Ukraine’s Rada is looking to economically streamline the educational system with a proposal to set musical and art schools towards self-funding. For a system that is largely based on a state-funded and still-Soviet model, it represents a major and unprecedented shake-up. It will mean mergers, closures and moves towards competition as various institutions vie for students – a survival of the fittest battle is looming. For students it will inevitably mean large hikes in fees.
January brought an ultimatum from the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Culture recommending the state-funded music and arts education be “optimised”. In short, it meant establishments offering “aesthetic education” needed to be self-funding, and for that to happen some institutions needed to reorganise or close – referred to as “liquidation” in the proposal. The proposal will be considered by Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers when it ratifies the state budget and if the proposal is adopted the plug will be pulled on state-finding.
For the cash-strapped Ukrainian Government the savings created by casting the schools adrift must look attractive. However teachers argue funding cuts are less likely to create a streamlined and efficient education sector. Instead, they are more likely to create a cultural vacuum as students turn away from musical education as fees become too much.
Theory vs Practice
It is a radical shift from the status quo. At present, national budget-financing covers 90 –93% of funding for music and arts schools. It is students who will be expected to fill the financial void left by the removal of government funding. The head of Ukrainian Council of Schools of Aesthetic Education Oleksandr Shalit predicts tuition fees will rise tenfold to 1,300 –2,700hrv.
In the Kharkiv region, Izium music schoolteacher Yuriy German says the highest fee is set for instruments such as piano and guitar (around 60hrv). To play wind or string instruments costs about 45hrv, while folk instruments are 40hrv. For some students even a difference of 10hrv in fees is sharp, let alone a several hundred-hryvnia rise. “It will become a barrier,” he says.
Forcing A Rethink
Natalia Stolba is the mother of one music pupil enrolled in the current system and she thinks the move will force many parents to rethink. “There are two years left of my son Ihor’s study, so it won’t change the situation greatly, he will graduate. But if we were thinking about entering school, that’s different. My younger child has talent, but we as parents see our child won’t be able to study because of financial reasons,” Stolba explains. She also believes music schools will become elitist. “We have four children, it’s difficult to bring up four kids let alone give them additional musical education, so music will be only for certain social groups who have certain incomes.”
Fiodor Sennoi, the father of two music school students, echoes Stolba’s sentiments. “Musical education will be for wealthy people. Even today’s fees are not affordable for everybody. Have my plans for education of children changed? Well, not really, because they’re already studying. But if they were only starting, then I think we wouldn’t go through with it. Schools will be empty or only for the rich.”
First Deputy Minister of Finance Anatoliy Maiarkovsky says no change will happen before the adoption of the Budget at year’s end. The advice to Ministry of Culture, he says, was of a consultative nature. Ukraine’s administration works supposedly “openly”, meaning no decision regarding social infrastructure change can be adopted without consultation.
The numbers are as high as the stakes for the schools though. In Ukraine, there are about 1,500 such establishments of aesthetic education attended by some 335,000 students. Those who successfully finish music school can continue their education at the specialist level. In all, there are 64 educational establishments of I–II level of accreditation and 12 at the higher III–IV level.
The highest number of establishments is in the Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Lviv regions. In Sumsk, Zakarpatska, Vinnytsia and Chernivetska regions there are no musical colleges, instead there are multi-functional colleges offering musical degrees (“cultprosvet colleges”) As for the number of budget-financed places, Umanske Musical College and R Glier Kyiv Institute of Music take pole position (100% and 80% respectively). In Odesa, the Conservatory, Cherkaske and Severodonetske musical colleges are 60% to 80% government-funded. In other parts of Ukraine, musical colleges have about a 50% financial injection from government coffers.
The shake-up means the above numbers may change drastically.
by Olga German