Chapter 3. Access to school education through informal transactions in Ukraine

This chapter focuses on irregularities in access to public schools that provide primary and secondary education programmes. These irregularities include the administration of aptitude-based entry examinations by schools that are proscribed by law from doing so, and the preferential treatment of applicants by schools that are authorised to administer admission exams but wish to advantage some children over others.

These practices are facilitated by deficient admission regulations and ineffective monitoring of compliance, and by the proliferation of mergers of schools of different levels, which transform primary and pre-school institutions into “shadow” entry points to the elite schools with which they are merged. The chapter focuses on schools that resort to illicit selection procedures to manage shortage in enrolment capacity or to boost their reputation for quality and exclusiveness.

The chapter recommends deferring early student selection to upper secondary education and reinforcing comprehensive schooling on lower levels. It advises reconsideration of the current school admission policy and investment in eliminating the conditions promoting the shadow entrance system. The chapter also suggests improving the balance between supply and demand, which will help to ease the pressure on sought-after schools.


Regulatory and policy background

Ukraine has a diversified system of primary and secondary schooling. It comprises general education institutions providing education at International Standard Classification for Education (ISCED) levels 1 (primary education), 1 and 2 (first level of secondary education) and 1 to 3/3B (complete secondary education). Most schools are general primary and secondary schools (neighbourhood schools), some of which are recognised as specialised by offering in-depth teaching in a selected subject (such as foreign language, mathematics, etc.). Ukraine also has gymnasiums (ISCED levels 2-3), lyceum schools (ISCED level 3 with classes specialised in different subjects), collegiums (ISCED level 3 schools providing specialised education, mostly in arts) and educational complexes, which combine different types of schools providing education at various levels of accreditation, in any combination, including pre-school and boarding school (Annex 3.A1, ref. 1). The structure of the general public education system and the number of institutions as of the beginning of 2015/16 is depicted in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1. Number of schools by type and ISCED level (2015/16)

Type of school

Education levels

I (primary)

II (lower secondary)

III (upper secondary)

Total public

Total private

General school

17 031


- General school level I

1 533 (+29 private)

- General school combined level I & II

4 512 (+12 private)

- General school combined level I, II & III

10 598 (+124 private)

- General school combined level II & III

54 (+3 private)

- Boarding school


New type of schools

4 167


- Gymnasium

474 (+22 private)

- Lyceum

304 (+16 private)

- Collegium

42 (+2 private)

- Educational complex (i.e. combining a gymnasium and a lyceum)

3 347 (+63 private)

Note: General schools provide all three levels of general education; “Incomplete general education institutions” - levels I and II; and “Complete general education institutions” – levels I-III.

Source: SSSU (2016), Загальноосвітні навчальні заклади України початок 2015/16 навчального року [Secondary Schools in Ukraine in 2015/2016], State Statistics Service of Ukraine, Kyiv.

In 2015/16, neighbourhood schools offering complete school education accommodated most of the enrolment (2.4 million students), followed by educational complexes (0.5 million) and gymnasiums (258 thousand students). Table 3.2 shows enrolment in general education by ISCED level and type of school.

Table 3.2. Enrolment in general education by ISCED level and type of school (2015/16)

School type


Neighbourhood schools (including specialised schools)


47 939


240 116


2 440 946


10 850


258 386


139 976


27 918


539 251

Source: SSSU (2016), Загальноосвітні навчальні заклади України початок 2015/16 навчального року [Secondary Schools in Ukraine in 2015/2016], State Statistics Service of Ukraine, Kyiv.

General secondary schools are neighbourhood schools required by law to enrol all children living in their catchment area and applying to the school. These schools are not permitted to administer admission exams unless they have the status of “specialised institutions”, i.e. specialised in one or several subjects, in which case they are authorised to assess the psychological readiness for children about to enter Year 1 (Table 3.3). The results of these assessments guide decisions on which children can be admitted or deferred (Annex 3.A1, refs. 2 and 3).

Unlike neighbourhood schools, the “new type of schools” - gymnasiums, lyceums and collegiums - are allowed to implement competitive admission procedures in line with a framework Order on Competitive Admission issued by the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) (Annex 3.A1, ref. 1). The order stipulates that all decisions are taken on school level: schools set up admission committees that develop the competition rules, and these are approved by the principal and the school’s council. The competition rules are announced two months prior to school admission, the subjects and questions that will be assessed are made public one month prior to the competition. The competition is supervised by an official from the administration (rayon or oblast). Students are ranked according to their results, and there is an opportunity for test-takers to file a complaint. The complaints are processed by a committee at school level and only as a second step is a rayon or oblast level committee involved. It is the responsibility of the school principal to ensure the regularity of the entire admission procedure.

Finally, access to educational complexes is regulated by “borrowing” the rules of admission to the types of schools and levels of education that are included in the complex. For instance, a complex that comprises a gymnasium and a regular (neighbourhood) primary school is permitted to organise a competition for entry to the first year of the gymnasium (Year 5), but it is explicitly prohibited to be selective with access to Year 1 of its primary school (Annex 3.A1, ref. 1).

Box 3.1 and Table 3.3 provide an overview of entry points to schooling that can be selective, and summarise the basic conditions for the competition.

Box 3.1. Regulation of access requirements to different schools

PROVISIONS on secondary educational institution:

No. 18. Enrolment of pupils (trainees) to all forms of public schools of the Ist-IIIrd levels takes place without holding competitions and, as a rule, must be in accordance with the catchment area.

No. 19. Enrolment of pupils to specialised schools (classes) with an in-depth study of certain subjects, gymnasiums (residential gymnasiums), lyceums (residential lyceums), collegiums (residential collegiums) of state and public ownership is performed on a competitive basis, as established by the Ministry of Education and Science.

Source: Order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 778 of 27 August 2010.

Table 3.3. Number and kind of examinations allowed for competitive enrolment

Type of educational institution

Year of first time enrolment

Number of competitions

Specialised neighbourhood school

Year 1

One (assessment interview to determine psychological readiness for schooling)


Year 5 of general secondary school

Maximum two (including interview)


Year 10 of regular school

Maximum three (including interview)


Year 10 of regular school

Maximum three (including interview)

Source: Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 389 of 19 June 2003, registered in the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine on 04 July 2003 as No. 547/7868, Kyiv, Ukraine.

A. Description of integrity risk and violation

Ukraine has public policies that support equitable education opportunities, including wide access to early childhood education and care, and publicly provided general primary and secondary schools (neighbourhood schools) that offer a common curriculum. However, equitable schooling may be put at risk through public policies that permit “new types of schools” to select students, and by weak enforcement of limitations governing pupil selection in specialised neighbourhood schools.

Parents in Ukraine value enrolment in a good school. Good schools, it is widely believed, lead to better opportunities for higher education, better jobs, and to better lives. Parents who participated in interviews for this review were convinced of the importance of choosing a school with the right reputation and track record of success. They considered that not all schools in the country were good enough to meet the aspirations they held for their children. The schools that parents most highly regard are “new schools”: gymnasiums, lyceums, collegiums and specialised neighbourhood schools. Below them in the status hierarchy are general education schools that provide what parents believe to be clear signals of quality – such as above average physical infrastructure and teaching staff who have successfully trained winners of academic competitions (Olympiads).

According to parents (and teachers in some of the schools in question), another challenge is that the number of school places is sometimes mismatched to demand, especially in urban centres and new neighbourhoods. For example in Kyiv student numbers exceed school building capacity by 10% (Kyiv City Administration, 2015). Parents wish to obtain schooling that is both physically accessible (within their catchment area) and high quality. The result is that many families, in particular in Kyiv and other urban centres, aspire to enrol the children in a limited number of sought-after schools, and admission to schooling becomes a high-stakes event which can be, and often is, at risk of malpractice involving different forms of informal payments or favours to school staff for preference in admission.

To manage demand that outstrips the supply of places, while keeping up a standard of work, schools in demand - both new elite schools and those that emulate them or otherwise experience capacity shortages - have introduced unauthorised or improperly preferential entry procedures. The admission regulations and procedures, whether based on formal knowledge tests or psychological assessments, are susceptible to manipulations that secure preferential access through informal transactions. These transactions range from direct bribes to subtler forms, such as commitment to long-term support of the school in the form of parental contributions.

The risk of informal transactions for access is described below and evidence of violations taking place is provided to the extent it is available. The risk includes the opening of shadow entry points to elite schools at lower levels of education in “satellite” institutions that are part of educational complexes. Also, illicit testing is used for admission to neighbourhood schools, which includes knowledge-based testing that is claimed to be psychological assessment of school readiness. This has the effect of further disadvantaging children who have not been able to attend pre-school and provides incentives for pre-school programmes to introduce academic requirements for access before it is age-appropriate, thus opening even more possibilities for abuse.

Shadow entry to elite schools in educational complexes

Elite schools - gymnasiums, collegiums and lyceums - have been established in the process of diversification of school education in Ukraine after 1990, alongside the comprehensive general (Years 1-11) schools inherited from Soviet times (Annex 3.A1, refs. 4 and 5) (Razumkov Center, 2002). These schools are in the minority (see Table 3.1), and they are believed by parents to be higher-quality elite schools granting better chance of access to prestigious HEIs. Analysis of standardised higher education institution (HEI) entry examination results (External Independent Testing or EIT) shows that among the 100 schools with top EIT results in 2013, 58 were gymnasiums and 39 were lyceums (Bakhmatiuk, 2013). However, these results may principally result from stringent criteria for admission to these schools, rather than the quality of instruction and the “value-added” that they contribute.

In recent years, an increasing number of elite schools have transformed themselves into educational complexes by opening new classes below their official grade of entry, at lower secondary, primary or even pre-school level. According to parental accounts, enrolment in the pre-school and primary school classes offered by the elite institutions (mostly gymnasiums and lyceums) effectively ensures placement later in the “parent” institution which operates it: children who have been with the school since pre-school or first year would have a better chance of succeeding on the admission exams as they are familiarised with these exams, know the teachers who assess them and can count on their preferential treatment. One principal of a sought-after mathematical lyceum noted that in the past years the average share of external students he was admitting to Year 10 each year was around 2%, because “externals were simply not as well prepared as our kids”.

The prospect of preferential access to a gymnasium or a lyceum means that, in practice, the pre-schools and primary/lower secondary schools that are joined with elite institutions are shadow entry points to these institutions. Despite being part of an elite educational complex, however, these schools and pre-schools have the status of regular, neighbourhood providers and are not permitted to organise selective admission. This leaves their leadership and teachers unprotected against the integrity risks that come with their role as a gateway to sought-after schooling – risks in the form of pressure and temptation to participate in informal transactions in exchange for preferential access.

Illicit testing for entry to neighbourhood schools

Neighbourhood schools are not permitted to be selective (Annex 3.A1, ref. 6) except for the psychological assessments of school readiness that specialised neighbourhood schools can administer. Both neighbourhood and specialised schools, however, can circumvent the regulations and manipulate admission decisions with the help of unauthorised forms of testing.

On some site visits the review team was told of regular neighbourhood schools that resorted to ad-hoc admission tests to assess the capacity and motivation of prospective students. In addition to being illegal, these tests infringe the right of access of children from the catchment area of the schools administering the tests. Practices such as this may underlie survey results showing that 12% of the parents believe their children were illegally denied admission to school (ERA, 2013).

A second form of illicit testing occurs when specialised neighbourhood schools turn the psychological school readiness assessment into a competitive test of aptitude and knowledge, and use the results to justify decisions about admission. Apart from being illegal, samples of such tests shown to the integrity review team appeared, on their face, to be inappropriately complex for children of school entry age. More than one-quarter (27%) of the parents in the 2013 survey confirmed that their children had experienced disproportionate knowledge requirements for admission (ERA, 2013). A first-hand experience with such a test from parental point of view is presented in Box 3.2 and confirms the observations. It also suggests that the test results might be used to justify arbitrary decisions about admission.

Box 3.2. A parent’s description of testing for admission in lieu of psychological assessment

“In our school (with in-depth study of English after Year 4) the maximum score for entry is 130, and for a child to be accepted to Year 1, he/she must reach at least 100 points.

The first step was an interview, in which my daughter was asked to tell about her family, parents, etc. After that there was a meeting with the school psychologist on general topics. Most kids (mine too) pass this stage without much difficulty.

After that, there was a test in English. My child was shown 5 cards with pictures of animals and objects, which were named in English. She then had to remember them and name them in English as well - each correct name brought her one point. Next came the game “catch the word” (the child needs to clap his/her hands when hearing a certain word). Many children fail to score here, because the words are unfamiliar English words and, as a rule, they either miss them, or just clap at the end of each.

The third stage of the admission test was a conversation with a teacher of general subjects. The questions and tasks were very diverse: to read a text, solve a problem in one or two steps, name five common and five distinctive features of objects (for instance, we had to find commonalities and differences between a book and a notebook).

However, there were numerous tasks to which it is not easy for a child to answer, either because the question is not easy to understand, or because it takes time to find an answer. For instance, one of the questions was (literal formulation): What is in the middle of Kyiv? The children I know of (mine included) responded “A monument”, but the right answer would have been the letter “I”. Another such example is the question: What is the opposite meaning of the word “earth”? Also, there were a lot of questions with unusual logic, for instance: There are five burning candles, and two went out. How many candles were left? Children would begin to count and say “three” but this is the wrong answer, because there are still five candles. There were also questions using or requiring words which were too complicated to be part of the child’s vocabulary at that age. For instance, children were asked to name geometric figures such as parallelepiped, the names of which they couldn’t know.

Many well-trained kids do not gain the required number of points to pass. Interestingly, in the class of my daughter some of the children who obviously passed do not know the alphabet. . . And one of her classmates did not pass, but was enrolled nevertheless…”

Source: Written account by a parent from the city of Kyiv, provided to the review team.

B. Factors that create opportunities for the violation

Hybrid primary and secondary institutions

In Ukraine, the Soviet practice of mixing two levels of education in a single institution has been reduced by introducing three types of elite schools with relatively short education cycles: gymnasiums, lyceums and collegiums (Annex 3.A1, refs. 4 and 5).

At the same time, to expand their enrolment capacity and further boost their significance as providers, these new institutions have recently started to re-introduce multi-level, multi-type schooling by merging into educational complexes with primary classes and pre-schools. According to information provided by the State Inspectorate, in 2016, about 90% of the elite schools were also managing a pre-school or a primary school.

Official statistics suggest that this is part of a broader trend, in which more and more educational institutions across Ukraine are being hybridised (see Figure 3.1). The number of students in these institutions has been rising since 2010,1 opposite to the downward trend in enrolment in the school system as a whole (Figure 3.2).

Enrolling one’s child in an elite school at an early grade level of an “elite” educational complex is an attractive option for parents. They believe it creates a competitive advantage in gaining access to a gymnasium or a lyceum by increasing prospects of a selective entrance process. In the current regulatory environment, the proliferation of such institutions widens opportunities for malpractice in access, reduces the number of vacancies at the official entry level as schools give priority to their own students from earlier years, and keeps the choice of school for primary and pre-school enrolment a high-stakes event for the parents, with all the associated integrity risks.

Figure 3.1. Total number of schools and educational complexes in Ukraine (2010-15)

Source: SSSU (2016), Загальноосвітні навчальні заклади України початок 2015/16 навчального року [Secondary Schools in Ukraine in 2015/16], State Statistics Service of Ukraine, Kyiv.

Figure 3.2. Changes in overall school enrolment and in enrolment in school complexes (2010-15)

Source: SSSU (2016), Загальноосвітні навчальні заклади України початок 2015/16 навчального року [Secondary Schools in Ukraine in 2015/16], State Statistics Service of Ukraine, Kyiv.

Inadequate regulation of entrance examinations by education authorities

Psychological testing, especially at early school entrance ages and in competitive or discriminatory educational contexts, can be used to support unfair treatment, bias and discrimination. The complex tests of knowledge and cognitive skills described in Box 3.2 provide still wider opportunities for schools to take into account the social and economic status of parents, and to turn to informal transactions as a basis for admission.

The regulations developed by the Ministry of Education and Science governing the use of admissions examinations (Box 3.3) provide limited and inadequate guidance to local governments and schools. They do not address validity, reliability and fairness of admission examinations. Further, they establish oral interviews as a dominant element of examination at all levels, although oral interviews pose a high risk of unreliability, especially if they are administered in ways that are arbitrary or unprofessional (Mathers et al., 2002; Berwick and Ross, 2009).

Box 3.3. Ministry Order on content of competitive admission procedures

3.2. The interview with the child, who enters Year 1 of specialised school, shall include completion of special diagnostic tasks in order to examine the level of the child’s general development, his functional readiness to systematic studying and ability to learn disciplines according to the institution’s specialisation. It is not allowed to examine the child’s knowledge and skills beyond the extent of these requirements.

3.4. The competition for the pupils (trainees), who enter Year 1 of gymnasium (which corresponds to Year 5 of basic school), is held on the subjects, according to the institution’s specialisation in oral or written form (interview, dictation, testing, written paper, recitation by exam papers, etc.).

3.5. The competition for the pupils (trainees), who enter Year 1 of lyceum or collegiums (which corresponds to Year 10 of high school) is held on the subjects, according to the institution’s specialisation in oral or written form (interview, dictation, testing, including computer testing, written paper, recitation by exam papers, defence of creative work, etc.).

Source: Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 389 of 19 June 2003, registered in the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine on 04 July 2003 as No. 547/7868, Kyiv, Ukraine.

The order also leaves unregulated the quality of the examination material, the composition of the commission or the person in charge of preparing the test and holding the examination, as well as the procedure for the evaluation of exams. As a result, schools can and do develop their own rules of competitive enrolment with little guidance, and they are permitted wide opportunities to exercise preferential treatment in the selection of pupils.

Ineffective monitoring and enforcement of regulations by local authorities

According to the framework Order No. 389 (Box 3.3) regulating competitive admission examinations, ensuring fair and transparent examination procedure is the principal’s responsibility, while the “appropriate educational authority is charged with supervising the arrangement” (Annex 3.A1, ref. 1) and holding of the competition, as well as annulling the results in case the procedures are breached and conducting a repeated competition. These regulations make it impossible for illegal tests to be administered or examinations with major integrity flaws to be held without the knowledge and consent of the rayon authorities.

Why might rayon authorities tolerate tests and examinations that are inconsistent with central government guidance on the use of competitive admission procedures? First, rayon authorities are well aware that elite institutions (and well-regarded neighbourhood schools) have a surplus of applicants and recognise that admissions procedures – even if flawed – provide a means of balancing supply and demand. Second, it is difficult to monitor fairness in admission to school. The guidance available to rayon authorities – to allow testing that “examines the level of a child’s general development, its functional readiness to systematic studying and ability to learn disciplines according to specialisation of the institution” but to disallow testing of a “child’s knowledge and skills beyond the extent of these requirements” – is extremely difficult to implement. Confidently and rigorously distinguishing between “readiness for study and ability to learn disciplines” and testing that is “beyond these requirements” would require that officials evaluate the alignment between each school’s curriculum and its assessments, a task for which few, if any, municipalities are prepared. Lastly, even if rayon officials had the incentive and the capacity to monitor fairness in admission procedures, they lack the authorisation to take action: the regulatory framework set by the ministry does not identify penalties that rayon officials should apply in the event of schools failing to comply with this regulation.

C. Factors that create incentives for the violation

Selection of students as means to cope with shortages in enrolment capacity

The distribution of school enrolment capacity in urban centres does not consistently align to population and enrolment demand. Aligning supply to demand is difficult for a range of reasons. Reliable local population data with which to plan school capacity are lacking. Decisions taken by property developers can cause unplanned rises in student numbers. A recent interview with a decision-maker from the municipal administration of the city of Kyiv illustrates these points (Box 3.4).

Box 3.4. Planning problems with school network

“An important problem is the lack of accurate statistics; without them, no clear-cut planning is possible. I have to note that in spite of the downward demographic tendency in Ukraine in general, the population in the capital is constantly growing; therefore, the number of children in the city is also increasing. According to official statistics, the population of our city increased due to natural growth and migration. However, these data have nothing in common with the reality. The city’s educational establishments [schools] report that the number of children grew by 11 000 in 2014 alone. And these children came here with their parents. Ukraine does not have accurate official data on population in the capital, either adults or children. How do we develop the city infrastructure and proceed with socially important construction if we don’t have any statistics, accurate or approximate?

Presently, four big residential housing objects (307 500 m² in total) are constructed in the neighbourhood of Patrice Lumumba, Ivan Kudrya and Henri Barbusse streets. At the same time, the developers have not planned any construction of new pre-schools and schools! As for the pre-schools and schools located the closest to the neighbourhood, their capacity is already exceeded.

. . .Such actions of the developers cause social tension and lack of places in pre-schools and schools. However, normally it is the educational community that bears the blame.. . . In 2014, the Ministry for Education carried out some research and created the register of the most rampant cases of developers (development projects) ignoring their obligations. The impunity of such organisations is unbelievable. For example, there is the construction of residential housing in Svyatoshinsky district right next to specialised school No. 317; the hostile takeover of land allocated for construction of a school in Desnyansky district (40 Drayzera str.), and other cases.”

1. According to Norms on Town, Urban and Rural Settlements Planning No. 44 of 17 April 1992, the development of social infrastructure in the course of implementation of residential construction projects is the responsibility of the local authorities, which levy a tax for this purpose on the construction companies.

Source: MoES (2015), Osvita Ukraini N. 25. [website], (accessed on 20 January 2017).

At the time of this review there were no systematic data on the extent to which the enrolment capacity of neighbourhood schools was strained. However, the first-hand account described in Box 3.4 points to difficulties which neighbourhood schools in bigger cities in Ukraine are exposed to, particularly in Kyiv. Faced with more applicants than they can enrol, they are left with no alternative but to limit access. They do this either by disregarding the rule that they must accept all children from their respective catchment area, or by violating rules prohibiting entrance examinations.

Selection of students as means to boost school reputation, resources and success

All schools aim to ensure a working environment in which they can function successfully. Gymnasiums, lyceums, colleges and specialised general education schools operate in a highly favourable environment based on their permission to select students. Teachers work with selected students who are often from more affluent backgrounds. These students are typically better prepared and invested with higher expectations and thus more successful than the typical student. This in turn has a positive impact on the teachers’ career advancement, as one of the requirements of advancement is to demonstrate the success of students in student competitions. Additionally, these schools are supported by well-to-do parents, who can provide generous contributions to the school and class funds.

For the neighbourhood schools that are not granted permission to select their students through entrance examinations, but enjoy a reputation that is good enough to allow them to be selective, the teaching and learning environment of elite schools is something to aspire to. To emulate the selection procedures of elite schools is an important step in this direction. During the site visits, parents from Kyiv shared their experiences with entry tests to non-elite but “good” regular schools that were disproportionately difficult for children at the beginning of schooling, and told of results that are routinely being manipulated in favour of families who are well-off, or well-connected, or both.

D. Policy options

Addressing undue preference in school admission should be part of a wider discussion within Ukraine about the school system that it wants: whether it wishes to have an approach to schooling that is largely comprehensive, highly selective or a system balanced between these two principles.

Selective education systems establish differentiated schooling to which children are assigned based on meeting (or not) selective criteria connected to ability at an early age. After selection, students are provided different study programmes with different curricula and final qualifications. Selective schooling exists, for example, in German-speaking countries, the Flemish Community of Belgium and the Netherlands (Hanushek and Wössmann, 2006). Comprehensive schooling keeps cohorts of learners together in the same school for longer periods, typically until age 15 or later. Schools and teachers support a wide range of student abilities, and ability grouping is implemented within the same school or even the same class, which allows students to shift among difficulty levels. Comprehensive schooling is implemented across OECD member countries, including in Canada, Finland, Japan, Norway and Sweden.

Some of the highest-performing OECD education systems have developed comprehensive education systems that provide high-quality opportunities to the vast majority of students, compensating for disadvantages caused by students’ family backgrounds and personal circumstances (OECD, 2010). Other countries that had implemented early tracking have revised their policies to allow for longer comprehensive education rather than early tracking. This permits greater permeability between educational tracks or the implementation of selection procedures that are consistent, transparent and minimise bias (OECD, 2013a).

Research evidence and international experience indicate that the types of practices described in this chapter – student selection at pre-school or primary school levels; the selection students on the basis of assessments that have not been carefully validated; and the implementation of local selection procedures that are inconsistent, open to bias and beyond scrutiny or documentation – lead to disparities in learning opportunities and outcomes, and, on average, to poor levels of performance in the education system (OECD, 2012).

This report recommends that Ukraine reinforce comprehensive schooling on lower levels and defer early student selection to ‘elite schools’ by eliminating a shadow entrance system. Specifically, this includes the reassessment and where necessary the redefinition of school catchment areas, regulating the practice of hybridisation of education institutions, and enforcing the existing ban on administering admission tests except for the senior years of specialised schools.

Closing the opportunities for malpractice

Reassess and redefine the catchment areas of neighbourhood schools

School authorities should establish well-defined catchment areas for neighbourhood schools, make this information publicly available and easily accessible to parents and other interested stakeholders, and use these areas as the basis for pupil assignment. Where the demand for places exceeds supply, authorities should adopt fair and impartial procedures for assignment of study places. Examples of such procedures include assigning priority by date of birth, or an automatised, random process (see Box 3.5 for examples).

Box 3.5. Ballot and lottery schemes as a solution to school enrolment problems

In a recent research, the RAND Europe Corporation documents how some countries resort to lottery and ballot schemes to manage bottlenecks and other distortions in admission to schools and HEIs. In the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, for instance, such schemes were established to ease oversubscription in schools and HEIs, and also as a remedy for a growing problem of social selectiveness in admission decisions.

In New Zealand and the United States, lottery schemes are part of wider school choice, charter school, or voucher programmes. In New Zealand and Sweden, the use of lottery systems is part of reform aimed at increasing competition between schools and raising the standard of overall schooling. In some cases, lottery schemes had specific purposes aside from the management of oversubscription. In Chicago, the introduction of lottery schemes is related to specific desegregation goals. In Milwaukee, the use of lotteries aimed to give better educational opportunities to pupils from low-income families.

The RAND research concludes that evidence of the positive impact of such measures on mitigating social inequality and promoting student achievement is still scarce, and where it is available it is still inconclusive. However, the RAND report also notes that ballot and lottery schemes are growing in importance as a solution to enrolment challenges in different countries, and that they offer clear technical advantages.

Source: RAND Europe (2007), The Use of Lottery Systems in School Admissions,

Regulate the “shadow” entry to elite schools

Both pre-school and primary school admission to the educational complexes of elite schools should be regulated in a uniform way through secondary legislation by the MoES. Pre-schools that are part of elite schools should be included into the electronic queuing system. First-cycle classes in elite secondary schools should have the status of specialised general education schools in order to be able to manage enrolment.

Strengthen school entrance procedures for all schools

The selective school entrance procedures for all schools that qualify to administer them should be strengthened in respect of content and procedure. These recommendations do not constitute an endorsement for widening – or even maintaining – the scope of selective entrance in secondary schooling. Rather, they focus on raising the transparency, fairness and integrity of pupil selection now taking place.

Regarding the content, the competitive enrolment should not rest on interviews, but rather be based upon standardised school readiness tests. The quality of these tests can be ensured through a repository of testing items, developed and managed centrally (for instance by the Centre for Education Quality Assessment, which is also in charge of the External Independent Testing or EIT), and put at the disposal of schools to choose from according to their needs. For the non-standard elements of admission exams, such as interviews, there should be clear marking criteria. The records and results of admission tests should be stored, and publicly available for inspection and analysis

Alternatively, an independent external examination could be developed by central authorities. An education bill under consideration by the parliament in 2016 pointed in this direction, proposing an external, independent examination for all graduates after Year 9 to monitoring educational progress. These examination results could be used for admission to selective public schools.

Regarding the procedure, the order setting the admission rules (Annex 3.A1, ref. 1) should be revised, ensuring higher transparency and integrity of the entrance procedures. The enforcement of all regulations of entrance examination need to be strengthened with the engagement and supervision of the State Inspectorate over the rayon staff engaged in supervising the process. This engagement could also include training, sampling and auditing local authorities to ensure the provisions are enforced.

There should also be a simple and widely understood procedure for families to appeal pupil assignment decisions that are not made in compliance with these rules – first to local authorities, then national authorities (such as an ombudsman or school inspectorate).

Finally, financial penalties for local government failure to enforce these regulations (such as reduction in state subsidy) should be established.

These recommendations do not constitute an endorsement for widening – or even maintaining – the scope of selective entrance in secondary schooling. Rather, they focus on raising the transparency, fairness and integrity of pupil selection now taking place.

Eliminating the incentives for malpractice

The motivation of schools to manage the mismatch between an insufficient supply of and a high demand for quality education, as well as the elite schools’ motivation for pre-selection of wealthy students through shadow entry procedure, is not likely to diminish without a better balance between supply and demand. This balance will help to ease pressure on sought-after schools. One means to achieve this is to provide more and better-quality information about schools to parents and school planners. Another is to improve the link between urban development and school capacity.

Improve information about school quality

Parents in Ukraine need more reliable and objective information about the quality of schools. Better information will help them make decisions on which school their child should attend, permit them to more regularly and knowledgeably follow quality developments at their child’s school, and diminish opportunities and incentives for unauthorised student selection.

Changes to the Law on Education have been proposed that may establish new arrangements for the assurance of quality in schooling. In adopting such arrangements, policy makers should give special attention to the development of school inspection activities that support the provision of a fuller and more reliable picture of school quality to families than is presently available. This would include, for example, school-level reports with reliable information about the student selection policies and practices; instructional practices and quality; student, parent and staff satisfaction; and standardised assessments of learning outcomes. Standardised assessments should be part of a school-level report only if quality assurance authorities, working in collaboration with assessment experts, develop measures of school performance that also take into account the contribution of factors that are not related to the school, such as the family background and characteristics of students entering their school (i.e. value-added measures of school performance).

Development of these capabilities can draw upon a wide international experience with the establishment of school inspectorates, of school-based reporting, and of quality assurance more generally – that draws upon the work of the Standing International Conference of Inspectorates (SICI), the OECD, and the many European nations with experience of school inspectorates – both those with long-established inspectorates (e.g. England, the Netherlands) and nations more newly established inspectorates, such as the Czech and Slovak Republics (OECD, 2013b).

Revise standards for urban planning and housing development

Ukraine’s standards for housing development, adopted in 1992, put the burden of creating additional school placement capacities on city and rayon authorities, who are to do so with funding from annual taxes levied on the construction companies. These taxes are levied independently of the type and place of projects these companies are implementing. As the record of school crowding indicates, this arrangement does not work well to balance residential development and school capacity. Consideration of policy options for improved co-ordination is needed.

School infrastructure should be included in the urban planning and in construction project approval criteria, taxes levied should be linked to particular projects, and construction companies should be provided tax incentives to invest in educational infrastructure in the residential areas they construct.


Bakhmatiuk, D. (2013), 100 кращих результатів ЗНО-2013 [UPE 100 Best results 2013], Intelect Lyceum, Kyiv,

Berwick, R. and S. Ross (2009), “Cross-cultural pragmatics in oral proficiency interview strategies”, in M. Milanovic and N. Savilles (eds), Performance Testing, Cognition and Assessment: Selected Papers, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 34-55.

ERA (2013), Право на освіту та права освітян: теорія і практика в Україні [Right to education and rights of education participants: theory and practice in Ukraine], European Research Association, Kyiv.

Hanushek, E. and L. Wössmann (2006), “Does educational tracking affect performance and inequality? Differences-in evidence across countries”, The Economic Journal, Vol. 116, pp. 63-76.

Kyiv City Administration (2015), Освіта столиці – 2015 статистична збірка [Education Capital- Statistical Collection], Department of Education and Science, Youth and Sport, Kyiv,

Mathers, N., N. Fox and A. Hunn (2002), Trent Focus for Research and Development in Primary Health Care: Using Interviews in a Research Project, Trent Focus Group,

MoES (2015), Osvita Ukraini N. 25. [website], (accessed on 20 January 2017).

OECD (2013a), PISA 2012 Results: What Makes Schools Successful? (Volume IV): Resources, Policies and Practices, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2013b), Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2012), Equity and Quality in Education: Supporting Disadvantaged Students and Schools, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2011), Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: Overcoming Social Background: Equity in Learning Opportunities and Outcomes (Volume II), OECD Publishing, Paris,

RAND Europe (2007), The Use of Lottery Systems in School Admissions, RAND Working Paper, Cambridge,

Razumkov Center (2002), The System of Education in Ukraine - Main Indicators”, National Security & Defence, No. 4, Kyiv,

SSSU (2016), Загальноосвітні навчальні заклади України початок 2015/16 навчального року [Secondary Schools in Ukraine in 2015/2016], State Statistics Service of Ukraine, Kyiv.

ANNEX 3.A1. References of legal sources
  1. Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 389 of 19 June 2003, registered in the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine as No. 547/7868 on 4 July 2003.

  2. Article 18 of the Law on General Secondary Education of 1999, prohibiting the introduction of knowledge tests for admission to school and MoES Order No. 204 of 7 April 2005.

  3. Letter of the Ministry or Education and Science of Ukraine “Щодо роз’яснення порядку приймання дітей до першого класу” [To explain the procedure of accepting children into first year], No. 1/9-71 of 14 February 2015,

  4. Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 217 of 20 July 1995.

  5. Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 778 of 27 August 2010.

  6. Article 1, point 1, Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 204 of 7 April 2005.

References cited as sources of boxes and tables:

Box 3.1:

Order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 778 of 27 August 2010.

Box 3.3 and Tables 3.1 and 3.3:

Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 389 of 19 June 2003, registered in the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine on 04 July 2003 as No. 547/7868, Kyiv, Ukraine.


← 1. The drop in enrolment between 2013 and 2014 is due to the fact that from 2014 onwards, the national statistics do not include Crimea and parts of the Donbas and Luhansk oblasts.