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Western myths about Belarusian HE

 

 

There appear to be several myths that foreigners have over Belarusian HE.

 

First of all the myth that the government owns all the universities and educates people free of charge.

 

Basically some of the old Soviet traditions are still present in Belarusian government policies, but the state approach to financial issues seems more capitalistic than in even some Western countries. Such countries as Sweden, Germany, Finland and Czech Republic provide free higher education for their nationals. Only foreigners or students of private universities and, only in certain exceptional cases, nationals have to pay their tuition fees.

 

While the Constitution of Belarus entitles everybody to free higher education on a competitive basis, around 50% of all the students who study for free later are obliged to work at an assigned working place for a two-year term. As a rule this working place doesn’t offer high salary which means that if you have studied at the university “for free”, you will have to work without being paid much for two years. Thus it may be argued that Belarusian educational system appears to be totally commercialized rather than socially-orientated. The government of Belarus does not own all universities in Belarus, about 10 out of 55 Belarusian higher education institutions do not belong to the state.

 

Another myth concerns the fact that Belarusian Students are “Living behind the iron curtain”. According to the law, to leave the country during their studies, a student has to get permission from the university administration and the Ministry of Education. But in reality, thousands of students travel abroad annually without asking for any permission. Hundreds of them visit politically-orientated trainings and seminars. In fact, the seriousness of consequences very seldom goes beyond an unpleasant conversation with the dean.

 

Moreover, Belarusian universities cooperate actively with foreign universities. Hundreds of students participate in academic exchange programmes such as Erasmus Mundus or Tempus. Many foreign lecturers work freely in Belarusian universities - for example tutors from German DAAD-programme in Minsk and Hrodna Universities. Many young Belarusians travel for work during summer holidays, particularly to the United States and then return to continue their studies.

Thus the "iron curtain" myth is far from being the truth.

 

Lastly, some argue that Belarusian HE is based on propaganda. In truth the views of lecturers and professors vary just as much as the opinions of the society: some support the ruling regime, some firmly oppose it. Still in the vast majority of cases their teaching and methodology preferences depend on their own beliefs rather than anything else. Besides, most lecturers prefer to avoid politics in their classes. Nobody wants to either criticise the government or to glorify it.

 

It is important to note that all university lecturers have freedom to teach what they want and how they want although most of them prefer not to involve politics their classes. The students also are free to engage in different civic or political activities without fear of serious consequences.

 

THE SOURCE: BelarusDigest                           Learn about International Universities Networking Conference

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