Some of the problems of education in Romania are dropout from upper secondary education, students’ under motivation for learning, low graduation rate of baccalaureate exam and access to tertiary education. The Ministry of National Education found the solution to implement Romanian Secondary Education Project – ROSE financed through a loan in the amount of 200 million EUR from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to Romania, between 2015 and 2022. This național project’s main aim is to improve the quality of the educational services provided by the beneficiary high schools' and, implicitly, increasing the transition rates of students to tertiary education, through increasing the rate of success at the baccalaureate exam in 1160 low performing public high schools, representing around 80% of the total number of public high schools.
The project includes three components:
1. School-based systemic interventions implemented for a period of 4 years with activities such as:
- Undertake remedial classes, tutoring, vocational counselling and orientation, coaching, mediation with Roma communities and personal development;
- Carry out extracurricular and outreach activities, such as documentary trips/visits, internships, participation in different competitions, and school networking activities;
- Contract minor civil works for renovation of internal spaces/rooms (e.g. laboratories) with minimal or no adverse environmental impacts, and purchase of goods
- Revision of the upper secondary education curriculum;
- Training of teachers and public school directors on implementing the revised curriculum, on adapting the curriculum to the needs and abilities of different students;
- Development of digital teaching and learning materials meant to improve teaching and learning processes.
At the end of the Project, it is estimated that approximately 80 percent of Romanian public high schools (1 160) would benefit from this sub-component.
2. University-Level Interventions and Bridge Programs aiming to support the needs of students at risk of dropping out of public faculties through grants
3. Project Management, Monitoring and Evaluation
As for the first component which is the subject of our example of good practice, grants awarded to public high schools for a 4-year period to allow sufficient time for implementing activities aimed at supporting students from Grade 9 through Grade 12, especially belonging to disadvantaged groups (pupils from low-income families, pupils discriminated on the basis of identity / ethnicity (including Roma),those living in rural areas or other areas where there are no schools nearby, pupils having one or both parents working abroad or pupils with special educational needs).
The expected results will be: reduced dropout rate in high schools, increased pupil motivation for learning, improved rate of success in the baccalaureate exam and more parents and community involvement in the school 's partnership.
Context of good practice
1160 high schools are located throughout Romania, in each county, being urban and rural public schools that meet at least one of the following criteria:
The baccalaureate exam promotion rate ≤ 90% or final high school graduation rate ≤ 95%.
Many of them are in economically disadvantaged areas, with a high unemployment rate and a high level of poverty.
There are also many rural schools that have pupils from several neighbouring localities without school. The school population of each high school exceeds 300 pupils, some even having more than 1000.
A significant percentage of pupils have one or both parents went abroad to work.
Most high schools are technical, with pupils belonging to ethnic minorities such as Roma, Hungarians, Lipoveni.
Main characteristics of the challenge, description of the target group
Each of 1160 high school included in this national project has identified the problems that have helped to design a personalized intervention strategy from inside. However, they all face more or less the same challenges, such as absenteeism, under-motivation in learning of students and reject to participate, non-acquiring learning outcomes, low rate of baccalaureate exam, difficult to complete high school studies, lack of parents' support. For more of the students learning is not a value because they have no successful learning patterns in their families, so it's hard to involve them. Low self-confidence, lack of successful role models and difficulties in career choices are other issues that keep pupils away from school. Social inequality and disadvantaged background are other factors of school failure, many pupils have difficulty of getting to school, caused by long distance from their home to school and by poverty.
The project involves not only the students but 10 - 15 teachers, the management, beside them the accountant, the administrator, the school counsellor, NGOs and tourism companies, universities, cultural institutions, parents and representatives of the authority and school partners contribute to the cooperation.
Success factors and processes
60 facilitators have been appointed at country level.
Each of the selected public high school supported by national facilitator made the diagnosis of the situation and the identified the problems and solutions that will be further implemented with the grant support.
This was done at the first meeting of the school's working team with the participation of the principal and a team of teachers, parents of students, students, the mayor, representatives of the local council and local representatives of the Public Social Assistance Service. Through discussions, questionnaires, interviews and other ways to investigate the situation the needs of disadvantaged students at risk of dropping out of high schools or failing at the Baccalaureate have been identified, as well activities aimed at addressing these needs. The suggestions of participants were included in the grant proposal to be financed by the ROSE, taking into account the existing Institutional Development Plans. The grant proposal had to present the situation of the high school in terms of performance on the Baccalaureate, dropouts, and graduation rates, and to identify solutions to address problems. The proposal included a School Improvement Plan (SIP) that details costs and timelines for those activities. After the design exercise of high school grant proposal has been completed, second meeting was organized with the same participants to share the proposal’s design with the community and gather feedbacks, before submitting it for național evaluation.
The first category of activities is Academic and support interventions for which the largest amount of the project budget is allocated - at least 50%. Students from the target group participate at remedial activities in baccalaureate subjects and another classes weekly. For students with learning difficulties, small groups according to the level of knowledge and learning needs are organized. Teachers involved in organizing remedial classes use interactive learning methods and modern educational resources acquired through the project funds (interactive whiteboard, computer, video projector, video screen, tablets etc). Because the remedial classes are organized after school hours, students take free lunch in school and free transportation to home, specially those who live far away from school. Increased learning interest of pupils also achieved through the more practical activities: reading clubs, literary groups, drama, storytelling, physical experiments and robotics that stimulate pupils' curiosity and involvement in the learning process.
Another activity with good results to increase student motivation is individual and group counselling on topics such as: personal development, self-respect, values, and career guidance with a school counsellor or with a specialist. In this kind of activities beside pupils parents are also involved in separate or joint programs.
The second category of activities is Extracurricular interventions (e.g. outreach programs, documentary trips/visits, internships, competitions, school networking, etc.) - up to 30% of the grant amount.
These activities complement the first category through the applicative aspect of the knowledge learned in the remedial activities and the exercising of transversal competences in a non-formal context.
Through theatre, museums and universities visits, students learn to know better each other,they discover and understand cultural act, become more inclusive and openned, their behaviour improve, and they are better prepared for the decisions when choosing their professional career.
The results: reduced absenteeism, school progress of pupils involved in the projects, attracting parents to school activities, more interesting lessons using modern teaching-learning technology
Although the project is not over, after the first year of implementation we can highlight the following issues that generate positive changes in education:
- Teamwork among the project management team and teachers responsible for the two categories of activities focused to change the situation and to help their students.
- Involvement of the community and local authorities in solving school problems such as those identified by the project (drop out from high schools, parents involving, social disadvantages, creating the conditions for modern learning).
- Cross-sectorial collaboration - networking and cooperation among local stakeholders/decision-makers – such as educational providers and local, employment agency, social services etc.
- Holistic approach to students´ education (and lives) – formal and non-formal.
- The grant support (e.g: hot lunch) offered to pupils from disadvantaged communities resulted in direct success in the first stage of the struggle with absenteeism and drop out
- Collaboration between schools in order to change experiences and disseminate good practices on this field.
Since it is a national project funded by the World Bank with a systemic intervention, it is clear that it one year is enough for small changes. We believe that 4-year planning in line with the high school cycle is the best option to reach results. So it is a long-term investment, which has to be harmonized with school timetable.
Impact of measures taken
Some preliminary results:
- 95% participation of target group students in remedial activities;
- attractive lessons using the modern resources based on the new technologies, purchased from the project funds;
- decreased absenteeism.
Being a nation-wide strategic project, the implementation suffered from several typical problems (period has been delayed, activities started laterdue to financial resources, the management team was not prepared to manage such a complex project).
The grant scheme for high schools comprises three categories, depending on the problems of the lyceum and the number of pupils: small grant - 70,000 Euro, average grant - 100,000 Euro, higher grant - 152,500 euros.
The implementation period of the project is 4 years in line with the secondary school cycle. It requires 15-25 teachers / school to organize the activities. The number of hours is difficult to indicate because some teachers have more (e.g. teachers for remedial activities have between 400 and 500 hours / year),and others less (e.g. excursion teacher who organised trip or visits between 10 - 30 hours / year.
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