1 - 15 August, 2003

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Education Runs First in Race for E-Society

Romania made its first steps towards establishing an electronic education system, one of the most important stages on the scale to an information society and e-governance. The portal built for this purpose, for example -www.portal.edu.ro - is one of the first governmental education dedicated portals in Europe and the first in the Central and Eastern Europe.

Although there is still a lot to be done, as even the initiators admit, and the update has become a daily-basis business, the portal was recognized as extremely performant by all European officials. Even though, the Romanian IT market is - as everywhere - the theatre of strong competition, where every event and move must be well planned and calculated, the Romanian education system found the necessary support from two of the most important profile companies on the market: Softwin and Siveco. The support was soon to be seen in results, the Education and Research Ministry (MEC) running already a series of important, recently presented in detail at the E-learning conference in Bucharest.

The major priorities, as presented by the Education Minister, Ecaterina Andronescu, and the officials of Siveco and Softwin, are speeding up the ROEDUNET educational network, creating a data center for all educational levels and a pilot project for Internet connection in areas facing difficulties. Each of these needs will soon be addressed by a governmental project.

For the moment, MEC runs the first and most important projects in the becoming of the future e-learning system. One of the most important is the large "Computer Assisted Education in Schools and High Schools", a program aiming at the development of the analytic thinking for students and also of the "learning by doing" education methods. Begun last year, the project will be implemented until 2010, supported by some 500 million Euro investments.

"The Development of Educational Software for Schools and High Schools" is another project run by MEC, designed to initiate a new market for the educational software and to encourage the creative competitions among children, in the area of illustrating phenomenon through Java and Flash applets. The program is made of four components: teaching, evaluating students, organization structure management and updating the education system. The project will run between 2002 and 2010, with a 20 million Euro financing.

Already heard about is the SMART, "The Introduction of Computer Assisted Management in Schools and High Schools", designed to offer electronic control over the territory, obtaining and centralizing the information sent as e-mail or html to the Ministry officials, and also to support the development and financing policies in the education system, as well as the decision making process. The program will end in 2010, at a $ 6 million cost.

A faster implementation is expected for the "Software Development for Students' and Teachers' Evidence" (2002 - 2005), a program designed to create an interface between the individuals involved in the education system and other ministries and institutions (Ministry of Internal Affairs, Romanian Railway Company etc.). More specific, the program will lead to the issuing of electronic memory cards, containing personal data and information on the school results of the owner.

Still, one of the priorities still to be mentioned is the development of the Roedunet educational network to 0 and 1 levels. The first step is to connect Roedunet to the exterior network GEANT, which runs at some 155 Mbps. The targeted speed for Roedunet is 20 Mbps before 2005, with a little help from the 100 million Euro financing.

Obviously, some (or most) of these programs would be quite useless unless another program did not follow the "Formation of IT Human Resources in Schools and High Schools", given the fact that one of the present flaws in the education system is the lack of teachers. A satisfactory number of teachers and system administrators is expected before 2010, 7 training centers being about to be created this year for this purpose.

"The Introduction of Electronic Text-Books in Schools and High Schools" is a project almost coming to an end, with the deadline in June this year. The program will provide the automation of the evaluation process, will ensure the security of this process and will efficiently manage the obtained data.

The development of the Roedunet network and also the creation of more informatics laboratories will also allow the introduction of the Video on Demand system (VoD) in Universities as well as in schools and high schools, in order to provide alternative forms of education to all students. The budget - 300 million Euro - will ensure the implementation of the new service in the next 8 years.

Another priority for the education system is the "DATA CENTER" - a program designed to help the policy making in the future development of university-level networks, the data centralization for decision management. Already begun, the results are expected to come into force during this year.

The Info-Kiosk project is the program that would lead to the creation of an interface between governmental information and citizens. Through an integrated solution, specifically a portal, information from different sources will be centralized and offered to the public via a web interface. The info-kiosks are to become reality before the end of 2003.

"The development of pilot networks for schools in areas with difficulties" is, probably, one of the most important projects, designed for distance - education. In order to implement this project, everything must be started from zero - PC's acquisition, connecting to networks, text-books and software development etc. On the other hand, even if it's not quite the largest project to be run ($ 1 mil), is will manage to offer equal and non-discriminatory access to education even for the scholars in the remote and isolated areas.

The reforms of the education system are, beyond any doubt, of great importance for a future already dominated by electronics. One of the first steps was already done, and quite successfully, we might say. "Adlic", the program for the high-school admission already proved its efficiency, cutting the registration, examination and evaluation process one week shorter. Presented in front of the European Commission, together with another 282 local administration programs from 20 countries, the program was awarded "Best from Policy to Practice" and "Best Practice" awards. And we hope it's just the beginning.

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