CHISINAU, Moldova — Located in former Romania and incorporated into the Soviet Union at the close of World War II, Moldova has been independent from the USSR since 1991 but still faces the difficulties due to the poor economic and political state of Eastern Europe. Moldova is one of the poorest nations in Europe and is only slightly larger than the state of Maryland.
Moldova’s education expenditures in 2012 ranked 10th in comparison to the world, spending 8.4 percent of their GDP. Moldova’s literacy rate is at 99 percent and the nation’s school life expectancy (primary to tertiary education) is 12 years. In 2009, the total number of child labor—children ages five to 14—was 16 percent.
Moldova’s GDP in 2013 was at an estimated 8.9 percent, ranking eighth in comparison to the rest of the world and their GDP per capita was $3,800 in 2013— taking the 172nd spot in comparison to the world.
The Moldovan people have been undergoing drastic changes in terms of politics and economics. It only makes sense that their education system would have to adapt to today’s globalizing world and their current political and economic situation. Corruption also plays a key role in Moldova’s poor test scores and hinders the ability for their education system to compete on a global level.
Pre-primary education has an interesting history in Moldova. In the 1990s, Moldova experienced many significant changes, implementations, and revisions to their pre-primary education programs as a result of Moldova’s difficult economic situation in the ’90s.
The number of preschool institutions rose between 2000 and 2009 but the preschool system was unable to meet the increasing demands. Kindergartens in villages were among the most affected because they lacked the resources to meet the changing system’s requirements. As a result of the implementation of a pilot project by UNICEF and UNESCO, the Ministry of Education institutionalized and began to replicate alternative arrangements such as community centers in communities that lacked kindergartens.
Like the United States’ pre-primary education system, Moldovan preschool children are between the ages of three and seven. Attendance is free in public institutions and parents only contribute for food at half of the real cost. Article 17 of the Law on Education requires that one year of pre-primary education be compulsory for children aged five.
The first stage of basic education is compulsory for Moldovan children. Students enter at the age of six or seven years old, depending on their stage of development. Grades one through four are full-time programs offered in both primary and general secondary schools.
Just as the pre-primary education programs in Moldova underwent changes, so did the primary education system. The system’s new curriculum stresses the importance of an appropriate development of the cognitive, affective, and the psychomotor abilities of the pupils.
Unfortunately, the tough economic situation in Moldova contributed to a considerable proportion of the schools lacking central heat, proper sanitary infrastructure, and/or in an inadequate physical condition. In 2008, around 41 percent of school buildings required capital renovation and only 11.2 percent of them could build wheelchair ramps for children with walking difficulties.
Similar to education systems in other countries like Germany, the general secondary education in Moldova is divided into two cycles: lower secondary, or gymnasium, and upper secondary, or lyceum. Lower secondary education is compulsory and lasts five years (grades five through nine). Students in grades 10 through 12 must first sit for a graduation exam after completing their lower secondary education in order to receive their certificate of gymnasium studies and be admitted to general upper secondary schools and lyceums.
Upper secondary education lasts three years (grades 10 to 12) leading to the atestat de maturitate after studying for two years or to the baccalaureate diploma if students have passed the national examination at the end of grade 12.
Moldovan students may choose to pursue a technical or vocational secondary education. Industrial trade schools are offered to students that have graduated 11th grade and do not wish to further their studies. The duration of vocation education courses varies and eventually leads to a certificate.
Professional education schools offer three levels of training programs: the first level lasting two years, leading to the certificate of qualified worker; the second level also lasts two years and provides more specialized training; and the third level programs last four years (which can include lyceum studies) and lead to the technician diploma.
In Moldova, higher education is similar to what is typical in the United States. Higher education is provided in the form of full-time, extra-mural, and evening courses. According to the 2005 amendments to the Law on Education in line with the implementation of the Bologna process, first-cycle programs last three to four years and the second-cycle programs can lead to a master’s degree after one or two years of study.
According to UNESCO, “The (draft) Education Code stipulates that in general education the school year consists of 24 five-day working weeks. Article 16 of the Law on Education specifies that at the pre-university level the school year consists of 35 weeks.”
Legislative framework of the Moldovan education system is being updated and drafts of the Code of Education are undergoing public discussion.
In the early 2000s, the Republic of Moldova participated in the Trends in International Mathematic and Science Study and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, or PIRLS. Moldova scored well below the international and regional averages in both science and mathematics. In reading, it scored third from last in the region.
The results from the 2006 PIRLS revealed the following: only three percent of Moldovan pupils attained the ‘advanced level’ reading performance, 20 percent attained ‘high level’, 41 percent attained ‘intermediate level’, 24 percent attained ‘low level’ and nine percent attained below the ‘low level’ performance.
As a result of these unsatisfactory scores, Moldova has been striving to create a better education system and further develop their state. President of the Federation of Moldovan Associations in Romania, Constantin Cernega, said that EU integration is one of the key priorities of the new administration in Chisinau.
To truly become full rights European citizens, Moldova has to meet the standards imposed through the Association Agreement,” Cernega said. “And we are talking about fight against corruption, ensuring an impartial justice, improving education, developing agriculture and measures to stir the capital and service markets.”
– Eastin Shipman