I came to Ukraine as a Fulbright scholar to teach, so my first interest was to find out about Ukraine’s educational system. I taught at Kirovohrad’s Volodymyr Vynnychenko National Pedagogical University. The teaching resources at the university are extremely poor. There are probably two or three overhead projectors at the university and that was essentially all the teaching support. I had to haul all materials that I used in teaching a course to the classroom myself. Some of the blackboards were unusable and the classrooms were rather dingy and poorly lit.
I taught a course on the internet as well as methods courses in teaching mathematics and science. There was a handful of computer labs, but only one lab had computers that ran a Windows software. The university had one e-mail connection and one central Xerox machine.
The students take many courses, sometimes eight to 10 different courses at once, however each course meets only 1.5 hours per week. There weren’t many innovative assignments I could assign, as there were essentially no resources. The students usually didn’t have their own textbooks but either shared books or used the library.
I brought some of my own resources, such as physics computer problem simulations, but the physics professors at the university did not express much interest or understanding of these. They considered the computer problem sets as nice games for American children, in spite of the fact that I used these problem sets in a physics course I teach at Rutgers University.
At first glance, the educational system is at a much higher level than in the U.S. The ninth grade mathematics classes I observed were covering 10th and 11th grade honors material in the US, but essentially, by the time students get to 5th grade, they are already categorized from an educational perspective. Past fifth grade, the final years of quality education are designated for the best students. Others are assigned to an educational curriculum that will give them a life where they will either go out in the street to make due or try to find manual labor.
Education in the U.S. is designed for 90 percent of the population. I pointed this out when a teacher asked me what the differences were between education in the West and in Ukraine. She then quoted Lenin, who apparently supported the idea of education only for the brightest.
George Oleh Kolodiy – Fulbright to Ukraine 1998