I first came to America in Winter 2004 as an IREX (International Research & Exchanges Board) scholar to ETS (Educational Testing Services) in Princeton, NJ. Back then I observed and researched on how standardized testing is done in America. After coming back to Ukraine, I joined a group of researchers who were developing national standardized testing procedures in Ukraine. I shared my experience gained at ETS with this team. It was important for Ukraine to reform procedures for determining university enrollment.
Now I am a Fulbright Scholar at Duke University with the Computer Science department. While at Duke, I receive support from my advisor, Professor Owen Astrachan, the CS administrative staff, and International House staff. I am happy about being at Duke University because the Computer Science department is an amazing environment to be in, with fascinating people. I also like to walk around the Duke campus.
Now I want to talk about the differences between my university, Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University, and my host, Duke University.
It is important to note that even though Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union 22 years ago, its educational system inherited a lot from its Soviet past. One can still feel the Soviet legacy. Some differences between education in Ukraine and America might seem odd but they are just different.
1. Education is free in Ukraine. Students who score high on the entrance exam do not pay tuition. The ones who have lower scores have to pay. The tuition fees are usually quite affordable (from 800 to 1000 USD annually whereas the average Ukrainian salary is around 6000 USD per annum).
2. Students in Ukraine do not choose what classes they want to take. Curriculum is set on a national and sometimes university level with all classes already being pre-determined for the students. Students also go to the same classes with the same group of classmates for all four - five years.
3. If a Ukrainian student fails a class, he/she is expelled from the university and has to repeat the year and take the same classes all over again, including the ones the student took successfully.
4. Students in Ukraine are not always expected to do their homework or come prepared for class. They also do not have to read as many books as their peers in America. The professor is usually the one who re-tells the content of the books to students.
5. A Bachelor’s degree is sort of de facto and not considered to be a full degree. Therefore most of the students get a Master’s degree, which usually takes one year.
6. There are still oral exams in Ukraine. Tests and written exams are not as common as oral exams.
7. Professors in Ukraine are not typically questioned by the students. Thus, classes are usually monologue lectures delivered by professors without involving student discussions or Questions and Answers.
All the above-mentioned differences are based solely on my observations and more than 20 years working in academia in Ukrainian higher education. Now in Ukraine we have a growing number of professors who have had experience researching and teaching abroad. They try to incorporate different teaching styles and methods into our educational system. Thus the educational system in Ukraine is changing all the time.
Visiting Fulbright Scholar
Department of Computer Science, Duke University