AOSR DEBATES – 1st EDITION – National identity must become a priority of Romanian education and society

On 22 March 2017, at the Palace of Parliament, in the Avram Iancu Hall, the debate “IDENTITY AND NATIONAL AFFIRMATION IN THE WORLD OF GLOBALIZATION“, organized by the Academy of Romanian Scientists, took place. The event was attended by representatives of the Romanian Government and Parliament, education, research, culture and national identity officials, policy and decision makers, members of the academic world, scientific researchers, education policy experts, education specialists, library directors, civil society representatives, university and pre-university teachers, graduates, students, pupils, media, etc. The debate, on a topic of major importance for state institutions and for the whole Romanian society, was structured in two parts: speeches by representatives of the political world and civil society and dialogue on the proposed topic. The discussions were coordinated, as host and moderator, by the President of AOSR, Prof. Dr. Eng. Adrian Badea.

In the first part, the speakers were Gen. (res.) prof. dr. Vasile Cândea – honorary president of the Academy of Romanian Scientists, prof. univ. dr. eng. Ecaterina Andronescu – Chair of the Education, Sport and Youth Committee of the Romanian Senate, Alexandru Oprean – Secretary of State in the Ministry of Culture and National Identity, Manuela Catrina – State Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Information Society, prof. univ. dr. eng. Petru Andea – Secretary of State in the Ministry of National Education, Alexandru Cumpănașu – President of the National Coalition for the Modernization of Romania. The speakers stressed, each from their own perspective, the importance of education for the development of national identity in students and young generations. In this context, the role of school, the responsibility of institutions, family and society in this process of fundamental importance for the spiritual, moral, cultural and identity building of young people were highlighted. In the diversity of opinions, under the proximate genre of the importance of the cultivation and affirmation of national identity, value judgments, appreciations, but also criticisms have been made about the state of Romanian education in the broad framework of the rapid transformations in Romanian society, in the European Union and in the world. Some of the critical points referred to the crisis in society and in education, to the undermining of the identity consciousness of young people by the involutive processes on the educational level and by the progressive decrease of education for national values, for Romanian culture and civilization, to the need for a stronger involvement of the institutions called to educate and support education in a synergic participation.

AOSR President, Prof. Dr. Eng. Adrian Badea, read out a message from Acad. Dinu C. Giurescu, a leading figure in the academic world, a moral conscience of the Romanian world, who criticized, in harsh terms, the processes and phenomena that lead to the deculturation and depiritualisation of society and young people, to their alienation from national consciousness and identity. AOSR President Adrian Badea pointed out that national identity, values, landmarks, models linked to the feeling of belonging to a culture, a civilisation, a language must be cultivated, must be “sown in the minds and souls of young people” as part of the educational process, carried out at school, in the family, in the community and in society: “For us, for our generations, national feeling is a given, we were born with national and identity values. Over time, especially in recent times, we realise that things are no longer as we know them, that feelings of national identity must be created in the minds and souls of our young people, especially in the family, then in school, throughout society by appropriate, intelligently chosen means. I would like that, at the end of our discussions, a series of future activities will result, which we will carry out together and, through them, contribute to the education of young people in the spirit of love of country, of people, of love of the history and culture of this country.”

In this context, the Honorary President of the AOSR, Gen. (res.) Prof. Vasile Cândea, referred to the ideal of education, in terms of what students should become, and to the profile of the school capable of fulfilling this ideal: “Studies carried out in recent years, which have analysed education and Romanian education, have highlighted much the same problems in the sense that there is a close correlation between the low level of education and the country’s economic problems. Not to mention the social ones. The experience of reforms in countries such as Poland, South Korea, Finland, Singapore, Canada, Estonia or Australia shows that there are common features of the road to success that could be summarised in a “decalogue” that Romania could follow in its legitimate desire to decide its own destiny through future generations. So students should become: Thinking people; Become able to communicate; Become possessors of principles such as honesty, dignity and responsibility; Be people with a balanced view of reality that helps them to be able to make logical and ethical decisions; Be open-minded – with a tolerance and understanding of other cultures; To be people who are able to harmoniously combine intellectual development with physical and mental development; To be able to evaluate their positives, limitations and experiences so that they can follow their own development; To be people capable of compassion, empathy and respect for the situations and feelings of others. If a school sets such goals and has specific measures for development, evaluation and improvement, then that school is a good school. From Aristotle’s dilemma to the present day, questions about the role and purpose of educating future generations transcend borders and historical periods. The challenge for us today is to seek and try to create a better world with the material we have and in the contemporary social, human, historical and geographical context of Romania.”

Ecaterina Andronescu argued that history should be restored as a fundamental subject for the development of national identity in school curricula: “At this early stage, when we are developing a new version of the curriculum, it is appropriate for history to regain, through its position in the curricula, but especially through the content of the subject, the role it plays in the development of national identity and the preservation of the feeling that we belong to a community that goes beyond our lives.” On the importance of developing students’ national culture through subjects in the socio-humanities, he added: “Without national culture, we lose an extraordinarily important element of identity, one of the elements through which we can also gain international recognition.”
Alexandru Oprean, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Culture and National Identity, referred to the importance of cultural heritage and its valorisation in the building of national identity: “The institution I represent considers vital the revitalisation and valorisation of intangible cultural heritage and the preservation of built heritage in order to carry out activities that support the discovery, preservation, expression, development, knowledge and further transmission of our national cultural identity”. Some of the national heritage values, the speaker said, have become part of the heritage of humanity, which represents a recognition of Romanian spirituality and popular culture at the level of universal culture: “An achievement for the field of culture is the fact that, at the moment, Romania has six elements inscribed on the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, true landmarks of the Romanian people: The ritual of the gag, the doina, the techniques of processing ceramics from Horezu, the men’s haunting in Romania and the Republic of Moldova, the fecioresc game and, more recently, the techniques of making bark in Romania and the Republic of Moldova.”

Petru Andea, Secretary of State in the Ministry of National Education, spoke about the draft of the new education law, which is at the intersection of two concepts: “Educated Romania” (the national programme launched by the President of Romania) and “Competent Romania”, under the aegis of MEN: “Educated Romania means what we know, competent Romania means what we know how to do. When we talk about what we want to get out of Romanian schools, the focus is on skills, on what future graduates know how to do, especially when we want to link them closely to the labour market.” The Secretary of State in MEN also referred to the changes that digital technology brings to the existence of new generations, to the advantages – connection, communication on a global scale – but also to its risks: “There are positive effects of this connectivity of the digital age, but there are also many negative effects, which we cannot avoid: addiction, ethical degradation, the cultivation of aggression, elements of terrorism that can be promoted through digital means of communication are at hand and must keep our attention. Young people are unable to distinguish between useful information and parasitic information that they do not need from the vast amount of information they receive.” Alexandru Cumpănașu, president of the National Coalition for the Modernisation of Romania, spoke, citing a number of arguments, about the crisis affecting our society and Romanian education. In this context, he criticised the fact that the identity foundation of young people in particular is increasingly affected. An aggravating factor of the crisis we are going through is the exodus of Romanians. In the current era of international conflict, Romania can only rely on itself and the resources it has. The speaker called for greater involvement of the Church in the education of young people and society, and for more substantial funding for education.

The debate itself took place within a broad framework, designed by three main themes: Education – a strategic factor in the formation of the national identity of young people; Culture – support of knowledge, understanding and development of national values; Romania’s place in the EU and in the world. Within this framework, a series of thematic points were addressed, relevant to the analysis of the current state of affairs in education and society in terms of education for identity values, for national consciousness, identity and affirmation: the crisis of education in the current Romanian society; the decline of education for national values, for culture, history, Romanian civilization; the marginalization of history in school (middle school, high school) and its risks; the identity crisis of the younger generations. Effect of the failure of education; The need of education for values, models and identity landmarks, for national consciousness and identity; European Union: Unity in diversity through the affirmation of national identity; Means of developing education for identity values and national identity; Education in school and society – a priority of any government, a necessity of Romanian society in the European Union. University professors, scientific researchers, directors of prestigious national colleges in Bucharest, teachers, general directors of county libraries, representatives of civil society have spoken on these topics. The interventions of the participants in the debate underlined that education has an essential role in the formation of identity awareness in students and young people, by promoting the values of Romanian culture, spirituality, science and civilisation. The formation and development of national identity in a constantly changing world, which is increasingly becoming an area of confusion and existential relativism, must be a priority objective of schools, but also of education carried out in the family and by the church. The importance of religious education as a source of perennial spiritual, moral and human values was emphasised in this context, stressing that religious identity is an important part of our national identity. A summary of the conclusions of the debate will be submitted to the institutions with political and administrative responsibilities in the areas of discussion.

Regarding the planned series of debates, President Adrian Badea said, “The AOSR Debates project, initiated by the Academy of Romanian Scientists in 2016, consists of a series of meetings and discussions, with the participation of policy makers, decision makers, representatives of academic and educational circles, scientists, researchers, experts, students, members of civil society, etc., on topics of priority interest for Romania today and for the future of the country. Through the AOSR Debates, the organizing institution intends to constitute an agora of public and academic personalities, of representatives of Romanian society in its diversity, a space for dialogue on major issues, ideas and solutions and, last but not least, a framework for dialogue between generations. The fundamental objective of the Project is to create an academic, scientific, cultural and civic forum in which to identify and promote solutions for the development and affirmation of Romania in the European Union and in the world.”