Basic secondary education covers a period of 5 years past primary school with 190 school days a year, plus 3 weeks of examinations and tests at the end of the ninth grade (last year of study). The program of study is specified every academic year by the Ministry of Education. This defines the core part of the curriculum for all the schools in the territory of Ukraine. The curricula are published in periodicals and newsletters intended for schoolteachers and administrators. The annual study load is from 860 to 1030 hours, depending on the grade. They are divided between obligatory subjects, established by the Ministry of Education, and optional disciplines, introduced on the school level (four to five hours a week). In the fifth grade all the students have classes of the Ukrainian or other native languages and literature; foreign language and literature; mathematics and basics of computer science; Ukrainian history; nature study; music; art; physical training; household arts; and health education. Other subjects are gradually added on at different levels of instruction: world history, geography and biology in the sixth grade; physics in the seventh grade; chemistry in the eighth grade; and so on. Each subject is taught by a different teacher. The weekly number of hours devoted to every discipline is from one to five. The schedule is different every day. All the lessons are attended by the whole class, which can include 5 to 30 people. Students are divided into subgroups for the study of foreign languages. An evaluation is made at the end of each quarter and based on the students' current performance, as well as final tests. In order to be promoted to the next grade, students have to complete the requirements in all the subjects. Otherwise, they have to repeat the previous grade. At the end of the ninth grade all the students take final examinations, which culminate the program of basic secondary education. Ninety-six percent of young people in Ukraine get basic secondary education, most of them by the age of 15.
The curriculum at the upper secondary level includes more sophisticated subjects and allows for greater individual choice of disciplines. Students are evaluated on a semester basis. At the end of the eleventh grade, all the students are required to take their final examinations. If they pass them successfully, they are awarded a Certificate of Secondary Education, which is a prerequisite for entry to higher educational establishments of the third and fourth accreditation levels (institutes, academies, and universities). Students with all "fives" for all the semesters of the upper secondary level are awarded gold medals, and those who have one or two "fours" among all other excellent marks receive a silver medal. The majority of general education schools enroll full time students. However, those who wish to combine education with work can study part time at night or in correspondence schools.
The innovative types of schools include gymnasiums, which offer comprehensive classical education, and lyceums, giving specialization in a certain area of knowledge. These institutions are becoming highly prestigious. In 1998-1999 Ukraine had 243 gymnasiums and 268 lyceums. A specifically Ukrainian type of institution is a collegium or "an upper school" with philologically, philosophically, and aesthetically oriented education. Approximately 3,000 schools with over 500,000 students provide in-depth instruction in certain subjects.
The emergence of non-traditional schools reflects the adjustment of the Ukrainian school system to an unprecedented expansion and diversification. Boarding schools, intended for the chosen few in the nineteenth century and deemed to be "the school of the future" during the Soviet times, now cater to the needs of orphans, children without proper parental care, or students from remote areas who have no school within a reasonable distance from home. Other boarding, "forest," and sanatorium-type schools enroll students with physical and mental disabilities, speech defects, and other health problems. They provide both general education that has been adjusted to the students' special needs and medical treatment.
The political and economic reforms of the 1990s brought to Ukraine independence, freedom of choice, and the transition to a market economy. They initiated major changes in the educational system based on deideologization, connection with national culture, and the introduction of new subjects into the school curricula. On the other hand, many areas of life, especially those financed from the state budget, are experiencing serious difficulties. Insufficient financing and social problems are distracting public attention from the educational system. As a result, school buildings are falling apart; equipment and library funds are outdated. In the mid-1990s only 40 percent of students were provided with the necessary textbooks. The state satisfies only 7 to 10 percent of the schools' need for technical equipment. Teacher morale is low because of the absurdly small salaries and lengthy delays in their payment. Due to the lack of space, in the 1990-1995 period, the number of students studying on a shift schedule increased by 45,000. The rural urban divide continues to grow, as innovations hardly reach village schools. Non-traditional educational institutions are predominantly situated in the cities. The difference in the quality of education is drastic; rural young people cannot compete with their city peers at the entry examinations to universities. Because of alcoholism and other medical and social problems, the number of mentally retarded children and juvenile delinquents is growing.
The Law on General Secondary Education (1999) emphasized the necessity to coordinate the interests of Ukrainian society and the state, improve the quality of education, provide for a greater independence of educational institutions, develop a more diverse spectrum of schools, and create opportunities for entering the European and world educational community. Among other steps, the governmental program envisages the transition to 12 year general education schooling. The upper secondary school will include three grades. At this stage, students will have a chance to specialize in the areas of knowledge connected with their future studies at the university level. The reform will also deal with the development of state standards and the introduction of the best world educational experiences in Ukrainian secondary schools. The presidential decree On Governmental Support to the Training of Specialists for Rural Areas, as well as other statutes and regulations, aim at bridging the gap between rural and urban schools.
The Law on Professional Education, adopted in 1998, outlines the legal basis of the system of vocational training. The schools, which make up part of the network, can either provide a professional education or its combination with general secondary education. The prerequisite for entry into vocational training institutions is successful completion of basic secondary school (nine grades). The length of study is one year if it involves only vocational training and from three to four years if it is accompanied by general secondary education. Initial job qualifications are acquired from professional technical schools (PTU), agricultural schools, factory schools, and other institutions attached to enterprises or collective farms where students can get on the job training. The secondary professional level is represented by uchilishcha, which give education both in production and nonproduction areas (art, pedagogy, music, medicine, and other related subjects). Other types include special institutions for students with physical and mental disabilities, which provide them with vocational skills appropriate for their medical condition; social rehabilitation schools intended for juvenile delinquents; and centers of personnel training and retraining. In the 1990s technicums and colleges, which also used to belong to the system of secondary vocational training, were given the status of higher educational institutions.
The academic year consists of 40 weeks and is divided into semesters. The weekly study load is 36 hours. The curricula include several blocks of subjects: science, humanities, professional theoretical, and professional practical disciplines. The educational process is organized in the form of lectures, seminars, laboratory work, individual study projects, reports, and excursions. Theoretical and practical instruction is combined with productive work in shops, factories, training grounds, and subsidiary farms. In the mid-1990s the network had approximately 11,000 specially equipped classrooms, 3,000 laboratories, and approximately 7,000 training grounds. Agricultural PTUs owned 70,000 hectares (175,000 acres) of land, as well as 16,000 tractors, automobiles, and combines. Graduation is preceded by the defense of a diploma project and qualification exams. Specialists from the enterprises, which work in conjunction with the schools, are represented on the State Examination Board and control the professional level of the graduating students.
The new socioeconomic conditions account for significant changes in the system of vocational training. They stimulate the introduction of new specialties attractive for students and required by the job market, the development of the state educational standards, and partial transition from state to non-state funding. The most popular specialties among male PTU graduates are: auto mechanic, electrician, TV repair, electric welder, radio mechanic, and carpenter. Those among female graduates are salesclerk, hairdresser, house painter, tailor, and secretary.
Teachers working in the system of vocational training are graduates of secondary or higher engineering and pedagogical institutions, as well as the Republic Institute of Advanced Training for Teachers of Professional Technical Schools. In 1995-1996 there were 60,000 people employed in the network, including 18,000 teachers and 30,000 masters of production training. Forty-five percent of the masters had an advanced professional qualification, while 39 percent had been trained in 2 or more specialties. The head of a vocational school is a director, appointed by a corresponding ministry or agency. It is a competitive contract position. The director's responsibilities encompass the supervision of the academic process, creation of appropriate conditions for training specialists, introduction of progressive educational forms, and control of the school's finance. The director reports to the school meeting or conference, which is the highest organ of the institution's self-government.
Since 1990 the financial state of vocational training institutions has significantly deteriorated; the equipment is inadequate and there are no funds for the renovation of the buildings and other facilities. In 1994-1995 low salaries and unsatisfactory working conditions forced over 3,000 teachers to leave their jobs; the total number of vacancies reached 7,000. From 1991 to 1996 the network lost 108 schools. In spite of all the negative tendencies, the system of vocational training still renders social protection to young people. In 1997-1998, some 55,000 orphans and 200,000 students from low-income families were provided dormitories, free food, and medical service. The network owns dispensaries, recreation centers, and sports camps. Students who attend agricultural schools receive small state allowances and free transportation passes. Good and excellent students get privileges in admission to higher educational institutions. On the average, 84 percent of students are provided with job placement. In the situation of an economic crisis, the retraining of unemployed adults acquires special significance. In 1996 the network trained approximately 264,000 and retrained 271,000 people.
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