Editor’s note: The U.S. is hardly the only place on the planet where parental school choice and education reform are hot topics, as Boston University Professor Charles Glenn reminds us in this post. Glenn is an associate of the American Center for School Choice, which co-hosts this blog, and has studied educational freedom in detail in dozens of countries. This is the fifth post in our school choice wish series. See the rest of the line-up here.
Every day, almost obsessively, I go online to read the latest news from Ukraine in the Kyiv Post. It’s not that I have any solution to the military threats (and the slow but inexorable death toll of two or three Ukrainian soldiers and a few civilians each day) posed by Russia and its allies in the Donbas, or to the economic crisis, or to the struggle to eliminate corruption in government and the economy in a nation that has not yet completed the necessary post-Soviet reforms.
All I can do in December is hang a blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag on my house in Boston to show my solidarity with friends in Kyiv and Lviv, and inquire whether they are able to stay warm enough as Putin blackmails their country over gas and oil.
But, like bulbs in the cold earth of my wife’s garden, I know the determination to create a healthy democratic society is deeply rooted in Ukraine. I know that reform of the education system is one of the key elements in the long-term success of that project of national awakening. And I know, even as the cold settles down in Kyiv and in Boston, that spring is coming, and that education reforms are coming as well.
In September, my friend Jan De Groof of Antwerp and I were privileged to spend a few days in Ukraine with those who are committed to these reforms, and we have been asked to return when they conclude the time is right for us to advise on specifics of building a healthy, accountable, and pluralistic education system.
The recent elections and formation of a government committed to a wide agenda of reforms is a source of great encouragement. News of these reforms is what draws me back to the Kyiv Post, despite all the discouraging and painful news that dominates each day.
Education reform in Ukraine has a long way to go, though there are many centers of excellence.
The economy is in a shambles; staying warm and safe from Russian aggression will have to be the priorities for public spending this winter. Bureaucratic habits inherited from the Soviet period are a barrier to grass-roots and school-level problem solving. Even a few days in Ukraine, however, is enough to sense the energy and determination released by events over the past year, from the courageous demonstrations in the Maidan last winter to the elections this fall.
What am I wishing and praying for? Not that the education reformers in Ukraine have vision and courage; that would be presumptuous on my part. They have plenty of both! No, it is that we in the West stand by them through this hard time. We have a bad habit of responding generously to a crisis and then forgetting about it as the next one comes along. We must not do that in relation to Ukraine. Standing by them on many levels, but including in support for educational reforms, will help build a strong future.
Coming later today: Jason Crye, executive director of Hispanics for School Choice.