In 2006 the Ukrainian Centre for Educational Quality Assessment, which I created and headed as the first director, started its work, and that same year the first assessments on a state level took place
If a student has no faith in their teacher, it is very difficult to hold the child's attention, to understand their strong and weak sides. The majority of behavioural problems amongst children arise because a psychological 'wall' is created between teacher and pupil. A child behaves aggressively because nobody tries to understand them.
However, when you manage to tear down this wall, and you see the captivated gazes of your pupils, you take joy in their successes: this is invaluable. For years I have been trying not to lose my connection with my pupils.
A teacher's work is first and foremost a vocation. People who do not have this will suffer in this job. It's hard for them, I mean it's work under permanent stress.
I am from a family of teachers: my grandmother, grandfather and parents were also pedagogues. I dreamt of becoming an eminent scientist. I entered the biochemistry faculty at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. However, after the birth of my daughter I did not return to the laboratory, but chose the path of family, became a biology teacher. I happened to go through all the steps in the career of a school worker: be the vice-principal and principal of a school, work at the different levels of educational authority.
I remember that at first we did not even have permanent premises. We tested more than 40,000 students, and undertook storage and processing of the forms in a semi-basement of a school gymnasium.
Our system united objective assessment, validity of tests, impartiality of examiners, confidentiality and technological adaptability. The test booklets were printed on special watermarked paper. We developed a special system for encryption and transportation of papers, in special tamper-proof bags. According to many surveys, this reform is recognised as one of the most successful in Ukraine, and the majority of citizens supported it, although in the beginning there was bias against it. But the reality proved that the technologies and procedures work if they are observed in good faith.
After the Revolution of Dignity (the mass protest movement in 2013-2014 against corruption and in support of European direction in Ukraine's foreign policy), which is a pivotal point in Ukrainian history, we received a serious window of opportunity for rethinking societal values. Because education is about values, not just about knowledge. The Law on Higher Education began a whole series of changes. Those such as the 'New Ukrainian School' reform, which is now in the process of being introduced. This is a major project to be undertaken over years and decades, however I can already say today that I am happy that we are moving in the right direction.
The hardest thing in a teacher's work is to constantly keep every student in view, and find an approach for different situations and personalities
It is extremely important to feel that it is precisely a teacher's work that is natural for you, you get joy from it. Hryhorii Skovoroda* wrote about this, the idea of 'native work'
Come Back Alive's mission is not in the result, but in the process. This is our slogan: 'We are creating history and saving lives together'
After completing the internship I found out about the International Renaissance Foundation, which started a project centred on transparency in entrance to higher education institutions in 2002. They announced that they were searching for a manager for this area of activity, I rolled the dice a second time and received the post
I am confident that in the next few decades a very potent cultural renaissance awaits Ukraine
In the early 2000s I worked as a school principal. At that time the system of entry to higher educational institutions was extremely corrupt. The marks given by examination commissions could be fairly subjective, there was not one transparent marking system.
As a principal, I kept track of the future path of my graduates. Amongst them there was a girl, who in her school years did not just dream of becoming a journalist, but was already actively working and had been published in several magazines. She was very talented, she finished school with a gold medal for her achievements. But then she could not gain entry to a faculty of journalism.
Telling me about this, her mother cried. And I cried alongside her: it was a moment of weakness, when you realise that you cannot do anything about an injustice. That very same year a competition took place for an internship in Poland, studying the Polish experience of education reform. I decided to take part in order to gain experience and change our education system.
I headed the Centre of Testing Technologies project, aimed at reworking the system of external assessment in Ukraine. It became a very personal story for me, when by your actions you are able to change something not just for yourself and those close to you, but for the entire country.
We began the first trial of external assessments in 2003. The hardest thing of all was to find the first four institutions that were willing to work with the new system. With every year the quantity of universities grew. We needed to prove that our technology works, that assessment can and should be honest. Finally, in 2006 grading began to be funded from the state budget — the corresponding decree was approved by the President.
With the emergence of the internet and opportunities for independent study, knowledge as such takes a backseat, and the so-called 'soft skills' become more significant: personal attributes, moral qualities and values. To nurture them in future generations is a new and ambitious task. It is with this being taken into account that we work on education reform
* Hryhorii Skovoroda — Ukrainian philosopher and poet. Haunted by worldly and spiritual powers, the philosopher led a life of an itinerant thinker-beggar. In his tracts and dialogs, biblical problems overlap with those examined earlier by Plato and the Stoics.
In my archive I keep certain symbols, important achievements from every stage. Such as, for example, a form from the first independent assessment in 2006. One can compare it with its contemporary equivalents, and despite changes in the formatting and typography, the marking system has remained unchanged. This is one more piece of evidence that it works.
Education is a strategic resource for the country. I hope that I managed to take part in the creation of a system which helps our citizens in their personal and professional realisations, and at the same time gathers Ukrainian society around itself. This is very important for a country in a state of armed conflict.