Education in Romania, collapsing due to poverty. Mircea Dumitru: Poverty prevents you from allocating time to study

The disastrous results of the PISA tests or those obtained by the students in the national exams are a direct and indisputable consequence of the abject poverty in which they live. It is no longer a secret: material shortages go hand in hand with lack of education all over the world, but in our country the situation is downright dramatic. Several education specialists explained the phenomenon to “Adevărul” and came up with solutions.

The education system in Romania is on the ground. The latest proof is the disaster at the mock National Assessment exam, where more than half of the students failed to get a grade five in maths. However, the situation we find ourselves in should not be a surprise. Let's not forget the PISA test in 2022, perhaps the coldest shower received by Romanian education, a painful and difficult landmark for all those who still hope for a Romania like outside.

Why did I end up in such a situation? Among the reasons, say the experts consulted by “Adevărul”, are macroeconomic poverty, the material lacks of children who live mainly in rural areas and who simply do not have the money to go to school. On top of all this is superimposed the extremely strong imprint of the environment in which the students live. We are talking about a vicious circle: parents, in turn without education, have no way to support their children and encourage them in this direction. Basically, next to an uneducated and poor man will grow an equally uneducated and, most likely, equally poor child. Obviously, there are exceptions, but they are just exceptions that prove the rule.

Concretely, according to data provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), students from families with a higher economic status obtained better results in the PISA 2022 tests compared to those facing material shortages. In Romania, however, the gap between the financially advantaged children and the vulnerable is huge. This equates to a difference of almost three years of study. Specifically, a 9th grader who comes from a poor family usually has the knowledge of a 6th grader. Concretely, according to, in mathematics, Romanian students with high incomes obtained 500 points, and those with very low incomes obtained only 368 points. The average score of financially advantaged children is 36% better than those with the lowest incomes. As a comparison, in Bulgaria it is 29% higher. At the opposite pole, of the countries with the best results, in Finland the difference is 19%, and in Estonia 17%.

The eternal question: “Why?”

Poverty prevents you from allocating time to study. You are needed to work to support your extended family. On the other hand, if you don't study, you don't have a good job and you can't overcome this condition. As for the role of parents in this equation, they do not see education as a solution for their children. And this, unfortunately, deepens the phenomenon even more“, the academician Mircea Dumitru declared for “Adevărul”.

Marian Staș, an expert in educational policies, explained to us that in Romania there are huge discrepancies from a socio-economic point of view between the rural and the urban environment. “And these differences reverberate negatively in the area of ​​education. Romania's problem is not a purely educational one. The problem is, in fact, one of socio-economic context deeply stuck in an outdated paradigm. Educational banana Romania is an administrative-territorial banana Romania“, the specialist realized.

In our country, this difference between the results of rich and poor children is not from yesterday, from today. It has increased over time, little by little each year, driven by both a decline in the performance of poor students and an improvement in the performance of students with money.

Education in Romania is not fair“, is the opinion of sociologist Gelu Duminică. “We have areas of marginality and marginalization in Romania, in the educational system, huge, which are ignored. The rural environment, the Roma communities, certain large communities in the big city, are completely ignored. Quality education, really quality, is beautiful, but it is completely lacking”, says the specialist. “We have studies that show us that a school that is located in a disadvantaged environment produces illiterates for many generations and no one asks why. And then all these things lead to this situation, we have, in other words, exclusion, marginalization, poor quality“, said Gelu Sunday.

In the PISA test, Romania consistently stands out with below-average results compared to the other participating countries. In 2022 we ranked second to last in the European Union in all three areas tested: mathematics, reading and science. The average score of Romanian students in these tests was 428 points in each of the three tests, below the OECD average levels. Romanian children registered 472 points in mathematics, 476 in reading and 485 in science.

In Europe, the best results were achieved by Estonian students: 510 points in mathematics, 511 in reading and 526 in science. “The PISA tests say the following: the results correlate positively very strongly with the level of socio-economic development of the countries. The more economically developed the countries, the better the results. The less developed the countries, the poorer the results. On the other hand, investing in education is the most profitable investment a country can make. But how to invest in education when you, Romanian politician, are an incompetent?”, asks Marian Staș.

Teachers, on the verge of extinction

What should be done in the short and medium term? “Some structural, systemic measures must be taken, some well-targeted policies must be thought of and investments made at the level of disadvantaged segments” is the opinion of academician Mircea Dumitru. And one more aspect: according to the specialist, in Romania there are fewer and fewer teachers not only in rural areas, but also in big cities. The job itself is no longer attractive. “There are signs that in the very near future we will no longer have teachers for fundamental subjects. And now they are turning to older teachers who have passed retirement age and who are encouraged to remain in the department even after they have passed the age of 65. Some stay up to 70 years or even more. And in the near future this will happen even in big cities. Young people coming out of college should be encouraged to come and teach. To have higher salaries, raises, recognition“, says Mircea Dumitru.

Salaries higher than those of teachers in the city, because the conditions are also harder. Maybe you work with children who need more attention, they have certain needs, you commute, maybe you even leave your family in the city to come to the village… it's normal to be paid better“. And if a measure is not taken quickly, any measure, “soon we will run out of teachers”, announced Mircea Dumitru.

Money is indeed necessary, but not a higher salary is not enough to solve the problem, Marian Staș believes. “That's what the doctors told her. They increased their salaries but they still get paid. The motivational aspect is not in the money. It is about a completely different status, of recognition, of many other components beyond the financial component. Maybe increase their salaries three times, 40% of teachers will still teach poorly“, said Marian Staș.