Having embraced the academic path since her graduation, Professor Ecaterina Andronescu is the current Minister of Education in the Government of Romania. Previously she held the position of Rector and then President of the Senate of Politehnica University of Bucharest, ranking among top 5 best universities in Romania. She was Education Minister before, in three different cabinets, between 2000 and 2012 having her name associated with education in Romanian’s minds. She shares her vision for Romania’s education.
TGR: How can Romania’s education system be improved?
Ecaterina Andronescu: Our vision at the Ministry of Education is to provide all children and students, regardless of age and level, with access to high quality education, to help them reach their maximum potential in order to prepare them for global competitiveness. In this process we acknowledge and guarantee their rights to preserve, develop and express their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity.
I believe that with forthcoming Education Law we must generate a vision for the evolution of the education system in a way that we focus more on developing the student’s personality. This is important because I believe that most students will have more than one job, or are likely to go through a career change in their life because of technology revolution, and then they need to be able to adapt to these changes in life, in which case a balanced personality can be of great help.
TGR: How can the education system help Romania’s economy become more competitive?
Ecaterina Andronescu: One of my objectives, and is also a personal goal, is to implement the dual vocational and technical education concept. Dual education is a form of vocational education that is organized on the grounds of a contract of employment and combines vocational training organized by a company with training organized within an educational establishment. The responsibility for organization and operation of such training is shared between the business and the educational institution.
I encourage the representatives of the business environment to get involved in primary training through vocational training and dual education. We are open to proposals to introduce a dual education system at tertiary level. I believe that toghether with the industry and the business environment we can find the most appropriate solutions in order to adapt the higher education system to labor market needs.
One of the projects we will implement through the National Center for the Development of Vocational and Technical Education (CNDIPT) is called “The systemic development of technical and vocational education, in line with the needs of socio-economic advancement on national, regional and local levels”. The project is financed from EU Structural funds for training. The measures will focus on the development of mechanisms designed to anticipate the skills and competences required on the labor market in order to adapt the offer of the vocational and technical education.
TGR: What can Romanian academic sector offer to foreign students and researchers?
Ecaterina Andronescu: In a survey we made 10 years ago in Politehnica University, we learned that there are more than 800 Romanian professors teaching in top universities in the world, especially in fundamental sciences such as math, physics, chemistry. This is sufficient evidence that the level of Romanian science education is very high, comparable to the one in large reputable universities around the world. In Scimago Institutions Rankings there are 19 Universities and 3 research institutes from Romania. This is one of the reasons why the ground-breaking ELI-NP project, where the most powerful laser in the world will function as of 2019, has been given to our country.
Romania has a huge creative potential and an amazing innovation capacity. As professor and as rector, and now in my position of Minister of Education, I encourage students to be brave in transferring the technology knowledge from the courses, from theory, into practical life. I believe our graduates can be so creative and innovative that they can shape their own jobs and that the school doesn’t always have to adapt to labor market but it can create it.
Romanian graduates from medical and technical universities are well received and acknowledged abroad and we have a growing number of foreign students from all around the world that come to Romania to benefit from the advantages of our higher education system. Moreover, Romania offers a safe and tolerant environment and the cost vs quality of life ratio is much better compared to most of the other EU countries.
TGR: What are your priorities for the education portfolio during the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2019?
Ecaterina Andronescu: As presented to Mr Tibor Navracsis, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, during our meeting in Brussels in December, the priorities of Romanian Presidency in education and training are aimed at three major directions: mobility, inclusion and excellence.
In this respect, we will seek to contribute to strengthening the European cultural identity through education and increasing the performance of education systems, focusing on competency-based learning, skills, abilities and attitudes to be acquired throughout life. Also, Romania will promote the mobility for learning purposes which represents one of the most important factors in the development of professional competence.
I am particularly interested in the Erasmus+ case as I believe EU member states have reached a consensus on the objectives and structure of the new program. We have agreed with Mr Navracsis upon the importance of developing bachelor-master-doctorate programs in several countries, with the participation of several partner universities, thus strenghtening the binding role of education for EU states. In this context, we discussed about the necessity to expand the networks of European universities and centers of excellence for vocational and technical education.