Romania - Constitutional & Legal Foundations
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CONSTITUTIONAL & LEGAL FOUNDATIONS
Although Romania was one of the first countries with a compulsory education system, under socialism, education was centralized, Marxist-based, and free. The centralization of education allowed for teaching communist party ethics and was, a very important role of government. At the local level, the education section of the local communist party administered education. The local communist party Executive Committees of the County People's Councils housed these education sections (Braham 1972). These People's Councils, as well as the education sections, usually acted in accordance with general guidelines or instructions that were issued by the Party and by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education was the central government body charged with implementing education policy.
After the revolution in 1989, the Ministry of Education became the Ministry of National Education (MoNE) and the Constitution in Romania changed as the state moved from socialism to a progressively market oriented economy. Under the new Constitution of 1991, Romania provides a right to education regardless of social background, sex, political and religious affiliation, and any other restrictions that might injure any human right (The Educational System in Romania 2001). Therefore, one can see the change in constitutional emphasis in the language surrounding political and human rights equality issues. The prereform constitution also mentioned a right to education and equality of education for minorities. However, the constitution used separation of church and state language to prohibit religious education.
Three Important Historical Foundations of Romanian Education: There are three very important legal and historical foundations of Romanian education today. The first Romanianization of education came through communist party education or "party teaching." The second Romanianization of education began in the 1950s where minority ideas were suppressed (e.g., the rooting out of Hungarian language education). The third important influence was the emphasis of Romanian education on industrial education at the expense of agricultural and other disciplines.
The Intelligentsia: Party Education Under Communism: With the increased nationalism in Romania in the 1960s, the Romanian Communist Party (RCP) saw a need in the early 1970s for more "revolutionary consciousness." In the 1960s, cooption was used to bring intellectuals into the party. These intellectuals consisted of 46 percent of engineers and 50 percent of all teachers (Shafir 1985). As a result of this, there was a fear by Ceausescu of a "red" versus "expert" split in the country. This fear of a "narrow professionalism" among party members led to a minicultural revolution in 1971. The cultural revolution was used to bring the political minorities into the party that had wished to push beyond party limits on free speech. Thus, in 1971, the Stephen Gheorghiu Academy for Social and Political Education was reorganized to provide "party higher education" in order to produce individuals with satisfactory professional qualifications and correct ideological values. This reorganization led to two divisions of party education: one in charge of scientific management and the other in charge of party and mass organization.
In addition, in 1972, the RCP adopted a code of communist ethics. Party education was necessary for establishing the intelligentsia that comprised government offices and positions in education. "Party teaching," was used to improve the level of RCP members and to create a loyal intelligentsia that would influence political and social life in the state. Party higher education under the Academy was up to four years long and was regarded as a major step toward their party careers. As a result of this, the totalitarian vision from the party was an emphasis on science and industrial education that prepared young people for industrial jobs (Gallagher 1995).
In the 1980s, as democratic movements began to assert themselves in Eastern Europe, party education became more important in Romania. In 1982, the Political Education Committee (PEC) recognized the poor efforts of party education and trained a group of propagandists that visited each county and spent four days a month training and educating local propagandists. These locals did "party teaching." Party members were often forced to attend sessions or classes after work or school. One significant problem with the failure to "party teach" was that a plurality (47 percent) of all members had not yet completed high school. By 1983, over 200,000 party members had graduated from party schools (Shafir 1985).
Suppression of Minorities in Education: Romanianization was the primary policy beginning in the second communist wave of the 1950s. Assimilation, and even elimination, of ethnic and political minorities was a policy that had a great impact on Romanian education in the Ceausescu years and in the reform years after his reign. Shafir notes that three primary policies aided in the suppression of minorities in education. First, education was used to assimilate Romanian ethics into Transylvania and to disperse non-Romanian ethics out of the region. Second, there was a policy and history of shrinkage of the number of schools providing education in minority languages (e.g., Hungarian and German). Third, there was a promotion of Romanian as the national language in early nationalist and communist politics.
For example, from the 1970s to the 1980s, minimum numbers of 25 students in primary schools and 36 students in secondary schools were required before a class could be open to minority language instruction (Shafir 1985). This rule did not apply to Romanian language classes. In universities, minority language teaching was regulated by a provision that university study groups for minority languages could only be established if there was a minimum of 15 students. However, students were distributed among groups so that group numbers rarely reached 14 students.
In addition, the Educational Reform of 1973 was geared to transform the education system by making it two-thirds technical and one-third humanities in order to keep up with industrialization. However, as of 1985, this policy had not been applied to Hungarian language instruction. Because technical courses were only taught in the Romanian language, this further isolated Hungarian students in Romania from educational development (Romania: Language, Education, and Cultural History 2001). In 1974, only 1.4 percent of technical instruction was in Hungarian. From 1974 to 1985, only one out of four technical schools taught in minority languages and technical textbooks were rarely translated out of the Romanian language (Shafir 1985). Thus, Hungarian and German parents tried to register their children in Romanian language schools. This led to complaints by some party members, so Ceausescu had these applicants rejected when they applied to technical schools.
The educational foundation under communist and totalitarian Romania was a Romanianization of minority languages in education. In addition, non-Romanians were filtered away from training that would achieve for them the more important industrial jobs in Romanian society. With educational reform after the 1989 revolution, politically active Hungarians demanded steps toward inclusion in the education system. One very important demand was the reconstitution of Bolyai University (Gallagher 1995). The merger of Bolyai with the Romanian Babes University had eroded Hungarian language teaching in higher education and this became a major issue among education reforms in the 1990s.
Emphasis on Industrial Education: In the late 1960s Romania began to emphasize industrial and technical education. This, to some, came at the expense of training in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. This became a real issue for reform in the post-Ceausescu era and had a great effect on the education levels of rural students.
Much of the Romanian workforce in 1981 commuted from rural areas to fill industrial jobs in the cities (Shafir 1985). Most of these workers, however, were very poorly educated and unskilled laborers. Seventy percent of these workers were said to have only four years of elementary education. The migration of these undertrained workers to the city led to a real problem with fewer (and also poorly trained) workers in rural areas for agricultural jobs. As of 1982, there were lower levels of education for agricultural workers and agricultural jobs were low in income and low in prestige. Only children who did not pass entrance exams to other schools would attend agricultural schools; half of those who graduated from agricultural schools went to work in rural villages; and only 15 percent of these would be in agricultural jobs two to three years later.
Reform under Ceausescu attempted to remedy the rural and agricultural drain. One reform was to require most students who graduated the eighth grade in rural schools to attend high school (especially the vocational and agricultural variety) in their own areas. This was done to slow rural migration and the harm to the agricultural sector of the economy. A second reform was a decree that retired citizens and school children must help with agricultural work during the peak agricultural season. During peak farming months children aged 10 and above would work the fields and schools would close (if need arose) in order to weed the fields (Shafir 1985).
Therefore, Romanianization in party education, minority education, and industrial education had its effects on the education system. Party education became formal for members and it was an important socializing force for the creation of an intelligentsia that would become teachers and professors under Ceausescu. Party education also emphasized the necessity for scientific and industrial advancement that forced changes in the curricula of Romanian schools. This emphasis on industrial economy also led to serious problems with education in the agricultural sectors of society. Education in Romania had a very firm and important effect on assimilating minorities into a centralized Romanian culture. This was done, in part, by reforms that harmed the ability of minorities to study in their own languages.