School reform: British teacher meets Ukrainian education
Society23:05 Nov. 11, 2016

British teacher meets Ukrainian education

A story of the UK history teacher who boldly faced a Ukrainian school

One thousand pupils, three floors, a typical building of late 1990's. This is the Kyivan school no #316. It has some renovations and even smart boards. Now it has asked a British teacher to visit and to see how kids are taught here, in Ukraine. The teacher from Warminster, Gram McQueen, comes together with Ukrainian Minister of Education Lilia Grynevych. She is an ideologist of educational reforms in the country. Gram McQueen is a history teacher with 20 years of experience. 

His first emotion is surprise - Ukrainian schools have numbers instead of names. School #316 meets the visitors with chrysanthemums in the playground. 

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His first stop - and first wonder - is a primary school. 8-year-old second-graders meet the British teacher with black ties, white bows, and iron discipline. There are 30 kids in the class, and they all behave like angels. Gram McQueen looks into kids' workbooks. There are a lot of corrections with a red pen there. It is not what the British teachers are used to.

This summer, Ukraine implemented the first stage of school reform. A part of it is a recommendation to stop correcting with red color in primary schools. Yet, many teachers resist the changes.


Gram McQueen during his visit to school #316, with school principal Olga Kondyk

After visiting the primary school, Gram McQueen is taken to the school museum - with embroideries, XIX-century hamlets models and long lines of books in glass cases. Mr. McQueen does not understand the purpose of it. His school is 300 years old, and it does not have a museum: all historical things in it are used daily.

To entertain the guest, one of the pupils read a poem - in Ukrainian. The foreign teacher struggles to understand it - and tries to talk to children, but, their English seems too poor. Ukrainian kids learn English for 10 years, but very few can speak it - due to the very weak teaching of the subject. Yet, this is about to change, promises Minister of Education.

Finally, the delegation goes to a high school - and visits their history lesson. The lesson topic is the beginning of the First World War. Gram McQueen is surprised: the teacher is near the blackboard, and the pupils sit at their desks quietly. No one discusses in groups the reasons why the war erupted.

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After the lesson Gram McQueen and his colleagues talk about their work - and how it is rewarded. The British teacher tries to comprehend the information: his Ukrainian counterparts are paid just 60 pounds (USD 75) per month. This is where the English teacher becomes really shocked.

Gram McQueen leaves the school. Will it receive a name someday? Will pupils learn to take part in discussions? Will they start to speak English? Will the Ukrainian school abandon the Soviet heritage? Slow, but steady education reforms give cautious optimism on the matter.

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