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Psychology Review

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Started in 2010

Published quarterly

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Russian Education Overview: Current State and Modernization Trends 4

Shvedovskaya A.A.
PhD in Psychology, Head of Department of Information & Publishing Projects, Associate Professor, Age Psychology Department named after L.F. Obukhova, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia

Archakova T.O.
psychologist, charity foundation "Volunteers to help orphans", Moscow, Russia

The article provides an overview of the Russian educational system - from pre-school stage to higher education. Such new instruments and trends as the Federal State Educational Standards, Unified State Exam implementation and participation in Bologna process are described. Topical problems of social and economic inequality in Russia and its links to education are briefly discussed.

Keywords: Russian educational system, Federal State Educational Standards, Unified State Exam, Bologna process, social and economic inequality, pre-school education, secondary education, higher education

Column: Education, Well being and Emergent Economies of Brazil, Russia and South Africa

A Part of Article

The Russian Federation Constitution (art. 43) states that right for education is a general and inalienable right of every citizen.The volume of GVA invested into the Russian education system in 2009 sums up to 1,05 trillion rubles. In 2010 in Russia there are 57 000 preschool facilities of different types (including 43 300 kindergartens) attended by more than 5.3 million children. In 2009 1,2 million young people received general basic education and 0,8 million - general secondary education diplomas. They graduated form 53 102 secondary educational facilities.

Russian education is currently undergoing the process of modernization.The demand for modernization of the education contents is caused by the range of factors (V. V. Rubtsov, 2010):
  • profound changes in socio-economical situation in the country;
  • diversification of school education system;
  • changes in a school's tasks and a teacher's role (orientation towards pupils' socialization);
  • increase of risk factors in educational environment and worsening of pupils' health;
  • informatization of the society that terminates a teacher's of the only source of information for pupils and creates unmanaged information flows,
    negatively affecting children's psychics and consciousness;
  • socialization of pupils at school as well as outside it.

Modernization of education is embodied in Federal state educational standards (FSES). They are a complex of requirements, necessary for state-accredited educational facilities in the course of realization of general education. FSES include three types of requirements:

  1. To the structure of general educational programmes including relation of different parts of the programme and their volume as well as relation between the compulsory and facultative (developed within educational facilities themselves) parts of the programme;
  2. To the conditions of the general educational programmes implementation including staffing, finances, equipment etc.;
  3. To the results of general educational programmes acquisition.

Federal state educational standards maintain:

  1. unity of educational environment in the Russian Federation;
  2. continuity of main educational programmes of primary, basic and secondary general education, basic, secondary and higher professional education.

Fundamental documents on requirements to education in Russia also are:

  • The concept of spiritual and moral development and upbringing of a Russian citizen's personality
  • The concept of long-term socio-economical development of the Russian Federation
  • Fundamental core of the general education

Official web-site:

Preschool education (nursery care – from 1,5 years old, kindergartens – from 2,5 to 6-7 years old).

Russian preschool education and care have a long history. Initially it was aimed for women's emancipation, nowadays it is regarded as one of instruments of pronatalist state policy (though the amount of kindregartens does not comply with the population demands) and as a tool for developing school readiness (groups for 6—7 years old children are called «preparation groups»). Preschool is now made compulsory for older preschoolers. If a child of 5-6 years old cannot attend kindergarten (or his \ her family doesn’t want it) for some reasons they can visit special consultative centers for preschoolers opened on the base of some kindergartens.

Since September, 1st 2010 the Federal state requirements to the structure of general programme of preschool education is implemented. These requirements are analogous to the Federal state educational standard for primary school. Play are given the status of the main form of educational work with preschoolers and collaboration between educators and parents is made compulsory part of the programme that may be regarded as positive aspects of the Requirements for children's well being.

In 2010 UNESCO marked Russian experience of pre-school education as worth studying and translating in the other countries. The first international UNESCO on early childhood care and education was held in Moscow.

Besides kindergartens, there are alternative types of pre-school education:

  • lekoteks for children with special needs,
  • pre-school consultative centers,
  • short-term groups (usually open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
  • home-based kindergartens run by families with many children

but at the moment they are options in some big cities only.

The current problems are lack of places in kindergartens (especially in contrast with current pronatalist policy) and suggestions to admit more children per one group (sanitary norms have recently shifted form 20 to 25 children) that impose the risk of creating “left-luggage room” for children instead of developing environment. Parents already protest against such possible measures on the internet by signing an open letter to the Ministry of Science and Education. Preparation for school is often transformed into drilling and school-like activities, childhood and play are not regarded valuable in practice. It is an example of discrepancy between evidence-based views on child development and educational practice.

Secondary education (elementary – 1-4 grades, junior – 5-9 grades, junior high – 10-11 grades)

Public schools provide social support (e.g. free meals for children from low SES families) and some types of extracurricular activity, free or quite affordable. Schools have to collaborate with child protection services, police, local healthcare (children are taken there for regular medical checks – “dispanserization”) etc. At the same time the school does not solve problems with professional orientation for the future. Schools (usually, the most quality ones) prepare youths for entering a certain university but do not give them opportunities to learn about the actual profession, to try themselves in these activities)

In 2001 implementation of the Unified State Exam began; in 2009 it became compulsory. It is aimed at decrease of corruption in the education system and giving talented countryside adolescents opportunity to enter high-quality city universities. 19 525 graduates of more them 957 492 failed to get minimal required credits in 2010. Two-year experience of Unified State Examination has revealed problems in entry exams regarding law execution and issues in admission of preferential categories of entrants.

From the educators point of view, «…the reforms on Unified State Exam are implemented «from the top» and do not rely on practicing educators who work on innovative improvement of the education contents. In other words, organization of the reform does not take into account the interests for the most creative group of educators» (V. S. Sobkin, 2009).

Secondly, the regional aspect must be taken into account. The main emphasis should be made on analysis of relationships between the ways of organization managerial control over the Unified State Exam effectiveness and the vague context, determining positive or negative teachers' attitudes towards its ideology. It is the combination of peculiarities of managerial control and attitudes towards the Unified State Exam ideology that create originality of different regional variants of its implementation into the school education practice.

There is a serious ambiguity about the Unified State Exam that is taken in 9th and 11th grades and also used as IHE entrée points. It was first introduces in 2001 and made compulsory in 2009. It is aimed to reduce corruption and to provide countryside youths equal access to higher education. The concerns are:

  • that corruption will not finish but move to the other levels of the system;
  • that teachers will prepare pupils for the Unified Exam Tests and such preparation will replace teaching process itself. It is true to some extent because teachers were not given extra working hours for preparation for the Unified State Exam;
  • that the contents of the Exam and tasks design are far from the best practices.

A task of great importance is monitoring of social effects of Unified State Exam in the long-term perspective: «Are the results of Unified State Exam actually related to the further academic, professional and social achievements?»

There are institutions of professional secondary education: professional colleges and professional technical (vocational) schools. One can enter a professional technical school after the 9th grade. There is a demand for more skilled labourers, in the other words, for development of professional colleges. But higher education has some attractive features not connected with the profession or socio-economical status – for example, long-term postponement of compulsory military service for young men.

Higher education

In some regions institutions of higher education are cultural centers, higher education is still regarded as a marker of personal culture. Universities are now being reformed to collaborate actives with the business (with special emphasis to universities specialized in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics that were traditionally of very high quality in Russia). At the moment higher education is not closely connected to the labour marked. President Medvedev stated in February 2011: “We don’t need so many economists and lawyers”. The most popular professions among the entrees (especially of private universities) have overwhelmed the labour market. Traineeship is often formal, so universities alumnus posses only theoretical knowledge and university diploma is gradually failing to demonstrate a young specialist’s preparedness in the eyes of employers.

Russia is a participant of Bologna process (since 2003). In October 2007 the President signed Federal law № 232 «On making changes in Russian Federation legislative acts (regarding stages of higher professional education)» that established two levels of higher professional education — Bachelor's and Master's degrees. Third generation federal state educational standards (FSES) of higher professional education refers to standardization not of didactics but of its results — competences — and their coordination with European approaches, elaborated in the course of TUNING project, aimed at the conjugation of European systems of higher education. The FSES envisages transition to credits system for students and lecturers academic load (ECTS); implementation of FESE implies changes in higher education diploma according to the Diploma Supplement standard.

Russia, previously famous for the quality of Soviet education, has currently lost its positions. There are only two Russian universities among the top 500 in the Shanghais rating — 2007: M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University (77th place) and St. Petersburg State University (341st place). Participation in Bologna process arises ambiguous attitudes: as a chance to overtake the lost positions and as a risk factor for «brain drain». Similarly to Unified State Exam, Bologna process is regarded as a step towards education system globalization and, consequently, towards miss of national traditions in this sphere. It causes a range of problems connected to the youth's well being that should be resolved at the state level.

At the federal level the educational system is operated by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.

Factors of economic and educational inequality in contemporary Russia

In contemporary Russia is evidencing growing inequality of different social groups in economical, educational and the other aspects; social polarization between the poor and the well-off.

The structure of household expenses is itself the factor of improvement of economical well being of the rich and aggravating of crisis situation of the poor. In well-off families «strategic» recourses, aimed at social capital development (investment into education, real estate etc), while the poor work on the task of up-to-the-minute survival.

Economic inequality reflects unequal investments in general and professional education. Social mobility and unequal opportunities are regarded through the prism of unequal access to education for individuals from different social strata and their educational trajectories. Social base as well as territorial areal of university entrants is becoming narrow: since the 1990s there has been increase in youths from highly resource families — businessmen, intelligence, officials — and the corresponding decrease of children of the labourers. Intellectual inequality is gradually becoming the base of all the other types of inequality.

Inequality in professional sphere appears not only in different compensation but also in the contents and conditions of work: people engaged in labour are interchangeable; less free in using their working time; their workplaces are less stable; they have fewer chances for promotion.

Post-soviet system of social support often makes hindrances in receiving help from the state for the neediest. Estimated 19 % of state material support is provided to the families living below the poverty line, the other assets are «smudged» among the numerous groups enjoying formal privileges.

Deepening the gap between the rich and the poor are influenced by objective factors as well as people's values and motives leading to different models of general socio-economical adaptation. Research results prove close link between chronic deterioration of living conditions and decline of social demands, aspiration and activity of many disadvantaged youths. Some data indicate that in stable well-off regions more successful youths grow up, i.e. transmission of privileges or deprivation takes place far beyond the family context (Balabanov A. S., Balabanova E.S., 2003).

For Reference

  1. Balabanov A. S., Balabanova E.S. Social inequality: Factors of Deprivation Aggravation // Social Research. 2003. № 7. - p. 34 - 43.
  2. Gogolin Ph. Russia Integration into Bologna Process // Professionals for Collaboration. М., 2004. Iss. 6.
  3. Press-conference with L. N. Glebova, the head of Rospotrebnadzor (Russian Consumer Supervision Body), August, 30th 2010.
  4. Kastuyeva-Jean T. V. Russia in Bologna process: Four year Experience Assessment and Perspectives // Gerald of International Organizations: Education, Science, New Economics. 2007. № 7. - p. 41 - 49.
  5. Education // Social and Economical Indicators in Russia — 2009. — Federal Service of State Statistics.
  6. General Education in the Russian Federation // Statistical Bulletin 2010. — Federal Service of State Statistics.
  7. Rubtsov V. V. Psychological and educational preparation of teacher for the «New School» // Psychological Science and Education. 2010. № 1. - p. 5 - 12.
  8. Sobkin V. S. Teachers' Attitudes towards the Unified State Exam. Russian Academy of Education. Institute of Sociology of Education. — M., 2009.

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