To teach your children “as before”, or to choose something new, but not yet fully approved by time? To make a step to a change, or to trust the traditional system? Discussions on the choice between alternative and classical forms of education seem to be relevant for more than one year. Opinion managed to find out what, in general, an alternative education is, what kind of education it’s better to choose, how the homeschooling is connected to it and what they are, the new Ukrainian institutions that abandoned a traditional dead level of the classical system.

An alternative form of education – what it is and what for?

The very concept of something alternative implies the presence of at least two variants, one of which should ultimately be excluded from the list. Obviously, choosing a form of education for their child, most parents in one way or another tend to the “classical” one. But what still offers the second variant, the alternative one? Ruslan Svirskii, NewGeneration company founder, commenting on this topic to Opinion, expressed the thought that “alternativeness” is simply a marketing ploy for private educational projects, because even the current legislation does not include any divisions by the forms of education.

“In the Law of Ukraine “On Education” the types and forms of education are clearly regulated. You will not find there any kind of dividing into classical and alternative forms. The fundamental difference can only be in whether to teach or not to teach a child at all (unschooling).

That is why the name “alternative” is just the marketing of private educational projects. Any alternatives for primary school are out of the question because there are a teacher, a child and the amount of knowledge and skills that must be digested at a certain age. Are there private “alternative” educational institutions without teachers? No? Then what’s the alternative?

In Ukraine, it is right to distinguish between the state free (or conditionally free) education and education, which is acquired in private institutions. The difference can be in the inventory and logistics management, the quality of teaching staff and additional educational programs and techniques. Besides, not always these components are the best in private institutions. By the way, parents pay twice: for the first time in taxes, part of which goes to the national education, the second time to the owner of a private institution. And we do not mention such things as food and transfer for children. We are talking about education, not a hotel”, told the specialist.

Instead, Mykola Skyba, an expert in the direction “Education” of the Ukrainian Institute of the Future, in the interview to Opinion stressed, that alternative schools are generally non-profitable. Moreover, quite often these institutions are in fact small clubs of parents, who disagree with the traditional education form. According to the expert, alternative forms of education can save a child from turning into another part of a system, help to spend this period of time fully and productively, getting knowledge in what he is really interested.

“Alternative schools do not really earn, they are not profitable. They are not registered as schools, in fact, these are clubs of parents, and very often they are small. For example, several families who dissatisfied with the attitude towards their children, unhappy with the “coming up with the program” format when content is lost. When the baby comes tired, disappointed and dissatisfied. And they want the young human not to waste this time so that the child could get what he is interested in and master the set of knowledge and skills that are needed for the modern world. But the main thing is that they want their child to have a full-fledged period of youth, not injured and so that their child would not become a part of a system. And schools are still the production of the conveyor system. It remains, even in its best areas. So, the new Ukrainian school is a little bit changes this school, starting with the primary, but, of course, many do not want to wait until the change reaches the high school. And it is clear”, says Mykola Skyba.

The specialist also explained that it is worth dividing the actual alternative schools and private ones since the latter have licenses and are more like a classical school. However, even they are not completely profitable projects. Another thing is that the very request for the existence of private and alternative institutions work as a mirror, demonstrating the downsides of general education schools.

“One also has to understand, that there are private schools that operate under licenses, they look like schools, they just have a certain variation component that adds to its diversity. But private schools are not entirely profitable projects, too. Today the Ukrainian education market goes to the level when schools start to appear with a business project, but that’s the same long investment. Therefore, we can not say that alternative institutions are created for the sake of earnings. But the request to this education shows like the mirror, the downsides of general education schools. It would be more logical for these models to cooperate because both private and alternative schools are such a platform where new courageous approaches are created. The general education school can not bring itself to do the same”, explained the expert of the Ukrainian Institute of the Future.

Which form of education is better?

Maryna Bahrova, a member of the board of the international union “Institute of National Policy” is convinced that there is no one general answer to this question because in both cases it is possible to find both advantages and disadvantages.

“An alternative form of training really provides more opportunities for knowledge. A student has the ability to independently determine his training schedule. A teacher has more time for one student than his colleagues teaching through a traditional form of education. The student gets more theoretical knowledge. However, an alternative form of education has a big disadvantage. A student is deprived of opportunities to interact with their age mates. And this can eventually lead to psychological imbalance. An alternative form of education is better for senior students before preparation for admission to higher educational institutions. And before high school, you can use the traditional form of education”, is mentioned in the commentary for our media.

It is not necessary to compare and choose the “best” option, Olesia Ivanenko, the Candidate of Juridical Sciences, trainer-consultant, assistant professor of the Law Institute of Kyiv National Economic University named after Vadym Hetman told us. She believes, that both of them use different methods of learning and data transfers, that make a difference.

“The current legislation on education is constructed in such a way, that every person has the opportunity to get general education. In non-formal education, this is not possible, because it is not financed by the state or local budgets. Non-formal education is a kind of entrepreneurial activity, which is carried out at the discretion of the entrepreneur. Normal or formal education is intended to teach a new, while the aim of informal education is to transform already existing knowledge into skills etc. Informal education uses such methods of information transmission as mini-lectures, seminars, training, facilitation, etc. And the role of the professor/teacher is not in providing new knowledge, but managing the audience in such a way that the participants themselves come to the solution of the problem. While the role of professor/teacher in the system of formal education is precisely in order to teach, to provide something new, previously unknown to the students”, said Olesia Ivanenko.

But Ruslan Svirskyi is convinced, those pitfalls can be found both in the classical and in the alternative schools. In the first case, it is an “average” results, in the second case “Greenhouse mode” and a number of other factors.

“Parents should be aware that giving a child to an alternative school they make a social experiment. It’s good, if the child succeeds, thanks to the knowledge gained, skills and microclimate. And if not? After all, in such schools created an artificial ecosystem, which does not reflect the real relationships in society. They have to be ready to make greenhouse regime both in higher education and in a career.

Parents who choose a general education school should be aware that they will be guaranteed average result. Do you need average rates for your child? Somebody don’t really care, someone is not indifferent, but they can not afford a prestigious private institution”, told the expert.

Is home education a part of the alternative form?

To study at home – this was at least once dreamed by the majority of schoolchildren forced to wake up early in the morning so that make it to the first lesson. But is it just that? According to Mykola Skyba, the process of registration of home study is still in the way of its implementation. Changes to the law on Education has legalized such a right, but the question remains how to do it in practice.

“Home education is generally a separate issue. In this case, parents take full
responsibility for the skills and development of their child. Until now, it was not actually settled, and it was quite difficult to arrange to homeschool without using remote forms for which licensed schools are involved. Today there is a working group in the Ministry of Education, to which the representatives of “home-schooling” are invited. And together, in a complex dialogue, representatives of schools, headmasters, teachers, specialists of the ministry produce new rules for family home education. After all, the new law “On Education” passed last year opens this right and legalizes the family education, but how to do it in practice – it’s not clear yet. There are hopes, that by the end of this year/beginning of the next, there will finally be a provision that will allow parents to do it more civilized. But here, too, you may need methodical support”, says a specialist.

How do alternative schools in Ukraine work?

Specialized communities in social networks are full of ads and suggestions to join alternative schools. Some of them – completely new, others – have quite a long experience of work and even the first achievements. We talked to the heads of several institutions of alternative education to understand how it all works in practice.

Iryna Shchukina, the organizer and the leader of the school “Tree of Knowledge”. Like most alternative schools, her institution was opened because of her own children: choosing a place for their study she made the decision to do it on her own. First, together with her sister, Iryna created their first project – Center for Happy Motherhood “Little Happiness”. Subsequently, the initiative changed to the format “kindergarten + school”, later they separated. From 2016, Irina manages two projects – a school “The Tree of Knowledge” and the Kindergarten “A Magic Childhood”.

“We believe, that gaining knowledge is necessary with the interest and desire, that respect for the student is a necessary condition for any educational process. Main achievements and results for us is a desire of children to go to the “Tree of Knowledge” as often as possible and as long as possible. At the same time, at the need to go to any other school our children feel confident and quickly enter in the educational process of another school”, tells the organizer of the alternative school. Reflecting on the benefits of this form of education, Iryna emphasizes: alternative and the classical school are two separate worlds, in one of which the child learns to survive, and in the other – gets pleasure and develops in harmony.

“As for the benefits, it’s an opportunity to develop in a harmonious environment where the child is respected,where knowledge can be obtained with interest and desire, where they are not get taped and are not humiliated, where there is friendly environment as an unmistakable component of the educational process, where there many walks outside where a teacher is a friend, colleague, assistant, where reading can take place on pouffes, in the gym or on trampoline, where you can learn English by singing songs and playing different games and many more. Alternative and classic schools are two different worlds. There is a world where we must first learn how to survive, to adjust, but there is a world where learning brings pleasure and opportunity to create, experiment, develop in a harmonious environment”, says Iryna Shchukina.

Dmytro Lozin started his project “Home School in Kyiv” four years ago. The first two years really resembled a homeschool: teachers worked with children in apartments. However, Dmytro subsequently leased the premises where the first groups were located. Today in his school there are seven classes, located in a large spacious building. The plans are to create a school with all classes.

“The main idea of our school is to increase the chances of children to find their vocation in adult life, raising pupils’ motivation to study and work, and also providing a solid stock of knowledge and skills, but not as a set of dry facts, but as a competence. Competence is not just knowledge and skills, but how they can be used, and (if you take into account the new Law of Ukraine on Education and a book by Ken Robinson “School of the Future”) learning ability, curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, communication skills, cooperation, compassion, self-control and public consciousness.

In order for the training to be both interesting and useful, along with traditional methods, we are systematically use developing techniques. Developing techniques are primarily aimed at group members work and giving the child an active creative position. Examples of such techniques can be projects, collective learning methods, game techniques, problem learning, etc. Also, a lot of attention is focused on the homeschool in a developing environment, on the creation and maintenance of which constantly working class tutors and a psychologist”, said Dmytro.

Kateryna Trushkova is the organizer of the Center for Family Psychology “The World of Insight”, and is currently engaged in the project of installed self-education “Insight”. From the very beginning, it is created by children- homeschoolers and their parents, who want to study together. This idea arose during the work: Kateryna is a psychologist, and, while working with children, began to notice: most lack the desire to learn, even A-level students often study only because they have to. Reflecting on her own observing and looking for alternative options for her own children, Kateryna understood: children will become responsible and aware of their actions only when they are building their own school “from the very beginning”.

“Parents, who want to teach their children freely and consciously gather together. Under the coach’s control, they depict a strategy for personal development and development of the child. If their vision is the same, they are united in the community, decide how long the children will study together what exactly will be learned, and so on. Then the children gather together in the room and understand that nobody will teach them; they need to organize their own day and their own independent teaching. Under the guidance of a coach, children plan a day, eat, study, arrange for age groups and studying the topic through the Internet. In any case, they can turn to the coach and look for a teacher.

If a group of children decides that they need a teacher to deal with a particular topic, they create “Business plan”, answering the question: “What do we want to learn?”, “How long does it take?”, “Who do we want to learn from”. Then the children are looking for a teacher through the Internet, friends, and so on. Learn about the cost of classes and make an arrangement”, says Kateryna. Then the children meet with one more question: to earn money independently or to find an investor, who can be parents or anyone interested in the development of the children. Just to ask is not enough. You need to demonstrate your business plan and present it in such a way as to get money.

“After all these actions, children fully take responsibility for learning for themselves and gaining knowledge, because they need it. Thus, this is a qualitatively new level of knowledge acquisition. In addition, there is plenty of time to play, communicate, dream. The money for food is taken by children from their parents, but control the budget themselves, buy products and cook”, shares the project organizer.

According to Kateryna Trushkova, such education forms children’s autonomy, responsibility, and ability to work in a team and live in a family. Financial literacy, self-understanding skills and other skills are formed. After such a school from the age of 14, a teenager can live independently, or study and work, because he or she already understands everything needed to live happily every day.

Text by Dmytro Zhuravel

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