Independent external assessment again under siege
The dismissal of Ihor Likarchuk from his post as Director of the Ukrainian Centre for Assessing Educational Quality has been widely criticized as a political move and likely to still further jeopardize independent assessment.
At the beginning of the year, the Cabinet of Ministers issued an instruction dismissing Ihor Likarchuk and appointing Iryna Zaitseva, up till then a Deputy Minister of Education.
Head of the Civic Network OPORA Olha Aiivasovska said that the grounds given for Mr Likarchuk’s dismissal were totally stretched. She points out that it is strange to cite the excessive difficulty of the English language test since it was the Ministry of Education itself which approved the programme which the test was based on. She says that blame must be attributed to both parties. “However I am firmly convinced that this is a political decision aimed at increasing the number of representatives of the Ministry in all institutions”.
Olha Aiivasovska also stressed that the Ukrainian Centre for Assessing Educational Quality was created as an independent structure for using a test to assess the level of knowledge of school leavers, and therefore the level of tuition in Ukrainian schools. In other words, it was to monitor the activities of the Ministry of Education to which educational institutions answer.
“If a person from the Ministry is appointed Director, then there can be no sense in talking about control over the quality of secondary and higher education in Ukraine ever being assessed via Independent external assessment [ZNO]”.
Inna Sovsun, specialist on educational reform, says that she was shocked by the news of Mr Likarchuk’s dismissal. She can see no logic to the Cabinet of Ministers’ decision and assumes it was about personal likes and dislikes, rather than about Ihor Likarchuk’s professional abilities.
“It’s well-known that personnel make all the difference and it’s therefore simpler to change the person responsible for testing in the country who’s been an irritation, and not make unnecessary steps and fuss with laws. That’s a typical method of the teams presently in power and I think that for testing and the system of education overall this is, of course, a tragic move”.
The Centre for Educational Monitoring views the change in management as a further move by the Ministry towards negating the role of ZNO for getting into higher educational institutes. They point out that the ZNO system for testing was one of the most important achievements of recent years, gaining widespread public support and a high assessment from international experts.
“Such actions are basically a covert way of reinstating the system of bribe-taking as the means for getting into university, since over the previous years, testing had made it possible for potential students from poorer families to get into prestigious institutes thanks only to their knowledge and determination”.
The Minister of Education, Dmytro Tabachnyk, was known for his opposition to ZNO before he was appointed Minister in March 2010, and he has since added tests and internal assessment, thus reducing the weighting of the external exams, which had been widely seen as a way of fighting corruption.
More information can be found at http://www.khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1281138602 and the links below.