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Girls’ Education in RomaniaAcross the globe young women often face the negative effects of gender discrimination on equal access to public education. This bias is often compounded by differences in ethnicity, social class, and physical and mental ability. Allowing these factors to affect a girl’s right to education is often cited as a primary cause of disadvantages throughout her lifetime, and can also have broad negative impacts on a country’s economy by limiting the contributions of a large percentage of the population. This is the case in Romania as the struggle of girls’ education in the country.

Inclusive Education in Romania

Inclusive education is defined as the right to equal access to quality education for all children, in a protective and open environment, regardless of one’s social and economic class, ability, or connection to an ethnic, cultural, or linguistic minority. Mag et al.’s work on inclusive education for the journal Materials Science, Engineering, and Chemistry, or MATEC, states that “inclusive education is a child’s right, not a privilege.” However, achieving this can be particularly difficult in a country with a recent economic crisis, such as Romania, where pressures to contribute to the family’s baseline needs at a young age can fall unequally on girls.

Girls’ education in Romania is often in jeopardy—particularly young women in rural areas—as they are often forced to drop out of school in order to better support their families within the household. In the primary school years, between the ages of seven and 10, only 85 percent of Romanian girls are enrolled in school. As they move from primary to secondary education, only 64 percent of the girls who had previously attended school make the transition compared to the 72 percent of boys who continue their education.

Effects of Limited Education

A lack of education from an early age creates a ripple effect felt throughout these young women’s lives. Many women are unable to complete the education required for even low-paying professional jobs, effectively holding them in a state of dependency throughout their lives, while also limiting their ability to contribute to the national economy. Only 65 percent of young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are literate in Romania, corresponding with a high 18.4 percent youth unemployment rate in 2017—nearly 10 percent above the U.S. youth unemployment rate.

International Organizations offer Assistance

Since the early 2000s, there has been a movement for greater equality in girls’ education in Romania. With the help of UNICEF, the country has created policies and programs to address the need for education reforms with a focus on gender. However, overarching policies, while effective in bringing change to the education system, do not necessarily target a child’s individual needs, or even the needs of a specific minority.

Education Priority Areas, or EPA, is a project focusing on disadvantaged communities in order to increase the communities’ youth’s access to quality and equal educational opportunities. EPA, created by UNICEF together with the Institute for Educational Sciences, a nonpartisan research branch of the United States Department of Education, has provided Romania with funds for schools and computers and has assisted in setting up programs both in and outside the classroom. These programs are designed to level the playing field for young women in need of additional support by achieving the education that is, indeed, the right of all children.

Improving opportunities for students can only be as effective as those providing the education are willing and able to make it. In addition to its work on education reform and assistance to the children themselves, UNICEF, in partnership with the Romanian Ministry of Education, created the National Programme for Education on Democratic Citizenship, a program dedicated to the rights of citizens’—particularly children’s—education. This program was launched in 2003, and was responsible for the inclusivity and inter-cultural approach training for nearly 300 educators within one year of the program’s conception, furthering the effort to create more opportunities concerning girls’ education in Romania.

As recently as 2011, there have been important advancements in the policy not only limited to girls’ education in Romania but focused on all children aged zero to three years old. A law which went into effect that year mandates an additional, transitional year of schooling, to be taught either at the kindergarten or primary education level. This is a particularly vulnerable time in a child’s development, a time where growth and adjustment are very closely linked to both family and socialization through preschool.

Romanian communities and many others throughout the world have been able to benefit from the work done by UNICEF and other organizations, providing students with the support necessary to build brighter futures, regardless of gender.

– Anna Lally
Photo: Flickr

6 Facts About Education in Romania
Romania’s current education system is relatively new. Under communism, education in Romania was politically-fueled. The communist revolution in eastern Europe heavily influenced a nationalistic approach to education in Romania.

This meant that education was tailored to the Romanian majority. In the 1960’s Hungarian schools were merged with Romanian schools and virtually all classes that were once taught in Hungarian were now taught in Romanian.

This politicized education system was abolished in 1990 along with Romania’s communist regime. Today, Romania is a unitary republic with an education system that is constantly under reform. Here are six facts about education in Romania today:

  1. Kindergarten students can start school at three years of age. Although it is uncommon, it is legal to enroll a child into kindergarten as young as age three. Students can remain in kindergarten until they are six or seven, but they must complete at least one year of kindergarten to be eligible for enrollment in elementary school.
  2. Student admission to the high school is based on test scores. The Ministry of Romanian Education and Research administers nation-wide exams that determine where each child will attend high school. Performance on these exams dictates where each student will be able to attend high school. Certain private institutions, typically the more prestigious ones, also include their own attendance criteria on top of the test score requirements.
  3. Students attend specialty high schools. Unlike in the United States where every high school student is expected to gain a certain amount of credits in each subject, eighth-grade students in Romania decide between multiple areas of study in high school. Students can decide between attending an arts or science high school, a military college, economic college or professional school.
  4. High school students take up to 14 subjects at once. Most students take between 12 and 14 classes at once ranging from geography to Romanian literature. Students also take a minimum of two other languages, along with Romanian. Common languages taught include English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. High school teachers rotate between classrooms instead of the students. In most Romanian high schools, it is common that students have all of their lessons in the same classroom with the same classmates for all four or five years that they attend. This is intended to create a sense of community among students.
  5. Romanian women generally attend school longer than men. According to UNICEF, approximately 83 percent of women in Romania were enrolled in secondary education in 2012, compared with 81 percent of men.
  6. Romania’s education system is rapidly advancing. The literacy rate among those over the age of 15 rose from 96.7 percent in 1992 to 97.3 in 2002. Today, 98.8 percent of Romanians are literate.

Although these are major improvements, education in Romania still has room for improvement. Many people in rural communities do not have access to quality education and despite obtaining a higher level of education, there is a severe level of pay inequality between men and women in the workforce.

Laura Cassin

Photo: Flickr