Stated or Actual Change in Policy Terrain? Review of the Literature on the Bologna Process Implementation within the Context of Teacher Education in Ukraine

April 2015

From: JUPS #1, 2015 (pp. 33-57).

Ukraine's Minister of Science and Education Serhy Kvit at the Ceremony of Freshmen Initiation at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Photograph: Volodymyr Hontar / UNIAN (2011).
Bologna Process Policy Implementation in Ukraine

According to the then-Minister of Education, Nikolayenko (2007), the implementation of Bologna underpinnings in Ukraine revolved around the following basic directions: Quality Assurance (QA); three cycle system of education; and qualifications framework (QF) in EHEA. The government reported on the significant steps in implementing the regulations of Bologna Process and preparing the Action Plan of their implementation up to 2010. The lists of key developments in Ukraine since 2005 have been detailed in the Bologna National Report (2009), Bologna Stocktaking Report (BSR) (2009), and 2010 European Neighbourhood Policy Implementation Report (European Commission 2011a).

Based on the examination of the national and stocktaking reports to trace the Bologna Process policy implementation in Ukraine, Luchinskaya and Ovchinnikova (2011) concluded that Ukraine had been active in some aspects of implementation and sluggish in others. For instance, the Bologna Stocktaking Reports rated Ukraine’s progress in recognition of foreign degrees and implementing the ECTS as ‘very good’ and ‘excellent’ in 2007 and 2009. Ukraine was among the eight countries that have reached a high degree of implementation, with ECTS being applied in more than 75% of their programmes and higher education institutions, for the purpose of both credit transfer and accumulation and credit points based on both learning outcomes and student workload (Education Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency 2012b). As for the achievements in the adoption of the new degree system (two-cycle), the ratings for Ukraine, compared to other Bologna priorities, have been the highest in the 2007 and 2009 BSRs. The implementation of quality assurance had mixed ratings for Ukraine as only some HEIs produce a strategy for the continuous enhancement of quality, have made arrangements for the internal approval of programmes and awards, and describe their programmes in terms of learning outcomes. No Ukrainian HEIs design student assessments of HEIs to measure the achievements of the learning outcomes, but all of them publish up-to-date information on the programmes they offer. Ukraine also received high ratings for student involvement in quality assurance (Bologna National Report Ukraine 2009).

Kwiek (2004) noted that it may be relatively easy to change laws on higher education, especially if the arguments of catching up with the West are used for promotional purposes, but changing laws is not enough to reach the objectives of the Bologna Process, although it may be understood in this way by many government officials. Therefore, it is not surprising that Ukraine has faced significant challenges with regard to the implementation of the Bologna Process (Zaspa 2008). Major challenges for Ukraine, as outlined in the 2009 BSR included: development of a NQF compatible with the EHEA overarching framework; introduction of the innovative institutional structure, three-cycle system and joint degrees; establishing programmes for foreign students; aligning university programmes with Bologna structure; development of the national qualifications framework for lifelong learning; creating mechanisms for recognition of prior learning; implementation of the Diploma Supplement in the EU/CoE/UNESCO format; creation of the national quality assurance agency in compliance with European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) with aim of European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) membership and inclusion into the EQAR; increasing outward and inward mobility; assuring portability of student grants and loans; provision of equal access to higher education; adapting curricula to labour market needs; promotion of cultural values and democratic ideals. Stemming from this long list of challenges, two questions that beg our attention are whether there is a lip service to the reform implementation and whether the reform rhetoric moves faster than its implementation? (Marga 1997; Shaw et al. 2011a)

Therefore, given the different tradition in higher education and the political and cultural context, the process of introducing the new model of tertiary education promoted by the EU partners remains challenging in the Eastern Partnership countries (European Commission 2011b). The main factors affecting the implementation were the transition period and difference in the organization and structure of higher education from Western and many Eastern European countries (Zgaga 2009). The system of higher education was centrally planned and administered under the Soviet system, had strong links with the labour market and an emphasis on science and technology, and underwent substantial reform during the post-Soviet transition (Luchinskaya & Ovchynnikova 2011). As recent studies have shown, the results remain patchy, and implementation efforts have been complicated by significant differences in the organizational path dependence of Ukrainian universities as compared to their Western counterparts (Shaw et al. 2011b; Shaw et al. 2011a).

Drawing from different studies on the implementation of the Bologna process in Ukraine, Shaw (2013) provided two hypothesis of its failure. Her first hypothesis is associated with a flawed implementation of the reform caused by a number of factors such as a top-down, rushed, unsystematic, and disorganized process of curriculum redesign; a lack of training and support which would provide faculty and university administration with an understanding of the reform and its mechanisms; façade rather than substantive implementation of the reform; and, finally a low remuneration of faculty. Her second hypothesis stems from an idea of “a fundamental mismatch between the existing logic of university governance rooted in a Soviet model of higher education and the logic presumed in the European reforms” (p. 7). Shaw argued that a flawed implementation of the reform can be caused by the fact that the “Soviet” model of higher education governance in Ukraine was not accommodated to the needs of the Bologna process. In other words, the Ministry of Education introduced fundamental ideas of the Bologna process in the environment not susceptible to it and has not taken any measures yet to reform it. As a result, an implementation of the policy rhetoric aimed to catch up with Europe has had a quasi-character in the context of Ukraine.      

Other analyses on Ukraine's adoption of the Bologna Process have addressed specific challenges with regard to the implementation process, and have focused on both positive and negative outcomes. In his discussion of the higher education reform under the Bologna Process, Nikolayenko (2007) noted that the adoption of the Bologna Process has led to increased training, creation of more scholarships, improvement in accessibility, and increased interuniversity mobility within Ukraine. However, a number of problems still existed, including the need to create a system of quality assurance, the lack of provision of international mobility by students and staff, and the lack of communication between universities and employers and public associations. Similarly, weighing the pros and cons of the Bologna Process for the system of higher education in Ukraine, Goodman (2010) pointed out that participation in the Bologna Process had the potential to strengthen Ukraine's standing in Europe, promote linguistic diversity, and facilitate goals of European integration. As for the potential negative consequences of the process, Goodman focused specifically on the dominance of English under the Bologna process and the negative effects this may have on the Ukrainian language. Zaspa (2008) reported issues surrounding the funding of higher education institutions to implement the Bologna Process, the influence of markets and privatization on the quality of professional education, and the impacts on the amount and quality of research produced by universities that are undergoing the transformation process.

In a recent case study on the perceptions of education practitioners and administrators of the implementation of the Bologna Process at a selected higher education institution, Kovtun and Stick (2009) highlighted the implementation shortcomings and disadvantages. These included excessive centralization of the administration, insufficient training and resources, participants' attachment to the old system, decreased quality of education and loss of tradition. They concluded that the Bologna Process appeared to benefit the students more than the professors through the increased mobility and employability for students and the development of autonomous learners. Lytvyn (2009), on the other hand, emphasized the negative consequences of the Bologna Process on the students. In particular, she discussed how many students felt that the way Ukraine was implementing the Bologna Process was disruptive to their education. Lytvyn suggested that rather than adapting the Bologna Process to fit Ukrainian standards, Ukraine should adopt the European standards outlined in the Process. Furthermore, institutions of higher education should focus on the tools of the Bologna Process instead of using existing structures to achieve the goals. She concluded that these recommendations would solve problems such as inconsistency in grading, degree recognition, and course requirements.

In the study of Ukrainian professors’ perceptions of the Bologna Process, Telpukhovska (2006) found that, while many reforms were welcomed as useful and necessary, their implementation was complicated by the current economic and social conditions of the country. Studying the impact of the Bologna Process on academic staff, Shaw et al. found that public statements regarding the reform process differ from actual organizational practice, that the shift from a traditional teacher-oriented institution to a research institution has not been efficiently supported by instructional and structural redesign, that the academic staff have become overburdened with teaching and research duties, and that the reform process has been underfunded (Shaw et al. 2011b). In their analysis of the transformation process that Ukraine was undertaking to adhere to the Bologna Process, Makogon and Orekhova (2007) argued that the adoption of the Bologna Process was an example of the corporatization of international education that was ultimately resulting in the commodification of education in Ukraine. They concluded that the fact that academic institutes have been transformed into ‘businesses’ would have a profound effect on individual states, globalization, and the internationalization of education. This negative outlook complements Goodman's (2010) conclusion that the Bologna Process is a mechanism of bureaucratic control over the education system of its members and a form of political hegemony over members who are not in the EU.

Education Reforms and Teacher Education in Ukraine

Ukraine has a complex history regarding teacher education and related reforms. Because teacher education is located at the crossroads between the higher education and primary and secondary education systems, transformations and reforms in both of these areas need to be considered in order to understand its current state. As the country made a transition from a totalitarian Marxist Leninist ideology to democracy and pluralism, changes that occurred at the societal level greatly affected education (Zhulynsky 1997). The declaration of Ukraine’s intention to transform into a democratic state with the regulated market economy gave birth to the strategic plans to reform education as part of a nation-wide transformation. Due to the capacity and potential of education to articulate and instil new norms of social and cultural behavior in the newly formed country, the system of education was one of the first spheres to be subjected to the reforming process (Wanner 1998). Similarly, reform of the teacher education sector was stated as the main goal of the state policy in the sphere of education (Ministry of Education of Ukraine 1992). This policy encompassed the formation and strengthening of the potential of primary and secondary school teachers and comprehensive financial and material support for pedagogical cadres and their social protection. However, significant economic, political, and social factors negatively affected the implementation of those policy guidelines (Kutsyuruba 2011a). As reported by the World Bank, the economic collapse of the 1990s had substantial long-term adverse effects on Ukraine’s education system, which, together with the implications of the economic reforms had created new challenges to reform the education sector (World Bank 2011). Furthermore, the nature of educational reforms in Ukraine was fragmentary and yielded only a partial transition to the new paradigm of education set by the Ministry of Education policies.

Three major directions of initial education reforms in Ukraine were identified by Fimyar (2008): a) change of the language of instruction in schools from mostly Russian to Ukrainian; b) adjusting secondary education to a 12-year basic education cycle in line with European standards; and c) assessment policy reform. According to the 2010 European Neighbourhood Policy Implementation report (European Commission 2011a), particular attention in recent years was given to all levels of education, with new reform plans to accelerate convergence with the developments in the EU. Reform objectives included strengthening educational governance, improving quality and accessibility, and ensuring the continuity of education levels and financing. The government identified pre-school education as a new reform priority and adopted a concept for a state programme of pre-school education development to 2017, with objectives and benchmarks closely aligned with those of the EU's Education and Training 2020 targets. The ministry of education and science initiated secondary curriculum reform with the adoption of two state programmes 2010-15 to improve ICT, science and mathematics education and to enhance teaching skills. Furthermore, secondary education was reduced from 12 to 11 years in 2010, thus reversing the reform of 2001. Subsequently, these reforms were instrumental in changing the policy terrain guiding the country’s teacher education programs.

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