Students, faculty and members of the community gathered Monday evening to hear a Ukrainian Educational Policy Delegation speak about the plans and challenges Ukraine faces with the future of education in their country.
The event was hosted at the ASU Melikian Center, sponsored by Open World Leadership Center, and supported by People to People International Greater Phoenix AZ Chapter.
David Brokaw, assistant director at the Melikian Center, said these organizations work to promote cross-cultural awareness, especially in places such as Ukraine.
“We work with Eastern Europe and Eurasia, which Eurasia, according to our definition and to the definition usually used by the Department of State, is basically former Soviet republics including Central Asia,” he said.
Open World is a leadership program sponsored by the Library of Congress with funding from the U.S. Congress to encourage leadership and delegation around the world, he said.
Brokaw said it is important to understand other countries, because they have an effect on the U.S.
“The status of education in Ukraine, being a country of about 45 million now, is of strategic importance to the U.S. given its strategic location near Russia and on the Black Sea,” he said. “And obviously given the status of Ukraine right now.”
Brokaw said he believes events such as this will help students gain a broader perspective of the world and help foreign guests learn more about American culture. He said many people might have preconceived notions about the U.S. that may change after getting the chance to see the country and interact with Americans.
“I think it gives people an opportunity to interact with Ukrainians and other people from around the world, expanding world view(s), exposing people to other opinions, other perspectives,” he said.
Garrett Shelley, a business sophomore, attended the event as part of his Western Civilizations class. He said that it is important for students to study other cultures to gain a broader perspective of the world.
“I think events like this are important because it helps us learn more about other cultures and understand our own better,” he said.
Kristina Efimenko, a member of People to People, said the purpose of their organization is to promote appreciation of other cultures. She said the Ukrainian delegation is one of several that came to America to learn from our education system.
“They came here to learn about education, because they are all involved in education policy in the Ukraine in different ways,” Efimenko said. “So, they have a very full schedule of events every day this week.”
The panel consisted of five Ukrainian delegates who answered questions about the nation’s political situation and education policy. During introductions, panel members spoke about the political crisis in Crimea and the state of education policy.
The panel members and audience got into heated discussion about Crimea and the moderator had to bring the discussion back to the topic of education policy.
At the beginning of the meeting, moderator Patience Huntwork explained that Ukrainian delegates came to discuss the limited autonomy and corruption that abounds in the Ukrainian education system.
“This is about our visitors from Ukraine … who are here to discuss education policy,” she said. “I was surprised at how pivotal a role our Ukrainian friends saw for education reform.”
Artem O. Yanchuk, one of the delegates, spoke of legislative reform that is underway to improve the education system.
“We’re about to start working on new legislation that will be much broader,” Yanchuk said.
Oleh A. Zubchuk, another delegate, said that Ukraine is in a state of upheaval, but young people are pulling together to make a change.
“We don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” Zubchuk said. “We were told that the U.S. government is doing a lot now to help Ukraine but we proved that we are capable to get organized.”
Volunteering is very much on the rise in Ukraine. Zubchuk said that previously, Ukrainians “didn’t know each other.” Now, he said, the youth are getting actively involved in their nation’s future. He continued to say that there are lines of people waiting to be conscripted in the military
“They demonstrate that they are ready to play an active role,” he said. “Many of the issues could be addressed by education; it can be an efficient instrument in the hands of society at large. I would place a lot of hopes on the reforms that we’re going to introduce (to education).”
The goal of education reform is to make it more accessible to Ukrainian youth. They also hope to rid the education system of corruption and give students more freedom to choose the course of their education.
Delegate Maksym M. Yarmystyy said Ukrainians are more united now than ever before and they are looking for a way out of this crisis.
“We would not allow anybody to preclude our young people from striving for (a) better life,” he said. “And one of the means to help them is to change, to reform the system of education. We’d like to learn from the American experience.”
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