Belarusian authorities attempt to mitigate public response to innovations in education
Education officials have managed to relax tension in society and reduce negative expectations from yet another attempt to reform the education system. Apparently, the authorities have taken into account teachers’ views while reforming the education system in order to retain their loyalty. The Belarusian leadership has become more sensitive to public response to its initiatives; it keeps its finger on the pulse of changes introduced in the most sensitive social spheres.
The Belarusian Education Ministry has reviewed school curricula on all subjects before the new academic year.
Innovations in the educational process and school curricula have not caused visible tension among parents and the teaching staff. The authorities are not willing to create tension over reforms in education, so as the teaching staff would make a lion’s share of the lower-level election commission members during the autumn-winter election campaign.
That said, education analysts have primarily criticised innovations in humanitarian subjects, which were subjected to most cuts, often contradictory, in the school curriculum. The Belarusian leadership always notes the need to focus the educational process on practical aspects to ensure the real economy has sufficient labour resources.
In addition, by simplifying the school curriculum, the education authorities attempt to increase average grades in graduate exams. Previously, knowledge levels demonstrated by graduates during the centralised testing were often criticised in independent media, drew disfavour from parents and hurt international reputation of the Belarusian education.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.