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Romania - Educational System—overview

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceRomania - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


In discussing Romanian education, it is quite important to provide an overview of education before the democratic revolution in 1989. The political reforms in 1989 greatly shaped the education system today.

Education Before 1989: Education in socialist Romania was a key component of socialist society and was centrally controlled. Every student from nursery school to graduate school was taught in a socialist environment controlled by the state and attendance was compulsory up through secondary school (Rabitte 2001). The centralized education system provided one notable success—literacy rates were estimated at 98 percent during communist rule (U.S. Department of State 2000).

The Ministry of Education (MOE) set the curriculum and the curriculum was heavily influenced by communist doctrine. The Ministry also planned the number of students who would be accepted at institutions. Students were generally free to apply to the school that they chose, but acceptance was regulated by the state. The number of pupils to be accepted at schools of each level was planned during the summer by the MOE for the school year beginning in September (Rabitte 2001). The MOE and the state declared that all schools had the same quality of education, but it was clear that technical schools were the emphasis of the state. Agricultural and rural schools had fewer resources and were not sought after like technical schools, which included the sciences and engineering.

Education reforms in the 1970s provided a heavy emphasis on technical schools at a ratio of two-thirds technical schools to one-third humanity schools. This was, in part, due to Ceausescu's belief that study of the humanities was a waste of state resources and that intellectuals were not productive members of society like those trained in industry. The emphasis on technical education is exemplified by the different tracks of curricula available to students entering high school. Technical schools, at the high school level, were divided into three types and students were selected for these on the basis of entrance exam scores. The best students were placed into physics and math curricula, middle grade students were placed into electronics, and the lower level students were trained in mechanics (Rabitte 2001). Each high school student was also compelled to complete a one-month internship or apprenticeship per trimester.

Despite the technical emphasis of education, Rabitte (2001) notes that the curriculum was well balanced—even by Western standards. Students balanced their technical training with courses in Romanian literature and language, two additional foreign languages, history, sports, geography, biology, and drawing. It is not surprising that international estimates of literacy rates were reported so high. Schools taught the English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian languages. However, Russian was not taught in schools because of Ceausescu's severance of ties with the Soviet Union during the late 1960s.

Religious and private schooling was nonexistent in communist Romania and so the state curriculum was geared toward communist indoctrination. Courses were taught on the politics and economics of capitalism and socialism. The MOE selected the educational curriculum and books. Teaching methods focused on memorization of material for state exams. Very little emphasis was placed on critical thinking (Rabitte 2001).

Reform: Education After 1989: With the 1989 democratic revolution that brought down communism, the Romanian education system began the process of reform. Education reform was adopted, but implementation of that reform was a slow process. Shortly after the revolution, libraries were emptied of their communist writings and these were burned in the streets. This, of course, left the system with a need for newer, reform oriented books—a process that would take some time. In fact, Rabitte (2001) tells us that it took until 1992 for democratic reform textbooks to begin to show up in schools. Market reforms allowed several new publishing houses to open up and print books for the new national curriculum.

A great number of the qualified teachers in Romania during the immediate postrevolution were members of the communist intelligentsia and/or the communist party. Therefore, the implementation problem that existed in the postrevolution continued in a number of schools because new curricula had not been swiftly adopted and communist ideas remained among the teachers. One interesting reform allowed students the opportunity to dismiss teachers and professors that were not changing with society. In addition, all teachers who were active members of the communist party were forced to retire from teaching (Rabitte 2001).

One of the immediate reforms of education was to rid the country of socialist ideology classes. Religious education and other private schools began to emerge from socialism. Included in this was a growth of private universities. However, many of these schools were quite expensive for locals and the curricula were considered by some to be "fly by night." Many who graduated found that their degrees were not valuable in the market. As reform continued, there were improvements in the private universities and many became nationally accredited. Rabitte (2001) suggests that these institutions have improved greatly and have sunk much of their profits into internal, capital improvements.

State run universities and their curricula also came under reform. Reisz (1994) argues that the initial reform of universities in the 1990s was an expansion of academic freedom. These included a development of new disciplines by academics along with the fall of barriers to international information (e.g., by the Internet). In particular, reform toward a more open society included a new emphasis on business, and the arts and humanities in education. However, the new government in 1991 continued to promote the industrialization of Romania and technical education remained important. This meant deemphasizing fields such as health and education to fund industrial priorities. These implementation problems are of particular concern to rural areas that are underfunded and without good facilities and textbooks. Raisz (1994) argues that the early reform experiment of "absolute freedom" in curricular affairs was considered to be unsuccessful. Therefore, he suggests that academics in Romania have been held back by the Ministry of National Education and that this signals a return to more central control over education in Romania.

The Romanian curriculum also changed from an emphasis on memorization to an emphasis on critical thinking. International experts aided Romania with this transition in urban areas. However, this transition has been slower in the rural areas where teachers still follow the old teaching techniques. In higher education, Rabitte (2001) suggests that many university courses follow the American model of curriculum and testing. There was also a new emphasis on international education and international exchanges of both faculty and students.

Despite reform efforts since the 1989 revolution, many problems persist including what has been termed as "chaotic growth" (Smith 1995). Student enrollments increased from 164,505 in 1988-1989 to 256,690 in 1992-1993; the number of faculties tripled; and private universities grew to 73 by 1995. Along with this growth came a serious shortage of teachers. The number of teaching positions grew from 14,485 to 31,249 from 1989 to 1993. However, although the positions grew by 116 percent, the number of positions filled only grew by 64 percent. This becomes even more significant with the growth of student hours to 36-hour attendance weeks that are above other western schools.

Resources for education after the revolution improved overall and there was adoption of new curricula that was more democratic in focus. However, adoption does not mean implementation. The education system has been slow to change because efforts and budget priorities have focused on the construction of a market economy, a change in politics, and a continued emphasis on industrialization, technology, and business.

In 1990 Romania put forth objectives for educational reform. Wilson Barrett (1995-96) discusses the reform mission put forth in 1990 by Romania as a series of reforms that were in line with other national reforms (constitutional, political, economic, and social). The following objectives had priority. One was decentralization of educational administration by delegating responsibilities to inspectors and school principals; by increasing university autonomy and the accountability of education through a system of public responsibility for efficiency; and by creating boards to facilitate the participation of local officials, parents, trade, and industry. Other very important priorities included: modernization of education finance, reorganization of teacher training, restructuring of vocational and secondary technical schools, modification of curricula including books, and the abolition of the state monopoly over textbooks. Along with granting more autonomy, Romania also prioritized higher education reform to include academic evaluation, accreditation, and new financing systems. Finally, new government institutions were set up to implement education reform. These included the Department of Reform, Management, and Human Resources (under the Ministry of Education); the establishment of teacher centers in each county; regional managers of reform at the local level; a network of pilot schools organized by the Institute for Educational Services; the National Council for Educational Reform; and the National Council for Evaluation and Accreditation.

In a 1992 article, Dr. Gheorghe Stefan, the Minister of Education and Science recognized that early education reform in Romania necessitated building the "bones" of educational-legal foundations and that the "flesh" would be added later. Education reform in Romania is rather new and it will take time for reform goals to be adequately implemented in Romanian society. There have been great changes that have occurred very quickly in Romanian political and economic life. Education reform has been no different and in the future there will be typical implementation problems that occur when a country experiences societal upheaval.

School Technology: School technology has been a real problem in the pre- and post-reform eras of education. In a 1992 multiple case study of technology in schools, Diamandi wrote about a case study of a school in Bucharest, Romania. In his introduction, Diamandi argues that Romanian education was still dominated by the informative rather than formative style of educating. Technology was one way of providing formative education in schools.

With the enormous growth of students and a lack of resources, Romania has had problems affording and introducing computing into the classroom. In 1984, Romania introduced computer use into the education system. This occurred once national production of personal computers began in Romania. The first introduction of computers to the classroom consisted of: 1) the introduction of elementary computing within mathematics that included informatics and BASIC programming; 2) familiarizing the younger generation with new technologies through computer camps and special informatics classes (Again, BASIC was the primary language); and 3) research and financial support from government agencies to develop educational software and use of computers with pupils (Diamandi 1992). The central problem with these initiatives was the computer technology was not widely sold to the public and PC technology was quite expensive. Therefore, small school budgets and lack of a national program to introduce technology led to a very poor record of technology in schools.

To correct this, in 1985 the Ministry of Education endowed a number of secondary schools with Sinclair-Spectrum compatible computers. This endowment led to the production of other Sinclair-Spectrum compatible systems and spurred a market in Romania. However, Diamandi (1992) points out that these systems were inadequate because of shortcomings such as a nonstandard operating mode, small internal memory capacity, and external data storage via tape.

Because of these issues, computer use was hard to integrate into the curriculum in the late 1980s in part because of poor hardware and because of the overuse of older languages such as BASIC.

The state of technology in 1992 was also problematic. Technology was integrated in the schools in a "top-down" fashion from secondary schools down to primary and elementary schools. These latter schools were not the priority schools and they did not obtain adequate technology (Diamandi 1992). Even at the secondary level, computing technology was a priority in the "Informatics Secondary Schools" and those that emphasized math. Another problem at all school levels is that technology was integrated into the curricula by local teachers that were poorly trained in computer use and instruction. Finally, there were problems in obtaining software for computing. Despite this, however, Diamandi argues that the computer skills of young people have made remarkable progress.

Some changes by the Institute for Computers (ITC) have been to project the requirements for producing hardware and software in Romania. In addition, since 1984, the ITC has fostered research on technology in schools that includes the testing of computers used in the schools and developing applications for the classroom. They have also researched and created courses for computing. Finally, there has been ongoing research that is based in schools with respect to integration of computing into the classroom.

In the late 1990s, the Ministry of National Education brought forth a new commitment to technology in Romanian schools in its creation of the Program for the Implementing of Information and Communications Technologies in Pre-University Education (Information and Communication Technology in Romanian Education System 2001). The core emphases of this program are to integrate technology into a national curriculum, train teachers in information and communication technology, provide computer technology to schools, and create partnerships with business and other organizations (e.g., NGOs and charities).

Education Rights: Every Romanian citizen is afforded a right to an education and that right extends to social class, sex, political affiliation, religion, and any other possible injury to human rights (The Education System in Romania 2001). Education is compulsory for eight years and access to education at all levels is open and free to citizens. The state also provides financial support to pupils that obtain very good grades and/or that prove special abilities in their field.

Education is provided in the Romanian language at all levels. However, given the past educational policies aimed at Hungarians, Romania provides the right for national minorities to be educated in their native tongue. Romanian education now consists of both public and private alternatives.

The education structure consists of preschool education (three levels of small, intermediate, and big); primer education grades (grades 1-4); secondary education with two levels (secondary school: grades 5-8; high school: grades 9-12); intermediary education (post-high school); and higher education (graduate and postgraduate).

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