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Ministry of Education and Science Newsletter, January - February '17
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Liliya Hrynevych, Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine
MES bears responsibility for the entire education system from preschool to adult education and scientific research. However, there are some tasks that need our immediate attention. Therefore at the beginning of 2017 we highlighted the following medium term priorities for our work.

 
  • High-quality, modern and accessible school education: New Ukrainian School;
  • Modernization of vocational education;
  • Ensuring quality higher education;
  • New system of governance and funding for scientific research.
 
We held several discussions with key stakeholders in each area. The result of this dialogue are recorded in the draft Medium Term Plan priorities for government action for years 2017-2020.
 
These priorities are equally important irrespectively of the order in which they are listed.   

The first priority is carrying out large-scale reform of secondary education. Beginning in 2018, the first age cohort of children will be enrolled in the "New Ukrainian School". For this we need to develop new standards, new training materials and adequately prepare teachers.  
 
2017 should be a year of preparation for the implementation of these reforms.
 
By the end of the first quarter, we need to prepare a detailed plan for step-by-step introduction of the New Ukrainian School, and a plan "B", which in the case of additional financing will enable implementing reform in a shorter timeframe.
 
Of course, the reforms will be preceded by pilot testing of planned innovations. Schools will soon be selected to test standards, curricula and teaching approaches according to the "new format" for primary school.
 
Also this year, we will conduct training for about 25 thousand teachers scheduled to teach first-grade pupils in 2018. Active preparation is already ongoing for the reformed concept of teacher education, the qualification framework for teaching staff and new standards for teacher education. In order to motivate our progressive youth to enrol in teaching degrees for natural science and mathematics subjects, we have increased the amounts paid out in scholarships offered to such students.
 
To provide teachers with new tools to introduce the competence-based approach of the New Ukrainian School, we will develop a modern educational platform where teachers can share experience online, receive necessary training materials and advice from experts and teaching colleagues. This online platform will also include materials for distance education.

The issue of logistical support for schools will also receive due attention. Reinforcing mathematical and natural science education is a key priority for us. For this reason, in 2017 the Government provided UAH 300 million to equip natural science and mathematics classrooms and another UAH 200 million on buses for transporting students from middle and senior classes to consolidated schools, so that children from rural areas can also receive a quality education. In addition, 300 million will be provided to combined municipalities for school equipment and the purchase of school buses.
 
The next priority is the modernization of vocational education. Our goal is to improve learning conditions, physical infrastructure, to attract qualified teachers and increase the number of people wishing to study in vocational schools.
 
As part of decentralization, the financing of vocational education was transferred to the local level. However, this decision has required significant adjustment, because not all cities of regional significance could financially provide for their vocational schools. That's why we transferred the financing of vocational training centers to regions and city-regions. The 2017 budget for the first time allocates UAH 2 billion in educational grants to vocational training centers for providing secondary education, UAH 119 million to finance training in 19 professions of national importance and another UAH 50 million for the establishment of practical training facilities for respective sectoral specializations. Overall in 2017, we plan to create 30 such facilities - 5 using investments provided by employers and 25 with funding from the state budget.

Additionally, in order to provide good equipment and modern technology for the educational process, we aim to increase admissions in vocational schools, because more students result in more efficient use of funding provided.
 
The third priority is quality assurance in higher education. The activities of the Ministry in this area are based on technical support to institutions to create internal quality assurance and the establishment of external quality assurance in higher education.
 
This year, we intend to approve 80 new competence-based higher education standards. These standards guarantee internal quality assurance of higher education by universities.
 
Equally important for us, is to finally have a properly functioning national agency for quality assurance in higher education, which serves to uphold the honesty and reputation of the higher education system and enjoys an excellent reputation in the community. This independent body should ensure external control over the quality of higher education.
 
During this year, active work will continue on the creation of the National Repository of Academic Texts, because provision of academic integrity directly affects the quality of education and development of science in Ukraine. The repository should, on the one hand, serve as an effective tool for identifying plagiarism, and on the other hand be a resource for information sharing between academics.
 
In 2017 a pilot project on the introduction of entrance examinations for Masters of Laws degrees using EIT technology will be extended to all higher education institutions that train lawyers. This step is one of the components of the reform of legal education, which MES is currently preparing, along with the development of the standard of legal education and the concept for reforming legal education in Ukraine.
 
The fourth priority is a new system of governance and funding for scientific research. Firstly, government funding of scientific and technological activities should be increased. Secondly, we are establishing a system for the fair and transparent distribution of these funds.
 
We are working to establish a system, where all scientific and science and technology activities are coordinated by the National Council of Science and Technology. The council will include representatives of the scientific community, governmental agencies and the business sector. It will develop proposals to shape public policy in the field of scientific and technological activities within state programs. The National Research Fund will provide an opportunity for researchers to obtain additional funding for specific research projects on a competitive basis.
 
During the first half of 2017, a roadmap will be developed for the implementation of the Law on Scientific and Technological Activity.
 
The National Council of Science and Technology should begin work this year.
 
Also in 2017, we will be preparing the legal framework for the activities of the National Council of Ukraine on the development of science and technology, the National Fund for Research, research universities and government laboratories. During the year, we will work together with the Ministry of Economic Development to modify the legal framework in order to create the conditions for start-ups at universities.
 
Ukraine will continue to participate in international scientific programs such as Horizon 2020, Euratom, CERN and Eurekа.
 
Our planned reforms for the education and research fields are desperately needed in Ukraine today. I have the great hope and expectation that our efforts will not only be supported the Government and Parliament, but also receive broad public support.

 
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On February 6, 2017, at 10:00 am, registration began for participants in external independent testing (EIT) on the official website of the Ukrainian Center for Educational Quality Assessment http://testportal.gov.ua/. Those wishing to take part in testing in 2017 must use the registration service on the website.
 
Prospective participants must create and print the registration form. They can do this themselves or ask for assistance at the point of registration. A list of registration points will be posted on the UCEQA website. Registration points for this year's high school graduates will be established at their place of study.
 
Also, high-school graduates of this year taking part in EIT must indicate the names of subjects for which testing results will be counted as their score for the State Final Attestation (SFA). This year all secondary school graduates will sit the EIT for Ukrainian language as a compulsory subject.    

The second compulsory subject for 2017 EIT graduates can be a choice of either Mathematics or History of Ukraine.

As their third subject, 2017 high school graduates can choose from the list of available subjects: Mathematics, History of Ukraine, Spanish, French, German, Russian, English, Biology, Geography, Physics and Chemistry.

In order to have results count towards the state final attestation, participants may select both Mathematics and History of Ukraine and take part in testing for both of these subjects. The choice of subjects depends on the participant and his/her plans for further education. School administrations are not permitted to influence the choice of SFA subjects.

In addition, students may choose to sit for a fourth non-compulsory subject, where this is required for admission to their chosen higher education institution.
 
After filling in their registration, prospective EIT participants must prepare a set of registration documents. This year's high school graduates must submit documents to educational institution they are enrolled in, and graduates of previous years and trainees/students of vocational, higher education institutions must send them (preferably by registered mail) to regional centers under the address specified in the information cover-page. The list of documents required for registration will be posted on the UCEQA website in the section "Registration process".
 
After successfully completing registration, candidates receive an EIT certificate, information letter and confirmation of enrollment. These documents will be sent to this year's graduates at the educational institution they are enrolled in. Graduates of previous years and trainees/students at vocational and higher educational institutions will receive their documents at the address specified during registration.
A particular feature of the 2017 admissions campaign is that applicants may use certificates of external independent testing from both 2016 and 2017 in to enroll in higher education institutions in 2016. Therefore, graduates of previous years enrolling in higher education institutions this year, must complete only Ukrainian language as a mandatory subject and are free to choose the other three subjects for testing.

Registration of EIT 2017 test candidates testing will continue until 17 March. Changes in registration data can be made until 31 March. The main testing session will be held from 23 May to 16 June.
 
Also there will be an additional testing session between 3 and 12 July, for which registrations will be accepted from 3 to 20 May. A list of categories of persons eligible to register and participate the additional testing session is available on the website of the Ukrainian Center for Educational Quality Assessment.
 
Information on the UCEQA website
News section on the MES website

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Inclusive education policy aims to gradually overcome the isolation of children with special educational needs and create conditions for their education and development, allowing such students to participate in the educational process in the general school system.
 
Overcoming the longstanding isolation of children with special needs requires not only changing attitudes in society, but also work to replace textbooks and teaching materials. Currently, the Ministry of Education is working on the introduction of new labeling of textbooks for children with special needs. Instead of referring to a diagnosed disability, textbooks will now feature a special code indicating the category of children for which the book was written.  This is important in order to create favorable learning conditions for children with special needs, as it stops the focus on their disability and associated restrictions.    

Terminology changes are also expected to the Cabinet of Ministers regulation of 23 April 2003 no. 585 "On establishing the period of study in schools for children requiring correction of physical and (or) mental development."
 
Terminology changes taking into account the UN Convention "On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities" include:
  • The words in the title of the resolution and throughout the document "requiring correction of physical and (or) mental development" was replaced by the words "special educational needs".
  • The word "handicapped" has been replaced the word "impaired";
  • References to "mentally retarded children" were replaced by "children with intellectual disabilities".
 
These amendments will result in changes to the above terms not only in the resolution itself, but also when labeling documentation, tutorials and more. Creating an atmosphere of tolerance and equality should be the distinguishing feature of new education policy.

News section on the MES website
EIT procedure adapted for persons with special needs

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The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine and the NGO "Teach for Ukraine" signed a memorandum of cooperation as part of which 40 young professionals from various professions will work as teachers in ordinary Ukrainian schools. 
 
NGO "Teach for Ukraine" is a partner of the international network "Teach for All" which includes representatives from 41 countries. "Teach for Ukraine" is a leadership development program that helps talented graduates and young professionals to gain experience of teaching in schools, and at the same time schools receive interested and inspired teachers.   

One of the challenges of modern Ukrainian education today is providing equal access to quality schooling for children from different regions and both urban and rural areas, regardless of whether they live in a large city or a small town or village.

Equal access to quality education for all children will increase Ukraine's competitiveness. The program "Teach for Ukraine" will help expand educational opportunities for children in various regions. Gradual improvement in the quality of education includes:

-          recruiting talented young people as teachers;
-          training of selected candidates;
-          assigning positions to candidates who have passed selection and training;
-          active support of teachers employed under the program over a period of two years;
 
The Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv regions were selected to participate in the pilot project of the "Teach for Ukraine" program. Teachers will be sent to these regions after having taken part in preparation in accordance with the purpose of the program. Approximately 13 teachers will be sent to each participating region.

They will teach pupils, contribute to their holistic development and work together with them to improve their educational achievements and leadership qualities. In the future, teachers and students experiencing "Teach for Ukraine" will be called upon to serve as active agents of change in the country's educational environment and the country in general.

News section on the MES website
"Teach for Ukraine" website

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The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine signed a memorandum with the American Councils for International Education, which provides for the phased introduction of a modernized electronic document management system within MES. Such a system would make administrative processes more transparent and help to simplify unnecessary paper-based processes, while helping to improve educational statistics needed for planning educational policy.
Introduction of an electronic document management within the Ministry of Education and Science is being implemented as part of the USAID project "Ukrainian Transparent Education Management Alliance" (UTEMA). The project provides for the phased transition to an electronic document management system, initially within the Ministry, and later in other educational institutions.

Electronic document management entails the paperless creation and processing of documents, storing incoming and outgoing correspondence in a single system, and finalizing work on documents by imposing an electronic signature. In practice this means a public-servant's computer becomes their main work tool, and the physical movement of documents to "for signature" trays is minimized. Electronic document management aims to improve governance in the field of education and to make the public service more efficient, modern and interesting by reducing bureaucratic procedures.      

Another important advantage of e-governance, is the prospect of creating a public information center for educational statistics for the timely collection, storage and dissemination of publicly available information about the education field. State educational policy based on reliable data, makes it possible to predict certain processes, identify issues, plan solutions and make efficient use of resources. Making statistical data publicly available can help to objectively evaluate the quality of work by educational institutions.
 
The USAID project "Ukrainian Transparent Education Management Alliance" (UTEMA) also includes plans to set-up an electronic financial reporting system for higher education institutions. Such a system will be developed and tested based on a pilot group of 5-7 universities, with the possibility of expanding the electronic financial reporting system to all higher education institutions in Ukraine.

Introduction of the electronic document management and electronic financial reporting is made possible by financial support from the US Agency for International Development USAID and Microsoft Ukraine as the technical partner. The electronic document management system of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine will serve a model of the system, which will be provided free-of-charge and adapted to the needs of MES.

News section on the MES website

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Establishment of National Council of Science and the National Research Fund was stipulated by the law "On Scientific and Scientific-Technical Activity" adopted in late 2015 and provided for in the Government's priority plans for the years up to 2020.
The establishment of National Fund and National Council has also received support from leading European experts, who conducted an independent international audit of research and innovation Ukraine, resulting in a report with recommendations.
 
To start the necessary changes in the management and funding of scientific research, the Government identified three key priorities for 2017:    

1)      Establishment of the National Council of Science and Technology;
2)      Establishment of the National Fund for Research and formation of its management;
3)      Setting out the legal framework for the process of establishing key state laboratories and awarding the titles of research university and "national" higher education institution.
 
The National Council must serve to unite the leaders of the scientific community and representatives of the major stakeholders interested in the development of the scientific field. The main function of the National Council will be to formulate strategic decisions on public policy in the research field.
 
The main function of the National Research Foundation should be to provide grant funding for scientific research and development for individual scientists, groups of scientists and institutions.
 
Plans for this year include approving the regulations, forming the Scientific Council and the appointing the management of the National Fund. Completing these procedures will enable the fund to effectively begin carrying out its direct duties, namely:
  • Supporting "centers of excellence" (research universities, national research centers, key laboratories)
  • Support for fundamental scientific research;
  • Supporting academic mobility and popularization of science.

During the years 2018-2020, the National Fund for Research should begin competitive project financing, coinciding with increased budget funding (expected to increase from UAH 200 million to UAH 1.0 - 1.5 billion per year).
 
There are also plans to establish a network of state key laboratories for specified areas of research and to award the status of "research university" to the best "national" status higher education institutions on a competitive basis.

News section on the MES website

 
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One of the priorities of school and curriculum reform is the introduction of a competence-based approach. Schools should teach children to use the knowledge and skills gained in the learning process to solve everyday problems and situations, and curricula should be formulated so that core competencies are embedded in the content of school education.
The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine is once again calling for support from civil society and calls on all interested parties to take part in public discussion of curriculum reform for grades 5-9.
 
Discussions will follow the last year's online format on the EdEra social platform, which proved itself during the reform process for primary school curricula. Curriculum reform will take place in several stages (schedule available here: https://www.ed-era.com/mon59/).    

The first session discussing the middle-school curriculum on the portal EdEra attracted participation from 909 authorized users, who left about 7 thousand comments and suggestions. According to statistics, the most-discussed subjects are "History", "Foreign literature" and "Mathematics" and the least discussed are Foreign languages.

According to the project coordinator, suggestions vary from calls for overall changes to clarifications of terms and the titles of topics. General discussion was more than productive. In most cases, the moderators managed to maintain constructive discussion and received numerous content posts.

By 7 March, working groups headed by moderators will consider proposals submitted by commentators, as well as work on implementing the competency-based approach. Key competencies such as learning ability, initiative and enterprise, environmental literacy and healthy lifestyle, and social and civic competence can be taught across all subjects.

There are plans to highlight cross-disciplinary topics such as "Environmental security and sustainable development", "Civil responsibility", "Health and Safety", "Entrepreneurship and financial literacy" in curricula. 

As a result, teachers will receive a set of teaching materials that can be used in addition to textbooks, not only to study topics from core subjects, but also to briefly examine cross-cutting themes. For example, children can be taught "entrepreneurship and financial literacy" as part of mathematics classes, by using exercises to calculate percentages in order to set their own budget or calculate interest on a loan.  

By 15 March the working groups will prepare new draft curricula, taking into account online discussions and cross-disciplinary themes. A table will also be prepared showing in detail which proposals were and weren't adopted as well as respective reasons.
 
News section on the MES website
Results of the first discussion session

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Of the 135 consolidated schools in Ukraine, 39 are found in combined municipalities (OTG). Already it is clear that consolidated schools can provide real results in improving education and learning conditions for children.
During the conference "From the establishment of combined municipalities to sustainable growth" the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Liliya Hrynevych summed up the first results and described the first "success stories" related to activities of consolidated schools in the regions.
 
"Among the brilliant examples of how consolidated schools affect children's lives, I am most struck by the story of one student. He studied 6 years in an under-equipped school. Only after he began to study at a consolidated school, was it discovered that he had a speech impairment. Teachers immediately began to look for the cause of the impairment. It was found that as the only child at a school and growing up in a single-parent family with no brothers and sisters, the boy's vocal chords had begun to waste away." Liliya Hrynevych told listeners.     

The Minister stressed, that this once again proves a simple and obvious truth: Schools exist for the benefit of children, not for the convenience of teachers, parents and administrators. It is important to make schools attractive for children. Especially when there is resistance from teachers who are afraid of losing their jobs, parents are better placed to identify real prospects for their children.

MES has been systematically improving the equipment of consolidated schools. In 2017, consolidated schools received educational grants amounting to UAH 300 million. In addition, consolidated schools received an additional UAH 300 million for classroom equipment and a separate EUR 200 million for school buses.
 
News section on the MES website

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