In Europe, the main instruction language in any university is always the country’s own official language and not all programs are in English
Student who joins Russian/Ukrainian programs has no problem in communicating and interacting with local population while studying in Ukraine
Students not required to pass TOFEL or IELTS, Instead, universities in Ukraine conduct short interview in English
Is preparatory year, the first language year in Ukraine (in Russian or Ukrainian) nothing but just a waste of time that should be avoided?
From life experience, I say it’s not, and from a professional prospective, I can certify it’s surely not a waste of time, but essential part of students’ education in Ukrainian universities and the right thing to do if you want to study in Ukraine. So, why many parents as well as students view it as a lost year?
And is it wise to prefer English language as medium of instruction for the single reason of avoiding “losing a year”?
Let’s analyze some facts together and find out.
European Universities and English Language
In Europe, the main instruction language in any university is always the country’s own official language and not all programs are in English, with the exception of countries where English is the official language (ex. United Kingdom). The concept is quite simple; universities aim to educate the country’s own youth and naturally they’ll perform best if they utilized their own language as medium of instruction. English programs in many of them where established, (especially in the eastern region of Europe) to target international students.
Stockholm’s University’s article “When English Becomes the Medium of Instruction Communicative Effectiveness is More Important” explains some important aspect of the use of English language as medium of instruction in European universities, it’s preferable if you take it into consideration.
English as Medium of Communication in Ukraine
Although English language is increasingly gaining popularity among the young generation in Ukraine, it is still far away from becoming a valid medium of communication in the young European country. Our assessment is also shared by the State Department of the United State. Student who joins the classic Russian/Ukrainian programs shall have no problem in communicating and interacting with local population while studying in Ukraine. As a matter of fact, knowing the language will open many doors, including the ability to build good social relation with the natives, leading to finding a part time job opportunity or even establishing privately owned business.
Completing the classic program in local languages also means that the student has wider opportunities to specialize and purse postgraduate degree. Even if student join the English program, it enables them to better communicate with the surrounding community, and no matter what university they decide to join, they will be obligated to attend Russian or Ukrainian language classes for not less than two years as part of the academic program.
English as Medium of Instruction in Ukraine
Since the Former Soviet Union opened its doors for international students to seek higher education in its universities, and until the middle of the 90s, there was no other medium of instruction for international students but Russian language in Ukraine. All students who study in Ukraine had to complete a one year course through preparatory departments attached to the universities under the departments of international relations and international students training in Ukrainian universities.
When the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine granted Ukrainian universities the right to independently select the language(s) of instruction for their programs, it seemed like if a revolution started in the international students’ training traditional system, with more and more Universities in Ukraine including English as medium of instruction and more international students started joining these programs. This important decision had a massive impact on Ukraine’s global position as a destination for higher education, and allowed it to rise among the world’s most popular ones. However, the mechanism and suddenness of the decisions’ execution had its flaws. One of which not setting standards for accepting students in the universities’ English language programs, such as passing a language proficiency test, or presenting certified TOFEL or IELTS certificate with a score equal or higher than previously sated minimum. Instead, universities conduct short interview prior to signing service contract with the applicant, and up to our knowledge no one who requested to join any English program of any Ukrainian university was denied to do so.
Students’ Poor English
When a student selects English as medium of instruction for his studies in Ukraine, it’s natural to assume that his English language skills are average or above average, or at least not under the medium level’s lower line. Unfortunately, our statistics shows that fewer than 60% of the applicants for the English program are within that range, while the rest (in our objective opinion) don’t have the sufficient knowledge to keep up with the programs. Although significant majority manage to pass the first year of the program with the minimum marks required to pass, we can’t but disclose our concerns that these students aren’t getting the knowledge that they should, instead they’re adapting a concept of just passing tests and exams anyway, anyhow, and the cycle will continue along the years leading either to incompletion of the program, or acquiring the hollow degree.
It’s fair to say that even some students who go through the language year while studying in Ukraine may experience the same thing, since they are studying a new language to them, but their numbers are significantly lower than their peers who joined the English programs. However, the outcome stills the same: students who join the Russian/Ukrainian program accumulate better knowledge than those who join the English one.
So in conclusion; no matter where students decide to pursue their higher education, and study in Ukraine, Germany, Finland, Spain or France the language program year will always be a necessity if you look at it from long term prospective. When paying more attention to the bigger picture it becomes clear that the language year is never a minus but a plus, an investment in time that always pay off in richer experience, better advantages, more opportunities and wider possibilities in life, academic education and future work environment.