February 23, 2017

We Won’t Survive Without Science and Education

 

Bohdan Sokolovskyi

World experience shows that no independent state can exist without independent finance-banking system and energy sector. Everything else, inclusive with law enforcement agencies, can be created, developed, reduced, eliminated, etc. — depending on the state's need.

But development of our state depends largely on the level of national educational, scientific (scientific-technical and scientific-technological) sectors. The countries which used foreign achievements without developing their own education and science, eventually slowed down in their formation or even disappeared from the political map of the world. Such examples are many. In particular, a number of Asian countries of the 20th century.

Some successful countries in the period of their stagnation could not simultaneously develop their own science and education, but within the framework of a strategic approach would successfully use foreign potential. Maintaining the required level of some of these sectors (as a rule — fundamental science, and everything connected with it), they often created favorable conditions for importing “high” technologies and trained professionals, etc. To this end, they would let their citizens study abroad with further returning to the homeland for the best possible use of their knowledge and experience. Illustrative examples of this approach are China and Vietnam, and others.

The education system of the empires, part of which had been our territories, in particular the Soviet Union, was considered one of the best. Often it could be due to focusing on the exact sciences and the “letting down” humanitarian subjects, which in a certain way was a result of the official ideology. For example, the system of education of the Ukrainian nation was characterized by a high level of exact sciences because of “specific” approaches to the humanitarian subjects. This can be confirmed by citizens to received education during the Soviet occupation of Ukraine, when, for example, true facts were taken away from the official science.

Independent Ukraine inherited its education system mainly from the Soviet Union. Over the past 25 years it had been “Ukrainianized”, and at the same time had been modified by adjustment of the negative phenomena that took place in our modern history, in particular — the education system had got corrupted. Numerous drawbacks were often associated with the name of the Minister. But not only this is the main cause of the stagnation of the Ukrainian education. It should be noted that only for a relatively short period of time the Ministry of Education of Ukraine was headed by a Ukrainophobe. All other such Ministers were Ukrainophiles. However, with a different vision of the development of our education. But at all times its characteristic feature was lack of funding, etc.

Ministers of Education and Science of UkraineMinisters of Education and Science of Ukraine

Today, analyzing the state and local budgets of Ukraine for 2017, it is difficult to draw an objective conclusion regarding the improvement or deterioration of funding of the system of education. And this — despite the extraordinary efforts of the current and previous Ministry of Education. From the very beginning of the restoration of the Ukrainian state in the 1990s to the present day, the education system of the independent Ukraine has never become independent. In fact, it remains the same as it was needed by the empire.

In a word, it must be said that the Ukrainian education system (whether you like it or not) must be changed according to the needs of our state. No need to call it reforms, because it is a must-be basis of our State's development. It has to be developed thoroughly, to the smallest detail, by a special strategic group of politicians-statesmen and experienced representatives of teachers from all regions of Ukraine, etc. Here I must warn that this process will take not a year or two, but much more. Even more than the presidential term.

 

The same can be said about science. It is appropriate to note that the Ukrainian scientists and engineers directly and indirectly had made a significant contribution to the development of the above-mentioned branches in the empires to which we once belonged.

In this context, it would be easier to analyze the situation in the last empire, the Soviet one, where science, technical and technological sectors had been developing with an emphasis on the military component. The Soviet science, technical and technological spheres had been determining the military might of the Soviet Union. But other areas, such as non-military needs of citizens, as a rule, were ignored. In particular, the Soviet Union had been making ones of the best in the world rockets, but almost no perfect consumer goods such as televisions or recorders.

One of its peculiarities was to separate the academic science from higher education. Now it is difficult to objectively name the reasons for that separation — reliable primary sources either do not exist, or they are unavailable. But note that due to this de facto there was another very “efficient filter” for talents, which was often used by the authorities — not all who were recognized successful by the University, could get into the Soviet science, that is — into the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

By the way, in the time of the Ukrainian reality, it often turned out that the Ukrainian science, technical and technological sectors demonstrated high world achievements not needed in our country. Unfortunately, it should be noted that the Ukrainian science, technical and technological sectors are what they were in 1991, — “fragments” of the former USSR, — in fact, nothing has changed.

In other words, the Ukrainian science is a Soviet fragment. Neither its personnel policy nor organizational system, etc. has changed. The themes of researches are often “very interesting” for scientific or individual scientists and engineers, and almost irrelevant to our state. In the power structures the number of real scientists is constantly decreasing, which is one of the reasons for the State's inefficient tasks set to the science, their use, accounting and so on. At this, there is no doubt about the abilities and achievements of current Ukrainian scientists, engineers, technologists, technicians, etc. Simply, they are less and less able to influence the government's decision-making, because our State does not demand anything new from science, and scientists remain committed to that system, to which they have been accustomed from their early age. While history shows that only that state is perspective, in the government of which scientists are optimally presented, valued and have a noticeable influence. Otherwise, the state will be doomed, where science is not held in high esteem. So it was, for example, in the USSR, where for 20-25 years before its collapse, the government “had been getting rid of” real scientists, as more and more of them were determined and appointed to positions by the Party committees. In a word, the Ukrainian scientific, technical and technological sectors are developing in themselves while the state — in itself. Young and talented scientists often immigrate. And the average age of the scientists, as Academician B. Paton recently pointed out in his interview, increases.

One of the key issues is financing of the Ukrainian national science and technology. Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, sincerely caring about the problems of the national science at the beginning of the restoration of Ukraine's independence, December 13, 1991, adopted the Law №1977–XII on the scientific-technical activities, which specifies that from the state budget alone the Ukrainian science should be funded in the amount not less than 1.7 % of GDP. This law was particularly cared for by the then MPs I. Yukhnovskyi and P. Kyslyi. It should be noted that the part of this law about financing has not been implemented since its adoption, and to this day — the science gets from the state budget maximum 0.3 % of GDP annually. Later the above-mentioned amount of the state funding has been confirmed also by p. 2 of Article 48 of the Law of Ukraine №848–VIII of 26.11.2015. But this law, like the law of 1991, in financing science and scientific and technical activity of Ukraine is not being observed. THE LAW IS NOT BEING OBSERVED and no one is guilty! This could never happen in a developed country, in particular — in Germany or Poland.

There are many questions about the functioning and development of these Ukrainian sectors. To summarize, it should be admitted that the Ukrainian educational, scientific-technical, scientific-technological sectors have suffered a disaster. This fact is obvious, and it is now important to take measures to improve the situation. To find out why and “thanks” to whom we found ourselves in it? At least, in order to avoid such mistakes in the future, although these measures do not eliminate the catastrophe. Otherwise, we actually agree that someone through such methods destroys our country.

So, for the sake of further development, education and science in Ukraine should be immediately recognized strategic and should be paid special attention.

First of all, it is necessary to be guided, inter alia, by the following things:

  • To strictly observe the Ukrainian law in the sphere of education and scientific-technological activities;
  • The position of an employee in primary and secondary education should be prestigious, the salary included. We should not accept the fact that in Ukraine a teacher's salary is lower than the average one. The same with regard to salaries and all social conditions in higher education;
  • To create conditions for learning, gaining experience abroad and introducing it in Ukraine;
  • It is undeniable that it is necessary to unite education and science. In this context, there is a significant positive: the Ministry of Education and Science, rather than as before the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education, State Committee for Science&Technology and the like. Perhaps we should introduce foreign experience in the local context;
  • To change the personnel policy in the higher education and science, based on the needs of our State;
  • To create such conditions where the scientists could authoritatively influence the government's decision-making;
  • To introduce the practice of the State's setting tasks in the field of science, engineering and technologies.

Obviously, this requires a decent funding. It should not be at the expense of redistribution of modest costs for other sectors. Perhaps to address these priority issues we should study and use (where possible) the experience of the NRU of early 90-ies of the last century to eradicate smuggling, which is usually linked to the shadow economy. In other words, to additionally finance the education, science and other priorities by the standards provided by the legislation, are now due to de-shadowing the economy. By such measures we would achieve at least two goals: de-shadowing the economy and financing the priority sectors. When this resource gets dry, we should be guided by this method with respect to the above mentioned sectors from the state budget.

 

The easiest way to implement all the said about the Ukrainian national education and science would be to do it within the framework of a complete refoundation of our state. But now there is an urgent need to form a proper network, where, apart from politicians, should work experienced experts on primary and secondary education, higher education, science, scientific-technical and scientific-technological sectors. At this, the group of experts of this sphere should have the right to block decisions in it. In fact, this is what had to be done at the beginning of the restoration of Ukraine's independence.

 

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