Citation metadata

Author: Olga Leontovich
Editor: Rebecca Marlow-Ferguson
Date: 2001
World Education Encyclopedia
From: World Education Encyclopedia(Vol. 3. 2nd ed.)
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Topic overview; Geographic overview
Pages: 14
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Official Country Name: Ukraine
Region: Europe
Population: 49,153,027
Language(s): Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian
Literacy Rate: 98%
Number of Primary Schools: 21,720
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 7.3%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 18,302
Libraries: 25,000
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 2,658,800
  Secondary: 4,731,200
  Higher: 1,541,000
Teachers: Primary: 133,600
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 20:1


Ukraine is a state in eastern Europe situated between Russia and Poland and bordering the Black Sea. It occupies a territory of 231,990 square miles (600,852 square kilometers) with a population of over 51 million people. The most representative groups of the population are Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Belarusans, Moldavians, and Poles. Ukraine was a constituent republic of the USSR until it became independent in 1991. Its capital is Kiev with a population of 2.6 million people.

Ukrainian culture is a blend of eastern Slavic patterns and unique features developed during its long history. They speak a language in many ways similar to Russian and Belarusian and use the Cyrillic alphabet. From the ninth to the twelfth centuries most of the Ukrainian territory was part of Kiev Russia. The first schools of "book knowledge," which were intended for children of noble families, appeared under the Grand Prince Vladimir (980-1015). During the rule of Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054), literacy spread among different social groups. Poucheniya (precepts), which appeared in the eleventh to twelfth centuries, were the first samples of truly pedagogical works. The most famous precepts were created by Vladimir Monomakh (1053-1125), the Grand Prince of Kiev, who addressed them to his own children. In 1086 the first school for female students opened in Kiev. The Kiev-Pechersk monastery was the center of Old Russian chronicle writing.

The Mongol invasion (thirteenth to fifteenth centuries) had a destructive influence on the eastern Slavic culturalPage 1449  |  Top of Article centers such as Kiev and Chernigov. In the fourteenth century the southwestern lands were occupied by Lithuanian feudals. National and religious oppression became especially strong in the sixteenth century after the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian state, Rzecz Pospolita. Jesuit collegiums and schools opened their doors for Catholics and Uniates, whereas the educational opportunities for the adherents of the Eastern Orthodox church were meager. The traditions of Ukrainian culture were continued by schools attached to monasteries in Kiev, Chernigov, Putivl, and other places. In 1572 the first Russian printer, Ivan Fyodorov, arrived in Lvov; two years later a printing house, established with his assistance, published the first Bukvar (ABC-Book). By 1678 Ukraine had over 20 printing houses, which published educational literature and other books.

Brotherhood schools, which emerged in Lvov (1585), Kiev (1615), Lutsk (1617), and other cities played an important part in the preservation of the Slavic cultural identity. They were not merely educational institutions, but cultural centers, which united progressive writers, poets, printers, and teachers. From the late sixteenth to the early seventeenth centuries, Ukraine had about 30 brotherhood schools. They published textbooks and organized teaching in the native language. The School Rules (Poryadok Shkol'ny) issued by the Lvov school are still considered to be an outstanding monument of educational thought. The 1648-1654 war, led by Bogdan Khmelnitsky, resulted in the reunification of Ukraine with Russia. Numerous parish schools were opened to promote literacy.

The late 1700s saw the emergence of shipbuilding, metallurgical, and other professional schools. Because of the division of Poland, which started in 1772, western Ukrainian lands were annexed by Austria. The educational reform brought about the formation of state primary ("trivial") and incomplete secondary ("main") schools with instruction predominantly in German. In parish schools the teaching was done in Polish and German; the Ukrainian language was largely neglected and regarded merely as a dialect of Polish. The progressive young people in Lvov formed a society, Russkaya troitsa, (Russian Trinity), which published an almanac promoting democratic ideas.

The Russian 1803-1804 educational reform brought about the formation of gymnasiums, as well as privileged educational institutions, lyceums, and Institutes for Noble Young Ladies. The latter emerged in Kharkov (1805), Poltava (1817), Odessa, and Kiev. Initial professional education was provided by specialized institutions: the Kiev Railway School, the Kherson School of Commercial Navigation, and the Yekaterinislav School of Gardening, as well as art and trade schools. Universities opened in Kharkov in 1805 and in Kiev in 1834. Two year teacher training courses affiliated with the universities followed suit.

The new educational institutions reflected European patterns, but at the same time incorporated distinctive features based on the long-standing traditions of Slavic culture. After the Decembrist uprising in St. Petersburg (1825), which shattered the foundations of Russian czarism, great educational work was done in Kiev by General M. F. Orlov. He headed a group called "Union of Welfare," used his own money to organize schools of mutual education, and developed new curricula and methodological materials.

The secret Cyril-Methodius Society, founded in the 1840s at Kiev University and headed by N. I. Kostomarov, aimed at spreading education among different social groups. The members of the society opened schools for peasant children and worked hard to create and publish textbooks for them. The society included a revolutionary democratic group led by the national poet Taras Shevchenko. The ideas of the French revolution of 1848 encouraged progressive educators to foster the teaching and use of the Ukrainian language in schools. In the 1850s primary schools in the Ukrainian territories had 67,000 students. The secondary education institutions were represented by 15 male gymnasiums, 2 lyceums, 3 cadet corps, and 5 female secondary schools. Instruction in most of the schools was carried out in Russian. The movement promoting education for common people and schools with Ukrainian as the language of instruction became especially strong in the 1850s. It initiated the opening of Sunday schools in Kiev and Kharkov, but in 1863 they were closed for political reasons. The same year the czarist government prohibited the publishing of books in the Ukrainian language and in 1876 the language's use in educational institutions. The educational reform of the 1860s stimulated the establishment of new institutions, the introduction of comparatively progressive methods of teaching, and the admission of children from different ranks of society to primary schools. From 1877 to 1898 the number of schools grew from 1,112 to 3,179. Higher courses for women wanting an education were opened in Kiev and Kharkov. According to the census of 1897, the literacy rate for ages 9 to 49 was 27.9 percent, (41.7 percent among men and 14 percent among women).

The 1905-1907 Russian Revolution encouraged the development of new progressive ideas. The organization Prosvita (Enlightenment), the All-Ukrainian Teachers Union, and the Kiev Society for Public Kindergartens began their activities; free libraries opened in different cities; and a higher teachers training institute for female students was founded in Kiev. Uchilishche, a new type of public secondary school with four years of instruction,Page 1450  |  Top of Article quickly gained popularity; by 1916 300 existed in various parts of the country.

In western Ukraine, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian state, the educational opportunities for Ukrainians were scarce; the majority of the people were illiterate, and primary schools had only one grade. Most of the teaching was done in German, Polish, Hungarian, and Romanian; in 1911-1912, out of 134 general education schools only 11 had Ukrainian as the language of instruction. By 1914-1915 Ukraine (within its modern borders) had approximately 26,000 general education institutions, including 25,000 primary, 386 incomplete secondary, 577 complete secondary, and 88 specialized secondary schools for a total of 2,600,000 students.

After the Revolution of 1917, education developed rapidly. In July 1920 Narkompros (People's Commissariat of Education) of Ukraine published The Declaration on Social Education of Children, which initiated the introduction of a new educational system. Its basic unit was a seven year school that combined Communist education with productive labor. The new system rejected all of the pre-Revolutionary educational experience: textbooks were seen as a redundancy ("life is better than textbooks"); the family was regarded as a bourgeois survival, which had to be eliminated; and regular schools were almost totally phased out in favor of children's homes and communes. The idea of Communist discipline was epitomized by Anton Makarenko, the famous educator who managed to achieve great success in colonies for minors and juvenile delinquents.

In the 1920s the entire educational system had a pronounced vocational character. It envisages an extensive development of PTUs (professional technical schools). School clubs provided professional training and organized excursions, lectures, literary gatherings, and musical parties. Rabfaks (workers faculties) were attached to higher educational institutions specifically to train students from working class families. Beginning with the early 1920s, the society "Away with Illiteracy!" provided basic training for adults. By 1939 the literacy rate was claimed to be 88.2 percent. In 1924 there were 136 nursery schools and kindergartens attended by 6,000 children. The Research Institute of Pedagogy of the Ukrainian SSR, which was formed in 1926, started to advance educational theory and methodology. The reshaping of the educational system in the 1930s gave technicums (technical schools) the status of secondary specialized institutions; it also brought about the creation of new industrial, agricultural, economic, pedagogical, and medical higher educational establishments. Schooling for children aged 8 to 15 became compulsory. By 1932-1933 the number of people embraced by education had doubled as compared to 1928-1929 and reached 4.5 million.

At the same time about 80 percent of the population in Western Ukraine was illiterate; over 30 percent of children did not attend schools; and only 5 percent of students were getting education in the Ukrainian language. The reunification of Ukraine in 1939 resulted in the establishment of new schools, promotion of literacy for adults, and instruction in the native tongue. By 1940-1941 Ukraine had 6,900 preschools with 319,000 children; 30,800,000 general education schools with 6.6 million students and 250,000 teachers; 690 secondary specialized schools with 196,000 students; and 129 higher educational institutions with 124,400 students.

The advancement of education miraculously coexisted with the Stalinist political terror. Thousands of intellectuals became victims of mass repression. The indoctrination of Communist ideology at educational institutions reached its peak. Anyone who dared express an opinion different from the official point of view was subject to being imprisoned, executed, or sent to a concentration camp. During the Second World War, the Nazi troops completely destroyed over 8,000 schools; 10,000 more schools were partially ruined.

In spite of all the misfortunes, deaths, and cataclysms brought about by the war, the network was quickly restored. By 1945-1946 there were over 28,000 general education schools with 5 million people. The deStalinization of the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev had a profound influence on the political and cultural life in Ukraine. The content of education changed significantly. The transference to universal, compulsory, eight year schooling was completed by 1960-1961. The activities of the prominent teacher and scholar Vassily Suhkomlinsky, who made special emphasis on civil and ethical aspects of education, aroused great public interest, as well as sharp criticism from the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences. Sukhomlinsky, a school director, considered the child's personality to have the highest value in the process of teaching and upbringing. He saw the main goal of education in the realization of the students' inborn qualities, spontaneous reactions, and impulses. He also paid special attention to society as the context of education and included ethical categories in pedagogy.

The social apathy of the 1980s, the lack of diversity, and the predominance of indoctrination programs resulted in the crisis of the educational system. The attempted educational reform of 1984 proved to be ineffective, but the significant changes attained after the initiation of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) under the Soviet leader Mihkail Gorbachev continued after the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991.

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The Law on Education adopted in 1991 secured the main principles of Ukrainian education: democracy; priority of humanistic values; organic connection with history, culture, and traditions; continuity; and diversity of educational opportunities. The program, "Osvita" or "Ukraine in the 21st Century" was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in November 1993.

Article 53 of the Constitution adopted in 1996 declares the right of every citizen to an education. Basic secondary education is compulsory. The state provides free primary, secondary, and vocational technical training in the state and communal institutions. Free higher education can be attained on a competitive basis. School is separated from the church, and education has a secular character. This provision is of special importance, because there are 60 different religious confessions existing in Ukraine.

In 1996 the Supreme Rada (Ukrainian parliament) adopted amendments to the Law on Education of 1991. The amended law defines the main principles underlying the educational system and establishes the areas of responsibility of the central and local administrative organs in the sphere of education. It also points out that educational institutions in Ukraine can be state, communal, or private property. The state standards set by the central organs specify the requirements to the content and level of instruction and professional training. They are approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, serve as the basis for the evaluation of the graduates' qualifications, and have to be reviewed every 10 years. The establishment of standards allows for an equivalency of qualifications on all the territory of Ukraine. In the future, it will provide the ground for the transferability of degrees between the countries, belonging to the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Any kind of political, religious, or military activity in educational institutions is prohibited. The state is expected to assist the development of science and culture, enhance educational opportunities for citizens from underprivileged social groups, and initiate contacts with the world educational community. The laws On Preschool Education, On Protection of Childhood, On General Secondary Education, On Professional Education, and On Higher Education, as well as numerous statutes and regulations, further specify the provisions of the Constitution and the main Law.

In the 1990s the government, concerned that the spheres of use of the Ukrainian language were limited, launched the policy of ukranization and de-russification. According to the new decrees, all the government officers have to be tested as to their knowledge of the Ukrainian language. The statute of the Council of Ministers, On the Program of the Development of the Ukrainian Language and Other National Languages (1991) and a complex plan of the Ministry of Education changed the approach towards the choice of languages at school. They set the aim of reshaping the educational network on the basis of the national structure and the needs of the population. The statute of the Ministry of Education of 1992 continued the same line and decreed the creation of a network of primary school grades, which would correspond to the national structure of each region. The Ministry also authorized moral and material encouragement of the teachers who used Ukrainian as the language of instruction. The number of hours allotted to the Russian language and literature was significantly reduced. Though Article 27 of the Law on Languages pronounced the study of Russian as an obligatory subject, the letter of 1993, signed by the Deputy Minister of Education, gave it the status of a foreign language and allowed schools to introduce other foreign languages instead of Russian. The new regulations also prescribe the de-russification of TV, radio, sports, tourism, and theaters, as well as the use of taxation mechanisms to regulate the flow of periodicals from abroad. The Concept of Education for National Minorities, developed by the Ministry of Education, envisages gradual transition to Ukrainian as the language of instruction, beginning with the fourth grade.

All these steps are expected to extend the spheres of usage of the Ukrainian language, intensify its free development, and enhance its prestige. The opponents of the policy of de-russification argue that a vast majority of the population prefers to use Russian in their everyday life, and therefore it cannot be regarded as a language of a national minority. They believe that the revival of Ukrainian culture cannot be achieved through the forcible introduction of the Ukrainian language, as well as the discrimination of other languages, including Russian. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation issued a note of protest against the violation of the rights of the Russian-speaking population. In response, the proponents of the Ukrainian linguistic policy insist on the right of the population to use their native language and revive the Ukrainian national identity.

This state policy brought about the increase of instruction in the Ukrainian language from 49 percent in 1990-1991 to 66 percent in 1999-2000. Educational institutions had to deal with the development of terminology for various subjects, which had not been taught in Ukrainian before. Other languages taught, represented at different types of educational institutions, include Hungarian, Moldavian, Romanian, Crimean Tartar, and German.

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The Ukrainian educational system combines the features inherited from the Soviet Union with the quest for national revival. Article 29 of the Law on Education outlines the following types of education: preschool, general secondary, extra school, vocational technical, higher, post-graduate, aspirantura, doctorantura, and self-education.

Preschool education is optional. It is provided by nursery schools, which cater to the needs of infants from six weeks to three years old, and kindergartens for children from three to six years old. General education is represented by primary, basic (incomplete) secondary, and complete secondary schools, which usually coexist under the same roof. Basic secondary education is compulsory and requires three or four years of primary school plus five years of secondary school. Students who intend to continue their studies can follow one of three main tracks: they can pursue their studies on the upper secondary level (grades 10 and 11), enter a vocational secondary school, or apply to a higher educational institution of the first or second accreditation level (technicum or college). The third and fourth accreditation levels of higher education are represented by institutes, academies, conservatories, and universities. They require complete secondary education as a prerequisite for entry. Aspirantura and doctorantura provide postgraduate education, which leads to the defense of a dissertation and advanced scholarly degrees of Kandydat nauk and Doktor nauk.


Preprimary education in Ukraine is included in the state educational system. It is subordinate to the Ministry of Education. The major types of preschool facilities are nursery schools (dytyachi yasla), which take care of infants from six weeks to three years old, and kindergartens (dytyachi sadki), which are intended for children from three to six years of age. Orphans and children without proper parental care are placed in children's homes, boarding kindergartens, and or family-type and sanatorium-type facilities. There are also specialized preschool institutions for children with physical and mental disabilities, as well as other diseases. The length of stay at most of the facilities is nine hours, but there are also institutions, which work on a 24 hour basis. Preschools provide childcare and initial intellectual, physical, and aesthetic education. Special emphasis is made on the preparation of children for primary school. Classes are devoted to the development of speech and elementary numerical skills, singing, dancing, foreign languages, and art. The government encourages the study of the Ukrainian language and culture. Teachers for preschool institutions (vykhovateli) are trained at specialized departments of teacher training schools, institutes, and universities, as well as advanced training and retraining institutes.

The 1980s witnessed the maximum enrollment of children in public preschools. The economic changes of the late 1980s and 1990s deprived preprimary institutions of regular financing, which had been guaranteed by the centralized Soviet state. Fifty-eight percent of all the facilities had previously belonged to particular enterprises, as well as collective and state farms. The bankruptcy or disastrous financial state of industrial enterprises and collective farms have endangered the existence of the entire network. Other negative factors, which have a profound impact on the state of preprimary education, are the declining birth rate, high infant mortality (15.2 per 1,000 newly born babies; 18.8 in rural areas), and unemployment among parents. Consequently, the number of preschools decreased approximately from 25,000 (with 2,428,000 children) in 1990 to 18,000 (with 1,100,000 children) in 1998. The majority of preschools have been subordinated to the municipal administrative organs, but the local budgets cannot cope with their financing. Many of the surviving facilities are barely able to meet sanitation requirements. The funds are insufficient for the renovation and further development of the institutions. There is a steady tendency towards shifting the burden of financing preprimary facilities from the state to the family. The fees, which used to be symbolic before the 1990s, are growing; many families cannot afford them. Since the state provides a small allowance for 1 non-working parent until the baby reaches the age of 12 months, young mothers usually prefer to stay home with their infants, rather than take them to a nursery.

The transition to a market economy calls for new approaches and forms of work in preprimary education. In order to balance state financing and family needs, preschools offer a variety of options, including short term stay, seasonal services, and variable cost programs. According to the state statutes and regulations, the fees directly depend on the family income. Children from low income or incomplete families attend preschools free of charge. The emerging non-state institutions offer diverse new services (e.g., aesthetic education, foreign language instruction, and swimming). They are usually expensive and are aimed at well to do families. Complex facilities, school plus kindergarten, are gaining popularity in rural areas. In 1998 Ukraine had 981 such combined institutions.

The laws on Preschool Education, On Protection of Childhood, and On Approval of the State Standard for Preschool Education aim for the further development of the preprimary network. Amongst others, they set the goal of ensuring the conjunction between the preprimary and primary school curricula. The publications in thePage 1453  |  Top of Article journal Doshkilne Vykhovannia (Preschool Education) are specifically devoted to issues that deal with the development of new educational technologies for preprimary institutions.

Complete general (non-professional) education in Ukraine lasts 11 years and includes 3 stages:

  • primary school (first to fourth grade)
  • basic secondary school (fifth to ninth grade)
  • upper secondary school (tenth to eleventh grade).

Legally, each of the stages can function separately, but, in practice, they all usually coexist under the same roof. In 1998-1999 Ukraine had an approximate total of 22,000 general education schools with 6,876,000 students and 569,000 teachers; in 12,000 schools with 5,938,000 students all the 3 stages were combined. In the future, the complete period of study at a secondary school is to be extended to 12 years.

Basic nine year education is compulsory. The school year lasts from 1 September to 1 June and is divided into quarters. There are four vacations: a week in early November, two weeks for the New Year holidays, a week at the end of March, and two to three months in the summer. School is held five or six days a week, depending on the decision of the school council. Classes last from 35 to 45 minutes. The intervals between them are from 5 to 25 minutes, and there is no additional lunch break.

The state standards for general education are developed by the Ministry of Education, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of Ukraine. Basic curricula approved by the Cabinet of Ministers include an invariable part, established on the state level and the same for all educational institutions of this kind, and the variable part, which takes into account regional peculiarities and is constructed by the institution itself.

The majority of schools are coeducational. From the very beginning students (uchni or vykhovantsi) are divided into classes of 25 to 30 children, which will continue to study as a permanent group until the end of school. This allows them to develop close friendships with their classmates. On the whole, Ukrainian culture is collectivist, and team activities play an important part in the educational process. Evaluation is based on numerical grades: five is excellent; four, good; three, satisfactory; and two, unsatisfactory (failure). Grade "one" is unofficial, but can be sometimes used by teachers to emphasize the student's poor performance. Grading is done publicly. At the end of the academic year, the best students are awarded certificates of excellence.

Each school is managed by a director who is responsible for the organization of the educational process, methodological work, extracurricular activities, and school finance. The highest organ of school self-government is the Educational Council, which adopts the school charter and makes final decisions about the organizational structure, adoption of curricula, introduction of innovations, and other issues of major importance. It also cooperates with the parents' committee, local administrative organs, nongovernmental organizations, and other educational institutions.

The traditional age of entry into primary school is seven. The educational reform of 1984 attempted to lower the school age to six. However, the educational system was not ready to cope with the new responsibilities. There were not enough classrooms, adequately trained teachers, proper equipment, and good textbooks. As a result, prospective first graders are offered two options: either to enter school at the age of seven, study for three years, skip the fourth grade, and go on to the secondary school level (fifth grade); or start school at six and cover the same program in four years with an easier work load. The Law on General Education adopted in 1999 envisages gradual transition to a four year primary school paradigm, which will embrace all the eligible children.

The academic year is 175 days long, with an annual study load of 700 hours in the first and second grades and 790 hours in the third and fourth grades. The elementary curriculum consists of reading and writing in Ukrainian or other native languages, basics of mathematics, nature study, labor, music, health education, and physical training. The main part of the curriculum is the same on all the territory of the country and approved by the Ministry of Education. However, due to the tendency towards the diversification of programs, schools are allowed to introduce subjects of their own choice (e.g., valeology, foreign languages, environmental study, and dancing). The development of a whole new generation of textbooks has had a profound influence on the content of education. Children receive textbooks free of charge at the beginning of an academic year and return them to the library before summer vacation. The class is supervised by one teacher who is responsible for most of the subjects, as well as the organization of extracurricular activities. Students get cumulative grades for all the subjects at the end of each quarter and the school year.


Basic secondary education covers a period of 5 years past primary school with 190 school days a year, plus 3 weeks of examinations and tests at the end of the ninth grade (last year of study). The program of study is specified every academic year by the Ministry of Education. This defines the core part of the curriculum for all the schools in the territory of Ukraine. The curricula are published Page 1454  |  Top of Article
Ukraine in periodicals and newsletters intended for schoolteachers and administrators. The annual study load is from 860 to 1030 hours, depending on the grade. They are divided between obligatory subjects, established by the Ministry of Education, and optional disciplines, introduced on the school level (four to five hours a week). In the fifth grade all the students have classes of the Ukrainian or other native languages and literature; foreign language and literature; mathematics and basics of computer science; Ukrainian history; nature study; music; art; physical training; household arts; and health education. Other subjects are gradually added on at different levels of instruction: world history, geography and biology in the sixth grade; physics in the seventh grade; chemistry in the eighth grade; and so on. Each subject is taught by a different teacher. The weekly number of hours devoted to every discipline is from one to five. The schedule is different every day. All the lessons are attended by the whole class, which can include 5 to 30 people. Students are divided into subgroups for the study of foreign languages. An evaluation is made at the end of each quarter and based on the students' current performance, as well as final tests. In order to be promoted to the next grade, students have to complete the requirements in all the subjects. Otherwise, they have to repeat the previous grade. At the end of the ninth grade all the students take final examinations, which culminate the program of basic secondary education. Ninety-six percent of young people in Ukraine get basic secondary education, most of them by the age of 15.

The curriculum at the upper secondary level includes more sophisticated subjects and allows for greater individual choice of disciplines. Students are evaluated on a semester basis. At the end of the eleventh grade, all the students are required to take their final examinations. If they pass them successfully, they are awarded a Certificate of Secondary Education, which is a prerequisite for entry to higher educational establishments of the third and fourth accreditation levels (institutes, academies, and universities). Students with all "fives" for all the semesters of the upper secondary level are awarded gold medals, and those who have one or two "fours" among all other excellent marks receive a silver medal. The majority of general education schools enroll full time students. However, those who wish to combine education with work can study part time at night or in correspondence schools.

The innovative types of schools include gymnasiums, which offer comprehensive classical education, and lyceums, giving specialization in a certain area of knowledge. These institutions are becoming highly prestigious. In 1998-1999 Ukraine had 243 gymnasiums and 268 lyceums. A specifically Ukrainian type of institution is a collegium or "an upper school" with philologically, philosophically, and aesthetically oriented education. Approximately 3,000 schools with over 500,000 students provide in-depth instruction in certain subjects.

The emergence of non-traditional schools reflects the adjustment of the Ukrainian school system to an unprecedented expansion and diversification. Boarding schools, intended for the chosen few in the nineteenth century and deemed to be "the school of the future" during the Soviet times, now cater to the needs of orphans, children without proper parental care, or students from remote areas who have no school within a reasonable distance from home. Other boarding, "forest," and sanatorium-type schools enroll students with physical and mental disabilities, speech defects, and other health problems. They provide both general education that has been adjusted to the students' special needs and medical treatment.

The political and economic reforms of the 1990s brought to Ukraine independence, freedom of choice, and the transition to a market economy. They initiated major changes in the educational system based on deideologization, connection with national culture, and the introduction of new subjects into the school curricula. On the other hand, many areas of life, especially those financed from the state budget, are experiencing serious difficulties. Insufficient financing and social problems are distracting public attention from the educational system. As a result, school buildings are falling apart; equipment and library funds are outdated. In the mid-1990s only 40 percent of students were provided with the necessary textbooks. The state satisfies only 7 to 10 percent ofPage 1455  |  Top of Article the schools' need for technical equipment. Teacher morale is low because of the absurdly small salaries and lengthy delays in their payment. Due to the lack of space, in the 1990-1995 period, the number of students studying on a shift schedule increased by 45,000. The rural urban divide continues to grow, as innovations hardly reach village schools. Non-traditional educational institutions are predominantly situated in the cities. The difference in the quality of education is drastic; rural young people cannot compete with their city peers at the entry examinations to universities. Because of alcoholism and other medical and social problems, the number of mentally retarded children and juvenile delinquents is growing.

The Law on General Secondary Education (1999) emphasized the necessity to coordinate the interests of Ukrainian society and the state, improve the quality of education, provide for a greater independence of educational institutions, develop a more diverse spectrum of schools, and create opportunities for entering the European and world educational community. Among other steps, the governmental program envisages the transition to 12 year general education schooling. The upper secondary school will include three grades. At this stage, students will have a chance to specialize in the areas of knowledge connected with their future studies at the university level. The reform will also deal with the development of state standards and the introduction of the best world educational experiences in Ukrainian secondary schools. The presidential decree On Governmental Support to the Training of Specialists for Rural Areas, as well as other statutes and regulations, aim at bridging the gap between rural and urban schools.

The Law on Professional Education, adopted in 1998, outlines the legal basis of the system of vocational training. The schools, which make up part of the network, can either provide a professional education or its combination with general secondary education. The prerequisite for entry into vocational training institutions is successful completion of basic secondary school (nine grades). The length of study is one year if it involves only vocational training and from three to four years if it is accompanied by general secondary education. Initial job qualifications are acquired from professional technical schools (PTU), agricultural schools, factory schools, and other institutions attached to enterprises or collective farms where students can get on the job training. The secondary professional level is represented by uchilishcha, which give education both in production and nonproduction areas (art, pedagogy, music, medicine, and other related subjects). Other types include special institutions for students with physical and mental disabilities, which provide them with vocational skills appropriate for their medical condition; social rehabilitation schools intended for juvenile delinquents; and centers of personnel training and retraining. In the 1990s technicums and colleges, which also used to belong to the system of secondary vocational training, were given the status of higher educational institutions.

The academic year consists of 40 weeks and is divided into semesters. The weekly study load is 36 hours. The curricula include several blocks of subjects: science, humanities, professional theoretical, and professional practical disciplines. The educational process is organized in the form of lectures, seminars, laboratory work, individual study projects, reports, and excursions. Theoretical and practical instruction is combined with productive work in shops, factories, training grounds, and subsidiary farms. In the mid-1990s the network had approximately 11,000 specially equipped classrooms, 3,000 laboratories, and approximately 7,000 training grounds. Agricultural PTUs owned 70,000 hectares (175,000 acres) of land, as well as 16,000 tractors, automobiles, and combines. Graduation is preceded by the defense of a diploma project and qualification exams. Specialists from the enterprises, which work in conjunction with the schools, are represented on the State Examination Board and control the professional level of the graduating students.

The new socioeconomic conditions account for significant changes in the system of vocational training. They stimulate the introduction of new specialties attractive for students and required by the job market, the development of the state educational standards, and partial transition from state to non-state funding. The most popular specialties among male PTU graduates are: auto mechanic, electrician, TV repair, electric welder, radio mechanic, and carpenter. Those among female graduates are salesclerk, hairdresser, house painter, tailor, and secretary.

Teachers working in the system of vocational training are graduates of secondary or higher engineering and pedagogical institutions, as well as the Republic Institute of Advanced Training for Teachers of Professional Technical Schools. In 1995-1996 there were 60,000 people employed in the network, including 18,000 teachers and 30,000 masters of production training. Forty-five percent of the masters had an advanced professional qualification, while 39 percent had been trained in 2 or more specialties. The head of a vocational school is a director, appointed by a corresponding ministry or agency. It is a competitive contract position. The director's responsibilities encompass the supervision of the academic process, creation of appropriate conditions for training specialists, introduction of progressive educational forms, and control of the school's finance. The director reports to the school meeting or conference, which is the highest organ of the institution's self-government.

Since 1990 the financial state of vocational training institutions has significantly deteriorated; the equipmentPage 1456  |  Top of Article is inadequate and there are no funds for the renovation of the buildings and other facilities. In 1994-1995 low salaries and unsatisfactory working conditions forced over 3,000 teachers to leave their jobs; the total number of vacancies reached 7,000. From 1991 to 1996 the network lost 108 schools. In spite of all the negative tendencies, the system of vocational training still renders social protection to young people. In 1997-1998, some 55,000 orphans and 200,000 students from low-income families were provided dormitories, free food, and medical service. The network owns dispensaries, recreation centers, and sports camps. Students who attend agricultural schools receive small state allowances and free transportation passes. Good and excellent students get privileges in admission to higher educational institutions. On the average, 84 percent of students are provided with job placement. In the situation of an economic crisis, the retraining of unemployed adults acquires special significance. In 1996 the network trained approximately 264,000 and retrained 271,000 people.


The Law on Education establishes the following system of higher qualification levels:

  • Junior Specialist (three years of instruction)
  • Bachelor (four years of instruction)
  • Specialist (one year of instruction beyond the first or second level for a total of four or five years)
  • Master (two years of instruction past the first or second level for a total of five or six years).

The number of students seeking the third and fourth level degrees is steadily growing. Young people and their parents recognize the value of higher education and the opportunities it provides in the modern world. The umbrella term "VUZ" (vyshchy uchbovy zaklad) is used to denote all kinds of higher educational institutions. In 1998-1999 the network included 327 higher technical schools (technicumy), 216 higher vocational schools (uchilishcha), 117 colleges, 149 institutes, 2 conservatories, 48 academies, and 81 universities. Approximately 85 percent of the VUZs were owned by the state; the remaining 15 percents had different forms of ownership.

In order to be officially acknowledged, all the institutions have to be duly licensed and accredited by the state. The procedure of licensing gives the institution the right to offer educational services, whereas the accreditation establishes its status and recognizes its ability to train specialists at the level of state standards. The preliminary examination of the institution's capacity and training potential is carried out by Expert Boards, and the final decision is made by the State Accreditation Board. The prerequisites for enrollment into higher educational programs include complete secondary education and success in the entrance examinations. The rules for the latter are set by the VUZs on the basis of general state regulations. Applicants who finished secondary schools with silver and gold medals take only one profile examination and are admitted if they receive an excellent grade. Others have to go through a competition based on the cumulative results of the exams. The competition to popular institutions can be quite keen. Preference is given to particular social groups, such as children from working class families, orphans, and war veterans. To provide better chances for admission for rural applicants, VUZ set special quotas to train specialists, who are expected to work in rural areas after graduation. In 2000 more than approximately 3,000 students were enrolled on the basis of such quotas.

The majority of institutions are coeducational. On the average, male and female students are equally represented at the VUZs, though women are usually predominant in humanitarian departments and men in technical schools. The programs can be full time (day) and part time (night or by correspondence). Since 1990-1991 the enrollment in full time programs has been steadily growing. This is mainly because of the emergence of non-state institutions and departments, where the competition is not so fierce. During the period from 1990 to 1996 the number of part time students decreased from approximately 13,000 to 3,000 in the night departments and from 55,000 to 45,000 in the correspondence departments.

Once admitted, freshmen are divided into groups of 20 to 25 students, who attend most of the classes together and study as a team until they graduate. The academic year begins on 1 September; it lasts 42 weeks and is divided into 2 semesters. The pressure of the state in defining the content of education is still great. Institutions have to adopt the curricula approved by the Ministry of Education even when it conflicts with the opinion of faculty members about the expediency of teaching certain subjects and the number of hours allotted to them. The obligatory part of the curricula includes several areas: social science, humanities, law, environmental studies, ethics, philosophy, and world and national culture. Different subjects are distributed between these areas. It is believed that state regulations allow for the same level of training throughout the entire country. Due to some positive changes, part of the curricula is intended for subjects that can be introduced by the VUZs and thus allow for the diversification of the programs. The approach towards the selection of textbooks and other teaching materials has also become much more liberal. In addition to the current evaluation, students take tests and examinations (the latter mostly oral) at the end of each semester. Typical grades are verbal: pass/fail or excellent, good, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory. Students, who successfully completePage 1457  |  Top of Article all the requirements, receive small stipends from the state.

In order to graduate, students have to defend a thesis and take final state examinations before a panel of professors. The head of the Examination Board is invited from a different institution. Students who graduate with honors (75 percent excellent and 25 percent good grades) receive the so-called "Red Certificate."

Post-graduate education exists in the form of aspirantura and doktorantura, which are attached to educational or research institutions. Aspirantura is a three year advanced training program, leading to the degree of Kandydat Nauk (Candidate of Sciences), which is approximately equivalent to a Ph.D. It is awarded to scholars who pass corresponding qualification exams, publish a number of articles, and defend a dissertation. Holders of the Kandydat's degree can continue their studies in doktorantura. It is a highly prestigious program, and scholars are usually promoted to it after many years of teaching and research. It is essentially a three year sabbatical, which gives the scholar an opportunity to publish a monograph, defend another (more advanced) dissertation, and receive the highest degree conferred in Ukraine—Doktor Nauk (Doctor of Sciences).

Faculty positions include assistant, senior lecturer, dotsent (which usually requires the Kandydat's degree), and professor (requiring the Doktor's degree). They are attained on a competitive basis for a period of five years, after which faculty members have to compete again for the same or a higher position. In 1997-1998 the Ukrainian higher educational system had 130,000 faculty members, 56.6 percent of which had Kandyat's degrees and 7.3 percent were holders of Doktor's degrees. After a year of work in the position of a dotsent or a professor, faculty members can be promoted to a corresponding scholarly rank (zvannya), which is awarded for a lifetime by VAK (Supreme Attestation Commission) and accompanied by a certificate. The highest honorable ranks are corresponding academy member (chlen-korrespondent) and full academy member (diysnychlen).

The Academic Council of a VUZ elects the rector who is responsible for the overall organization of the institution. Prorectors are employed on a contract basis to assist the rector with particular areas of work (e.g., academic process, research, or international contacts). The institution consists of schools, or faculties, headed by deans. Faculty members are organized in departments (kafedry) according to their area of knowledge.

Ukrainian higher educational institutions experience the same difficulties as the rest of the educational system. Financing is far below the norm; the number of computers and other advanced equipment does not meet modern requirements. The funds allocated for research are insufficient. Every year the number of students who receive education free of charge is shrinking, whereas more and more spaces are allocated for applicants who pay tuition fees. Since the latter do not have to go through a severe competition, their level of knowledge often leaves much to be desired. Consequently, the overall quality of student preparation deteriorates. Low salaries and lack of social protection make professors look for jobs elsewhere. In 1994-1995, for example, over 7,000 faculty members, predominantly doktors and kandydats, left their teaching positions. The average age of faculty is growing. Bribery and corruption in the educational sphere have become quite common.

The favorable tendencies include the humanization and diversification of curricula, introduction of innovative methods, and more freedom given to professors in the choice of teaching materials. The elimination of courses indoctrinating Communist ideology allows for a more objective approach to the processes taking place in the modern world. On the other hand, when professors have to switch from old to new subjects, in which they had not received any proper training themselves (e.g., from atheism to theology or from mathematics to business), it has an overall negative effect on the educational process. Nevertheless, VUZs are gradually adjusting to the new conditions. The most important tasks in the sphere of higher education include: the development of multiple forms and mechanisms of financing; the establishment of contacts with enterprises, organizations, central and local organs of power that would provide employment opportunities for prospective graduates; the creation of favorable conditions for the work of highly qualified specialists in the sphere of education; and the development of international contacts. VUZs are also encouraged to set departments beyond their original campuses in order to enhance better educational opportunities in different regions of the country.


The state organs of power include the Ministry of Education, other ministries and agencies, supervising particular educational institutions, VAK (the Supreme Attestation Commission), the Ministry of Education of the autonomous Republic of the Crimea, local executive bodies, and organs of self-government. The Ministry of Education plays the leading role in defining and executing the state policy in education, science, and professional training, as well as the development of curricula and state standards. It defines the norms and rules of admission to higher educational institutions and organizes the attestation of teachers. The ministries and agencies are responsible for the control, inspection, licensing, and accreditation Page 1458  |  Top of Article
Ukraine of educational institutions. VAK supervises the attestation of specialists, confers, and approves advanced scholarly degrees. Organs of self-government are represented by general meetings and conferences of educational institutions; district, city, or oblast teacher conferences; and finally by the All-Ukrainian Teachers Convention.

Together with local executive organs, they make decisions about the establishment of the budget financing, the development and social security of teachers and students, and other issues referring to their sphere of competence.

During the Soviet times, the state budget was the only source of financing for the educational sphere. The transition to a market economy and the establishment of non-state educational institutions account for the emergenceof new sources of financing, including local budgets, private enterprises, and individuals. According to the Law on Education, the state financing of the educational sphere cannot be less than 10 percent of the GNP. All primary and secondary school students are provided with free health care. Orphans and children from low income families also receive allowances for food and clothes.

The economic crisis of the late 1990s created serious problems for the educational system: deterioration of school and university buildings; lack of funds for renovation, modern equipment, and textbooks; delays in the payment of salaries to teachers; and shortages of electricity and heating. The main aims of the Ukrainian government and the Ministry of Education include the preservation of the existing network and the development of effective mechanisms of financing the educational sphere under the new socioeconomic conditions.

After the declaration of independence in 1991, the use of languages became an important political issue. Since Ukraine is a multinational state, the languages used on its territory include Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian, and others. Traditionally the western part of Ukraine (Lvov, Vinnitsa, Ivano-Frankovsk, etc.) predominantly used the Ukrainian language, whereas the eastern part (Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and the Crimea) gave preference to Russian. The Law on Languages in the Ukrainian SSR, adopted in 1989, for the first time gave Ukrainian the status of a state language (derzhavna mova). Article 10 of the Constitution (1996) secured this provision and obliged the state to enhance the development and extensive use of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of life. At the same time it gave Russian the role of a tool of international communication and guaranteed the protection of all the languages of national minorities. According to Article 53 of the Constitution, citizens belonging to ethnic groups other than Ukrainian have the right to get education in their native tongue in state institutions or through cultural societies.


Before 1991, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, its system of extraschool education included an extensive network of Palaces of Young Pioneers, Houses of Culture, Institutes of Marxism-Leninism, and cultural and sports facilities. All the educational activities provided by the system had a strong ideological flavor. In thePage 1459  |  Top of Article 1990s the institutions of nonformal education discontinued the practice of indoctrinating Communist ideology through their programs and could concentrate on their educational and cultural mission. However, due to the economic crisis, the network started shrinking. Educators engaged in the system had to direct their main efforts to the survival, rather than extension, of their facilities. In the mid 1990s the network of nonformal institutions Comprised of 900 multifunctional centers of children's creative work, 500 sports schools, 250 centers of young technicians, 200 young naturalists stations, and 20 young tourists stations. Other facilities are art schools and studios, music schools, health centers, and summer camps. Independent education can be obtained through people's universities, libraries, clubs, TV, and radio programs. New offerings include aerobic and shaping courses, Internet cafes, computer games, and health centers for those who can afford it.

Special attention is given to adult education, which was largely ignored in the 1980s and 1990s. The search for better-paying jobs, ambition, or the need to acquire an additional profession urge thousands of people to take part in advanced training, refresher, or retraining courses. In 1999 over 500 state, communal, and private educational institutions in the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and 23 other ministries and agencies offered postgraduate training and refresher courses for adults. The developing market economy produces the need for specialists in the field of economic and financial management, banking, insurance, law, and other areas. The most active enrollees in the programs of additional education are representatives of small businesses, demobilized military officers, and the unemployed.

Organizations engaged in educational research are teacher training institutions, research institutes of pedagogy and psychology, the Pedagogical Society founded in 1960, the Pedagogical Museum organized in 1948 as an exhibition, and numerous educational associations. Other public and research organizations, which participate in international programs, organize educational fairs and exhibitions, and publish periodicals, are: the Znannia ("Knowledge") Society of Ukraine, the Association of Non-State-Owned Educational Institutions of Ukraine, the International Education Fund, the Ukrainian Teachers' Creative League, and others.


In 1997-1998 there were over 500,000 teachers employed in the Ukrainian educational system of which over 90 percent of them with a higher education. Ten universities, 29 pedagogical institutes, and 50 secondary pedagogical schools trained teachers. A number of industrial pedagogical technicums prepared teachers for vocational technical schools. The Kiev, Odessa, Rovno, and Slavic teacher training institutes, as well as 40 secondary pedagogical schools (uchilishcha), have specialized departments for training preschool and primary school teachers. The curricula include pedagogy, psychology, anatomy, hygiene, and methods of teaching specially designed for working with young children. Students can specialize in art, music, household arts, and physical training. Some of the pedagogical schools are affiliated with higher educational institutions offering teacher training programs. In this case, institute and university professors teach part of the courses at the schools. An agreement between the institutions can allow the graduates of uchilishcha to get advanced placement at the institutes or universities.

The curricula of higher educational establishments training secondary school teachers are constantly modified to include the innovative methodologies and experiences. The common practice for the students is to get training in two areas of specialization (e.g., biology and geography or the Ukrainian language and literature). Students regularly take part in the teaching practice at primary or secondary schools. Now that educational institutions have more freedom, they sometimes allow their students to practice teaching on the university level, which partially makes up for the lack of special teacher training programs for higher educational establishments.

In the Soviet Union all the graduates were assigned to teaching positions by the state and had to work there for at least three years. This practice has been given up; finding a job has become the students' responsibility. According to the Law on Education, the weekly workload of secondary school teachers is 18 hours. They get extra pay for teaching additional hours or doing other kinds of work (e.g., supervising a group of students or correcting written assignments). Teachers have to go through the attestation process once every five years. It consists of two parts, which testify to their knowledge of the subject, as well as the efficiency of their curricular and extracurricular work.

Specially organized commissions assign the teacher one of the four categories based on the results of the attestation: specialist, specialist of the second category, specialist of the first category, or specialist of the highest category. The attained category acknowledges the teacher's qualification level and influences his or her salary. One of the aspects taken into account during attestation is participation in advanced training programs and refresher courses. The system of advanced training and retraining includes over 20 institutes, as well as specialized departments of universities and other VUZs.

Teachers also participate in methodological seminars and conferences, organized by local educational departments, and attend professional development seminars andPage 1460  |  Top of Article their colleagues' demonstration classes. Due to the nonpayment of salaries from the budget, which plagued the country in the 1990s, as well as other financial and social problems, thousands of teachers quit their jobs. Others had to go on strike in order to make the government fulfil its obligations to the teachers and schools. The quality of instruction at rural schools remains a serious problem. The government tries to solve it by allotting spots at teacher training institutes and universities for applicants from rural areas and giving them privileges at admission. However, the mechanisms have not been worked out adequately: after graduation many students in such programs fail to go back home to teach at a rural school and remain in the city. Therefore, the level of teaching in most of the rural schools is inadequate, and, because of numerous vacancies, some subjects are not taught at all. Many teachers from rural schools do not have a higher education. They are encouraged to complete their education through correspondence programs and use other educational opportunities to upgrade their qualification. Serous work aimed at the improvement of education in Ukraine is carried out by the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, which was created in 1992. Its activities in the 1990s resulted in the development of new curricula; publication of textbooks on humanitarian subjects, which were devoid of Communist ideological biases; creation of educational materials specifically intended for the Crimean Tartars and other groups of population; and research in different areas of pedagogy.


The socioeconomic changes encountered by Ukraine in the late 1980s to 1990s and the transition to a market economy account for the humanization and democratization of the educational process, introduction of different forms of property in the educational sphere, and the development of innovative curricula. At the same time, numerous economic problems have a negative influence on different aspects of the life of teachers and students and bring about undesirable consequences.

The independence gained in 1991 and the quest for national identity allow for the promotion of nationally specific programs, use of the Ukrainian language in schools, and the opportunity to incorporate unique cultural peculiarities into school and university life. On the other hand, they are accompanied by unprepared nationalistic decisions, occasional discrimination of ethnic minorities, and rejection of valuable experiences and practices.

The most important goals of the educational sphere, outlined in the major national programs "Osvita, Ukraine in the Twenty-first Century," "The Main Directions of Reforming Educational System of Ukraine," and others, include: the development of new legislative and economic mechanisms, which will ensure the effective work of the educational system; the reorganization of the existing and creation of new educational institutions, which will provide for the multistage system of training highly qualified specialists; further diversification of curricula with regard to the national and regional peculiarities and needs of the population; the adaptation of the educational system to the requirements of the labor market; the training of specialists on the basis of the state standards, which will allow for an increase in the professional and social mobility of graduates; the establishment of partnerships of educational institutions with businesses and organizations to ensure the employment of graduates; the democratization of education, and development of the relationship between teachers and students based on mutual respect and effective cooperation; the creation and publication of new textbooks devoid of ideological biases; special attention given to the publication of textbooks in the Ukrainian language; the development of innovative methodological and information technologies; the enhancement of the accessibility of education for different social groups on throughout the country through the development of distance learning and the creation of a system of continuing education; the acquisition of sophisticated equipment, which would provide access to the Internet and other sources of up-to-date information; and the participation in large scale international projects.

Hopefully, the development of the educational system and the efforts of educators will make use of the long-standing educational tradition and rich Ukrainian history, allow for the preservation and development of the educational network, and ultimately make Ukraine part of the international educational community.


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—Olga Leontovich

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3409700233