Since early May 2018, we have begun to signal in the public space the existence of the Braila Phenomenon, a new type of educational exclusion with serious consequences in the social area.
We consider it useful to make a summary of the materials that have appeared so far, to emphasize the importance of awareness and eradication of this kind of abuse in education.
Reactions in the political sphere:
16.05.2018 – Silvia Dinică, senator – USR
“We must stop <<Brăila Phenomena>>. Human Catalyst Association developed a research indicating that the average score in some schools and counties in the national assessment for 8th grade students is artificially raised by their low attendance following a “selection”of the pupils imposed by the school authorities.
Where does this Phenomena come from? Well, in the county of Brăila, almost half of the pupils were constrained in various forms not to attend/participate in the 8th grade assessment exam, mainly pupils from poor communities or with a large percentage of Roma. This is how the county of Brăila has the second highest average in the country, after the city of Bucharest. We can say that educators only bury the dirt under the mat. Instead of taking concrete steps to remedy the state of education, they are making a mockery out of the children’s future just to look good on statistics
National and local authorities should immediately and seriously address the issue of education in Romania, instead of organizing parades for the elections. It is necessary to have real solutions and to know the amplitude of the problems and the needs that the Romanian education system faces in order to be able to take the right measures. ”
21.05.2018 – Demos Platform
“We welcome and sympathize with the Human Catalyst Association and the 100 signatories organizations of the letter that signal the” Braila Phenomenon” within the educational system. According to their analysis tens of thousands of children from across the country, many from underprivileged backgrounds, are forced by schools not to enroll in national exams. The aim is to raise the grade average/school results/school grades of the schools in these exams, thus masking the real disaster and the systemic failure of Romanian education. We all pay the price as a society, but especially those who are marginalized and sacrificed for a cheap withing that does not fool anyone. We recall that less than 40% of students enrolled in the first grade get their Baccalaureate exam, and over 19% of students from a generation do not make it into the 8th grade.
The procedure, called by Human Catalyst “The Brăila Phenomenon”, is part of the problem, but it is not the only element that contributes to systemic discrimination in pre-university education:
- 60,645 children with disabilities are of school age, of which 17,975 are not attending school because neither the special or the mainstream schools are willing to accept them;
- 44% of Roma children aged 7 to 11 do not attend school, the figure is rising to 65% for 12-16 year old Roma children
- Students in large cities obtain PISA scores comparable to those in Scandinavian countries (over 500 points), while those in rural areas score less than 400;
- Rural students have a much lower quality of education than those in the urban environment, which is reflected in particular in the National Evaluation “(see full text here)
23.05.2018 – Robert Turcescu deputee – PMP
The deputy formulated an interpellation for the Minister of National Education to the attention of Minister Valentin Popa, asking the following:
- Did the Ministry of Education start an investigation to research these allegations?
- If the answer to the first question is affirmative, what are the results of the investigation? If the answer is negative, why did the ministry not get involved?
- What are the sanctions that can be applied to these teachers that urge children not to participate in the national assessment?
The Ministry’s response can be read here.
“<< Braila phenomenon >> – a serious form of exclusion that affects the future of the young generation in Romania
As a result of the petition submitted by the representatives of the Human Catalyst Association, the National Agency for Roma, a specialized institution of the central public administration subordinated to the Government of Romania, with the role of elaborating the policy and strategy of the Government in the field of the protection of Roma minority rights and the National Center of Culture Romani Kher, a public institution that aims to preserve, promote and develop the ethno-cultural values of the Roma community, is concerned about this serious form of exclusion and calls on the competent institutions to analyze and take the necessary legal measures required for clarifying and correcting the situation outlined above. (full text here)
“The Braila phenomenon” is a very serious type of exclusion that affects the future of the younger generation in Romania. It appears that the school managers are trying to persuade the parents of pupils with lower chances of obtaining good grades at the national evaluation not to enroll in the exam. The purpose of this move is to maintain the the prestige of the institution, the county, while stealing the opportunities from pupils.
Given that we are in the run-up for the national evaluation of the 8th grade and the Baccalaureate exam, we ask the competent institutions to monitor this phenomena and urgently adopt the necessary legal measures in order to ensure the participation of the graduates in the examinations according to the law. ”
1.06.2018 – Adrian Dohotaru – independent deputee of Cluj
We lie and hide the gravity of the problem because we do not want to complicate ourselves, we do not want to draw attention to the fact that we face a dramatic situation: from each generation of students, less than 39% of those enrolled in the first grade are promoting the Baccalaureate exam. Almost 20% do not even get to promote the 8th grade.
Today I take a first step to correct these injustices and invite the deputies and senators from all the parties to join me. I will submit a legislative initiative whereby all 8th graders will be able to partake in the national assessment. Students that are not currently included in the assessment are those of who we do not want to know that exist. These are the children we abandon even before they start school. Their presence in the system is an inconveniences to us because it shows how little we do to correct the injustices and inequalities existing in the system. We exclude them from the ratings because the small gradea they take are the most telling indicator of Romania’s educational and social policies. In fact, this is also the role of an assessment: to see if the system is good, and if it is not, have a mechanism to identify the problems and finding solutions. What we do, however, is to use these assessments to stress students to hierarchize and blame them, individualizing what is in fact a systemic failure.
The proposed initiative will limit abuses like the “Braila Phenomenon”. All the 8th graders will be enrolled and will attend the national assessment, whether or not they promote the 8th grade. A common practice is to oblige the students who could lower the overall average of a school to repeat the year and so hinder them from taking part in the assessment. The proposed change will no longer exclude these students from the assessment: all students will participate, but will advance to the the 9th grade only those who fulfill all conditions of being 8th grade graduate. But all of them will part take in the national evaluation, the same way as they do in the 2nd and 4th grade.” (full text here)
13.06.2018 – Florica Cherecheș, deputat – PNL
“We are in the fever of the assessment exams, followed by the baccalaureate and the discussions are invariably directed towards the promotion rate as a success indicator. It seems that in the Romanian pre-university education, the main mode of evaluation and classification of schools is related to the promotion rate (without asking how many students enrolled in the educational system were actually allowed into examination).
Under these circumstances, everyone is trying to improve their promotion rates. When this can not be done through the didactic act itself, people try all sorts of subterfuges, such as calculating the graduation relative to the number of students enrolled in the exam and not the total number of graduates. Also, in order to increase the rate of how many pupils pass the national evaluation, they enroll in the exams those pupils with safe chances, sometimes depriving others of their right to participate. This subterfuge is known in the press as “Braila Phenomenon”, bearing the name of the county in which it was discovered. Here, in the 20016-2017 school year, the average grade at the national evaluation was 7.29, the second in the country, but the share of the 8th graders who did not attend the national evaluation was 36.5%, the highest in the country. (…)
What happens with the children that are excluded from the National Assessment? Are they advised to continue their education in other ways? Are they helped to find alternatives for learning a craft/occupation? Unfortunately, the answer is definitely not, and they abandon school too early! I also draw attention to other “artifices”/tricks in order to have the highest budget for schools. Taking advantage of the fact that the right to education is guaranteed, there is one number of registered pupils (in the scholar year) are that gets reported, but it does not coincide with the actually schooled children. The purpose of this scheme is„ to multiply the standard cost per pupil by a higher number and thereby increase the school budget. It would be better to spend that money in order to attract students to school so to prevent and diminish school dropout. It is not normal to pay the standard cost for students who do not actually benefit from the educational act.
If we continue to avoid taking the necessary measures in education, so as to develop a fair and coherent route, we will do nothing but lie to ourselves, cosmetize realities and basically do nothing good for the following generations. I require Minister Pop to ask the county school inspectorates all over the country for a correct and transparent report, with the total number of graduates, both from the National Evaluation and the Baccalaureate,o report correctly to the total number of graduates both on the national assessment and on the baccalaureate, and to take the necessary measures to improve the situation. “(see full message here)
14.06.2018 – Response from the Ministry of National Education
9.07.2018 – Response from the European Commission – The Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture
Suport from within the educational system:
“The results of the national exams have propelled Braila County at the top of the list. This has been happening for some years now. Every time, however, in recent years, I have drawn attention to the fact that these results have been obtained through a low participation of the 8th grade students at the National Evaluation, but all in vain. More and more children, who have remained or have graduated from the 8th grade, did not take part in the National Assessment Examination in that school year.
Unfortunately, the graduates of the 8th grade , who were not enrolled in the National Assessment, for the reasons mentioned above, but also because of repetition or expulsion, led to a huge school dropout in Braila. All this has happened because of the leaders of the Braila Educational system who wanted to achieve similar results to those of previous years.
In the last 3 years, in Braila County, almost 30 of the 9th classes have not been completed because of the disastrous educational management at the level of I.SJ. Braila, implemented by many heads of school institutions. There are school units in the rural area that, for example, out of the 26 pupils in the 8th grade, only four pupils participated and promoted the National Evaluation, resulting in the 100% promotion rate of the unit. The other 22 dropped out of school. Moreover, there is a school in Braila, where only 1 student participated in the National Evaluation and promoted, so the promotion rate for the respective unit was 100%. The problems of Roma pupils were treated superficially, leading to a very high school dropout in Braila.
These things can only be remedied by professional people, who have in mind the best interest both of the students and of the teachers, and also want a closer relationship with the local administration. It is not possible to change the face of Braila education with people who only think of personal advantages and do not understand the educational phenomenon. It’s time for a major, structural change in Braila. The current mentality of Braila’s educational management needs to be changed with a professional approach focuses on children and the educational system in general “(see full message here).
“The competent institutions, the School Inspectorate, the Ministry of Education or other institutions should do a serious research. If it turns out that things are so, those who have led (us) in this situation have a big problem, apart from being illegal, it is more than that, it is immoral because it affects the future of a generation.”
1. Digi TV – Jurnal pentru copii
2. TVR – Starea Nației
3. TVR News
“A mother of triplets has her children at school no. 5 from the capital. All are in the 8th grade and thus in danger of not entering the National Assessment Exam/National Evaluation. <<The director-in-chief told me that she would be pay careful attention towards the maths teacher in order not to pass them, because she does not want them to lower her school grading average>> she told TVR News.
The woman says the phenomenon is known among students and there are other children in this situation. She intends to submit a complaint to the Inspectorate and to the Ministry of Education. “(see the full story here).
4. PRO TV News – “This year, almost a thousand pupils from Braila County did not attend or have withdrawn from the National Evaluation. And yet the county has a promotion rate of 89.5 percent. The figures drew the attention of the Ministry of Education, after the <<Braila phenomenon>> was made public by almost 100 associations and school experts.
School abandonment is steadily increasing, and poverty is the main cause.
Florin, for example, finished 8 grades and dropped out of school, there are thousands of kids just like him around the country. << I give water to the animals, I go to the field and come home. Now the maize will start growing and I will be non-stop in the field, bringing corn to the animals. I would like to learn a profession – car mechanic>> says Florin, 16 years old.” (click here for the full story).
5. Adevărul – “The number of students enrolled in the 8th grade was 171,000. According to the Ministry of Education, 142,847 pupils attended the exam, ,meaning 83.5% of the total. Nearly 17%, about 29,000 students, did not think they were able to promote the exam. Few have remained to repeat the year, although in the 8th grade this practice is not very common, so as not to “spoil” the children’s future. This is the first reality.
Out of those present at the exams, 104,972 candidates obtained averages greater than or equal to 5 (five) – 73.5%, the ministry said. But if we compare it to the 171,000 students in the 8th grade, we get an average of 61% pupils who passed the exam.
It is not expected that all students will score more than 5 on this exam. 40% of the pupils were not able of scoring passing grades, that is too much! And for these pupils, taxpayers have paid teachers’ salaries and school-related expenses. “(Visit the full story here)
6. Adevărul – “Almost 150,000 pupils attended the Romanian Language test at the National Assessment (EN) on Monday, being 30,000 fewer than the 8th graders enrolled at the beginning of the year. These figures are associated with the “Braila phenomena” (teachers discourage students with lower grades from enrolling in the exam) and early school abandonment.
Approximately 150,000 8th graders participated in the Romanian Language assessment, out of a total of 179,00. “(Click here for details)
7. Europa FM – „The Ministry of Education begins the national evaluation without solving a serious problem recently reported by civil society. This is the so-called “Braila phenomenon.”
The average grade per county is artificially risen by discouraging poor students from attending the exam. It is the phenomenon signaled by 100 non-governmental organizations to both the Ministry and the Parliament, which Braila County illustrated in the past years the best – the second grade average in the national top, but also the highest percentage of absentees in the exam. Human Catalyst President, Laura Marin shows why more is needed to stop this phenomenon. Annually, 30,000 students do not participate in the National Assessment. This is about one in five graduates, and the situation risks repeating this year, says Laura Marin. “(here you cand find more details)
8. Digi 24 -“The European Commission is watching the schools in Romania. International experts have begun to monitor the phenomenon of exclusion that is practiced in several educational establishments across the country. The European Commission’s response comes after last year more 8th graders with lower results were prevented from supporting the National Assessment. Everything happened in order to avoid the lessening of the promotion average rate within Romanian schools.”(full story)
9. Hotnews.ro – “The European Commission has begun to monitor the phenomenon of school exclusion that discourages poor students from enrolling in the National Evaluation,” Human Catalyst Association announced. It is about preventing students from taking the 8th grade exam so that they can present a false success: high average grades per school. The association says it will have discussions this week with officials from the Ministry of Education. We remind you that on June 4, the registration starts at the 2018 National Evaluation. (…)
We remind that almost 100 organizations sent an open letter two weeks ago to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Education and to a number of MPs, warning that “there is evidence that the average grade per school / county in the National Evaluation is artificially risen by a low attendance of 8th grade students – as a result of a “class selection” imposed by school management or school inspectorate. ” (please access the complete material here)
10. Observator TV – “Florentina Dragomirescu is the mother of 14-year-olds triplets who are afraid that they will not get into high school, because the school director would have told them that they had low grades and do not deserve to be registered in the national evaluation. At least that’s what their mother claims in a complaint she lodged with the Ministry of Education.
Florentina Dragomirescu: << They were demoralized though I instructed them to learn in order to prove that they can do better than a grade of 2 or 3. The director said she would be careful to the mathematics teacher not to pass them so that they could not participate in the evaluation because she does not want to ruin the grade average of the school. I can not say they are rebels, they are normal children. >>
In reply, the school principal says she never reprimanded the children, even if they did not even get the passing grade at the national simulations.
Ghiţă Cornelia, school director 5: “Our school has nothing to do with this <<Braila phenomena>>. In 10 years there was not even one single student in the eighth grade who was not enrolled in the evaluation. A director can not influence the assessment of a child. >> “(click here to access the full story)
11. Adevărul – Romania is the only country in the European Union where unprepared teachers are still teaching: more precisely, 4,500 unqualified are absorbed by the system due to lack of alternatives. The highest percentages of unskilled teachers who did not take the title exam are registered in poor areas in the south and the center of the country, according to a recent study by the Human Catalyst Association, which discovered the “Braila Phenomenon.” In particular, the report entitled “Equity Diagnosis in the Education System 2016-2018” shows that last year, the highest rate of unprofessional teachers was recorded in the following counties: Giurgiu (6.7% of the total number of teachers), Calarasi (6 , 3%), Tulcea (5.7%), Ilfov (5.7%), Brasov (5.5%), and Vaslui (4.6%). Instead, the lowest rates are found in Argeş (0.3%), Gorj and Dolj (0.8%). (you can read the full article here)
12. Antena 1 – “The results of the national examination for teachers show that 47.40% of them have scored over 7 before the submission of complaints. This year’s results are 1.67 percentage points higher than last year, even before appeals, announced the representatives of the Ministry of Education. We remind that titularization is the national competition where teachers can engage for an indefinite period in a school. For titularization, teachers must earn grades over 7 on this exam.
The highest percentages of unskilled teachers are recorded in poor areas from the southern and central parts of the country, according to a recent study by the Human Catalyst Association, which discovered the <<Braila Phenomenon>>.” (full story here)
Mass media and social media monitoring, by Zelist Monitor, May 3rd – August 29th, 2018, 430 appearances in public space, as shown in the image bellow: