democracy Programme aims to support these systemic democratic reforms in the education system in Ukraine. The programme was designed upon request of and in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, based on a close cooperation with the European Wergeland Centre (EWC) since 2013.