Russia’s Empty Schools
Speaking on Echo of Moscow radio last week, Russian Education and Science Minister Andrey Fursenko said that “three or four years from now, there will be half as many students [in the country’s higher educational institutions] as there are now.” Over the next two years, the pool of annually available potential university students will be just 700,000 compared to 1.3 million three years ago.
The consequences of this fact are obvious: Unqualified students will be admitted to study where their efforts will be wasted, and qualified instructors will lose their jobs. Even worse, the diversity and creativity present in the Russian classroom will plummet.
Fursenko reveals a truly shocking and horrifying statistic, namely that less than one third of enrolled students, even in the most elite institutions, are “really” engaged in study, and that as few as 15% — yes, fifteen percent — are doing so in the second-rate institutions.
Fursenko also relates that when he attempts to raise this issue in the halls power, he “has the feeling that nobody is listening to him” and, even worse, that the Putin regime will attempt to blame him for the demographic crisis in the same way that Stalin always liquidated the bearers of bad news. This means that anyone interested in proposing creative reforms to this crisis issue will simply remain silent.
Even in the best of times, Russian universities professors, who are paid no more than $4/hour, have little incentive to undertake Herculean effort to educate. Indeed, with such lowly compensation, few truly talented educators even enter the field, which is full of relics from the Soviet era who have nowhere else to turn.
Those relics are as dangerous to Russia’s future as Vladimir Putin himself, for two reasons.
First, because of their low salaries and desperate living conditions, they are one of the most corrupt features of an economy independent experts rate as one of the most corrupt in the world. Russia grades and diplomas are notoriously for sale: anyone with enough money can easily get one, even from the nation’s most elite institutions. In other words, professors in universities, who should be moral examples, are in fact models for continued corruption. This directly undermines the nation’s moral fiber and, quite obviously, denies it genuinely educated, productive citizens.
And second, even more important, these professors are academic ostriches, with their heads plunged into the sands of neo-Soviet ignorance. They can’t teach new ways of thinking and reform, because they long for the days of Soviet dictatorship and they have themselves never been educated in anything new. Little wonder, then, that Russian citizens still have such a fondness for Joseph Stalin, who is in fact the greatest mass-murderer of Russians in world history.
No nation can survive this kind of educational disaster.
And let’s be clear: In his end-of-the-year message to the nation, Putin made claims that Russia’s overall rate of population loss slowed significantly last year. He’s lying in order to bolster his power. But even if he were telling the truth, it would take twenty years, a whole generation, for a new wave of university students to actually reach the universities as result of the alleged boom. In other words, a whole generation of leaders has already been lost no matter what Putin does. The damage of that loss to Russia’s economy and society will be immeasurable.
And Russians go on killing themselves. Russia leads most nations in the world in murder, death by fire, highway fatalities, smoking fatalities, and Russia is not in the top 130 nations of the world for adult lifespan. No serious steps have been taken by the Putin regime to reverse Russia’s appalling mortality rate, because the Putin regime wants to devote Russia’s precious limited resources to cold-war politics, as even Russian scholars admit (see today’s item from Paul Goble in this regard.) Instead of correctly these problems, Putin chooses the classic KGB “solution” — he simply lies about them.