CRISIS OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM
TEACHERS’ COMMON ROOM
After All, We Have to Improve the World. A Round Table Discussion
At a round table event held at the editorial offices of OZ on April 25, 2012, teachers from a number of Moscow schools discussed the problems of the Russian school system and its role in modern society. The opinions of the round table participants were divided. For some, there is no catastrophe in the public school system. Others believe that schools are experiencing fatigue from the changes they are undergoing, which are imitative in character, that they are closed-minded and incapable of responding to the current and prospective demands of modernity.
Boris Zhukov. School Named after Plyushkin
The attitude of contemporary Russian society towards the public school system is extremely contradictory and irrational; the predominate theme is a profound distrust of all government authorities and a strong rejection of any possible changes, including any changes in the curricula (especially those involving cuts). One possible cause of this is society’s lack of any approximate ideas of what secondary education is needed for and what its result should be. In this situation, the social order for school as a «children’s storage facility» comes to the fore, while teaching itself becomes a secondary and optional task.
Anatoly Bershtein. Profession: Dilettante
The profession of a teacher is more than many other professions related to the concept of vocation. Without a love for it and an understanding of its lofty mission, as well as without a certain inspiration, there is almost no sense in working as a teacher because it will fail to produce results. That is why a combination of professional skills and human qualities, mastery of teaching methods and personal traits, experience in the craft and eternal improvisation is so essential for a teacher.
Peter Mostovoi. On the Ruins of General Education
The author analyzes the negative processes now under way in the Russian school system in the context of the world education crisis unfolding in countries that belong to European civilization. The article offers a comparative analysis of the German, Soviet and Anglo-Saxon models of school education. In the author’s opinion, many of the negative processes going on in the presentday Russian school (above all, growth in school violence) are a predictable result of the transfer to Russian soil of approaches inherent in the Anglo-Saxon school. The article proposes a way out of the crisis envisaging the restoration of the principles of the German/Soviet school model.
Simon Kordonsky. Social Functions of Education
The author regards the Russian education system as a system of socialization reproducing certain social roles in the social structure. Today a new social structure, to which the old educational system no longer corresponds, is taking shape in the country. The stratification of social reality is underway. On the one hand, new institutions of education are emerging and, on the other, old institutions reproducing archaic people remain in place. The author specifically notes the existence of a departmental education system working to meet the needs of the state.
Georgy Lyubarsky. What Society Thinks about the Objectives of Education
The author has carried out an analysis of several thousand statements in Russian blogs about what people want from education and what objectives they set for the school system. These statements can be grouped into classes representing 12 types of objectives. The objectives are highly varied and call for an absolutely different system of school education. Yet there is no clear understanding of the differences in the objectives; the parties to the argument believe that they are speaking about the same thing, about all the understandable requirements to education, yet everyone has in mind his own objectives and means.
Andrei Fursenko. Shift of the Center. An Interview
In answering questions put to him by OZ, Andrei Fursenko, ex-Minister of Education, states that the world is facing a monumental challenge owing to a lack of correspondence between education and the established state of affairs in economy, in the social sphere and in science. The world has changed, while education has remained largely unchanged. This is a worldwide problem. The way to solve this problem, the essence of education standards, the reasons why one cannot do without the Unified State Examination (USE), and many other aspects are the focus of the explicit and informative story as told by the person who held the office of Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation for eight years.
Yevgeny Bunimovich. In The Mirror Of School
In the opinion of the Ombudsman for Children in Moscow, all over the world only those reforms yield results under which the main investments are made in teachers. Not in computers nor in buildings, but in teachers. This implies not just higher salaries. Being a teacher has a high national social status, and it should be a well-paid position with substantial guarantees for the future and decent living standards. Yevgeny Bunimovich also shares his ideas on the competition of textbooks, on the self-esteem and rights of a child, and also on what precisely is measured by exams and on the way to combat the artificial inflation of students’ grades.
Irina Abankina. Diffusion of Innovations
The article examines the key features of innovations in education, analyzes the economic interests of major stakeholders at the present stage of development of education and substantiates proposals on the need for theoretical rethinking and conceptual development of the principal models used today for describing the range of problems in general education.
Margarita Bershadskaya. The Functional Literacy of School Students and the Problems of the Higher Education System
The article examines the results of international PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests of 15-year-old school students in the context of the problems of higher education development in Russia. Methodical guidelines for the formation and assessment of bachelor level universal competencies taking account of the Russian school students’ low scores for functional literacy have been developed.
Tatiana Kovaleva. Tutorship as a Culture of Individualization. An Interview
It was England’s private universities (Oxford and Cambridge) that were the founders of the tutor model of education back in the 12th century. In Russian teaching practice, the discussion about tutorship beg an a little more than 20 years ago. A tutor is a special type of teacher, whose main mission is to provide instruction within the framework of an individual educational program. In 2008, the State Duma approved the profession of tutor, and today it is an official one: everyone in Russia, if he or she so wishes, can study to become a tutor and be issued with an employment record book which will contain a record that he or she is a tutor in the sphere of education, be paid a salary and then a pension and get a corresponding employment history record.
Yuri Shichalin. Who Needs Classical Gymnasiums and What for
Initially, classical gymnasiums emerged in Russia as educational institutions subordinate to universities and intended to prepare students for university study. Classical gymnasium includes the study of the Greek and Latin languages and a good training in mathematics; i.e., unlike any specialized school, it provides a sound general education. However, since there are no classical gymnasiums in Russia, the Russian education system has remained fundamentally flawed since 1918: it has been lacking the link that joins the best contemporary schools with the European tradition. In his monologue, the noted classical philologist also recounts how migrants’ children can benefit from learning ancient languages, how classical education is changing in the age of the Internet, and why Stalin tried to introduce Latin into schools.
Dmitry Rogozin. Educational Services and Their Quality Indicators
The article expounds an approach to the assessment of the quality and accessibility of educational services based on polling of interested parties (parents, close relatives, and students themselves). The methodology was tested through representative telephone polling of users of educational services (pre-school, school, vocational and higher education) in the Tver and Novosibirsk Regions. As a result, a substantial discrepancy was established between the basic idea, declared by the developers of the state budget reform, of creating a competitive environment in the field of education and the actual efforts to implement this idea. An overwhelming majority of the population in the two regions either have heard nothing about the transformations being carried out or regard them as part of a commercialization of the market of social services and abrogation of the right to free education in Russia.
Yevgeny Bunimovich. All Children Must Go to School. An Interview
Expounding on the problems of migrants’ children, whose number is rapidly growing in Russia, the Ombudsman for Children in Moscow makes an interesting inference: the school has become a key point in socialization not only for the child, but also for the entire family. It is the only institution which immigrants trust and which they are not afraid of. In fact, the school socializes not only the child, but also the entire family. It is not education but the federal migration service and the borders which are the root of all problems with migrants: migration must be legal. In addition, the school is a mirror of changes in social consciousness. It would be easier for migrants to fit in, were it not for social rejection.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE LESSONS
Diane Ravitch. Two Books on How, and How Not to Improve the Schools
In her review of the book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? by Pasi Sahlberg, Diane Ravitch analyzes the causes of success of school education in Finland, which has become one of the world leaders in this sphere. Comparing Finland and the United States, the author arrives at the conclusion that in Finland there is not a trace of the «innovations» that are so popular in the US: it has neither nationwide testing nor charter schools nor school vouchers nor «reward according to deserts» nor a «spirit of competition»; the secret of success is to be sought in the principles of training the teaching staff, the equality of opportunities for obtaining an education, and the intensity of the educational process. In the opinion of the author of the book under review, the experience of Finland «gives hope to those who are losing their faith in public education.»
In her review of the book A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All by Wendy Kopp, Diane Ravitch ponders on the problems of American school education. In her opinion, low test scores obtained by school students are strongly correlated to poverty: students from the most affluent families have the highest scores, and children from the poorest families have the lowest scores. The author infers that children need better schools, and they also need health clinics, high-quality early childhood education, arts programs, after-school activities, safe neighborhoods, and basic economic security.
Yevgeny Prizant. Yesterday’s School in Tomorrow’s Economy
The Israeli education system is following a tortuous path of continuous formation in a dynamically developing social and technological environment. The article discusses attempts to solve complicated problems in all aspects of the education system: the student-teacher relations, the rights and duties of the parties, the content of school subjects, and the school’s ability to rise to the challenges of the times.
Michael Hermann. Sputnik, PISA, and the Reform of Education
In the early 21st century, Germany was shocked by the results of the first international PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey that claimed depressingly poor academic performance of German school students: they ranked twentieth in mathematics, twenty-first in reading, and twentieth in natural sciences. Tempestuous discussions about an education reform transpired all over the country. The article describes the situation in Baden-Wurttemberg, which has long been regarded as a showcase of German education.
Irina Lavrentieva. Unified State Examination, Chinese Style
Extremely fierce competition for places at universities is the harsh reality of present-day China. Preceding the unified state entrance examination, which is held simultaneously all over the country, is a whole year of exhausting preparation work, after which yesterday’s school students are distributed in a centralized way among universities. The article describes the mechanism of the operation of this system and cites some controversial opinions of those who have passed through it.
Anne Coffinier. Education Creates Free People. An Interview
In answering questions put to her by OZ, Anne Coffinier, co-founder and general director of the French Fondation pour l’ecole and co-founder and president of the association Creer son ecole, tells about free schools in France. Today, these schools have an attendance of about 50,000, yet the need for such educational institutions is constantly growing, since an ever greater number of parents want to give their children the best education they possibly can. This is happening in the situation of a crisis of values that has overtaken the entire French society and other countries of the West. Developing a system of free schools, Anne Coffinier hopes to help new generations once again acquire a reason for being and discover that there is mystery and beauty in the world which need to be studied.
Georgy Lyubarsky. A Long and Winding Road
In reviewing the book Schooling America: How the Public Schools Meet the Nation’s Changing Needs by Patricia Alberg Graham about the history of the American school in the 20th century, the author arrives at the conclusion that school education was given different objectives and different meaning at different periods. The following periods are singled out: (1) education for poor migrants, aimed mainly at creating the nation; (2) developing elite education for children from rich families; (3) desegregation and progress towards equal educational opportunities; (4) quality of education; raising of its general standards. The main problems of each period, the means used and their efficiency, and the success in solving educational tasks are examined. Society’s attention is turned towards new problems, even though the old ones remain largely unsolved.
Valentina Bykova. Chronicles
The book Khroniki obrazovatelnoi politiki: 1991—2011 [Chronicles of the Educational Policy; 1991—2011] by Boris Startsev is a chronicle of modernization of the Russian secondary and higher education system in the period between 1991 and 2011 from the economic point of view. The events are seen through the eyes of a journalist and presented as a sequence of decisions by decision-makers. The reform is described using the names of ministers and top-ranking officials, and only rarely does one come across the opinions and names of teachers. The value of the book is in the integrity of the story about the process that has been modified more than once.
Kirill Martynov. To Beat or Not to Beat
This article is a review of Russian sociologist Igor Kon’s book on the issue of corporal punishment for children. Kon examines the problem in a broad historical and psychological context, arriving at its conceptualization. The review demonstrates the relevance of the issue of corporal punishment in the framework of recent debates on the rights of families, the boundaries of state authority and the juvenile justice system.
RELIGION STUDIES CLASSROOM
Alexei Muraviev, Marianna Shakhnovich. Religion in Today’s Russian School
The church and the school are two of the main Russian institutions. In present-day conditions, in accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the church cannot teach religion in school; however, attempts to do so are made from various sides. The conflict can be resolved through instilling respect for faith and believers, which is the main aim of the new study course, Fundamentals of Religious Culture and Secular Ethics, introduced in Russian schools in 2012.
Philippe Pouzoulet. Dialogue with Eternal Wisdom
The author examines the state of education in France from the point of view of a liberal Catholic. In his opinion, the main political task for the early 21st-century Europeans (including Russia and the Russians) is the search for the ways of true democracy within the framework of which a free dialogue between reason and faith could be held. In the meantime, education, which should have played the key role in achieving this goal, is in a deep crisis. In order to get out of this crisis, the author proposes to reject an overly centralized system and give educational institutions full freedom of teaching and families, a free choice of the cultural and educational program for their children, including the religious program. The author urges not to be afraid of giving full meaning to this freedom, while retaining a full measure of respect for the views of every person.
Alexander Panchenko. Seminarians in Russia
The article by Alexander Panchenko deals with the first mass system of secondary education in the modern age Russia—schools for clergy. Throughout nearly the entire «Synodal period» in the history of Russian Orthodoxy, the power elite regarded parish priests not as spiritual mentors or missionaries and enlighteners but as lower-echelon government officials, religious bureaucrats acting as in-betweens between the peasant community and the religious and secular authorities. The history of theological education in 18th—19th century Russia may well serve as a vivid illustration of the singular and rather pitiful position that clergymen held in the «regular state» system founded by Peter the Great.
Dmitry Serov. «And I Wish to Learn the Language of the Caesars to Perfection»: How Diplomatic Officials and Their Children Developed Their Language and Science Skills Abroad in the Reign of Peter the Great
The article focuses on the origination of the tradition of obtaining education abroad. Particular attention in the article is given to educational trips abroad which members of Russia’s diplomatic service and their children took in the 1690s—1700s. Particularly highlighted is the story of how Mikhail Avramov and Pyotr Kurbatov, staff members of the Russian embassy to Holland, on their own initiative, took up learning «liberal arts.»
Gennady Aksenov. Why Zemstvo Schools Were a Success
The article focuses on the rapid development of zemstvo primary schools [the zemstvo was a form of local self-government] in Russia in the late 19th —early 20th centuries. This success was determined by the public character of their development and management. The idea of creating schools through the local efforts of educated society was advanced and implemented on a uyezd (district) scale by Lev Tolstoy. His experience was extended by zemstvo activists, who included, in particular, his followers, members of the fraternity, who later on became well-known liberal politicians, scientists and political writers — Prince Dmitry Shakhovskoi, Vladimir Vernadsky, the Oldenburg brothers, Sergei and Fyodor, and Alexander Kornilov. They linked people’s education with the zemstvos’ struggle for human rights, a constitution and a plenitude of local self-government. That is why a transition to universal primary education was in fact effected in the country shortly before World War I. Thus a fundamental national task, which the subsequent social disruption could not hamper, was fulfilled.
Alexei Lyubzhin. Dead End of Communism
The article examines the processes which, having started in the Soviet period, have led to the present crisis of the Russian school and deprived the education model on which it is based of any viable prospects for the future. The author rejects as unsound the widespread notion of continuity of the Soviet school with respect to the pre-revolutionary school system. In the author’s opinion, only a profound and all-around reform that will bring the contemporary Russian school into the general European context, of which the school system of Imperial Russia was an integral part, can save the situation.
THE LAND OF OZ
Teodor Shanin. «Teenage Boys Viewed Me as a War Hero»
Eyewitness reminiscences about the social problems of the young Israeli state. The author tells about the self-organization of society and the educational and instructional function of the kibbutz movement, about the problems of young people, and about the specific features of his activities as a social worker.
Dmitry Zhuravlev. Life as a Candle: Fragments of Reminiscences
The reminiscences of physicist Dmitry Ivanovich Zhuravlev, written in the 1960s, focus on his early childhood years, which he spent in Ranenburg and Skopin — uyezd (district) towns in Ryazan Gubernia. The author, who was the son of a Russian Orthodox priest, describes with great thoroughness the details of the everyday life of Russian provincial clergy in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. The second and concluding part of the article, the first part of which appeared in issue No. 2 (47), 2012 («Corruption Contract»).
Kirill Solovyov. Piterschiki. A review of the book: Lev Lurie. «Piterschiki.» Russkiy kapitalizm. Pervaya popytka [«Piterschiki.» Russian Capitalism: The First Attempt]. St. Petersburg, BHV-Petersburg Publishing House, 2011, 288pp.
Kirill Solovyov offers a polemical review of the book «Piterschiki.» Russian Capitalism: The First Attempt by Lev Lurie, published in St. Petersburg. In the book it is noted that in Russia there developed a singular version of capitalism where the solo part was allotted to the State and its representatives. It was, in the first place, not enterprising merchants who had risen from peasants but men who had a legal education and held a rank under the Table of Ranks that constituted the business elite of the capital. Drawing on historical studies, including statistical findings, the author of the book presents a picture of the contradictory social «architecture» of St. Petersburg society.
Yelena Penskaya. Pedagogical Molasses
The review of books on educational subjects published in 2010-2012 centers around the two-volume book Yu.I. Fausek. Russkaya uchitelnitsa.
Vospominaniya Montessori-pedagoga [Russian Woman Teacher: Reminiscences of Pedagogue Montessori]. Vol. 1; D.G. Sorokov. Russkaya uchitelnitsa. Semeinyie istorii i metod nauchnoi pedagogiki Yulii Fausek [Russian Woman Teacher: Yulia Fausek’s Family Stories and Method of Scientific Pedagogy]. Vol. 2, Moscow, Forum Publishers, 2010. This work is examined at an intersection of several meaning components — in the context of the brief and dramatic history of the turn-of-the-20th-century generation, combining politicians, men of letters, scientists, and the artistic boheme, while educational activity links these environments together as a way of transmitting a copious cultural and natural-scientific reserve. The book is then considered in the context of the formation of the «teacher’s canon» and the «teacher’s mission» which took shape in Russian cultural consciousness and everyday life in the 19th—20th centuries. The third element of the work is the context of contemporary publishing practices and scholarly projects («semiotics of childhood,» issuing of literature dealing with educational subjects, publication of new data and documents) and an analysis of the ways to restore and reconstruct individual episodes from an unwritten history of Russian education.