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

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).
April 2015
Teacher Education System: Contextual Information

Teacher education system of Ukraine consists of pre-service and in-service training. Pedagogical universities, pedagogical colleges, and classic universities provide pre-service training while a statewide network of in-service teacher training institutes organizes a professional development of in-service teachers (European Commission 2011b; Ministry of Education and Science 2010; Oliynik & Danylenko 2005; Shchudlo 2012).1Both pedagogical institutions and classic universities work toward preparing teachers, but they differ in their focuses and the amount of pedagogical knowledge and experience with which they provide their students. Pedagogical colleges specialize in training pre-school and primary school teachers. In addition to educating pre-school and primary school teachers, pedagogical universities in comparison to pedagogical colleges also prepare secondary school teachers. This overlap in teacher preparation between pedagogical colleges and universities was inherited from the Soviet system and has not undergone any changes yet.2 The main difference between pedagogical and classical universities in preparing teachers is an amount of pedagogical studies and student teaching experience to which they expose students. In classic universities, this amount is much smaller in comparison to pedagogical colleges and universities. Classic universities which see its main role in training academic cadres, not pre-school or school teachers, offer its students an opportunity to mainly work in a system of secondary education by offering some pedagogical courses and student teaching opportunities. Some classic universities can have pedagogical institutes as a part of their structure. As a rest of higher education institutions, pedagogical colleges and pedagogical universities are a part of a centralized higher education system controlled by the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES 2010).

The Ministry of Education requires in-service teachers to undergo professional development training every five years at a regional in-service teacher-training institute (MoES 2010). In addition to the required professional development, many in-service teachers have begun to participate in training sessions and programs organized by domestic and international non-governmental organizations sponsored by aid agencies. They in turn represent a new venue of professional development of teachers, especially in the context of limited and outdated curriculum and financial resources of in-service teacher training institutes, whose curriculum is set by the Ministry of Education and whose work is financed by local budgets (European Commision 2011b; MoES 2010).

Current system of teacher education has been surrounded by many issues that either specifically pertain to it or to the rest of higher education in Ukraine. One of its relatively recent issues has been an academic quality of students who enter its programs. Their academic quality is often much lower in comparison to students who become admitted to prestigious programs in economics, law, foreign relations, informational science and other ones in classic universities. This, in turn, is associated with a decline of social status and prestige of teaching profession after the collapse of the Soviet Union and a low compensation in Ukraine, trends that are also common in other post-Soviet countries (Gorshenin Institute 2011; Shchudlo 2012; Silova 2009), and further decreases the quality of students entering pre-services teacher education programs and graduates of these institutions entering schools. Another issue stems from an inability of many teacher educators to practically adapt to new educational demands such student-centered learning, utilization of interactive teaching approaches, and formation of critical thinking and inquiry skills among teacher candidates (Koshmanova & Ravchyna 2008). They keep focusing on content rather than practice-based instruction utilizing traditional transmissive methods of teaching impeding formation of knowledge and skills crucial to democratic education. Other issues that affect teacher education programs along with the rest of higher education system are underfunding (which impedes upgrading of facilities and technological resources, updating of teaching resources, improving faculty’s professional development, and increasing their salaries), bureaucracy (which influences a quality of faculty’s preparation for courses and deprives of time for academic work), corruption, and the inconsistent implementation of the articulated educational reforms (Fimyar 2010; Osipian 2009; Shaw 2013). Despite the above issues, content and practices of teacher education programs are changing but not as fast as one might want to or as policy documents declare. They are in the process of transition impeded by faculty’s beliefs and by a lack of leadership, vision, knowledge, skills, and resources necessary for the implementation of the declared educational reforms.

According to a comprehensive study on teacher education in the Eastern Partnership countries initiated by European Commission (European Commission 2011b), the major teacher education reforms achieved to date in Ukraine were: introduction of specialised education in secondary school; competence-based approach to learning; the content of national education; and, implementation of programs and projects at national and regional level related to modern technology of education. As for the problematic areas, highlighted were difficulties of education sector’s collaboration with the private sector to develop innovations in schools. Other limitations included: stereotypical thinking about teaching among teachers; the fear of publicly violating the state standards for educational training for teachers; reluctance of some teachers and school managers to innovate; insufficient financial support for schools; low quality teaching practice; and an overall difficult social and economic situation of the country.

Bologna Process and Teacher Education

The results of the European Commission study indicated that some of the Bologna targets have already been executed to varying degrees in the area of teacher education. These included progress in adjusting the multi-level degree system to meet the European three-level system of academic degrees, as well as approving the qualification levels in regards to curriculum at the Bachelor of Education level and working towards establishing a permanent system for Master of Education programs. In addition, Ukraine was complimented for undertaking a complex system of quality assurance of teachers and providing professional development, whereas Ukrainian teachers are mandated by law to advance their qualification at least once every five years in the post-graduate teacher training institutes. Of high significance were also support systems, known as banks, which have been put in place to disseminate innovations in information and communication technologies to aid in teaching strategies among teachers. Finally, the report noted the importance of the draft law on higher education for the prospects in the field of teacher education. In addition to successes and achievements in implementation of Bologna process, this report highlighted struggling areas, such as upgrading the threshold of qualifications to enter the teaching profession; increasing teachers' salaries; updating the curriculum; improving classroom practice; modernizing in-service teacher education to respond to teachers preferences and demand of the labour market; creating incentives for teachers to remain in the profession; and developing a continuous support system throughout the professional lives of teachers.

In summary, the European Commission report concluded that in terms of ensuring convergence with EU standards and implementation of the Bologna Process principles, the needs for developments in the area of teacher education closely aligned with the overall directions of higher education reform in Ukraine. Some of the recommendations as to how the Ukrainian teacher education system can continue to modernize and meet the goals of the Bologna Process included: increasing the use of modern teaching strategies in regards to information and telecommunication technologies; ensuring that the content of teacher education is in line with the demands of schools; encouraging collaboration between schools and university teachers; implementing education monitoring by research groups and organizations; increasing popularity of professional development programs; and adopting valid regulations governing innovative educational activities.

Several studies assessed the impact of Bologna Process on teacher education. The prevalent belief among scholars is that educational reforms in Ukraine had thus far resulted only in the superficial transformations of the teacher education curriculum and the introduction of some innovative teaching methods courses; whereas more changes are needed to ensure the successful implementation of the Bologna Process to the system of teacher education (Koshmanova & Ravchyna 2008). Pukhovska and Sacilotto-Vasylenko (2010) claimed that while the Ukrainian government has adopted programs that support the integration of Ukrainian higher education into the Bologna Process, this has not been achieved in regards to teacher training programs. They attributed this to such external factors as insufficient funding and issues surrounding implementation, such as a limited capacity to plan, manage, monitor, and evaluate these programs. As a result, they argued, teacher educators have not been prepared to assimilate the methods and approaches which adhere to the Bologna Process; these principles are based on Western pedagogical theories and many teachers had difficulties finding ways to incorporate them into their practice. Along the external factors there are also teacher educators’ stereotypes formed within a Soviet educational system which impede an implementation of the declared change (Koshmanova & Ravchyna 2008).

The calls to further reform teacher education have come from a number of scholars. Writing around the time Ukraine was preparing to sign Bologna Accord, Shestavina (2004) argued for the need to modernize Ukrainian education system and expressed hope that adherence to the Bologna Process would facilitate this. She gave special mention to the teacher training programs utilized by various institutions of higher education in Ukraine and the necessity to get these programs up to European standards. Scholars emphasized that the traditional pedagogic models used to train teachers, established under the Soviet system, were no longer suitable for students in the context of educational democratization, since they were aimed at the transmission and reproduction of learning material and thus did not contribute to the formation of critical thinking skills, were characterized by teacher-centered and content-based pedagogies, and were often formal and distant from societal realities. In the context of democratization, attempts to integrate in the European educational space and global market economy, Ukraine needed to search for effective ways to adapt the national traditions of teacher training to meet the demands made by these processes (Baynazarova 2005; Marchenko 2010). Furthermore, arguing that Ukraine should considerably reform its education system, Koshmanova found that tolerant attitudes and behaviours were not fully accepted by Ukrainian educators and that most educational policies and practices were still monocultural and ethnocentric (Koshmanova 2006; Koshmanova 2007). Koshmanova and Ravchyna (2008) posited that, successfully managing and implementing such a large change aside, many educators believe that the main difficulty of the Bologna educational reforms in Ukraine had been found in the authoritarian style of relationships teachers have with students. These beliefs were grounded in ‘banking education’ models and behaviourist educational psychology and served to contribute to the problem of perpetuating authoritarianism in classrooms. They concluded that these beliefs may generate obstacles for Ukraine’s integration with Europe.

Studies examining teacher education reform in Ukraine have also taken a comparative approach, using other European nations as models that Ukraine can look towards. Sacilotto-Vasylenko (2008) used the goal of lifelong learning to analyze the evolution of teacher training under the context of the Bologna Process in France and Ukraine. In regards to Ukraine, the examples of recent educational changes that could be interpreted as lifelong learning strategies included short teacher training modules called 'thematic courses', school-based training and consultancy, external professional development programs and projects, and distance in-service training. Despite these developments, the author criticized the teacher training policies as they do not integrate the idea of teacher empowerment, which she considered to be the main condition for positive educational change, and concluded that the educational system in both countries remain rigid and bureaucratic, where teacher professional development depends mostly on administrative decisions. Rolyak and Ohiyenko's (2008) study also explored lifelong learning as a key goal that teacher training institutes in Ukraine should work towards. Comparing the Ukrainian teacher education system with those of Scandinavian counties, they claimed that their successes and progress may help with addressing the challenges in the teacher training system in Ukraine, particularly in the areas of candidate selection into teacher education programs and the low status teacher education has in universities. Other scholars were more specific in that they held teacher education programs in Finland (Khustochka 2009) and Germany (Folvarochnyi 2011) as models for Ukraine to emulate in order to ensure successful implementation of the Bologna Process.

Problematizing the Nature of Teacher Education Reforms

Yet it is important not only to study the processes that facilitate and hinder a multidimensional process of educational reform aimed at the harmonization of higher education and its alignment with the European educational standards, but also problematize the nature of this educational transformation. While this problematization can be taken in multiple directions ranging from bureaucratic and haphazard character of the reform to the lack of expertise and insufficient financial provisions, we only focus on the recommendations issued by international organizations such as the European Commission (EC) and posit that these recommendations often ignore the local needs of the post-Soviet society.

The EC report on teacher education in the countries of the Eastern Partnership (European Commission 2011b) approached the process of educational transformation or democratization in teacher education in terms of structural changes (e.g., decentralization); modernization of educational content and teaching approaches; establishment of educational standards and benchmarking; upgrade of the assessment and monitoring systems; integration of information and communication technologies; development of a continuous support system throughout the professional lives of teachers; and the creation of incentives for teachers to remain in the profession. According to this report, the former socialist countries need to establish close cooperation with non-governmental organizations and business sector and to better respond to the demands of modern school, labour market, and constantly changing world. Such framework of educational democratization is common across post-socialist countries (Holik 2010; Mincu, 2010; Psifidou 2010). It also points to the global governance of a certain educational system from a distance, whereas education becomes a global rather than a national development (Robertson 2012). Moreover, the emphasis on the alignment of teacher education with the demands of the labour market suggests the potential establishment of market-oriented teacher education programs and the reduction of educational democratization to a mere satisfaction of the needs of the knowledge-based economy.

For example, a newly adopted national educational program for preparing elementary school teachers (Ministry of Education Science Youth and Sports 2012b) contains such new courses as foundations of computer science with the elements of coding/programming and information technologies, as well as expands the allotment for such course as foreign language learning. These changes in teacher education programs are provoked by the changes implemented in the elementary school curriculum which in turn points at the attempt to prepare a competent individual able to meet the needs of the technologically advanced global society. These changes were also reflected in a draft of the concept paper on the development of continuous teacher education program (Ministry of Education Science Youth and Sports 2012a). The draft states that all teacher education programs should prepare teacher candidates to freely use information technologies in the educational process. It also emphasises the need to prepare elementary school teachers to teach foundations of computer science and foreign language. Another sign of a market-oriented approach to teacher education or at least a sign of the presence of market ideology in teacher education can be a course on professional competitiveness offered by some teacher education institutions. For example, a leading teacher education university in Ukraine offers such a course to the elementary teacher candidates in order to inform them about possible career pathways in the field of education (e.g., public school teacher, private school teacher, tutor, or nanny), what expectations for each career pathway are (e.g., in addition to the subject matter knowledge, a teacher at the private school should also be proficient in one foreign language), and what their income could be depending upon the career pathway that they decide to pursue (Personal Communication, March 4, 2012). These examples show how market ideas and needs are starting to penetrate teacher education programs in Ukraine. The emphasis on the needs of the knowledge-based economy and desire to align the national higher education system to a European model run a risk of overlooking other important local needs.

In times when Ukraine’s democracy is struggling to emerge amidst the rise and decline of civil liberties and media freedom, weak adherence to the rule of law, and unstable civil engagement (Freedom House 2012; Freedom House 2011a; Freedom House 2011b), there is a great need to strengthen its democratic polity. Teacher education can play an important role in this process by preparing new generations of teachers who could institutionalize new curriculum, develop democratic structures in schools, form more actively engaged citizens and, by extension, contribute to the transformation of a post-authoritarian society. The prominence of this role for teacher education programs lies in the context of underdeveloped citizenship attitudes and weak understandings of civil society among teacher candidates and teachers in Ukraine.

For instance, the vast majority (70%) of teacher candidates (n=300) at one pedagogical institute in Koshmanova’s (2006) study held a conventional view of learning, and had little knowledge about civil society or of what role they could play in building it. Many of them believed that their responsibility was to develop students’ patriotic feelings about Ukrainian history and culture, perceiving democratic values in terms of patriotism. Some of these teacher candidates also believed that citizenship education should not be connected with school teaching and learning, but instead should be organized around extra-curricular activities. Seventy percent of the young teachers (n=4,000) surveyed in Zhadan’s (2000) national study had not been involved in any civic actions. Less than 55% of them took part in the elections.  Only 15% of the surveyed believed that it was important to uphold human rights. This research shows that many teacher candidates and teachers have a conservative rather than change-oriented political role. Much needed cultivation of “civic professionalism” among teacher candidates and teachers – which “extends beyond the private world of the classroom to the public sphere” and “focuses on contributing to the sustainability of democracy in a unique way through the education of future citizens” (Kennedy 2005, p. 3) – under the aforementioned recommendations might be reduced to the technical role of satisfying the demands of a competitive global market.

The reduction of civic professionalism of teachers to a technical role in the educational process can be illustrated through the introduction of the national standardized external testing in Ukraine in 2008 – an instrument to standardize an admission to higher education institutions and to combat a rampant corruption in the admissions process ensuring fair access to higher education (Kovalchuk & Koroliuk 2012). The recent study about the goals and outcomes of the educational process conducted among secondary school teachers and students (n=300) by the Center for Educational Monitoring (Center for Educational Monitoring 2012) showed that the preparation of students for the standardized external testing is the first main educational goal among teachers. Other goals constituted improving the students’ ability to plan out their personal lives, consolidating knowledge for successful completion of year-final tests, and developing skills to translate and use the acquired knowledge in practice.

Despite the need for further comprehensive research on the impact of the standardized external testing on teaching profession and teacher education programs, preliminary findings from the Center for Educational Monitoring study already point to the reduction of teacher professionalism to a mere test preparation. In its study report on Ukraine, the EC acknowledges the importance of special training for teachers in educational measurement, “aimed at successful implementation of the independent evaluation of students’ learning outcomes” (European Commission 2011b, p. 78). While it is further acknowledged in the report that “apart from international experience, the search for solutions should take into account: social needs, the developmental level of the economy and the heritage of science, culture and education” (p. 96) the process of integration into the European educational area and issued recommendations do not address local needs produced by a socio-historical context of the society.

Pages4

Print

Join the Discussion!