Monday, June 30, 2008

The Literate Ukrainian

Even though I feel quite stupid because of my lack of language skills here (pointing at things is so useful!) I am amazed at the literacy rate in Ukraine. My sister, who is a teacher, tells me that the literacy rate in Ukraine is around 99%. Everybody reads; you see them in parks, of which there are hundreds -- on a short walk around the neighbourhood I saw at least 3 separate parks with benches and some kind of statue. In the park nearest us there is an ice cream kiosk, and a book stall!

There are also many, many street kiosks around the city, some selling fruit, some drinks, some pastry, and always one lined with newspapers. There must be at least 5 Kiev newspapers alone. Education is valued, as well. There is a pedagogical monument to the Father of Education in Ukraine outside the "pedagogy house".

I was also fortunate enough to meet up with a very friendly librarian, a Fulbright scholar who has been working with libraries all over Ukraine for the past 10 months. She showed me the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, a university established in 1615, though only in the 1990's restored to a liberal arts university. I saw the main library, which to my surprise was funded largely by donors from the Canadian diaspora of Ukrainians. It was lovely.


  1. Great photos!

    Wow, a country that actively and obviously values education ... now *that* is culture shock!

  2. Very interesting!

    In Russia, I didn't see a ton of people reading in parks. Lots of sunbathing and making out...but not enough readers for them to stand out in my mind. :)

  3. 99%! Wow, that's super and definitely what we should be shooting for in the U.S. I had no idea.

  4. Other countries tend to get a LOT more information from newspapers than we do in the US (don't know about Canada.) We get ours mostly from the TV and/or Internet. Not sure how to analyze that.

    Love these pics. Thanks for posting!

  5. Just dropping a note to say: please keep the pictures coming. :)

  6. I love the book stall. And how wonderful to get a tour of that library from the friendly librarian. What a marvellous trip you must be having!

  7. Book stall! Now I'm jealous. Although I have to say I'd probably have no money if there were one of these where I lived.

  8. That sounds wonderful! I think that unfortunately many Americans have come to take things like education and literacy for granted, and so it's lost its value for them.

  9. SO NEAT! Thanks for sharing your experiences and pics!

  10. Bridget - my sister said that when she told people she was a teacher, they were impressed and treated her with respect, something she had not experienced in North America.

    Eva - there was a lot of the sunbathing & making out, too! ;)

    Bookfool - now, I don't know how they measure the literacy rate, but it does seem very high in any case.

    Jenny - there were also 2 English Kyiv weeklies which we enjoyed - I think newspapers are still relied on in Canada, but not quite to that extent.

    Dark Orpheus - thanks! I am so glad I had a digital camera to take with me!

    Kate - libraries and nice librarians were great on my trip!

    Duck Thief - even though there were only a tiny proportion of English books in the stall, I still had to hold myself back - I left one book there that I will always wonder if I should have bought!

    Heather - we were talking to a Ukrainian man who's been in Canada and other places often, and he told us that education in Ukraine was of very high quality and well respected, though he feels that the standards from the Soviet tradition are diminishing in the years since Independence. And he is a well-travelled, Western oriented man.

    Andi - I am having so much fun sharing my photos etc. I only took 695 pictures so I don't know if I have any others of interest... :)


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