The final International Conference of the Project took place on December, 7 in Vinnitsa

On December 7, the final International Conference “The educational system management of local communities: V4 countries experience for Ukraine” was held in Vinnytsia within the framework of the project of the same name.

The project is implemented by the NGO “Resource and information center “Communities of Vinnytsia region”. The project is co-funded by the governments of the Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through the Visegrad Grants of the International Visegrad Fund.

There were about 130 participants in the event – representatives of partner organizations, including from the countries of the Visegrad, government officials and educators.

Andrii Kavunets, the head of the Resource and information center “Communities of Vinnytsia region”, informed the conference participants that the project was aimed at improving the efficiency of the management of the educational system of the territorial communities of Ukraine by disseminating the experience of the best practices of the Visegrad countries. According to the NGO head, the idea of the project appeared during the implementation of other projects aimed at developing local self-governments.

– Few years ago we implemented a project in order to build the Academy of Capacity Building of Local Communities. In the past year, in cooperation with the Euroregion “Dniester” we implemented a project to elaborate territorial development strategies. And we realized that one of the most urgent problems of local self-government bodies is the provision of high-quality educational services,- explained A.Kavunets.

Sergii Tatusiak, the chairman of the NGO “Euroregion “Dniester”, which was a partner in the implementation of the initiative, emphasized that the project would not be possible to implement without active cooperation with the local authorities.

– Our team is working today in cooperation with local self-government bodies. I am sincerely grateful to the rural and local leaders who are happy to respond to all project activities. Also, Vinnitsa Regional State Administration ensures a considerable support. Today we can say that we are the force that is actively working on the implementation of European standards of life in the field of education, and economy, – stressed S.Tatusiak.

Deputy Chief of the Department of Education of Vinnytsia Regional State Administration Olena Chorna noted that the reform of education is accompanied by a number of problems and the experience of the Visegrad countries will help resolve them.

– Thanks to the examples shared by Visegrad experts, we will have at least two ways to solve one or another problem. Today we have 794 institutions of general secondary education, more than 161 thousand students, and more than 17 thousand teachers. We need to bring to the attention of this educational community the progressive ideas that the international community is proposing today – said O. Chorna.

The Vice-Consul of the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Vinnytsia, Sebastian Delura, noted that the topic of the project is very relevant.

– European and Ukrainian legislation in this area is constantly changing. Cooperation with the Visegrad countries is an integral part of Ukrainian politics. An important place in this is occupied by changes in the field of education. The main priority of the Visegrad Fund has always been the support of educational and cultural projects, – said S.Delura.

Head of the Wielkopolski Centre for Local Government Education and Studies in Poland, Maciej Kozik, said that the process of reforming the education sector is a long-term one.

– I have been living for quite a long time in this world. And as far as I live, so much is the reform of education in Poland is going. Each new government starts to reform. Sometimes it’s reforms for reform, and sometimes it needs a constantly changing world, – explained the Polish partner.

Director of the Rural Workshop Foundation from Hungary, Sandor Koles, noted that it is necessary to take not only positive practices, but learn from the Visegrad countries’ mistakes.

– That you know how not to do. In Hungary, hundreds of thousands of people work in the field of education. This “machine” is large and powerful, and it is very difficult to implement reforms there. Therefore, it is very important to prepare each reform, because the results can be unpredictable and tangible only after 20 years, – explained the Hungarian partner.

Stepan Suchy, Executive Director of the Institute for Stability and Development of the Czech Republic, noted that the topic of reforming the education sector concerns everyone.
– I can say with certainty that education and school are one of the most important things in our lives. I hope this project will contribute and improve our lives. Particularly important are those discussions that will take place today, because ideas are born in discussions, – said S. Suchy.

After the introductory words, the coordinator Anastasia Lanova presented the results of the project. She said that six experts were involved in the project, four of them from the Visegrad countries. During 5 months they developed a methodological manual ” The educational system management of local communities: V4 countries experience for Ukraine “.

-The manual describes the current situation and the existing problem in the field of educational services in the amalgamated territorial communities. It provides a step-by-step instruction on data collection, analysis, elaboration of the plan for optimizing the educational network and developing a strategy for the development of education. Also, the current situation in Visegrad countries is presented, – explained A.Lanova.

In addition, the project coordinator said that a series of training sessions was held for 16 communities of Vinnytsia region on the effective management of the education system.

After the presentation of the project, the participants switched to the first discussion panel devoted to the topic of diagnostics of the state of the education system in the amalgamated communities and to the study of the views of the beneficiaries. In particular, participants listened about the experience of the Czech Republic on this issue.

-The schools in the Czech Republic are very free in what they teach and how they teach, if they are within the limits set by the state. In words it sounds very nice, but in reality it’s quite difficult. After the reform, the system was very decentralized in terms of financing and this was not a positive. Decentralization is not unified for everything, – expert of the project from the Czech Republic Lucia Gregurkova told.

Liudmyla Yurchuk, the head of the public organization “Educational space”, spoke about the challenges in the reform of education and the impression of trainings.

– Very positive is the experience of foreign colleagues, the frankness of experts from Visegrad. Specifically, in the examples, the speakers explained how the authorities should cooperate with the public for the qualitative development of the education sector, – said L. Yurchuk.

Participants also noted that teachers play a very important role in setting up a quality education management system.

-Teacher is a carrier of knowledge, practice and changes. Today, we are optimizing schools not only because they do not have students, there are no teachers anymore. And teachers who stayed in schools have a very heavy load, – explained the head of the Department of Education, Youth and Sports of Tulchyn City Council Mykhailo Mytrytsan.

Natalia Stryzhavska, head of the Department of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport of Krasnopilska Village Council, added that the process of optimization is a very complicated process that meets resistance of the population.

We have 5 schools, numbering 330 students. This is very small. Therefore, we need to conduct optimization as painlessly as possible for our teachers and our children, – said N. Strizhavskaya.

Monitoring of the cost of retention of objects has to be conducted before the optimization.

-After we have received on the balance our educational institutions, we began to worry about what we are spending money on. For example, we found that two kindergartens with approximately the same number of pupils and almost of the same size, use different amounts of energy. It turned out that one of the kindergartens consumes twice as much gas and electricity, – said Olena Yakovets, First Deputy Mayor of Gnivan City Council.

The second panel discussion was devoted to the discussion of the topic: “Optimization of the educational network – a threat or opportunity?”

Participants learned about the Polish experience on how experts accompany the process of optimization.

Often, optimization is accompanied by an increase in social tension. Therefore, it is important to involve an outside expert who assumes some responsibility. Very often the village head explains the dissatisfied: “This is not my conclusion. This is the conclusion of an independent expert, whom we have involved, – said the project expert from the Republic of Poland Radoslaw Szarleja.

The head of the department of education of the Nemyriv city council Anatolii Pasichnyk gave an example of why optimization of schools is needed for.

Nemyriv amalgamated community took 5th place in the country for filling the budget in its group. But in our educational district there are 12 educational institutions and almost 50% of the budget was spent on the education sector, – explained A.Pasichnyk.

Also, the discussion participants came to the conclusion that base schools become centers of culture and leisure.

– One of the strategic goals of our community was the creation of an educational, cultural and sports space based on the educational district. We realized that this would allow the village council to create conditions for the integration of the community, – said Olga Dyshkant, Inspector of the Khyzhyntsi Village Council of Sokyrintsi Amalgamated Territorial Community.

In addition, the attendees stressed that the optimization of educational institutions doesn’t mean its closure.

We have more than 600 students, 400 of them study at the Yakushentsi Lyceum. This is our base school. We also have one school, where only 13 students study. It would seem economically feasible to ensure the transportation of these students. But we adhere to the principle that every village should have an elementary school, – said Natalia Bilous, an inspector in the methodological work of the Department of Education, Culture, Youth, Sport and Social Protection of the Yakushyntsi Village Council.

The final discussion panel was devoted to the strategy of education development. Participants discussed the theory and best practices.

Development of public education began to move towards centralization. This was due to a certain social request, as well as a certain state intervention. In short, the central authority is engaged in everything. But we realized that there should be some sort of decentralization, so we have created educational districts around which planning and optimization are taking place, – informed the mayor of Hungarian village Zalamerenye Laszlo Odor.

Oleksandr Lemeshchenko, chief specialist of the Department of General, Secondary and Preschool Education of Vinnytsia Regional State Administration, said that the idea of optimizing schools is becoming widespread as it is a way of providing quality education.
Today we have 35 amalgamated communities and 42 base schools in Vinnytsia region. We are in sixth place on the terms of foundation base schools in Ukraine. For us, the establishment of base schools is a way of providing professional education, that is, the creation of lyceums and gymnasiums in rural areas, – emphasized O. Lemeshchenko.

Bar community shared its experience in elaborating a community development strategy, in which the education sector is a priority.

We determined the strengths and weaknesses of the community. Through questionnaires, we found that the population is satisfied with the level of educational services. But we also discovered a number of threats and challenges. We set the task of developing inclusive education, implementing educational projects to raise funds for the development of material and technical resources, – said Natalia Strelchuk, Chief of the Social and Humanitarian Department of the Bar City Council.

The topic of fullness of classes was also discussed.

 – We have three schools; one of them is a base school, where 870 students study. We provided transportation of children from four villages to this school – 250 children. Transportation has given us the opportunity to not create branches. Very often, when you provide students with a transportation from low-grade school to a base school, students and their parents choose to study at a school where quality services are provided, – said Valerii Nemyrovskii, chairman of the Tomashpil village council.

Director of the Department of Education of Vinnytsia City Council Oksana Yatsenko gave examples of urban programs that promote education.

We reduced 16 classes, we carry out thermo-modernization of educational institutions, and we update the material and technical base. To create a quality education strategy, you must have sector programs. Vinnitsa City Council has a number of educational programs and regularly reports on their implementation, – explained O. Yatsenko.

The participants of the discussion came to the conclusion that qualitative reform of the educational sector is possible only by consistent, well-considered steps with wide involvement of the public in this process.

The international conference was concluded by signing an agreement on cooperation between Zalamerenye village and Tomashpil amalgamated community. The heads of settlements, Laszlo Odor and Valerii Nemyrovskii signed the agreement. Newly-made partners will cooperate not only in education but also in other areas.