Romania, a country with 12 classes. Why we don't like to learn

Only 17.4% of Romanians can boast of having completed a university, according to a Eurostat report, which places Romania last in Europe in terms of the number of higher education graduates. We are basically a country with 12 classes where the job of driver is the most sought after. Education experts say that it is a national phenomenon with serious and profound consequences, caused by the unreformed education system and the desire to make quick money.

College is not very attractive for young people in Romania. Photo source: archive

In a country with an outdated education system, often based on non-value, where the profession of teacher has lost its aura, and we steal each other's hats every day, Romanians tick off a negative record: only 17.4% of adults between the ages of 25 and 74 have a higher education, just over 60% have a secondary education, and almost 22% have not even finished high school. As a comparison, in Ireland and Luxembourg almost half of the population has a university degree. In the ranking of the most educated European countries, Sweden and Norway follow with a percentage of over 45%. Basically, these countries are far above the European average which is 32%.

Why don't we like to learn? Why are we no longer crowding college benches like we did in the 90s when everyone was chasing a degree? Several specialists answered the Truth questions.

Marian Staș, expert in education, is of the opinion that in Romania it is quite easy to enter college, but it is very difficult or even not at all to leave. “They are unable to complete their studies. They don't have the power to do it. Simply. It is about a school done badly from the beginning, from the first grade to the twelfth grade. Therefore, it is normal for them to enter college very poorly prepared”explained the specialist for “Adevărul”. “I would put first the intellectual impotence of the children, who come out of middle school and high school poorly prepared and cannot complete their university studies. The percentage of poor preparation, statistically speaking, is so high that it is difficult to find the joy and pleasure of learning.” Marian Staș also said.

Prof. Daniel David, rector of Babeș Bolyai University, continues. “License it should be today what the high school was in the time of our grandparents. Even if, after finishing a certain college, you do not immediately integrate into the labor market, you have acquired a cultural level that helps you understand and adapt well to the world in which you live. Why are we doing so poorly in this chapter compared to other countries? Because not all those who enter the primary education cycle end up in the twelfth grade. There is a dropout along the way. Then, among those who manage to finish the twelfth grade, not all of them enroll in the Baccalaureate, and among those who enroll, not all pass it. And the examples can go on: those who take the Baccalaureate do not enroll in college, and among those who enroll, many drop out”he explained for the Truth.

Money, more attractive than school

Another reason why more than half of Romanians only have secondary education is the desire of young people to earn money as quickly and, if possible, as simply as possible. “Young people who leave school become entrepreneurs or take jobs that do not require university education, but which provide them with a salary, an income. In our country, mediocrity is valued, money goes quickly”, Marian Staș also specified

Paradoxically, this salary is often higher than what they would receive if they attended college. Bogdan Badea, head of one of the largest recruiting companies in Romania, comes up with a concrete example. “The jobs that are currently being sought are the simple and cheap ones. That of a truck driver, for example, is the most sought after. According to data from last year, but also from this year, Romanians want to be truck drivers. The reason? It is the most profitable job that a person with secondary education can practice. Here are the highest salaries: 2000-4000 euros per month net for a TIR driver who works only in Romania, not outside. Well, does this money, earned so simply and easily, compare with the salary he would have received after 5 years of college in some company? It might not,” he explained.

Economic analyst Adrian Negrescu believes that we have gone from one extreme to another: “From having a college in the 90s, now few are interested. The reason? They will find a job in other fields anyway. But Romania needs specialists. There is a need for new subjects, new programs in accordance with what the labor market demands of you today”.

According to the expert, our country does not have a strategy in terms of ensuring a specialized workforce in the new economic reality. “We still have faculties in fields that no longer have anything to do with economic reality. Romania is locked in a schooling level typical of the 90s. For example, we need more than 50,000 people to work in the car industry, one of the country's main exporters. We are not talking about the construction sector where engineers and architects are needed. We also need people who specialize in research. We are in last place in Europe in research and innovation, the stakes of the next 20-30 years. If we do not prepare these young people to work in research institutions, to develop new technologies, we might slow down from the point of view of economic development. The economy will work with the handbrake pulled,” the specialist also specified.

Diplomas, worthless papers. What employers are looking for today

Bogdan Badea draws attention to the fact that in recent years, employers have no longer taken into account studies, but practical training. “It is about the decredibility of the education system. Nobody trusts diplomas anymore. These papers also do not certify the necessary skills. The employer does not trust the education system and starts from the premise that the young person who leaves the university doesn't know anything “, he explains.

Univ. Prof. Dr. Daniel David, rector of Babeș Bolyai University, comes up with an argument against. “The idea that universities do not prepare students well enough for the job market is just a myth. Maybe there are some, but let's not generalize. It is just an idea propagated by some companies that would like to take over the resources higher education. There are many universities in Romania that make a very good offer. You, as an employer, if you really want, you have a choice”, specified the rector. “Those who say that universities do not prepare students well enough are those who themselves graduated from these universities. So, we still prepared them well, since they ended up in key positions, of employers”.

Univ. Prof. Daniel David believes that university diplomas are papers that certify competences. “The big international companies are full of graduates of Romanian universities. They are good there and it is hard to find a major company where the leadership is not made up of highly educated people. Big companies are mostly organized in university towns, not where there are no universities. This is another counterargument to the myth that school doesn't matter! The rest – diplomas-papers, great specialists without school, etc… – is a myth derived from ignorance or targeted ideology”.

The de-credibility of the education system, the de-credibility of education training generally speaking, is often a reality, believes university professor Ovidiu Pânișoara. “Instead, the model of certain people in the public space, people who have succeeded financially and personally without much schooling, has become popular. A certain value table has been overturned“, said the teacher.

He believes that employers who do not take a degree very seriously are making a mistake. ” That man actually went to college. He got involved, he worked for it. I didn't take the short cut. The picture of the employer is a bit wrong. Diploma should count more in the recruitment process. The effort behind that document should count more.”

The fact that diplomas are no longer the only door openers, the fact that they no longer matter so much in the recruitment process is something worthy of praise, believes Marian Staș. “A very good initiative, in my opinion, healthy, tough. Jobs are mostly obtained based on what you know how to do. Obviously, the degree also matters, but other aspects also matter”. It goes a lot on the practical side, what concretely offers the future employee to the company.


If we fail to change the paradigm and eliminate this stigma that Romanian faculties are stuck somewhere in the 90s, people will not be attracted to university studies, believes Bogdan Badea. “Why should I struggle for five years on the university's benches and come out unemployed with a diploma or have a salary of no thousand euros when I can hire a truck driver and earn 3000? It would be too much trouble for a result that does not satisfy financially”.

Adrian Negrescu sounds a big alarm and calls for quick reforms in this regard: “I think that the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Education, of Finance should think about some reforms in this area. In Romania, the real specialists can be counted on the fingers. Then, we should learn to keep our capable young people in the country. The 2018 generation of Olympians all left the country after finishing high school. If we don't create an extensive training program for young people, in such a way that we keep them in school, in college, then give them an internship and a job, basically the whole value chain from training to job, we will not succeed than to stagnate economically. In the happiest case”.

The reforms were also mentioned by prof. Daniel David who believes that these major changes should take place both in the higher and primary education system. “One of the indicators should analyze the reasons for dropping out of school, because many children and young people are lost during schooling. And why are we losing them if education is compulsory?”