MINSK, 21 September (BelTA) – Governors and local authorities should not keep themselves aloof from education issues, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at a meeting held on 21 September to discuss ways to improve the country's education system, BelTA has learned.
According to the head of state, governors need to keep education issues on the radar, since their area of responsibility goes far beyond agriculture.
“The Education Ministry is laying a certain track with new experience and so on. The governors, however, remain somehow in the shadows, but this is your area of responsibility as well. You know it better on the ground. The track is marked at the level of the Education Ministry, the government, and you need to act. It is not the minister who should repair your schools, it is you who should do it. It is not the minister's job to transport children. A decision has been made to allocate buses. Take a look at where these buses are used,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The president emphasized the importance of a cost-conscious approach to handling these issues. For example, school buses should be used only for school needs, and then they will last for many years. “We have our buses breaking down. I am just mentioning the latest hot topic. You, governors, need to figure out how the vehicles are used. As for the government, they receive proposals and immediately agree to allocate another 1,000 or 1,500 buses. You need to take good care of money,” the head of state said.
There are still problems with school catering. Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that the food should be high-quality, but there is no need to set up restaurants at schools. “Let's sort everything out here,” the president added.
According to the head of state, the situation in education should be monitored with the participation of supervisory bodies. “They should be with you at the finish line [preparation of educational institutions for the new academic year] and advise you on what needs to be done,” he said. “There is no need to put pressure on teachers and university administrators, it will not do any good. But demands [on heads of educational institutions] will be high. If God forbid something happens, directors will be held accountable,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Chairman of the State Control Committee Vasily Gerasimov and Prosecutor General Andrei Shved reported on the main problematic issues in the education sector.
The head of the State Control Committee, speaking about the process of preparing schools for 1 September, emphasized that there used to be school readiness passports that were signed by different agencies, and not only the Education Ministry. With time, the Education Ministry abandoned this practice.
“As a result, we have what we have: the documents are simply signed, even without visiting the place,” he said. “The State Control Committee together with the Prosecutor General's Office made a proposal to make such documents an interdepartmental act with a definite status, and to define school readiness criteria.”
Another proposal is to simplify the system of financing such works by analogy to what was once done in the housing and utilities sector with the organization of current and capital repairs. “Each district has its own construction organizations. There is no need to look for private companies all over the country to get two doors painted,” Vasily Gerasimov cited a figurative example.
Unsatisfactory condition of stadiums (especially in rural areas), as well as windows and roofs was named among the issues that still remain unresolved countrywide. As for school catering, there are facts of reduced portions, violation of technologies, and unpreparedness of catering facilities.
“As for the university admission system, we believe that the practices with centralized testing and recently-introduced centralized exams have proved efficient. If it was not for the recalculation of scores, we would not have faced any complaints from the society,” Vasily Gerasimov said. In his opinion, the university admission system should be improved. For example, some exams on humanities can be made oral. “In our opinion, it is not advisable to completely break the system,” he emphasized.
The prosecutor general mentioned systemic shortcomings in the education process. He believes that it is necessary to fundamentally change the system of signing school readiness certificates and outline the responsibility of officials who sign them. According to him, there are shortcomings in planning and financing current and capital repairs, in providing catering services. As for the assessment of the quality of textbooks and study aids, Andrei Shved emphasized the attempts to withdraw from fulfilling a specific task of improving the existing textbooks instead of publishing new ones. “We need comprehensible and universally recognized textbooks. For some reason the Education Ministry is moving away from the notion ‘textbooks'. There are only seven of them today, and the rest, more than 200, are study aids,” the prosecutor general cited an example. “People seem to simply make money at developing so-called guide aids, which, from our point of view, are largely out of reach with the secondary school.