History & Background
Ukraine is a state in eastern Europe situated between Russia and Poland and bordering the Black Sea. It occupies a territory of 231,990 square miles (600,852 square kilometers) with a population of over 51 million people. The most representative groups of the population are Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Belarusans, Moldavians, and Poles. Ukraine was a constituent republic of the USSR until it became independent in 1991. Its capital is Kiev with a population of 2.6 million people.
Ukrainian culture is a blend of eastern Slavic patterns and unique features developed during its long history. They speak a language in many ways similar to Russian and Belarusian and use the Cyrillic alphabet. From the ninth to the twelfth centuries most of the Ukrainian territory was part of Kiev Russia. The first schools of "book knowledge," which were intended for children of noble families, appeared under the Grand Prince Vladimir (980-1015). During the rule of Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054), literacy spread among different social groups. Poucheniya (precepts), which appeared in the eleventh to twelfth centuries, were the first samples of truly pedagogical works. The most famous precepts were created by Vladimir Monomakh (1053-1125), the Grand Prince of Kiev, who addressed them to his own children. In 1086 the first school for female students opened in Kiev. The Kiev-Pechersk monastery was the center of Old Russian chronicle writing.
The Mongol invasion (thirteenth to fifteenth centuries) had a destructive influence on the eastern Slavic cultural centers such as Kiev and Chernigov. In the fourteenth century the southwestern lands were occupied by Lithuanian feudals. National and religious oppression became especially strong in the sixteenth century after the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian state, Rzecz Pospolita. Jesuit collegiums and schools opened their doors for Catholics and Uniates, whereas the educational opportunities for the adherents of the Eastern Orthodox church were meager. The traditions of Ukrainian culture were continued by schools attached to monasteries in Kiev, Chernigov, Putivl, and other places. In 1572 the first Russian printer, Ivan Fyodorov, arrived in Lvov; two years later a printing house, established with his assistance, published the first Bukvar (ABC-Book). By 1678 Ukraine had over 20 printing houses, which published educational literature and other books.
Brotherhood schools, which emerged in Lvov (1585), Kiev (1615), Lutsk (1617), and other cities played an important part in the preservation of the Slavic cultural identity. They were not merely educational institutions, but cultural centers, which united progressive writers, poets, printers, and teachers. From the late sixteenth to the early seventeenth centuries, Ukraine had about 30 brotherhood schools. They published textbooks and organized teaching in the native language. The School Rules (Poryadok Shkol'ny) issued by the Lvov school are still considered to be an outstanding monument of educational thought. The 1648-1654 war, led by Bogdan Khmelnitsky, resulted in the reunification of Ukraine with Russia. Numerous parish schools were opened to promote literacy.
The late 1700s saw the emergence of shipbuilding, metallurgical, and other professional schools. Because of the division of Poland, which started in 1772, western Ukrainian lands were annexed by Austria. The educational reform brought about the formation of state primary ("trivial") and incomplete secondary ("main") schools with instruction predominantly in German. In parish schools the teaching was done in Polish and German; the Ukrainian language was largely neglected and regarded merely as a dialect of Polish. The progressive young people in Lvov formed a society, Russkaya troitsa, (Russian Trinity), which published an almanac promoting democratic ideas.
The Russian 1803-1804 educational reform brought about the formation of gymnasiums, as well as privileged educational institutions, lyceums, and Institutes for Noble Young Ladies. The latter emerged in Kharkov (1805), Poltava (1817), Odessa, and Kiev. Initial professional education was provided by specialized institutions: the Kiev Railway School, the Kherson School of Commercial Navigation, and the Yekaterinislav School of Gardening, as well as art and trade schools. Universities opened in Kharkov in 1805 and in Kiev in 1834. Two year teacher training courses affiliated with the universities followed suit.
The new educational institutions reflected European patterns, but at the same time incorporated distinctive features based on the long-standing traditions of Slavic culture. After the Decembrist uprising in St. Petersburg (1825), which shattered the foundations of Russian czarism, great educational work was done in Kiev by General M. F. Orlov. He headed a group called "Union of Welfare," used his own money to organize schools of mutual education, and developed new curricula and methodological materials.
The secret Cyril-Methodius Society, founded in the 1840s at Kiev University and headed by N. I. Kostomarov, aimed at spreading education among different social groups. The members of the society opened schools for peasant children and worked hard to create and publish textbooks for them. The society included a revolutionary democratic group led by the national poet Taras Shevchenko. The ideas of the French revolution of 1848 encouraged progressive educators to foster the teaching and use of the Ukrainian language in schools. In the 1850s primary schools in the Ukrainian territories had 67,000 students. The secondary education institutions were represented by 15 male gymnasiums, 2 lyceums, 3 cadet corps, and 5 female secondary schools. Instruction in most of the schools was carried out in Russian. The movement promoting education for common people and schools with Ukrainian as the language of instruction became especially strong in the 1850s. It initiated the opening of Sunday schools in Kiev and Kharkov, but in 1863 they were closed for political reasons. The same year the czarist government prohibited the publishing of books in the Ukrainian language and in 1876 the language's use in educational institutions. The educational reform of the 1860s stimulated the establishment of new institutions, the introduction of comparatively progressive methods of teaching, and the admission of children from different ranks of society to primary schools. From 1877 to 1898 the number of schools grew from 1,112 to 3,179. Higher courses for women wanting an education were opened in Kiev and Kharkov. According to the census of 1897, the literacy rate for ages 9 to 49 was 27.9 percent, (41.7 percent among men and 14 percent among women).
The 1905-1907 Russian Revolution encouraged the development of new progressive ideas. The organization Prosvita (Enlightenment), the All-Ukrainian Teachers Union, and the Kiev Society for Public Kindergartens began their activities; free libraries opened in different cities; and a higher teachers training institute for female students was founded in Kiev. Uchilishche, a new type of public secondary school with four years of instruction, quickly gained popularity; by 1916 300 existed in various parts of the country.
In western Ukraine, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian state, the educational opportunities for Ukrainians were scarce; the majority of the people were illiterate, and primary schools had only one grade. Most of the teaching was done in German, Polish, Hungarian, and Romanian; in 1911-1912, out of 134 general education schools only 11 had Ukrainian as the language of instruction. By 1914-1915 Ukraine (within its modern borders) had approximately 26,000 general education institutions, including 25,000 primary, 386 incomplete secondary, 577 complete secondary, and 88 specialized secondary schools for a total of 2,600,000 students.
After the Revolution of 1917, education developed rapidly. In July 1920 Narkompros (People's Commissariat of Education) of Ukraine published The Declaration on Social Education of Children, which initiated the introduction of a new educational system. Its basic unit was a seven year school that combined Communist education with productive labor. The new system rejected all of the pre-Revolutionary educational experience: textbooks were seen as a redundancy ("life is better than textbooks"); the family was regarded as a bourgeois survival, which had to be eliminated; and regular schools were almost totally phased out in favor of children's homes and communes. The idea of Communist discipline was epitomized by Anton Makarenko, the famous educator who managed to achieve great success in colonies for minors and juvenile delinquents.
In the 1920s the entire educational system had a pronounced vocational character. It envisages an extensive development of PTUs (professional technical schools). School clubs provided professional training and organized excursions, lectures, literary gatherings, and musical parties. Rabfaks (workers faculties) were attached to higher educational institutions specifically to train students from working class families. Beginning with the early 1920s, the society "Away with Illiteracy!" provided basic training for adults. By 1939 the literacy rate was claimed to be 88.2 percent. In 1924 there were 136 nursery schools and kindergartens attended by 6,000 children. The Research Institute of Pedagogy of the Ukrainian SSR, which was formed in 1926, started to advance educational theory and methodology. The reshaping of the educational system in the 1930s gave technicums (technical schools) the status of secondary specialized institutions; it also brought about the creation of new industrial, agricultural, economic, pedagogical, and medical higher educational establishments. Schooling for children aged 8 to 15 became compulsory. By 1932-1933 the number of people embraced by education had doubled as compared to 1928-1929 and reached 4.5 million.
At the same time about 80 percent of the population in Western Ukraine was illiterate; over 30 percent of children did not attend schools; and only 5 percent of students were getting education in the Ukrainian language. The reunification of Ukraine in 1939 resulted in the establishment of new schools, promotion of literacy for adults, and instruction in the native tongue. By 1940-1941 Ukraine had 6,900 preschools with 319,000 children; 30,800,000 general education schools with 6.6 million students and 250,000 teachers; 690 secondary specialized schools with 196,000 students; and 129 higher educational institutions with 124,400 students.
The advancement of education miraculously coexisted with the Stalinist political terror. Thousands of intellectuals became victims of mass repression. The indoctrination of Communist ideology at educational institutions reached its peak. Anyone who dared express an opinion different from the official point of view was subject to being imprisoned, executed, or sent to a concentration camp. During the Second World War, the Nazi troops completely destroyed over 8,000 schools; 10,000 more schools were partially ruined.
In spite of all the misfortunes, deaths, and cataclysms brought about by the war, the network was quickly restored. By 1945-1946 there were over 28,000 general education schools with 5 million people. The deStalinization of the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev had a profound influence on the political and cultural life in Ukraine. The content of education changed significantly. The transference to universal, compulsory, eight year schooling was completed by 1960-1961. The activities of the prominent teacher and scholar Vassily Suhkomlinsky, who made special emphasis on civil and ethical aspects of education, aroused great public interest, as well as sharp criticism from the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences. Sukhomlinsky, a school director, considered the child's personality to have the highest value in the process of teaching and upbringing. He saw the main goal of education in the realization of the students' inborn qualities, spontaneous reactions, and impulses. He also paid special attention to society as the context of education and included ethical categories in pedagogy.
The social apathy of the 1980s, the lack of diversity, and the predominance of indoctrination programs resulted in the crisis of the educational system. The attempted educational reform of 1984 proved to be ineffective, but the significant changes attained after the initiation of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) under the Soviet leader Mihkail Gorbachev continued after the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991.
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