In the context of the urgency and unique opportunity to manage the systemic problems faced by Romanian education, amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, AmCham Romania calls for an integrated approach that reconciles the short-term measures adopted by the authorities with a strategic vision to ensures the continuity and structural reform of the education system.
The COVID-19 pandemic had disruptive effects on the educational process but, moreover, once again highlighted the shortcomings and stringent problems facing Romanian education – rigidity, lack of digital skills, outdated models disconnected from the reality of a modern society and unequal access to education. While some students had the opportunity to reconnect with their teachers through online education, isolation measures have exacerbated inequities faced by towards children from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of them losing any connection to the educational process.
Education is a constitutional right, not a privilege, and every child in Romania must have equal access to quality education. AmCham Romania welcomes the initiative of the Ministry of Education and Research to provide children in vulnerable communities with the opportunity to have access to digital education, but draws attention to the fact that, while equipment may be one of the solutions to the current crisis, this measure solves just one type of problem facing the education system.
Digitalization is necessary, but access to online resources requires, along with platforms, didactic content adapted to the digital environment and teachers to create and disseminate quality materials in a unitary way through modern methods. For efficiency and coherence, it is recommended that a set of applications/platforms be agreed at the level of each school unit, so that teachers, students and parents are trained in their use to obtain the best results. Last but not least, we cannot separate the educational process from human interaction. Digital tools must become an integral component of the educational system to allow flexibility, but the interaction between student and teacher, but also the relationship between students, must remain a permanent element.
One of the successful models implemented in other European countries is blended learning, which is based on an educational model that combines traditional teaching methods with digital tools. Such a concept ensures not only the capitalization of digital potential, but especially the resilience of the learning process in the face of a crisis like the current one, the improvement of teaching and learning standards through e-lessons models accessible to all children, but also the substantiation of school programs towards accelerated developments of contemporary society, while preserving humanistic values and identity landmarks.
AmCham thus recommends for Romania an integrated approach of the available resources and of the most suitable good practices and quality standards from the member states of the European Union, all the more since as they are possible to be implemented with the support of European funds. Outlining a strategic model for transforming the Romanian education system requires primarily the Ministry of Education to assume the role of coordinating this process, training and enrolment of teachers in this broad transformation process and an active partnership with the business environment, civil society and local authorities.
Such an integrated strategy on the use of the “blended education” method at national level must be transposed through the 2021-2027 programming exercise into the operational programs and funding instruments to be implemented.
Without a coherent programming exercise and consistent public policies that adequately describe the priorities, objectives proposed and determine the need for allocations and areas of intervention, the use of European funds as well as the effectiveness of such interventions could be called into question.
The experience of the last two months, the adaptation of all participants to the process of education transferred online offers very valuable lessons that must be analyzed and translated responsibly in the vision and action plan for the future. Today, and not tomorrow, we must invest in a modern, resilient education system, adapted to European standards and which focuses on the learning needs of the new generations.
This call launched by AmCham Romania is underpinned by the steady commitment of our members for a public-private partnership to support investments in education and continues the concrete involvement of members who have committed during this period, and not only, valuable resources to support the educational process, in the form of training and free access to online platforms offered by companies and NGOs to schools, teachers, students.
AmCham Romania reiterates on this occasion the real concern of the business community and the willingness of our members to continue to support with expertise the transformation of education into a national strategic priority in view of obtaining the first concrete results as soon as possible, before the start of the new school year.