On 24 July President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko met with Education Minister Sergei Maskevich.
Alexander Lukashenko was primarily interested in how the Education Ministry had fulfilled his previous instructions to reduce the time required to train certain professions in universities and in vocational schools if necessary. “I gave instructions to consider the matter fundamentally,” the head of state noted.
Allocating more time for hands-on training of students was another matter the President drew attention to.
“Otherwise students sit in a classroom from the first year to the end of the fifth year, with professors lecturing on. But I stated it openly that many professors are behind the curve when it comes to teaching up-to-date facts. Therefore, the focus should be shifted to the production sector, farms, fields, plans and factories where future professionals will be trained,” the head of state believes. “For instance, students should study theory for two years and should spend the next two years at a specific enterprise, if we are going to reduce the education term from five to four years,” the President added.
“It is also important for people to understand whether they have chosen the right profession during student years. Otherwise, we give them education while they cannot pursue the career they have been educated in,” the President said.
“When a man is trained at an enterprise or in the field, it is easier to get him attuned to this life, to this future work. Sitting in a classroom and reading textbooks about the future profession is totally different from getting one’s hands dirty mastering the profession. Therefore, I am convinced the majority will fall in love with their profession when they are students,” the head of state said.
“The bulk of the knowledge is there now. That way professors will learn how to farm some agricultural crops or how to create petrochemical, chemical products, thus pulling students closer to the production sector level. It is very important,” the President said.
Alexander Lukashenko believes that universities have the ability to optimize the education process. “Some disciplines in many Belarusian universities are there just to be ticked off. They are absolutely unnecessary and students forget them once they are out of the door. Should not we make them optional?” the President wondered.
Yet Alexander Lukashenko warned against the danger of overdoing it. “Imagine a doctor, who does not know history. A doctor should be a citizen, too. Everything should be optimal,” the President remarked.
“I have always said that reforms of the education system are over. If something has to be polished, be my guest. Nobody should turn education into some political scene again. We do not need arguments about whether the Belarusian language is more important than the Russian one. They are both important because they are state languages. Therefore, we have a normal system. It has to be polished without creating tension areas. One day we are talking about languages, next day we are talking about education cost. Tomorrow we may be ahead of the entire planet as far as education cost is concerned. If we go for paid education, it will turn away many hardworking people from poor families. They will not be able to enter universities. Does our country need this policy? It does not. Therefore, it is necessary to keep in mind poorer population strata to avoid losing their children and to allow them to get education in their time. You and I have come from such families. We should not forget it,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
Sergei Maskevich informed the head of state the Education Ministry had done a lot looking for ways to reduce education terms. Curricula have been revised and updated for most professions. The decision to make the transition from five-year university education to four-year university education has been made. Post-graduate education will be increased from one to two years. The work is already in progress, the Education Minister said. About 60% professions will be optimized, mainly pedagogical, economic, and technical ones.
The President made it clear education quality must not be damaged. Alexander Lukashenko gave instructions to improve master’s degree education for the sake of training the research and technology elite of the country, the workforce for an innovation-driven economy.
As far as practical training is concerned, starting next year mandatory job assignments will be introduced for third-year students in some professions for the sake of optimizing the preparation of future young specialists for practical work.
The head of state was informed about preparations for the new academic year. According to the Minister, work follows the traditional path: the physical infrastructure of education institutions is renewed, textbooks are published, back-to-school fairs are opened.
By the new academic year there are plans to commission thee hostels (two hostels in the Minsk student village and one hostel in the Brest State University), open 18 kindergartens, seven schools, a new building of the International Relations Department of the Belarusian State University.
The head of state gave instructions to raise the quality of education of school students in their last two school years for the sake of improving their readiness for university education. The President pointed out the need for centralized government procurement for Belarusian education institutions.