On April 17, 2015, the Government of Romania and the World Bank (WB) signed the Loan Agreement No 8481-RO on the implementation of the Romania Secondary Education Project (ROSE).
ROSE’s initial duration was of 7 years i.e. 2015 – 2022. On June 24, the Government of Romania adopted the draft Decision regarding the approval of the extension of the National Program “Support for baccalaureate, access to faculty” to 2024 and therefore of the ROSE project by modifying the Government Decision no. 251/2015 on the approval of the National Program „Support for baccalaureate, access to college”.
The project is implemented by the Ministry of Education, through the Management Unit of External Financing Projects.
ROSE contributes to achieving the objectives established by the strategy of reducing early school leaving and improving the opportunities to participate in tertiary education. ROSE was elaborated taking into account the need to ensure access to quality education, adapted to the needs of the labour market, for all young people. This objective is in line with the main national strategic objective of Romania, to harness the growth potential by stimulating competitiveness and productivity, strengthening social and territorial cohesion, creating new jobs – all aiming to reduce the disparities with the other Member States of the European Union (EU).
The development objectives of ROSE are to improve the transition from high school to tertiary education and to increase the retention rate in the first year of university studies, in the institutions funded under the project.
The expected results of the project are:
Reducing the dropout rate in the final classes of the high schools supported in the project, from the reference value of 6.5% to the final target of 3.5%;
Reduction, in the educational units supported in the project, of the percentage of high schools with drop-out rates over 7%, from the reference value of 23.1% to the final target of 10%;
Increase the graduation rate in the high schools supported in the project, from the reference value of 86.9% to the final target of 93%;
Increasing the pass rate of the baccalaureate examination in the high schools supported in the project, from the reference value of 49.6% to the final target of 59%;
Increased retention rate in the first academic year in the faculties supported in the project, from the reference value of 82.3% to the final target of 84.5%.
The beneficiaries of the ROSE project are:
Students enrolled in the approximately 1,110 low-performing state high schools1 (accounting for 80% of all state high schools), especially students from disadvantaged groups;
High school staff, including principals and teachers from the 1,110 participating high schools;
Students enrolled in the first year of study in the selected tertiary education institutions, especially students from disadvantaged groups;
Personnel from the approximately 350 state faculties of eligible state higher education institutions.
ROSE is structured in three components, as described below.
ROSE’s status as of mid-2021
The grant program ended, 874 grants were contracted by ROSE high schools and 393 by ROSE beneficiary universities.
In projects funded by high school grants, activities are carried out to lead to the achievement of the mentioned objectives, which include: remedial activities, counselling, guidance and career guidance, coaching, personal development and development of socio-emotional skills, as well as activities extracurricular and information, such as documentary visits / excursions, training courses, participation in competitions and the formation of interscholastic networks.
In the 393 grants for faculties / universities, there are activities designed to meet the needs of students at risk of dropping out of college in the first year of study, through remedial activities, tutoring, career counselling and career guidance, guidance services and support, as well as by setting up and equipping learning centres to help support students at risk. Also, bridge-type summer programs are funded for high school students, in which they can participate in courses, seminars, counselling activities, sports or socio-cultural activities on university campuses.
The grants were approved for a period of 3-4 years, in the case of high schools, respectively 2-3 years in the case of faculties / universities. Those who contracted in round 1, i.e. in 2017, should complete the implementation in June 2021 but may want to extend the implementation period. Round 2 contracted the grants in 2018 and will end in 2022. Those who contracted in Round 3 (October and November 2020) have a contract for only 2 years. At present, the proposal for a government decision extending by 2 years the project implementation period within the existing budget has been approved.
ROSE met most of the indicators, for example the graduation rate and the second year of college increased, including participation in the baccalaureate – students who did not think they had a chance to pass the baccalaureate exam took and passed it .
Based on studies and analysis of monitoring reports, it was established that the baccalaureate graduation rate increased more in ROSE high schools than in those that did not benefit from the project. Thus, in the high schools receiving grants, the average dropout rate in the final years decreased from the reference value of 6.5% to 1.98%, the average high school graduation rate increased from 86.9% to 97, 47%, and the passing rate of the baccalaureate exam increased from 49.6% to 62.88%. In the faculties supported by grants, the retention rate after the first year of studies increased from 79.4% to 81.64%.
Until April 30, 2021, the amount of approximately 79,297,295 Euro was spent, out of the total amount of 200 million EURO allocated for the implementation of the Secondary Education Project.
ROSE PROJECT COMPONENT OVERVIEW
Component 1 – School-based and Systemic Interventions. This component finances supply-side interventions at the school and system levels to address the academic and personal factors hindering Romanian students from transitioning from upper secondary to tertiary education, including dropping out, declining to take the Baccalaureate, or scoring a low mark on the Baccalaureate.
Sub-component 1.1 – School-based Interventions. This sub-component supports the transition of students from upper secondary into tertiary education using a decentralized approach based on non-competitive grants to low-performing public high schools. The criteria for selection of eligible high schools combine the following rates: Baccalaureate passing rate and upper secondary graduation rate. Grants will be awarded to public high schools for a 4-year period to allow sufficient time for implementing activities aimed at supporting students from Grade 9 through Grade 12. At the end of the Project, it is estimated that approximately 80 percent of Romanian public high schools (around 1,000) would benefit from this sub-component. The grants value is as follows:
• small grants – 70,000 euro
• medium grants – 100,000 euro
• large grants – 152,500
High school grants are intended to support activities that reduce high school dropout rates, increase graduation rates, and improve performance on the Baccalaureate. Eligible activities will include the following:
• Pedagogical and support interventions (e.g. remedial classes, tutoring, counselling, coaching, mediation with Roma communities, etc.) – at least 50% of the grant amount;
• Extracurricular interventions (e.g. outreach programs, documentary trips/visits, internships, competitions, school networking, etc.) – up to 30% of the grant amount;
• Minor civil works for renovation of internal spaces/rooms (e.g. laboratories) and procurement of goods – up to 20% of the grant amount.
To better implement the grants, ME is helping the high-schools write the projects, and it provides a support type vs. a control type of monitoring and mentoring for pedagogical activities.
Sub-component 1.2 – Systemic Interventions.
This sub-component supports a series of interventions aimed at addressing the systemic challenges faced by all high schools in facilitating the transition into tertiary education. The interventions are implemented by the ME and the financed activities include:
(i) in-person and/or virtual training of teachers and public school directors on adapting the curriculum to the needs and abilities of targeted students, applying student-centered methods and using digital technologies for teaching-learning-assessment;
(ii) improving teaching conditions within teacher training institutions through provision of goods;
(iii) revising and updating Grade 8 and Baccalaureate exam banks of items and associated training, including the strengthening of the institutional capacity of the National Center for Policy and Evaluation in Education (NCPEE);
(iv) improving the information technologies platforms used for learning assessments and exams of upper secondary school education students through the provisions of goods;
(v) development of digital teaching and learning materials;
(vi) development and implementation of campaigns to raise student and teacher awareness, which could be tailored for Roma students;
(vii) strengthening of ME’s capacity to support informational communications of educational institutions for online learning, and use of educational information to monitor upper secondary education and the transition of students into tertiary education, including by providing goods;
(viii) supporting the participation of Romanian students at international assessments through financing of associated costs including management, administration, participation fees; and
(ix) improving the teaching–learning conditions in the high school units eligible to receive grants by providing goods, including digital devices and hygiene/sanitation supplies to prevent COVID-19 contagion and increase the education system resilience.
Component 2 – University-Level Interventions and Bridge Programs.
This component supports activities designed to address the needs of students who are at risk of dropping out of faculties in the first year of study in tertiary education. The component finances three grant schemes – one non-competitive and two competitive – for public universities that serve these at-risk students. In addition to the grants, this component finances technical assistance for evaluation of proposals and grants implementation monitoring. Approximately 85 percent of Romanian public faculties would benefit from this component.
Target group is represented by first-year students at risk which are in the following situations:
• entered the faculty with grades less than or equal to grade 7 on the baccalaureate examination; or
• belong to the disadvantaged socio-economic groups (they come from families with low incomes; they come from rural areas; they are persons with disabilities or chronic diseases; they are orphans of one or both parents; they come from placement centres, orphanages, other similar institutions; or they are Roma.)
Higher education institutions can define their own criteria for students at risk, according to the specific regulations. Both fully funded students from the state budget and those enrolled on the places with tax, regardless of nationality, are eligible.
Management structure for the management of the University Grants Scheme
• ME is the central authority responsible for coordinating the ROSE project, ensuring compliance with the Loan Agreement, Operational Manual and Subsidiary Agreement concluded between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance.
• UMPFE represents the direction within the ME that has the role to manage, supervise and coordinate the activities of the ROSE project, including regarding central procurement or financial aspects, monitoring and evaluation, reporting and environmental protection activities, if applicable. UMPFE is responsible for managing the University Grants Scheme. The UMPFE will also ensure coordination with other ME departments and agencies / entities, including beneficiary universities, involved in the implementation of the grants.
• The beneficiaries of the grants – the eligible Romanian universities / state faculties – will implement in a decentralized manner the activities approved and funded by the grant, based on a Grant Agreement, according to the model provided in Annex 1, signed by the beneficiaries and the ME / UMPFE. In order to ensure the quality of the mechanism for the implementation of the University Grants Scheme (SGU), eligible state universities will benefit from technical assistance financed through the ROSE project.
Other stakeholders / stakeholders involved in the implementation of the University Grants Scheme include:
• Members of the academic community and representatives of the local community, including teachers, students, parents, students and representatives of student associations or Career Counselling and Guidance Centres and of the Departments for the Training of the Teaching Staff / the faculties of education sciences and psychology from universities, economic environment and local NGOs working in the fields of interest, etc. .;
• Monitors, which provide on-site monitoring of project implementation and coordinate reporting at central level, through the computer system.
Component 3 – Project Management, Monitoring and Evaluation.
This component finances day-to-day project management activities, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) activities, information/dissemination campaigns, project audits, as well as incremental operational and staffing costs of the ME’s UMEFP.
This component also funds the carrying out of:
(i) surveys concerning high school students attending bridge programs;
(ii) an impact evaluation of the high school grants program to assess improvements in student outcomes and school management processes;
(iii) a revision of the existing student loan scheme developed for tertiary education students;
(iv) an analysis of existing demand-side programs addressing the needs of disadvantaged upper secondary students that are currently under implementation; and
(v) other M&E studies, as needed.