The Goethe High School scandal, case study. The meditations, the home school without which the students do not have much chance in the national exams

Romanian students meditate “hard” to pass the National Assessment, the Baccalaureate, and then to enter college. It is already a known and accepted national sport. But what is actually hidden behind this practice? A tacit understanding between teachers, students and parents or a coercion of children who are forced by choice, by necessity, to align themselves with the trend? Two education specialists explained to “Adevărul” how this scourge was born, who maintains it and how the vicious circle could be broken

The scandal at the Goethe high school in Bucharest, where a German language teacher is being prosecuted for forcing children to come to meditation, brings back to the discussion a phenomenon that has been practiced since the beginning of time with the tacit consent of all those involved. Meditations have become a kind of parallel school to classical education, a form of complementary private education born of different needs. The teacher needs money, the parents want to see their children graduate. In the middle is the student, his future and his career. It is, therefore, a sensitive subject, which proves to us that in Romania free education, in fact, costs a lot. More precisely, 150 lei per session, which was the rate of the entrepreneur… in German. Which, if found guilty, risks a suspension of up to 7 years.

A collective fault

We are facing a major problem facing society and four major actors: the student, the parent, the teacher and the education system itself. And we wonder who actually started this need for additional training? From students who can't keep up with the material taught in class? From parents who put more and more pressure on children and demand academic performance from an early age? Could it be the fault of the teachers who round up their incomes like this? Or are we dealing with a much more complex problem born of a faltering education system?

Marian Staș, expert in education, believes that we are talking about a kind of complicity. One hand that washes the other. “Something warm and jammy. We all know it's not good, but I'm betting that the child can pass, can get a higher grade. It's a vicious cycle of self-perpetuating integrity until…who blinks first. Then each takes the other's hand and no one assumes anything. But, certainly, such a situation is generated by the complicity of everyone. If students learned properly, if teachers were good professionals in the classroom, and if parents did their duty as parents properly, this situation would not exist. Point”, he explains.

Therefore, according to the specialist, the blame is shared: “The root cause of the situation is misconduct both in terms of integrity and incompetence on the part of all parties involved. The children don't learn as they should and then they buy their grades with their parents' money, the parents don't take care of the children and spend the money. Many are interested in the student getting a grade 10 even if he knows nothing. And the teacher who takes the money because he needs it”. The problem, believes Marian Staș, will not have a solution anytime soon. “No matter how many punishments will be applied, compulsions, prisons or legislation will be given”he says.

Iulian Cristache, the president of the Federation of Parents, told “Adevărul” that, in fact, the fault lies primarily with the school, which does not prepare the children for the future: “The education system should ensure the child an education of at least grade seven. But, with the exception of those top, top classes, in the system it is taught for grades five or six”.

The school, Cristache also says, does not prepare children to face the National Assessment or Baccalaureate exams. “There are very few kids who enter college without meditation. The school is not able to provide the child with a passing grade in the national exams, let alone college!”

And then it's the fault of the teachers, he says. The expert gives as an example the case of the recent Goethe scandal. “It has long been known about this bully from the Goethe high school. There's a lot of money there, it's also known about the bribes that are given at placements, at distinction exams. I've had at least five moms call me in the last four years. One of them is even a lawyer who sued the high school and won. And who chose to move their child from there. Child who can no longer withstand the pressure. I got calls from very educated people who were trying to make other parents understand that what is happening there is not normal, that they should be united and not subscribe to the illegal practices of management and teachersspecified Iulian Cristache.

Marian Staș believes that there will always be temptations: “There will always be people without character, willing to meditate whether the students are from their class or not. What happened to Goethe is one of the outliers in the sleep of reason breeds monsters cycle. At the moment when this whole story was left with a criminal file, it is clear that it is the teacher's fault, because otherwise it would not have reached this hot point”.

Iulian Cristache also talks about a phenomenon with deep roots in the past, but also in people's consciousness. Because we are not dealing with a practice from yesterday to today, but with one that has crossed generations. Under this umbrella of meditations lie several tentacles of the octopus. Three, to be exact: we are talking, first of all, about the children who meditate for performance, then about the meditations imposed by the classroom teachers and about the student's training with people from outside the system: former teaching staff or teachers who work in other educational institutions .

“Students, forced to come to training for money”

The specialist explained that there are big differences between training for performance and training through compulsion. “This is actually a big problem. When the classroom teacher forces the students to come for additional training, obviously for a fee”. If not, the consequences appear…some of the most serious. “First of all, one observes the behavior of the teacher towards the student who does not take meditation. He can listen to him more fiercely, he can persecute him, keep him in tension”.

Another method to convince parents to send their children to additional training is to teach the subject fast-forward, “so that it is almost impossible for students to understand. Consequence? They are forced by circumstances to take meditations for passing grades. And this is how you kill two birds with one stone: good grades, peace assured”.

There are, however, even more absurd situations when the child does two meditations on the same discipline. “With the teacher in the class, so that he doesn't upset him and buy his peace, but also with a second teacher to make sure that he performs”, says Iulian Cristache.

There is another option that some teachers resort to. It's about the testing that takes place after a longer vacation, during which the children may experience some losses. “You give them the initial test quickly, as is normal, so you know what the level is and where you're starting with those kids, but you give them an above-average difficulty test. Many of them will get low grades, parents will be alarmed and send their children…where? To meditations!”

Iulian Cristache is of the opinion that meditations have their purpose, however. There is therefore an exception when these might be allowed in the classroom.

“I have no problem with teachers meditating their students to achieve performance in that discipline. It is normal for these children to have extra training. It is normal to have continuity with the teacher who teaches the class. There is the possibility, for example, of being a student in one of the top classes in a school, having one of the best teachers in the class, and then it is natural to meditate with him. But, beware! When we talk about performance this teacher will not advantage you over your peers. On the contrary. He grades you objectively, and is often even more demanding with the students he trains privately. Some top teachers even penalize a student who prepares for the performance but does not show interest in class”.

Parents demand a fundamental reform

“Let's act with integrity and let's all say Stop! So far and beyond! If we did that, the system would probably start working differently.”, believes Marian Staș. But it is not wanted from any side, because everyone has their own interest. “It is a matter of what is meant by the weaknesses of human nature on either side. It generally goes badly and criminal cases start to appear when one of the parties gets upset. They start stabbing each other when something doesn't suit them anymore”the specialist also declared.

What should be done to break this vicious circle? Iulian Cristache presented us with a real reform. “Let us also be inspired by how things are done outside. Every teacher should be required to stay at school eight hours. From 08:00 to 16:00, like any other employee. Whether it's eight hours in class or less. If he has less, let him be assigned an office within the school, as we see happening abroad. What he does after 4 p.m. is already his business. It is out of schedule. But I tell you that after eight hours of work, he no longer has time for meditation”it shows.

Then, the expert says, the “School by School” program should be implemented in as many educational institutions as possible: “To learn in one shift, and after the lessons the children stay in school. Let them be meditated upon by the teachers in the classroom, and let the teachers have a fixed salary. But the teacher doesn't like it. The reason is easy to understand: the school would not give him as much money as he would earn if he meditated on children privately”.

On the other hand, admits Iulian Cristache, many schools do not have the physical space to allow students to learn in one shift. The reason? “Floating visas and school overcrowding. Floating visas are available for purchase at all schools in the centre. We are talking about forgery in documents and statements. If you go 5 kilometers to the left or right, you will find schools where there is no crowding, and there the School After School program could be held“, he also said.

Parents are also to blame. “Parents seek to send the child to the most advanced educational environment possible. There are many who demand academic performance from children from an ever younger age. For example: The Ministry of Education revised the calendar of competitions and contests and eliminated those in primary school. What happened immediately after? A lot of parents were outraged that they can no longer send their children to competitions in the primary cycle”, concludes the parent.

What started the scandal in the Goethe high school

What exactly happened at Goethe High School? In mid-January, the mother of a student sent a report to the Ministry of Education complaining that one of the teachers who were tutoring her child started to persecute him. This is after, the woman says, the student would have given up the services of the teacher in question. After receiving this complaint, the ministry sent the Control Body to the high school, which launched an investigation and bribed the college's management. All three principals of the college subsequently resigned in reaction to the “humiliating” treatment they were subjected to. However, they quickly returned to their decisions.

Yesterday, the inspection body's report was made public which confirmed the father's story. And several measures were proposed: first of all, the Prosecutor's Office was notified, then a disciplinary investigation was requested of the teaching staff as well as the director of the college. The Control Body of the Ministry of Education asked the general school inspectorate for a general inspection, and the Ministry of Education the establishment of a commission to verify compliance with the internal measures ordered by the management of the educational unit regarding the prevention and combating of the bullying phenomenon.

According to the sources from the investigation, the teacher was meditating several children in a special apartment intended for this activity, and the price asked for the session was 150 lei.