As a Romanian, I’ve had the opportunity to experience both a public and a private school’s learning process and cannot help but notice the huge differences. I believe there is much more to the educational system than it seems, and I’ve made an attempt to dive deeper into this topic by trying to understand how a private school looks through the government’s eyes.
First of all, it might be useful to understand what a private school is. Now, even at this early stage of investigation, there is a problem: it depends. There are many types of private schools and they all behave differently according to the law. For example, as stated by the Ministry of Education’s Public Information Department, AISB is a school whose pedagogical behavior is not controlled by the host state’s laws, but by the specific educational system’s headquarters’ requirements (in this case the IB center in Geneva, Switzerland).
On a similar note, it might be worth mentioning that AISB is a ‘special case’ among private schools. In an interview with the school’s manager of admissions and external relations, Cătălina Gărdescu, she mentions that this institution has never received state financing, as it isn’t accredited by the government. She points out a key difference between “recognized” and “accredited,” mentioning that “a school accredited by the state is just one that uses their curriculum” and that “this school’s freedom of action comes from our divergence from [the state] curriculum and our non-profit policy.”
To further show the hardships of collaborating with the executive branch, Gărdescu refers to an attempt of experience exchange between AISB’s and public school’s teachers. An initiative funded by one of the parents at this school, it had the purpose of changing the way students see education and making it a more enjoyable activity. Unfortunately, all the state school teachers who participated eventually lost their jobs, as the state’s curriculum didn’t agree with their methods.
This discrepancy doesn’t only stop here, as on a psychological level, in the eyes of most Romanians, private schools look more like businesses than educational institutions. Gărdescu remembers a meeting between AISB’s Director, Robert Brindley, and many public school principals from around the country. One of them asked Mr. Brindley, “Did you come here to teach us a lesson? How much money do you have?”
However, there are many types of private schools, and some of which are using the national curriculum. These schools receive a state funding equal to a public school’s, but they have to act according to the Education Law. This legislation precisely describes the behavior a state accredited school should have, but leaves a big grey area in which the other ones can move seemingly undisturbed. This might seem beneficial, but uncertainties in laws can only lead to confusion, fraud and trials.
These examples, however different, have something in common: the approval of the Ministry of Education. Now the picture might get a little clearer: the state does not allow children to enroll in a school that is not constitutionally recognized. But the state also provides 10 years of free mandatory education. This means that if parents want to teach their child in a different manner than the public system does, they do not have many options to choose from.
Interestingly, people have found ways to turn the law in their favor by making use of ‘Umbrella Schools.’ These organizations only guide the student’s learning process (mostly online) and do not strictly control it. The child constructs his/her own assignments and divides his/her workload on their own (or with their parents’ help), while periodical checks with the teachers and knowledge quizzes help him/her remain on track. This way, the child ends up with a certified and recognized degree while being essentially home-schooled.
I would like to end this article on a personal note. I have experienced the public school system first hand and I am aware of the public view on private institutions. I saw how one curriculum has the possibility of completing the other and I can only hope that someday cooperation can more easily be achieved.