Mistakes and fakes of Ukrainian handbooks: How to change the situation?

Author : Anna Peshkova

Source : 112 Ukraine

Why don't Ukrainian schoolchildren receive quality textbooks on time, and when will this finally change?
17:00, 27 September 2021

29% of school staff is fully vaccinated in Ukraine
Open source

Ukrainians pay attention to quotes from the Holy Scriptures in the history literature for sixth graders, and in the Ukrainian language textbook for fourth-grade students, there was false information that almost a hundred years ago the state language allegedly took third place in euphony. In the natural science textbook for the 5th grade, the photo of the An-70 aircraft was mistakenly signed as “Mriya”.

But school literature not only has mistakes: there is not enough of it, so parents have to buy textbooks at their own expense. Officials attribute the delays to a lack of funds.

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Reaction of the Ministry of Education and Science

Mistakes in school literature are no longer surprising: parents report them from year to year. One of the English textbooks, for example, indicated the wrong terms for the presidency and the Verkhovna Rada, as well as the wrong number of administrative units in our country. In the textbook for the first grade, the date of the founding of Kyiv was indicated as the 19th century instead of V. The use of a photo toad with actor Keanu Reeves instead of the famous photo "Lunch on a Skyscraper" was also sensational.

They promptly react to errors and correct them. When last year in the textbooks "History of Ukraine" for the 9th and 10th grades, the map of Ukraine without Crimea was used as a symbol, at the request of the Institute for the Modernization of the Content of Education, the publishing house revised the mark. We updated the electronic version of the textbook, sent inserts to the departments of education for printed versions. The same was done with regard to the mention of baking soda, which supposedly cures cancer. But not without battles.

The Ministry of Education said at first that "information on the treatment of cancer with soda will expand students' critical thinking." The label "recommended by MES" was left, emphasizing that baking soda "in combination with chemotherapy can slow down their development and prevent overgrowth in other parts of the body." This is how the Ministry of Education and Science protects its own specialists who recommended this textbook.

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Minister of Education Serhiy Shkarlet himself blames his predecessors, and also says that those who "allowed the printing of textbooks with errors in 2017-2020, do not work in the Ministry of Education and Science".

As for the incorrectly signed plane, Genesa said that the old books will not be corrected. Starting next year, a new version will be released for the program "We Know Nature".

It is not known whether the mention of the victory of the Ukrainian language in the competition at the Linguistic Congress in Paris in 1934 will be corrected. Although there is no confirmation in scientific sources that the Congress really met, there is no mention, they may leave the mention. As well as quoting the Bible.

One way or another, the system has long been discredited. In August, the State Service for the Quality of Education published a textbook policy report. Based on this report, only about a third of parents of schoolchildren in grades 1-3 were confident that there were no mistakes in the textbooks for NLS. The rest, to one degree or another, agreed that they were in the training materials. Also, some respondents noted that textbooks can be potentially offensive or discriminatory.

By the way, textbooks can be banned due to complaints from parents, if bill No. 5465 is adopted as a whole (now it has been adopted in the first reading).

But this is only a point solution. In the conclusion to the already mentioned report, the experts mention that the problems associated with the quality of textbooks are caused not so much by shortcomings in the work of specific people or institutions as by their systemic nature, and require a solution at the political level.

The Ministry of Education and Science itself admits that there are a number of reasons why the quality of school literature suffers. Let's figure out what is wrong with the creation of Ukrainian textbooks.

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Time is money

To begin with, the remuneration for the authors themselves is measured in hundred dollars per month. In the parliamentary bill passed in the first reading, it is proposed to double this amount, although not for everyone, but only for those whose textbooks will be printed with a circulation of 100,000 copies.

But the problem with the quality of textbooks is clearly not only in royalties. After all, it is hard to believe that the author of the book on the history of Ukraine really believed that Kyiv was founded in the XІX century. And this is not the case when the ministry announces a competition for the creation of textbooks in August-September, and the layouts must be submitted in December-January. For the high-quality preparation of new textbooks, at least a year and a half is required. And according to such a textbook, which is written for several months, the children had to study for 5 years.

The Ministry of Education and Science justly accuses publishing houses of low-quality editing, saving on professionals, which is not surprising given the limited state funding. However, the question of time still plays a role. Very few authors develop a textbook from scratch: they usually take old texts and illustrations and simply adapt them to the program. The textbooks do not change qualitatively. Until the competition begins to be announced at least 9 months before the selection date, scandals with errors in textbooks will thunder again and again.

It is not surprising that books sin not only with mistakes but also with material that is difficult for children to independently perceive. Often it does not correspond to their age characteristics, it cannot interest them. Tasks and examples are inappropriate, do not reflect the realities of modern life. According to a survey by the quality service of education, 27% of respondents said: in the conditions of distance learning, textbooks rather did not help or did not help at all.

The rush is explained by the plan: by September 1 of next year, the textbooks should already be in schools. And for this, after submitting the layout, you still need to complete the examination before April, it make adjustments and send the textbook to print in July. True, such sacrifices are often not justified at all, because the very logistics of textbooks (transporting them to regional centers, from there to communities and only then to schools) takes time, and they arrive at schools not in September, but around November.

Due to tight time constraints, there is no testing of textbooks either. For NUS, for example, they were brought to schools directly from printing houses. So it turns out that teachers learn the content of the book and learn the effectiveness of its methods at the same time as schoolchildren. Therefore, the Ministry of Education and Science plans to resume approbation and introduce a public discussion of books before their publication.

You may say: but after all, books are held before the circulation of the competition? Time is time, but is the examination itself not enough?

Unfortunately, it often only exacerbates the situation.

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Textbook competition

The textbook receives the stamp of the Ministry of Education after passing the examination. The experts may include teachers, scientists, representatives of civil society, and all of them have been trained. But the reality is that they often do not have the necessary knowledge. The expert competition itself is a rather vague procedure.

And the criteria for evaluating projects are vague, which prevents an objective assessment. For example, experts not only check whether a textbook complies with the state standard, a typical educational program, but also assess whether the textbook makes you want to work with it in school.

Various institutions tried to solve problems with agreements. The Ukrainian Institute for Education Development has created a new concept for the textbook competition. A special computer program "Examination of educational materials" was created, which was supposed to randomly distribute draft textbooks among experts. In addition, UIRO was also required to certify experts. But all the ideas of the institute were rejected.

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Also, four years ago, Ihor Likarchuk, the ex-head of the Ukrainian Center for Education Quality Assessment, offered his technology. For the development of software and security systems, 500,000 USD were needed, which were never found.

Limited product

Besides the fact that textbooks are often of poor quality, schoolchildren also lack them. They complained about the lack of literature, in particular, in the Kyiv specialized school number 47. And in Kryvyi Rih at school number 4, fifth-graders were given textbooks on mathematics in Russian. The Odesa City Council also calculated that the secondary school lacks about 20% of the books.

Ministry systematically disrupts the delivery time of textbooks: according to the Accounting Chamber, more than 43% of the total volume of publications in the 2019-2020 academic year were delivered to regional book bases after the start of the academic year. When it reported full coverage, audits showed a shortage of 22 to 78% and an uneven distribution of textbooks among institutions. Some were more fortunate, others less.

Last year, just to deliver books across Ukraine, the state spent 550,000 USD. But it would be possible to save money by using electronic versions of books. This would make life easier for the students themselves, because a high school student's bag weighs on average about 8 kilograms. And mistakes in textbooks are also easier to correct in PDF files.

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Now textbooks are purchased with digital versions, but violations occur here too. The Accounts Chamber said that in 2019, in violation of the concluded agreements, publishers did not post full electronic versions of almost half of printed publications for educational purposes on their websites. And the problem of purchasing tablets for schools remains unresolved. In 2018, more than 1,5 million USD was spent on a project to create electronic textbooks, gadgets were purchased for pilot schools. But in the end, the experiment was stopped.

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