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Open access to education

Every family awaits news of the new regulations regarding admission into higher and specialised secondary educational institutions. Each year, more than 100,000 young people try to enter such institutions, creating a time of worry for their parents, teachers, friends and relatives. As the entrance campaign begins, the whole country plunges into a mood of expectation. New regulations were discussed in December but are yet to be made law.
By Vladimir Khromov

The current entry system is effective, fair and transparent, admired by other nations near and far. In polls, over 60 percent of applicants and parents convey satisfaction. However, they are also afraid of change. President Alexander Lukashenko noted at a recent meeting that public opinion should be used to guide decision-making in this sphere.

Many would argue that there is little to gain in adapting an existing, effective system but the President assures us that any change will be far from revolutionary. The core system will remain as it was, simply updated to allow more control. The last changes to the system were made eight years ago, yet specialised education has become more focused, with hours of study at higher education institutions reduced for non-major disciplines. Those graduating are often offered practical experience via internships, allowing them to gain invaluable skills, better fitting them for the work environment. Progress in this direction continues, so that studies are vocationally appropriate.

Higher education is becoming ever more accessible, responding to the times. Mr. Lukashenko is aware that industry requires graduates to have relevant hi-tech knowledge and, preferably, experience: an element sadly lacking in the past. While the number of school leavers may fall in coming years, demand for experts grows. Clearly, it’s important that our graduates are able to satisfy the needs of the economy. For this reason, admission regulations are being updated.

It is proposed that applicants who have already shown talent for a specific sphere of study should receive a smoother path of entry: winners of subject Olympiads, medallists and notable athletes. At the same time, entry requirements may be eased for certain situations. For instance, to enter higher institutions of military specialisation, applicants should be physically fit, with good morals and basic education. If they lack one grade in a language subject, they should not perhaps be denied the chance to earn their cadet shoulder straps. Targeted intake also needs correction — especially for agrarian and pedagogical education. Privileges are to be reconsidered, in order to make entrance fairer. Meanwhile, there will be a campaign to encourage young people to apply for specialised secondary education.

The greatest victory of our entry system to higher and specialised secondary education is that it almost completely excludes corruption — at all levels: high and low. The President is unequivocal in saying that this condition, at the heart of the system, must remain unchanged, regardless of other considerations. He recommends learning from Ukraine, where ‘economic disintegration and corruption have led to national breakdown’. He stresses, “Here are two elements which have destroyed the state.”

The uncompromising struggle with corruption will continue at the hub of all legislation. The President notes that teachers are the treasure of the education system and that quality graduates need to be encouraged into the profession. He is saddened that increased salaries and reduced workload are yet to produce the desired result. He has now charged the Government with using all available reserves to raise teachers’ salaries in the next school year.
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