Education in Ukraine: Under the Current Crisis

Interested in finding out what’s happening to Ukraine’s student population in the face of disrupted education? Keep reading. In this EDU Blog, we’ll deep dive into the education crisis in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine's fight for Independence

The vast Ukraine was one of Europe’s largest wheat producers. Alongside being rich in mineral resources like iron and coal. In 1793, with the second partition of Poland, most of Ukraine became part of the Russian Empire. The remaining portion formed part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, becoming a crucial battleground during World War I.

In November 1917, the Bolsheviks had taken control of turbulent Russia. Shortly after they began negotiating peace with the Central Powers, Ukraine declared complete independence from the Russian Empire. 

Despite this, Ukraine’s government struggled to control the population because of Bolshevik resistance and counter-revolutionary activities within the country. In order to maintain order for their starving people, Germany and Austria sent troops into Ukraine. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty, signed in March 1918, forced Russian soldiers in Ukraine to leave and effectively annexed the region. Ukraine was officially recognized as independent.

With the Central Powers’ defeat and the signing of the ceasefire in November 1918, Germany and Austria had to leave Ukraine. The fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire came with the proclamation of an independent West Ukrainian republic in the city of Lviv.

Ukraine’s two governments formally united in 1919. Soon after their independence, both Polish and Russian soldiers fought against them. The Ukrainian government momentarily cooperated with Poland but was unable to repel the Soviet attack. Ukraine became one of the original constituent republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) in 1922; it would not recover independence until the fall of the U.S.S.R.  in 1991.

In 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in an attempt to recover the country as Russian territory.

How is education affected in Ukraine?

The Soviet era saw a lot of investment in higher education to attract students from newly independent African countries. In 2020, Ukraine was home to over 76,000 foreign students, according to government data.

Before the conflict, Ukraine had a well-developed education system that provided free education to all citizens. However, the education system in Ukraine has suffered intense attacks since early 2022. When the war first broke out, the Ukrainian government paused all education for a few days.

According to the European Union (EU), more than 10,000 African students were able to flee the conflict and enter neighboring countries.

The impact of the conflict has since escalated throughout the education system, from primary schools to universities. Ukraine Ministry of Education and Science, records at least 1,888 schools being damaged by bombing or shelling by May 28, 2022. With educators being forced to leave their jobs or take refuge in neighboring countries  the disrupted education has evolved into an education crisis.  

In January 2023, the UNICEF records the education of more than 5 million students was disrupted by the crisis. Another tragic impact of Ukraine’s war is a shortage of educators.

What is the current education system in Ukraine?

By May 2022, several schools in Ukraine’s less affected regions had resumed on-site instruction. About 86% of schools in Ukraine resumed classes via emergency remote teaching — a temporary learning model that was already in place as a COVID-19 response measure.

The All-Ukrainian Online School is Ukraine’s primary distance learning platform, offering classes in all topics. Students in areas where Internet connection is unavailable can watch lessons on Ukrainian television instead. Both online and televised lessons are linked into an interactive All-Ukrainian Online Schedule, which contains materials for students in grades 1-11.

Aside from the All-Ukrainian Online School, Ukraine’s online educational resources include:

  • the NUMO online kindergarten with video classes for children aged 3 to 6 – a collaboration between UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Science,

  • digital versions of textbooks on the IMZO electronic library.

While some students are keeping up with school work through online learning, many have completely halted theirs.

The hope of returning to a normal school day diminishes daily for those internally displaced, living in areas with active fighting, and with limited access to the internet or devices. Reliefweb reports the impact of Ukraine’s war on over 600,000 IDP learners. It is noteworthy that only 91,000 IDP students have re-enrolled in schools at places of their temporary residence (especially in Lviv Oblast).

Overall, the educators are doing their best to support their student population. The government and international organizations have also stepped in to provide support and assistance to children affected by the war.

Who is helping children in Ukraine?

Organizations like UNICEF, and Save the Children are working to provide children with access to basic services such as food, water and education.  These organizations are also supporting educators and helping to rebuild damaged schools.

For example, Save the Children is giving education kits to keep children learning wherever they can, as well as bunker kits including toys and instructional tools to children seeking refuge from the war in railway stations and the underground.

The organization is also working with the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES), local governments, and partners to construct Digital Learning Centers in shelters throughout the country. These facilities provide young learners with a safe environment in which they can access or utilize their own devices to complete their education.

Additionally, the EU has taken measures to ensure the right to education for refugee students by activating a Temporary Protection Directive. the directive allows refugees from Ukraine access residence permits easily as well as education, health care and other government services.

Let's talk future plans...

The MoES continues to push for safely returning to offline teaching in all schools.

In heavily targeted regions, remote learning is ongoing for students able to participate while efforts are being made to rebuild and repair damaged schools.

In light of the new reality, the ministry-appointed commissioners charged with determining whether schools are safe enough to reopen have identified air raid shelters as a requirement. According to MoES, shelters should ideally be large enough for staff to continue teaching when sirens sound. Educators can offer part-time onsite learning combined with online instruction if they can’t enroll all students.

While the situation remains challenging, there is hope that the education system in Ukraine will recover and provide children with the education they need to succeed in life. Sign up to join our community and don’t miss a beat on all the latest news from the global education industry.

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