Russian education system declines in comparison with Soviet era

The Russian education system is still afloat thanks to the Soviet heritage not because of some post-soviet innovations

"Money spent on education is investment in the human capital." (1980 Nobel Prize Laureate T.Shulz)

Education determines the position of a country in the modern world and the status of a man in the society. South Korea's experience perfectly proves the statement. Indeed, elementary education became compulsory only in the early 1960s, and the system of professional colleges was formed in the same period in South Korea. There were just 19 universities in the country in 1945, which was almost nothing as compared with west-european countries. However, the number of universities increased to 100 by 1945; the number of students increased almost 120 times, over 90 per cent of school age children were at school and 26 per cent of school leavers studied at universities. Today, South Korea is keeping a firm position among the most economically developed countries. The country not only develops progressive world technologies but also exports its own ones. The secret of the South Korean economic wonder consists in the priority of education in the governmental policy and in the national mentality.

Russia, which in the Soviet period was rated as a perfectly educated country, is now sweepingly turning into a poorly educated nation. Is there anyone who may derive benefit from the degradation? The degradation is a result of deliberate and purposeful actions of some forces.

Alexander Zinovyev in his work “The Russian Tragedy” touched upon the peculiarities of the Soviet education system. “The education problem was of top priority since the very first days of the Soviet society. At that time, the problem was given a wonderful and effective solution. The whole of the world, together with opponents of communism and the Soviet Union admitted the Soviet education system was excellent. It included all levels of education, high school and higher education particularly. The country would have hardly achieved global success without its education system.  Today, the Russian education system is still afloat thanks to the Soviet heritage not because of some post-soviet innovations. The Soviet education system degraded because the whole of the Soviet social system collapsed. The education system is part of a social organization and connected with other parts. It is part of the society's basis together with the state system, economy, ideology and culture. The governments under Stalin and Brezhnev understood the fact and treated the education system as a basic phenomenon. The fact was also perfectly obvious for cold war strategists who made attacks at the Soviet ideology and education system.”

The national education system seriously degraded during perestroika. According to the World Bank, the spending on education made up 7 per cent of the Soviet gross domestic product in 1970, but the showing dropped to 3.4 per cent by 1994 in Russia.

Much has been said about support to education and science over the period since perestroika. In 2001, President Vladimir Putin spoke at a session of the State Council on the national education system improvement and emphasized that particular attention must be paid to the achievements of the Soviet education system that “was effective enough and had a strong basis.”

Heated discussion of the governmental policy in the sphere of education and science, its objectives, methods and instruments took place at the Klyuchevoi Vopros (Crucial Issue) media club. Prominent figures of Russia's education system spoke at the meeting.

Vyacheslav Igrunov from People's Union for Education and Science (the SLON party), director of the International Institute of humanitarian and political research says the role of science in economy is increasing in countries with a high education level. Unfortunately, the Russian idea saying that business must finance the science has failed. Today the business community is not ready to support the modern education and science system. They would not finance spheres with long-term prospects.  It means that only the government can accumulate financial resource for a breakthrough in the education and science sphere, the same way it was done in Japan and South Korea.

Alexey Ponomarev, one of the authors of the concept of management at governmental scientific institutions says the Russian science must become competitive, in other words it must be part of the global economy. But first of all thorough auditing must be held in the national science. Over 3.000 of scientific organizations subsist on the budget; some of them are no longer science oriented. It would make sense to put them up for sale. In other words, scientific organizations must be given a chance to develop independently. Wages of researchers may increase only when ownership of research institutions changes (incorporation, partial or absolute privatization).

Yasin Zasursky, the dean of the Moscow State University's journalism department emphasizes it is important to have a strategy for development of science and make science be separated from ownership. Today, education, teaching and upbringing are very poor in this country. Less humanitarian lessons at school will deprive people of culture and ruin the educational factor. There may be no patriotism without Pushkinand Lermontov. “The Russian science needs new approaches for further development. The government must realize perfectly well if it is building up science or market in the scientific sphere”, the dean of the journalism department thinks.

A commercial holding for innovation activity is to be set up on the basis of several institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Academy President Yury Osipov said at a press-conference at the Russian Ministry for Education and Science on Monday. He says the idea of forming the holding appeared long ago. Yury Osipov adds, some scientific organizations will have to change their ownership: this is the main condition for their development.

Minister of Education and Science Andrey Fursenko says the strategic importance of every particular scientific institution will determine ways for its further incorporation. Scientific and educational institutions may remain unitary state enterprises or become joint-stock companies with 100 per cent shares held by the government. It is not ruled out that part of shares may be sold, and the controlling interest will be still held by the government in this case.

Participants of the press-conference said that financing of the national science per a researcher will increase five times to 750.000 rubles (less $3.000) by 2008. just compare: developed countries usually have $100-200 thousand. 

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Author`s name Olga Savka