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).
Conclusion: Stated vs. Actual Outcomes of Teacher Education Reforms

Summing up the discussions in this paper is the sentiment that “there is no ‘one size fits all’” answer to the question on the role of the Bologna Process for the so-called transition countries (Zgaga 2009, p. 94); local national realities and circumstances always need to be taken into account to understand the implementation of this process in individual countries of EHEA. Or, in the words of Kvit (2012), “to understand the way things work in Ukraine, one must remember that it is a post-Soviet state with its own features that cannot be compared to any other system in the world.” Designed to meet the needs of a centrally planned economy, the Soviet Ukraine’s education system had been characterized by high funding for education, high literacy levels, a majority of graduates with solid basic knowledge, a large core of skilled workers available for the industrial sector, and cultural and scientific achievements. However, the post-Soviet systemic problems remained, characterized by declining quality of education and low efficiency (World Bank 2011).

Today, Ukrainian educational system, including teacher education, is undergoing a reform informed by a new policy rhetoric which is in turn an “ emergent hybrid [of] communist-neoliberal rationality” built on the ideas of national identity and consciousness, “catch[ing] up with a developed Europe,” and market economy (Fimyar 2010, p. 85). In her analysis of Ukrainian educational policy documents, Fimyar showed how policy rationalities – which underlie discourses that inform educational reforms – point to the departure from the old ‘Soviet’ educational system and its realignment to catch up with Europe. The implementation of the Bologna Process can be viewed as one of the strategies to align and harmonize a Ukrainian higher education system closer with European standards and thereby modernize educational structure and content, educational governance and quality monitoring system of higher education. The state has taken the rhetoric of restructuring of European higher education for granted and presented it as an inevitable process (Fejes 2008; Nóvoa 2002) for the educational reforms in Ukraine. Yet, as we discussed above, despite the new policy rhetoric, its implementation or practice has been rudimentary and inconsistent.

Teacher education in Ukraine is uniquely positioned at the intersection between the higher education and primary and secondary education systems, and thus is significantly affected by reforms pertaining to both areas. As for the Bologna Process impact, official government reports and Bologna reports indicated a number of positive changes in the system of higher education in Ukraine. For example, the Bologna National Report and Bologna Stocktaking highlighted significant steps at the national policy level to accelerate convergence with the developments in the EU. Similarly, the report by European Commission on primary and secondary education in Eastern Partnership countries noted the progress Ukraine has made in terms of aligning its teacher education programs to the standards set out by the Bologna Process. However, as posited by Kovtun and Stick (2009), though some accomplishments are notable, certain Bologna provisions might still be ‘on paper’ alone, thus emphasizing the presence of a number of implementation challenges in Ukraine.

The implementation of Bologna Process in Ukraine in general, and in teacher education in particular, has not been a smooth undertaking and some reforms have not taken root in the education system due to a number of reasons. First, although the Bologna Process was indeed an external push to strengthen national reform process, the nature of educational reforms during the transitional period has been characterized by the struggle between forces of progress towards innovation and forces of a reactionary past (Kononenko & Holowinsky 2001). Therefore, reform endeavors were more bureaucratic than substantive (Nikitin 2008) and lacked the unity of direction and solid foundation (Kutsyuruba 2008).

Secondly, one of the most destabilizing factors in Ukraine during its independence period has been a frequent change of governments (Lunyachek 2011). Accordingly, the change of ministers of education, whose personality influenced the development of education, and shifts in political orientations of office-holders, had a dramatic impact on reforms in Ukraine. A vivid example was introducing in 2001 and reversing in 2010 of the 12-year secondary education reform, which undoubtedly exerted uncertainty and turmoil in teacher education programs. Frequent changes of governments led to chaotic administration of the policy process, based on a ‘fire-fighting’ approach, with the focus of government on immediate problems rather than sustained policy-making (Fimyar 2008; Krawchenko 1997).

Related to the above, the third reason was the need for more time to implement innovations offered by reforms in the educational sphere. Many of the reforms were perceived to be introduced haphazardly and without proper preparation, attempting to destroy and discard the existing base without a clear idea of how to create the foundation for future development (Kutsyuruba 2011a). Implementation difficulties encountered in Ukrainian education and teacher training system can be attributed to the gap between the political decisions and the local realities; in other words, the reforms occurred more quickly than the abilities of educators to accommodate themselves to the new demands (Pukhovska & Sacilotto-Vasylenko 2010). Moreover, the changes pushed by the state policy directives were often not straightforward and reflected the complexities, contradictions and ambivalences of the post-Communist era (Wanner 1998).

Fourthly, the formal structural aspects of Soviet education were easier to reform than the practices instilled by the values of the Soviet system (Wanner 1998). Dyczok (2000) argued that the pace of change and reforms in Ukraine was affected by the fact that many educators and administrators were products of the previous education system and not familiar with alternative models. Practices and institutional cultures of post-Communism in education remained fairly unchanged since the Soviet times, thus creating greater disparity between education policy declarations and actual practical changes (Wolczuk 2004).

Fifthly, economic uncertainty of the post-Soviet era characterized by significant cuts in educational budgets and lack of resources for educators negatively affected the progress of reforms. Analyzing the post-Soviet transition of Ukraine in regards to its educational system, Holowinsky stressed the inadequate funding for educational reform (Holowinsky 1995). Similarly, the European Commission report on teacher education in Ukraine outlined difficult social and economic situation of the country as one of the main limitations for innovations in teacher education. Consequently, the status of teaching profession has degraded, leading to the departure of skilled teachers from schools in search of more lucrative careers (Kutsyuruba 2011b) and increased intake of low-performing students into pre-service teacher education institutions.

One of the main problems of higher education in Ukraine is its quality, as indicated by the fact that country’s most prestigious higher education institutions have low indices in the world university ratings (Lunyachek 2011). Lunyachek argued that the reason is not only imperfect licensing and accreditation, but also lack of impartial external assessment of students’ knowledge by independent institutions, low academic motivation of students, an outdated resource base of the absolute majority of higher education institutions, corruption and bribery, and insufficient individualization of education. As a result, graduates of Ukrainian higher education institutions may be unable to take full advantage of the benefits provided by the Bologna Process.

Lastly, the introduction of the Bologna Process and recommendations associated with it and not only, as we have shown, often ignored the local needs of Ukrainian society. Reform recommendations provided by international organizations and adopted by local actors (European Commission 2011b; Silova & Steiner-Khamsi 2008; UNICEF 2011) usually aim to align a national educational system with the global educational trends and the needs of global market economy. As a result, local needs begin to compete with the global agendas and might be moved to the margins in the educational reform process. Perhaps, as Bargesian (2000) noted, the incomplete reform implementation resulted from the Westerners’ assumptions that transition in socialist countries is characterized by development toward a market society and that many important, even structural, features of post-socialist societies will only be temporary.

Helpful in understanding the changing policy terrain and teacher education reforms in Ukraine is the distinction between policy as stated and policy in use (Sergiovanni et al. 2009). As opposed to policy that is created and mandated by policymakers, policy in use refers to policy that is created as guidelines are interpreted, mandated characteristics are weighed, differential priorities are assigned, action theories are applied, and ideas come to life in the form of implementing decisions and professional practice. The discrepancies in Bologna Process policy implementation progress as stated in official reports (macro level) and actual outcomes of the policy in use in higher education institutions and primary and secondary schools (meso and micro levels), vividly describe how policy statements are interpreted and felt by stakeholders that are directly affected by them. Moreover, the policy effect tends to lose its strength as policy guidelines move deeper into the institutional structures. Thus, institutional factors, contextualized by local national realities and circumstances, have the ability to not only hinder coherent implementation of reforms but also contribute to the purely formal or bureaucratic implementation of reforms. Therefore, greater attention to the actual vs stated outcomes of Bologna-initiated policies and reforms in teacher education is needed through the detailed analyses of how specific policies affect institutional adherence to and implementation of the Bologna Process. Further problematization and comprehensive research into the implementation accomplishments and challenges at the level of higher education institutions charged with preparation of future teachers and subsequent effects of new teacher force on schools level would be illuminating of the actual outcomes of the changing policy terrain in teacher education in Ukraine.

Benjamin Kutsyuruba is an Associate Professor in Educational Policy and Leadership, and Associate Director of Social Program Evaluation Group in the Faculty of Education, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at

Serhiy Kovalchuk is a Ph.D. Candidate in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development and Comparative, International and Development Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. He can be reached at



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  • 1.As of the beginning of 2011/2012 school year, teacher training in Ukraine was offered by 68 higher education institutions: 26 universities [including some solely pedagogical universities], 6 pedagogical institutes, 22 colleges, and 14 pedagogical schools [currently, most pedagogical schools have been reorganized into pedagogical colleges] (Shchudlo 2012). No current statistics is available.
  • 2.Curriculum of pedagogical institutions usually consists of four main components: academic studies (courses that are relevant to student’s major. For example, history, mathematics or chemistry), pedagogical or educational studies (courses that provided students with knowledge about teaching techniques and mastership, child’s psychological development, and educational theories), general studies (courses that are aimed at a general intellectual development of students. For example, philosophy, sociology or political science), and student teaching or school practicum. 



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