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„Re-professionalising Romania”: The launch of a national project

Roxana MAZILU

In the early ‘70s, a Romanian delegation visited some key units of the British aeronautical industry, including the Concorde works. The small group included, among others, Professor Henri Coanda. The British designers and engineers presented him with a complex problem they were working on, and asked for his advice. They were looking for a way to reduce take-off and landing noise, which exceeded the ceiling laid down in new international regulations. Coandă thought about it for a moment, then answered, “Why don’t you take it the other way round—instead of reducing the noise, try to increase it beyond what the human ear can perceive.”

This is the kind of creative, inno­vative thinking that we need. When we get stuck, when classic procedures don’t work, we must have the heart and the streng­th to take a radically different approa­ch. This kind of thinking “outside the box” is promoted by “Re-profe­s­sio­nalising Romania” - a national project that focuses on the role of human capital in the development process. The project was launched three years ago by the Institute for Innovation and Development Projects (IPID).
What was only a draft in 2008, when the Institute’s first report was released, is gaining a clearer outline this year, with the release of the second IPID report, entitled “The solu­tion for Romania: People. Re-profes­sio­nalising Romania II.” Unlike the first analysis, the 2009 report includes seminal contributions by high-profile figures in the Romanian science, which provide not only a  strict diagnosis of the state of play in the field, but also concrete lines of action, which blend demographic, educational and resear­ch-innovation approaches.  
The goal of this work, as defined by Călin Georgescu, executive director of the Institute, is to “call for a com­pre­hensive national debate on the role and social functions of professionals in all fields, political and administrative ones included, in the next two de­cades.”    

The crisis as an opportunity


The volume launched in the Auditorium of the Romanian Academy on March 11th also occasioned a first exercise in dialogue between politi­cians, scientists and civil society – who should meet a lot more often. Since “institutional opacity” is one of the flaw­ed practices in Romania, president of the Romanian Academy Ionel Haiduc called for permanent communication between the academic community, which has the expertise and continuity, and the political community, which is always chancing and often focuses on matters of immediate interest.     
March 11th also occasioned a lot of talking about the top story these days, the global crisis, viewed not only as a threat, but also as an opportunity. Indeed, painful as its forms may be, it is nonetheless a good time to radically rethink the core lines of Romania’s development.
Political scientist Cristian Pîrvu­lescu stressed that Romania is facing a particularly complex crisis: a moral crisis, a crisis of ideals and a political crisis, just as much as an economic one. He warned that, unless “profes­sio­nalism outweighs the incompetence, we stand high risks of emerging de­feated from this crisis.” Our current situa­tion clearly proves that, in the context of the global crisis, develop­ments in Romania also have un­de­niable Romanian characteristics. Althou­gh we are members of the European Union, we will not be able to overcome this critical period without having our own solution, which can only be provided by re-profes­sio­nalisation. The need for a consistent na­tion-wide project that focuses on human resources has gained urgency because, as director Dan Puric put it, “we need to give back a sense of pur­pose to this nation.”
The critical role of national elites and role models was also stressed by HRH Prince Radu, who laid emphasis on the moral value and strength of character that true professionals have proved throughout the history of Romania.    

A nation of more ambitious people

The meeting held in the Auditorium of the Romanian Academy was also an opportunity for political decision-makers to make substantive state­ments. Speaker of the Senate Mircea Geoană welcomed the initiative, pointing out that the solution for Romania is ultimately in its people, as the chief resource of any nation. He added that the report presented for public debate is both a warning signal and an invitation to build “a nation of more ambitious people.” “The worst thing would be for us to lose hope that Romania can change,” the Senate Speaker concluded. Re-professio­na­lisa­tion of politics is part and parcel of this innovative thinking. Romania needs more responsibility and foresight in pursuing its development goals as a European Union member country.
The key question: not “What do you know?” but “What can you do?”
This is how Academy member Mircea Malița phrases, in the report, the main challenge of the 21st Century knowledge-based society. His contri­bu­tion sheds light on the ties and inter­dependency of education and lifelong learning programmes, on the one hand, and requirements in an always-changing labour market, on the other. Increasing the relevance of learning to actual working to one’s own benefit and for society at large ultimately provides the solution for overcoming the shortage of human capital that we are currently facing.
The entire process of human ca­pital training and retraining in Romania is taking place against the backdrop of disquieting demographic trends. In the report, Professor Vasile Ghețău explai­ns their current state and near-fu­ture consequences, starting from the fact that over the past 20 years Ro­mania has lost 10% of its population, particularly because of decreasing birth rates. Consequences will include a 60 per cent increase in the number of pensioners and a 33 per cent fall in the number of working-age population. Half of this shrinking population live in rural communities, most of them employed in agriculture, which is rather obsolete for an EU member state. “A national economy develops, among others, thanks to the human capital it can rely on, and human capital is a reserve of education, professional training under various forms, preservation and improvement of health,” Professor Ghețău cautions.
Negative demographic develop­ments can only be offset by high-qua­lity education, but Romania is hardly any better in this respect. At present, over 50 per cent of the 15 year-old students are below the scientific literacy threshold. We got here be­cause of the lack of foresight and flexible long-term policies that address core problems, both in the urban and, more importantly, in the rural environ­ment. Continuing education, inter­dis­ciplinary approaches, and curricula adapted to the actual needs of society, are principles that must shape the public education and professional training policies, taking into account the ever-changing socio-economical context.
As a result of flaws in the education system and of chronic under-financing, at present the number of contributions by Romanian researchers to major scientific publications and that of patents submitted for certification is 10-50 times smaller than that in other states in the same category. Techno­lo­gically advanced states are states whose political leadership and society at large have understood that 21st Century civilisation will rely increa­singly on knowledge and continuing in­novation, and have increased investments and budget allocations to scientific research and technological development.

The solidarity of competences


Given the quantitative losses generated by the severe demographic decrease, education and innovation are valid solutions to offset this throu­gh the quality of the Romanian human capital. Without science, edu­cation and research, Romania will never be able to meet the standards of the European civilisation. Without re-professionalisation we will not be able to adjust to changes, nor to grow. The solution for us, as a nation, is to become better, to invest in education and research, to be professional.
Participants in the meeting re­garded this movement towards soli­darity among true professionals in all fields, as it emerged among science elites, as a positive signal. And the fact that this movement has gained impetus in 2009, the year of the global economic crisis, is a natural and heal­thy response of the Romanian social organism.
In their highly valuable contri­bu­tions, the authors of the report substantiate their belief that Romania has not yet lost its professionals. Althou­gh few compared to what the country needs, these professionals prove their willingness and capacity to be­come actively involved in solving the complex problems that the Romanian society is facing. And in this context, as Cristian Pîrvulescu states on the last page of the report, “the role of civil society, to the extent to which it is ac­cep­ted as a tool for civic engineering, is not only to contain a state that beco­mes abusive, or to help strengthen a weak state, but also to allow for critical and alternative thinking.” The pressure of elites and civil society invites the political community to work together to improve the Romanian institutional system by radically tackling its structural flaws and through the courage of thinking “outside the box” so as to find the best solutions for Romania’s progress in a democratic and thriving Europe.


By Roxana MAZILU
Publicat în : English  de la numărul 65

Comentarii

Comentariul nr.1 - d2b a spus în 18.04.2009 01:04:00:
great point of view indeed if may I say so. There is a romanian version ( or more ) of mine from 2008.

http://www.dupa2beri.co.uk/accident_pe_internet.htm

and

http://www.dupa2beri.co.uk/contributia-mea-pt-stinta.htm







Comentariul nr.2 - d2b a spus în 18.04.2009 01:06:00:
P.S - In the early ‘70s, a Romanian delegation ...means 1970s

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