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Teach for Romania conference: President Iohannis calls for a high quality education, warns over „fake news” threat

Teach for Romania has celebrated five years of existence at Cotroceni Palace on Tuesday, next to children, teachers, alumni and partners, within the „Education rewrites the story” conference, also attended by President Klaus Iohannis.

For five years, Teach for Romania, part of the global network Teach for All, has developed a pattern of inclusive education in Romania, struggling to provide a quality school and life training for all children, regardless of their social environment.

The Teach for Romania community has reached almost 150 teachers who managed to inspire over 7,000 children.

If in 2014, the year when the NGO was established, 880  candidates joined the programme, the number almost doubled in 2018, mounting to  1,622. An even bigger achievement is that Teach for Romania supported four times more teachers this year, as against 2014.

During 2018-2019 school year, Teach for Romania has endorsed 76 schoolmasters and teachers, who are teaching 15 school subjects and who are inspiring over 7,000 children from 100 schools in 18 counties.

Cotroceni Presidential Palace has hosted the anniversary conference on Tuesday, with President Klaus Iohannis attending the conference, whom he characterized as „a very beautiful optimism and hope-giving event”. In President’s view, the final goal is a high quality education for the younger generation, a thing that „we all need”. „Without a very high education for today’s generation we won’t be able to change Romania tomorrow the way we want, meaning to have a strong, serious and developed country,” the head of state pointed out.

Iohannis further said that Teach for Romania is a good successful example of an initiative based on volunteering, which managed to make a real difference inside the communities where it activates.

Through your involvement, you provide a high quality education also in those marginalized areas whose needs are too often ignored by the political decision makers. Thousands of pupils have thus had the chance to learn in the Teach for Romania classes and to benefit of a new, inspiring experience.”

Klaus Iohannis said that the teacher’s role is fundamental for a nation’s progress, a truth „that we have to understand more in-depth in the Centennial year”.

On the other hand, he warned that there are still too large gaps in the quality of education depending on the region or the social environment of the children.

This situation cannot go on anymore, while education must be adapted to the current context, when economy is getting more and more digitised and society more and more inter-connected. Here, dear Teach for Romania teachers, your role is crucial, as an entire team of professional experts has indeed the ability of turning the school community where they activate. We need this type of change in the Romanian educational system,” President Iohannis said.

Moreover, the head of state underlined that we are facing, more and more frequently, to threats typical to the current context, „that risk jeopardizing even the democracy and the rule of law”.

The fake news phenomenon, and yesterday we had such a parade example, manipulation of any kind of the public information and a growing populism, which is deluding with lies and too less sustainable pledges, are potential dangers against democracy”, Iohannis stated.

For instance, we have heard lately that the European Union would be to blame for Romanian’s various problems. Actually, such statements just represent the way for some politicians to hide their own failures and to find the guilty on duty. The risk is that such attacks could become credible somehow.

The only immunization way against populism and demagogy is educating children and youngsters on the rights, liberties and responsibilities they have, and also on the way economy and state are working,” the President stated.

Iohannis exemplified with a recent study that signals over the huge productivity and competitiveness potential that Romania risks losing without an immediate improvement of the education system, an improvement that depends on a quick decline of the dropout and on a rise of the education’s quality.

In their turn,the representatives of the Teach for Romania have lobbied for an education focused on the pupil and on the collective impact concept.

Corina Puiu, co-founder and general manager Teach for Romania, has said that one of the vectors of change is to put the work in community at the center and to facilitate things so that every child’s potential is reached. „The idea of collective impact is more more actual than ever. Teach for Romania means just a handful of people who though managed to train more than 7,000 people in only 5 years. The key for the education’s change comes from inside the communities. We are responsible for educating the children in Romania, for their future and particularly for their present,” Corina Puiu said.

Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America in 1989 (now Teach for All), who started the global movement against the inequity in education, has also been present in Bucharest.

She said this feeling of inequity has been the trigger of this initiative, „the fact that it’s not fair that an entire segment of children has no access to education, which leaves them out of major life decisions and opportunities.

The event also represents the end of the project A New Way for New Talents in Teaching, co-financed by the European Union, through the Erasmus + programme, which focused on the personal and professional development of teachers. The programme included recruiting, selecting, initial and continuous training, coaching teachers, with an impressive result; 70% of the alumni of the third generation is still teaching in schools.

About Alina Grigoras Butu