More and more often, in the last few years, we ask, almost rhetorically, why did the quality of education in Romania, in general, but especially the higher one, diminished? Most opinions, of course, show that the evil in education has a financial extraction, that teachers would be motivated to underperform because of low wages. Of course, there are also contextual secondary causes of instability and lack of coherence in the political decision-making area, or by the psychology of the Romanian people, so commented and analyzed in an autocratic spirit for more than 100 years.
We wanted to offer you another perspective, coming from a man who is experiencing another education system in Romania, which is obviously better than ours, is the British one. We speak with the director of the Romanian Nautical College, conf.dr. Stelian Cojocaru, the one who is directly responsible for organizing and conducting in Romania the first year of university naval programs, a merchant navy officer, more precisely accredited in England.
FS: First of all, Mr. Cojocaru, how does this college work in Romania?
SC: We recruit students who want to become a British Marine Sales Officer and offer them the first year of study in Romania at the Romanian Nautical College in Constanta, thus saving them from the higher costs they would have had they studied this year in England. After the completion of the year I, the students leave for England and mark their second year at England’s oldest naval college, Tyne Coast College. After completing the second year, students enroll in a one-year program on board commercial ships, then pass a patent examination with the Maritime Authority of England and obtain a British patent officer, deck or electromechanical, as they opted initially.
FS: It goes without saying that the first year in Romania is carried out according to the rules of the British college.
SC: The Romanian Nautical College is the only European satellite of an English naval college. We are, in technical terms, a franchise of the English marine education system. The contract signed in 2016 with Tyne Coast College compels us to abide by all our rules, so that our students make the first year in Romania exactly under the same conditions as those who do the first year in the English college in England.
FS: How can you do this?
SC: We apply the procedures that Tyne Coast College has imposed on us since 2016. After two years, we can say that we have adapted to a great extent with the British education system.
FS: Mr. Cojocaru, is the British higher education system than the Romanian one?
SC: Before I founded the Romanian Nautical College, I was the head of the Naval Academy Naval Academy, where I taught almost 15 years. I have also taught at the Maritime University one year, so I know the Romanian higher education system, especially the marine system. Yes, the British education system is better than the Romanian education system because it wants to be better. In my opinion, based on this unique experience in Romania, the quality model in higher education applies to any scale, including at the level of a single student. After I founded the Romanian Nautical College in 2010, I was often asked if the college students are better than the students of Romanian naval universities. The answer is simple: a student is good as he wants to be good.
FS: In other words, money affects quality?
SC: Of course, yes, but in a healthy education system politics can make money have a secondary impact. The British education system is based on very large student fees, which must be paid by students, thus providing universities with reasonable resources to support the quality required by the system. However, those who run the system offer a student funding program, otherwise they probably have nearly empty courses. It is important to note that the Romanian students enrolled in the 1st year of the Romanian Nautical College guaranteed access to this year’s financing program for England. Returning to the influence of money on quality: the British system eliminated the financial premise through the financing program I was talking about, which has a suggestive name, “Student Finance”, to which our Romanian students can call, guaranteed. Our students return the funds borrowed through the Student Finance program after committing on the basis of the officer’s patent, starting with the fiscal year they earned over 21,500 pounds. The monthly average reimbursement rates are about 75 pounds, more than acceptable for an officer who earns at least 2,500 euros per month.
FS: And yet, what is the main reason for reaching and maintaining the education standard so high in England?
SC: Approved procedures, applied with zero tolerance. That’s what I’ve felt so far. The rest of the arguments are, in my opinion, secondary and have a slightly sentimental tinge, referring to culture, tradition, mentalities and psychologists.
FS: Talk about procedures … What do they contain? Why are they so special? In fact, everything is being done in Romania.
SC: And I smiled at first, I was convinced that I saw them and I know them all. That’s right, there has been nothing in Romania for a long time. However, the difference between English and Romanian quality in education makes it a valuation for students and you will immediately see why. There is a distinct, laborious system of verification and validation of how students are assessed. Thus: there are no more than 5-6 disciplines per semester; all disciplines are relevant in the sense that they form at least one competence (eliminates garbage classes); each discipline is divided into 4 quarters (thematic groups subordinated to the same group of objectives) and the student passes the exam at every quarter in the week immediately following the surrender; the student who does not take a third assessment, remains repetitive; Exam subjects are created by the course holder but are checked by the second hand, who signs a form to do so; it is forbidden for the course holder to attend the exams held by students at his discipline; the work is corrected by 2 independent correctors, after a detailed grid, validated in turn, and the student completes a form of feedback vis-a-vis the received note, which is not 0 to 10 but 0 to 100.
FS: How can I check how this procedure works?
SC: The Romanian Nautical College was recently audited by the British maritime authority on June 18-20. Representatives of the English Authority give an exam with our students, with topics selected from the course manual. Compare the scores obtained with this test to those obtained during the year. It goes to testing the teachers. In addition, all records during the year, including attendance, which must be at least 90%, are verified. Last but not least, confidential discussions with students are taking place. Teacher assessment is distinct.
FS: Are the results of this system visible?
SC: In a few words, the system described above interrupts the chain of compromises that might inevitably arise between teacher and student. The teacher remains with the task of teaching and then correcting the first hand. If he can not attend the exam, he can no longer make any arrangements. I do not say it is infallible, but it is a coherent system that applies and is checked annually with perseverance and accuracy. The zero tolerance we mentioned refers not only to students who are expelled when the abstention threshold is exceeded, but also to institutions that may lose the right to organize British programs if major deficiencies are found.
After two years in Romania, these UK programs have effects that we can now measure. Young people, boys and girls are coming to us who want a study diploma and an officer’s license – both British – who weigh in the maritime world much more than the Romanian ones, I am sorry to say, but that’s the truth. We offer a well-regulated education system with simple and clear rules, with predictable evolution and last but not least with direct engagement in the English merchant fleet. Some are scared by taxes, but it is a false reason, as – as we have shown – Romanians can access the Student Finance program. Others are afraid they will not, but this is also a false reason as students come to us determined to learn a profession.
FS: What are, in conclusion, the elements that could help to improve Romanian education?
SC: Referring only to the navy, which I know, I would begin by imposing the presence. Romania is, I think, the only country in the world that accepts graduates of low-frequency forms graduates, ie without frequency control, at the exam. At least in England, there is no such thing, it is surprising when they hear that in Romania they can ask themselves, “Did you climb on a plane piloted by one who went to school only twice a year?” I would add the need to create a sovereign fund, that there are still comments on the subject, which are intended to support education in the form of a low-interest loan with a grace period of 4 years. Last but not least, I would reanalyze the student’s freedom to promote in senior years with arrears in the inferior years.
FS: What do you teach young people who have not yet elected a faculty?
SC: I would also include those who have graduated from a faculty and do not work or work in sub-qualifying positions. I urge them to practice pragmatically, to make a short 2-year program with English-language teaching, focused on practical skills, to hire officers with a starting wage of 2-3 thousand euros per month, and then even choose what they want to do, they’re self-sustaining. Most of their parents struggle for 4-6 years in various theoretical faculties, after which they are actually lost in the Romanian economy, which offers almost nothing. I would appreciate the young people to understand that the maritime market is a bid, but only for those who have serious training, speak technical English perfectly and have a professional attitude. We do not urge Romanians to leave Romania, but we can actually help them work on British ships,