The influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education in Ukraine

Crisis or renewal?

Modern Ukrainian higher education is facing a need to respond to a double challenge: on the one hand, it is necessary to keep up with the requirements of the globalised and information society; on the other hand, to take into account objective resource constraints resulting from crisis socio-economic processes within Ukraine and the world economic complex. Formally, Ukraine is one of the most educated nations. About 83% of school graduates receive higher education. However, on the other hand, the value of the diploma as a document falls sharply and confidence in the quality of university education is in question today. The decision of entering the university is often made by parents who think that a diploma of higher education guarantees career success. Moreover, the choice of the future profession is not based on the labour market analysis or personal skills; the key criterion of choice is the profession prestige. As a result, most graduates do not work in their specialty. Possible solutions to the problem are labour market monitoring with follow up syllabuses updating, development of vocational education system and implementation of European educational standards with adaptation to Ukraine realia. The Ukrainian scholars Antonivska and Sarnovska state that ‘Modernisation of higher education in Ukraine requires overcoming a number of problems, among which the most pressing are the inconsistency of training structure with the real needs of the economy, declining quality of education, detachment from research, slow integration into European and global intellectual space.’

With this in mind, we acknowledge that the purpose of today’s higher education is to contribute to the progression of a comprehensively developed and gifted person who will not only apply the acquired knowledge but also constantly update and replenish them. It is important to be not only a qualified, but also, above all, a competent professional. A competent specialist differs from a qualified one by constant self-development that goes beyond the major discipline. Ukrainian educational policy regulates the program of action to modernise the higher education system in terms of individualisation, which is considered to be a key strategy of state influence on higher education reforms, ensuring competitiveness and sustainability of the educational institution.

The pandemic has proved that Ukrainian universities are no longer keeping up with the speed of the world. Today students are required to have one set of skills, and tomorrow the list will change. Life-long learning and corporate education are becoming increasingly important for young people. The urgency of the problem is exacerbated by the transition to a blended form of education with the priority of distance learning technologies and a shift to self-directed, autonomous learning that is suggested in the curricula of higher education institutions. Due to the recent transformations in social policy towards individual-stimulating actions, quality of education and life is determined as a criterion of personal development. Moreover, the advancement of digital education technologies also contributes to the personalisation of learning and stimulation of lifelong learning. Therefore, we are observing a twofold perspective in terms of the educational situation in Ukraine: the crisis caused by the urgent digitalisation and transformation of mass teacher-oriented education to a student-centred and individually meaningful educational process. The paradigm of modern digital personality-oriented education expands the concept of ‘personalisation’ from the basic awareness of the psychophysiological characteristics of the student to the possibility of creating individual educational space due to individual independent activities. Hence, students clearly comprehend the value of the diploma and are able to construct their individual trajectory for future self-realisation.

Digital education technologies, as a means of autonomous personalised learning activation, offer unlimited opportunities for the realisation of students’ aspirations for self-education. The combination of globalisation and digitalisation of education contributes to the creation of a unique educational space enriched by the synergy of traditional learning with digital education technologies. Having analysed the reports on the quality of higher education for 2020–2021, we have been convinced that information technologies enrich the learning process, provide an opportunity to develop and implement an individual educational trajectory, and offer effective interactive tools for self-monitoring. At the same time, the implementation of digitalisation in the educational process of higher education opens up opportunities for teachers to learn something new. In these conditions, the development of innovation is becoming more continuous and gradual. However, the scientific basis for their implementation requires special knowledge and skills. As it turned out, the use of technologies in the educational process demonstrates great educational and developmental potential; at the same time, it requires revision and improvement of teaching methods and assessment. Despite all the difficulties, the digital education competence of our teachers has significantly increased.

Information technologies create the conditions for universities to form a holistic system of universal knowledge, skills and abilities. They open the way to individual search for information and learning activities based on individual educational trajectories. Thus, the use of digital technologies for learning personalisation is a purposeful process of changing the content, methods and organisational forms of learning. However, this process changes not only the forms but also the personality of students as well as teachers. The integration of digital technologies is not only a technological but also a didactic process associated with conceptual changes in the initial methodological support, evaluation and updating of the content of education. Researchers confirm that the use of digital technologies has a significant impact on improving the effectiveness of pedagogical activities and academic success and contributes to the formation of individual educational trajectories. Our considerations are in line with the ideas of educational experts Donnelly et al.: ‘Using the post-pandemic period to renovate the education system and build its resilience is a priority in Ukraine. At the same time, it is important to design a future education system that can make better use of blended learning models to reach all students at their level and provide more individualised approaches to teaching.’

In the process of a renewed higher education system development, the dynamics of social changes complicate the forecast of what values and standards can ensure sustainability and cultural coexistence in the near future. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, despite changing the matrix of academic nature, has become a chance for Ukrainian higher education to turn the crisis into an opportunity and education becomes a powerful potential for scientific and social achievements as a whole.

Note: This column is an edited version of Lavrysh, Y. (2022). Influence of COVID-19 pandemic on higher education in Ukraine: Crisis or renewal? Educational Philosophy & Theory. Advanced online publication.

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Full Citation Information:
Lavrysh, Y. (2022). The influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education in Ukraine: Crisis or renewal?. PESA Agora.

Yuliana Lavrysh

Yuliana Lavrysh currently works at the Faculty of Linguistics, National Technical University of Ukraine Kiev Polytechnic Institute. She does research in Higher Education, Comparative Education and Adult Education. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Advanced Education.