Ukraine’s Grassroots Transformation of Education

In today’s globalized world, education is perhaps the greatest challenge in a developing country. To keep pace with new technology and innovation, young people must possess not only basic skills but also be proactive, creative, innovative, and able to adjust quickly.

According to the New Vision for Education report compiled at the World Economic Forum in 2015, the experience of school teachers is cited among factors that influence societal development.

In Ukraine, teachers hold low socioeconomic status. The average teacher makes approximately $170/month, which equals about $8 per day. Low salaries, a lack of professional prestige, and deeply entrenched bureaucracy strongly affect the quality of education for school children and thus the country’s economic development.

Despite efforts to improve education, the post-Euromaidan government did not provide teachers with tools for professional and personal growth. Instead, a number of nongovernmental organizations took on the task. The Center for Innovative Education, better known as or Pro.Svit, is among the most well-known organizations that work in the field. Established in 2014 during the Revolution of Dignity, its founders are community activists and students based in Lviv.

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The Pro.Svit team in Lviv, Ukraine. 

Pro.Svit aims to strengthen Ukraine’s society by building the capacity of teachers. One of the ways that it does this is by providing educators with a basic understanding of project management, which enables ordinary teachers to turn their innovative ideas into real-life projects that make a difference in the classroom.

But these innovative ideas often come with a price tag. Pro.Svit created a crowdsourcing platform, “GoFundEd,” to enable Ukrainian teachers to raise money for their projects and to feel support from average citizens. Pro.Svit selects projects on the basis of their scalability and impact on school development. Nine projects from around Ukraine are currently on the platform, and five have already reached their goal. More than twenty-nine teachers are currently preparing to launch their campaigns on GoFundEd.

Physics teacher Oleg Popov of Slovyansk was the first teacher whose campaign was successful. Popov’s contemporary physics laboratory is a place where students can perform experiments and gain practical scientific experience. 

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Physics teacher Oleg Popov of Slovyansk was the first was the first teacher whose crowdsourcing campaign was successful.

Oksana Kleputs, 56, director of the Kozova village school in western Ukraine, wants to transform the teaching of algebra for students in seventh grade by using technology in the classroom. Her project needs to raise 33,000 UAH (approximately $1,300) and is less than 2,000 UAH away from its goal. Another project wants to use LEGOs, the Danish plastic construction toys, to make learning more interactive and informative for children. All money raised on the GoFundEd platform goes toward equipment purchases.

Over the last two years, Pro.Svit has found other ways to support the professional growth of teachers. In coordination with the Ukrainian Catholic University’s department of Social Pedagogy, it organized EdCamp in Lviv, a series of events to encourage discussion and idea sharing among teachers. Pro.Svit set up a scholarship fund that covered tuition for 90 percent of the program participants. More than 200 educators participated in 2016. In addition, the fund also contributes to twenty-five teacher-driven projects throughout Ukraine.

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EdCamp in Lviv, Ukraine. In 2016, more than 200 educators participated. 

Until recently, teachers were only able to improve their skills through regional institutes of postgraduate education. Today, they finally have a good alternative. Pro.Svit’s “Pro.Skills” program enables them to receive credits they can apply to their certification. To successfully complete the program, teachers must not only present their own educational projects, but also their effectiveness in the field.

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Pro.Skills training is conducted with the participation of professional coaches and mentors. 

Pro.Svit cooperates with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education, in particular with Minister of Education Lilia Grynevych, who also serves as a member of Pro.Svit’s advisory board.

“Pro.Svit” also cooperates with a number of international organizations, including the National Endowment for Democracy and the Varkey Foundation. This year, Pro.Svit won the Varkey Foundation’s “Challenge Fund 2016” and became a member of Global Education & Skills Forum. Its supervisory board includes representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora who work for Twitter, McKinsey & Company, Alpiq, Cisco, and Maersk Line. This diversity may help Pro.Svit establish cooperation with international audiences and the business sector.

Yuriy Didula manages the Lviv Education Foundation’s eastern Ukraine portfolio and Nadiya Mykhalevych is a cofounder of Pro.Svit.

Image: The Center for Innovative Education, better known as or Pro.Svit, works to provide Ukraine’s teachers with tools for professional and personal growth. Established in 2014 during the Revolution of Dignity, its founders are community activists and students based in Lviv. Credit: Pro.Svit