Baccalaureate exams, politics and trolleybus tickets

“You steal tickets, we steal budgets”. IPN analysis

During the first debates on the new conditions of holding the Baccalaureate exams, I started to look at a scene that is met rather frequently in trolleybuses in a different way. It is rather a micro-pantomime involving passengers ands conductors, but I thought it is very relevant to the current state of spirit in Moldovan society in general and to the heated atmosphere around the Baccalaureate exams in particular. In time, the tension around this subject increased, but the impression didn’t disappear. On the contrary.

So… Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. Early hours. There are not many people in the trolleybus. A man elder than 60, dressed modestly, is preparing to get off and gives back the ticket to the conductor. The conductor – a woman in her 30s - takes the ticket mechanically and each of them goes their way. The phenomenon has a social solidarity substratum and is based on a famous Soviet saying: “The state steals, but allows us also to … take”. The notion of ‘theft’ in this case is not apply and not even implied …

I want to specify that the difference in the ages of the two ‘mime artists’ was of almost two times. The Soviet Union fell apart long ago. However, this form of ‘social solidarity’ continues to exist even if the conductor as well as about half of the country’s population didn’t live in that period or were kids then. So, why did we return to the place from where we set off about 20 years ago and have no chance to get somewhere even if we all use such slogans as “we want in Europe” and “We want to live in Europe”, or even slogans like “We want to bring Europe at home” formulated by more sophisticated people? How can we bring Europe to Moldova? By stealing a trolleybus ticket? With representatives of the state and the population being inclined to steal massively? We both contribute to preventing a large part of the money from reaching the budget. Where should the pensions and salaries be increased from? Where should Europe come to Moldova through?

The association with the Baccalaureate exams is as relevant. Many parents, teachers, relatives, functionaries and statesmen offer and take bribe during the Baccalaureate exams. They say that the tax for passing these exams this year varied between €300 in rural areas and €1,000 in towns even if the conditions of holding the exams were much stricter. This is done before the eyes of the children, sometimes at their request. Afterward, the people pretend not to see the cheating in the Baccalaureate exams and that the grades are almost two times higher, while the level of knowledge is about three times lower than the necessary or possible level. How can Europe come to Moldova if we continue to have a Soviet behavior and continue to ‘bring up’ Soviets and post-Soviets?

I understand and partially accept the possible reproach of the ‘partners’ from different genres of such ‘social solidarity’. It is indeed hard, if not impossible to live on the salaries and pensions of most of the Moldovan citizens. Thus, people cope how they can. Therefore, I understand such behavior, but only in the elder generations that do not easily change their mentality and conduct. But we do not have the right to make our children and young people hostage of a deformed view on life as we can enjoy the benefits and honor the obligations imposed by Europe on those who want to live in Europe only by appropriate, European approaches.

Politics, policies and reforms

Surely, theoretically speaking, everyone shares this view on the young people’s role in improving the living standards at home. At practical level yet, we saw expressions of approaches that run counter to the interests of the young generations, even rather violent ones. The attacks of the fake defenders of ‘children’s rights’ referred mainly to the use of video cameras during the Baccalaureate exams, while the accusations made against the authors of the idea vary between ‘enormous psychological stress’ and ‘inhuman detention conditions’. The ‘defenders’ surely comprehend that these children will soon reach 20 and realize the presence and necessity of video cameras in shopping centers and other public places, which do nothing but impose behavioral rules and ensure their observance. Surely they apprehend that these young people should be prepared to deal with cameras at the really contemporary places of study and work to which they tend and which will ensure a qualitatively new level of training and life.

Then why the opponents of video cameras do what they do? There are two possible answers. The first: they cannot make a difference between politics and policy, in particular in education. The second: they know this difference, but prefer to allow being directed by strictly political interests. The second possible answer seems more truthful. At practical level, it is a simple electoral mechanism aimed at attracting new supporters and, respectively, voters. The target is a large category of people that includes the students taking the Baccalaureate exams, their parents and relatives, a part of the teachers, civil servants and statesmen and their relatives who, either because they got used or can earn money during these exams, prefer the old examination system. The simplest calculations show that this category may include 100,000 to 200,000 people eligible to vote. In the last parliamentary elections, the Communist Party gained 42 seats by the votes of 677,000 people, while the Liberal Party – 12 seats by the votes of over 177,000 people. I gave these examples because the PCRM and PL won the highest number and, respectively the lowest number of seats, but also because both of these parties were the most ardent opponents of the use of video cameras. Thus, a well-conducted ‘anti-camera’ campaign can secure the presence of a party in the legislature without this party having to do something else.

Given the results in the Baccalaureate exams and other signs that followed, it seems that the video cameras weren’t actually a goal. They possibly form part of a series of actions aimed at implementing a profound and principal reform in the education system of Moldova, with medium-and long-term effects. It is probably the most important reform needed by our society now. Besides the motives described above, as regards the role of the young generation in Europeanizing life, we must remember another one, which is very important: Moldova has only one resource that can push it forward – the well-trained human resources. Without this reform we will be unable to do other important reforms like the reformation of justice and combating of corruption. In fact, this is an absolutely necessary, but unpopular reform and the opponents of the use of video cameras during the Baccalaureate exams showed this clearly.

It is important that what was started this year should be continued next year so that this generation of graduates does not feel discriminated by the results of the future classes of graduates and candidates for places in universities and colleges.

There are yet (several) good signs

In the context of the political duels over the Baccalaureate exams, I was glad to see several frail, but good signs for the prospects of the education reform.  

One: The parties that didn’t accept the changes proposed for the Baccalaureate exams formed a visible minority, including among the extraparliamentary parties. This means that there is understanding and will, including political, in society to improve things.

Two: A large part of the young people who took the Baccalaureate exams accepted sincerely and consciously this ‘necessary evil’. There emerged even a movement of young people in support of the changes in education. Thus, at the end of June, a group with the suggestive name “Don’t copy!” launched a camping with an as suggestive name – “I choose to be honest!” – by which they  urge all the people of Moldova to join in and support the improvements in the education system, in the interests of our children and the future generations. “By this initiative, the group “Don’t copy!” showed its support for the modernization of education and demanded not tolerating copying in exams. The examination system has been seriously affected by abuses and corruption and such a state of affairs should change as we do not believe in old methods” – this idea disseminated by the group deserve being quoted, even if those who formulated it are not yet celebrities.

Three: For the first time the last days, I saw a ‘pantomime’ that had a different meaning. A conductor refused categorically to take the ticket back. Though no words were said, I hope that the conductor had the following thought: “How can we demand and obtain that the rulers, politicians and all kinds of clans and oligarchs do not steal if we, those with the Ticket, give them our consent to do this? They are not more stupid than we, and are even shrewder: “You steal tickets, we steal budgets”.

I see that it is a vicious circle, but there must be a way to break it. Maybe “Don’t copy” is a start...

Valeriu Vasilică, IPN

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