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«Title of Document: EDUCATION AMIDST TRANSITION: THE CASE OF ROMANIA F. Tony Di Giacomo, PhD, 2010 Directed by: Professor Jing Lin, EDHI After ...»

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F. Tony Di Giacomo, PhD, 2010

Directed by: Professor Jing Lin, EDHI

After enduring centuries of colonialism, followed recently by the exogenous forces of

globalization and isomorphism, Romania and other countries in Eastern Europe have had unique opportunities amidst formidable challenges since they began their transitions toward democracy. In this case study, I explore these forces and resulting challenges that influenced the Romanian education system between 1989 and 2007. With this approach, I try to elucidate the difficulties endured by the Romanian political and education elite when transitioning the country from totalitarianism toward democracy. I conducted an extensive literature review and document analysis, coupled with in-depth interviews with the Romanian bureaucratic education elite who influenced the country’s education reforms. My research investigated the complicated manner in which education plays a role in supporting a country in transition.

Two central questions drove my research:

(1) What factors impacted Romania’s transition from a totalitarian regime toward democracy?

(2) What role did education play in Romania’s transition from a totalitarian regime toward democracy?

My findings suggest that too many poorly constructed short-term focused reforms, developed by an elite deeply entrenched in its communist past, slowed significantly the development of a democratic education system in Romania. Exogenous forces such as colonialism, globalization and isomorphism further compounded the challenges of Romania’s political transition. The elements of these findings, in addition to domestic factors such as Romania’s history and culture, coupled with its nascent political system and colonized mentality, partially explain the reasons for the core of the education system remaining largely status quo.


By Francis Anthony Di Giacomo Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Maryland, College Park, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Advisory Committee Professor Jing Lin, Chair Dr. Caroline Eick Professor Mark Ginsburg Professor James Greenberg Professor Steven Klees © Copyright by Francis Anthony Di Giacomo Dedication This study is dedicated to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the peaceful leadership she demonstrates in her native Burma. I hope her bravery and character serve to inspire all democracies, transitional and developing, and the citizens who are fortunate to have them.

–  –  –

A dissertation is known as an arduous and sometimes lonely undertaking, as years of solitude in libraries or in front of a computer screen can leave one feeling isolated. I wish to express my gratitude and love for all those family and friends who provided emotional, intellectual and spiritual support throughout my studies and writing process.

To my wife, Anca, for allowing our home and lives to benefit from sacrifice, and for exhibiting endless patience and love.

To my family, both American and Romanian, for their support and interest in my study—to my father Frank for sparking my curiosity about the world, and to my mother Mary Clare for juggling more than gravity would allow two hands.

To Mihai Meiu, a doctor of medicine, expert coordinator and consigliere who provided cultural and transportation navigation, patience, translation, and above all, the support to make this study possible.

To Petre Lazarescu, another doctor of medicine, who housed, fed and showed me around Bucharest literally and metaphorically; for making calls on my behalf; and for maintaining your faith in the beauty of Romania.

To my grandmother, Dorothy Evans, for showing me the power of what education can accomplish.

To my advisor, Dr. Jing Lin, I am particularly thankful to you for helping refine my character and skills, enhance my compassion, deepen my spirituality and hopefully become more effective as a positive force in this world.

To my doctoral committee, I wish to express my thanks for your time and guidance whether over the phone, over coffee, or in class for your unique perspectives,

–  –  –


To the interviewees, while you are unnamed in this study, your openness toward me and passion and love for your country were duly noticed and appreciated. Your contribution provides, with this study, another support mechanism for Romania, other transitional democracies and future democracies with important lessons.

–  –  –



Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Figures

List of Abbreviations


Relationship to Topic



Framework of Analysis

Potential Significance




Defining Eastern Europe

Modern Romania

Government: Democratization

Democratization: Rapid or Moderate Pace

Change in Romania: Revolution or Coup d’état?

Styles of Democratization: Perestroika

Styles of Democratization: Static Polity

–  –  –

Transition Explored

Defining Democratic Education

Education and Nation Building

Conceptual and Theoretical Traditions



Defining Colonialism and Neocolonialism

A History of Colonialism in Eastern Europe: The Roman Empire

Colonialism Transforming into Neocolonialism: Romania and the Soviet Union.... 35 Colonialism’s Lingering Effects



Globalization Defined

Globalization: Modernization and Globalization Linked

Globalization and Romania

Critics of Globalization: Dependency Theory and World-Systems Theory.............. 46 Modernism and Globalization: additional critiques with a long-term perspective.. 49 Globalization: Impact on Education

The Ill-effects of Globalization: Consumerism



Defining Isomorphism

The European Union and Isomorphism

European Union and Romania

–  –  –

Isomorphism: A Summary

Exogenous Forces Conclusion

Context for Romanian Education

Economic Reform and Political Economy of Romania



Historical Context of Eastern Europe

Sub-Context of Eastern Europe: The Balkans

Communist Education: Education as Indoctrination, 1947-1989

Lack of Trust

Transition: Education Reform in Romania—1989 to 2007

Romanian Education Reform: Challenges

Romanian Education System Today: An Overview

History: Education Reform and the Romanian Constitution

Vague Characteristics of Article 32: Missing Factors

Importance of Article 32

Article 32 Viewed from the Symbolic Lens

European Union and the Hope for Stability

Anticipating the Bologna Process: Romanian Education Act 84 of 1995................. 89 Challenges to Democratic Reform in Romania

Cultural Mindset

Beyond Act 84: Additional Insight into Romanian Reform Context

Conclusion: Romanian Education Today

–  –  –

Research Methods: Overall Approach and Rationale

Characteristics of This Study

Data Collection


Observations about Interviewees

Data Analysis

Data Integrity

Threats to Credibility

Limitations of the Study



Before 1945

Between 1945 and 1989

Education Before 1989

Change in Romania: Revolution or Coup d’état?

Post-coup Reform



Exogenous forces




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Primary and Secondary Education

Decentralization of Education

Reform and Culture

Democratic Education

Impact of Education Policy & Law


Teachers and Teacher Education



Minority Education

Higher Education

Summary of Chapter Findings



Theoretical Reflections

Theoretical Reflections Summary

Insufficient Change: The Unaltered Core of Romanian Education


The Study’s Original Contribution

Characteristics of the Study

Data Collection

–  –  –

Possible Direction 2: Policy-making amidst transition

Possible Direction 3: Refining Indicators of a Strong Democracy

Possible Direction 4: Revisiting Democracy Exportation

Possible Direction 5: Democratic ecology

Possible Direction 6: Education to mitigate isomorphism

Topics for Further Study

Special Needs Education


Role of Development partners




–  –  –

Table 1: Comparative Measures Table 2: Interviewee Characteristics Table 3: Philosophical Assumptions with Implications Table 4: Emerging Categories

–  –  –

Figure 1: The J curve Figure 2: Transition Characteristics Figure 3: Organic Transition Figure 4: Coup Transition Figure 5: Colonized vs. Colonizers Figure 6: The Education System in Romania Figure 7: Ordinal Relationships of Phenomena Figure 8: Overlapping Impact of Phenomena Figure 9: The J curve Re-presented Figure 10: Open-curtain Policy

–  –  –

Act 84: Education Law of 1995 in Romania EU: European Union IMF: International Monetary Fund UN: United Nations U.S.: United States of America USAID: United States Agency for International Development WB: World Bank

–  –  –

The purpose of this introductory section is to provide the overview, focus, purpose, research questions, framework of analysis and potential significance of my case study. This study investigates the major trends, forces and phenomena that affected education and culture in transitional Romania between 1989 and 2007. This study explores also the nature of education as an institution with the potential to play a role in nation-building, social reproduction, cultivation of character, teaching of democracy and instilling of culture. However, in post- coup d’état Romania, the role of education was minimal as a component of transition due to competing forces that undermined education’s potential role, which may have contributed to disjointed, ineffective and illtimed policies and laws. For comprehension and clarity, this study will elucidate these forces and highlight why and how they influenced education with a discussion of the potential consequences based on evaluated literature and original interviews conducted with elite bureaucrats in Romania.

In this chapter, I lay the groundwork upon which I construct my analysis of Romania’s transition within the context of many historical and contemporary challenges.

Whereas many studies about democratic transition focus on the quality of the democracy or the process itself from a political perspective, I spotlight education when considering the transition, which provides a unique lens to view democratization and a country’s transition from one system toward another. Through this lens, and by providing a new

–  –  –

as well as other future transitional democracies. Moreover, even non-transitional democracies can benefit from revisiting their respective developments.

–  –  –

My relationship to this topic was initially based on my Eastern European ancestry.

This relationship was later strengthened by my interest in democratization, development and the integral role of education in both constructs. I hope my study elucidates for leaders in nascent, future and established democracies the importance of thinking and acting with a long-term perspective with regards to education as a component of national political development and democratic transition. Therefore, my relationship to the study is both personal and ideological, the combination of which irrevocably connects me to the outcome of this work.

–  –  –

The focus of my study was guided by the following questions:

(1) What factors impacted Romania’s transition from a totalitarian regime

–  –  –

These questions remain unanswered in the literature in terms of exploring the causes behind Romania’s transition in relation to changes in public and private education, and how the transition may have differed from other countries in Eastern Europe. For

–  –  –

Poland and Slovenia all liberalized their economies and moved quickly toward a democratic government and democratic society. Meanwhile, countries like Romania and Bulgaria were slower to transition: their Perestroika approach to reform involved a very slow, calculated shift from a closed and controlled government toward an open and democratic government, despite the passage of many reforms and policies. Moreover, the role of education is not adequately explored in the literature and possibly insignificant in supporting the transition. The question of whether education was a critical factor in a country’s transition toward democracy was not clearly delineated, nor was the issue of whether transitions were slowed by the failure to use education as an agent of rapid change.

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