EDITORIAL: Russia’s Empty Schools


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.

4 responses to “EDITORIAL: Russia’s Empty Schools

  1. Battle for the soul of Russia will begin in the schoolroom

    By Michael Bourdeaux

    Times, January 2, 2010

    Teaching religion in state schools is a controversial issue. In the United Kingdom worship is supposed to begin the day, but in most places does not. In the US religious education is banned in “public” schools (though teaching about religion is permitted). In the Soviet Union aggressive instruction in atheism was mandatory up to Mikhail Gorbachev’s day 20 years ago.

    Summoning senior clergy and government officials to his residence at Barvikha outside Moscow, Medvedev stated: “I have made a decision to support these two ideas: teaching the basics of religious culture and secular ethics in Russian schools, and I also consider it expedient to organise on a regular basis the work of clergymen representing traditional Russian confessions in our armed forces.”

    Immediately the Moscow Times asked how this could be in a country where the constitution proclaims separation of Church and State.

    Gorbachev’s law of September 1990 had been revolutionary, overturning the legislation originally enforced by Lenin and elaborated by Stalin, and it meant that any kind of religious teaching in schools was permitted.

    For 12 years now the Orthodox Church has had access to schools. Recently there was controversy over a new textbook, Bases of Orthodox Culture, which was far from even handed when it came to evaluating the role of other religions and denominations in Russian history.

    Medvedev said that the aim was to involve about 12,000 schools in 18 areas (fewer than a fifth of Russia’s regions). Even on this limited scale the task is daunting. Schools are supposed to offer a choice: pupils may take a course in Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism, while secular parents may opt for their children to study non-religious ethics.

    Did Medvedev really mean that immediate provision must be made for training an estimated 40,000 teachers? Or would local clerics be invited in? One can just, with a strong touch of imagination, envisage a queue of archpriests, imams, rabbis and Buddhist holy men jostling with an “atheist” colleague at the doors of a classroom in Moscow or St Petersburg. But in Saratov, Omsk or Novosibirsk? The mind boggles.


  2. About a year ago in Omsk, the people resented the offered system of religious education and regional authorities were silent.

  3. [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.]

    Wow, that sounds like a much higher percentage of college students in Russia take studies seriously than in USA or even Japan.

    But why study and use your brain when you can just party drink and abuse dope and cocaine non-stop all through college and then become the President of the most powerful nation on Earth? George W. Bush did so, so can anybody else lazy enough.


    • Russia sees first population increase in 15 years

      Russia has bucked a long-term trend of population decline by recording its first annual increase in 15 years, its health minister has announced.
      The population grew in 2009 by between 15,000 and 25,000 to more than 141.9 million, Tatyana Golikova said, quoting preliminary figures.
      Much of the growth is due to a falling death rate and increasing migration.
      But births also rose, with 2.8% more babies born last year than in 2008, the Russian health minister said.
      Slow growth
      The rise in population was predicted last month by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who, as president, brought in policies to stem population decline.
      The decline has traditionally been blamed on emigration, alcoholism, poor healthcare and poverty.
      Low population predictions have been a key factor in economic forecasts which see Russia growing much more slowly over the next 20 years than China, Brazil and India.
      US bank Goldman Sachs has said that a change in population forecasts could significantly change the long-term growth projections for Russia, whose economy contracted by at least 8.5% in 2009, its biggest annual decline in 15 years, Reuters news agency reported.
      “Russia is perhaps the least predictable and possibly the one with the scope to surprise the most,” Goldman economist Jim O’Neill wrote, in a report last month, adding that Russia’s economy will overtake Germany’s in 2020 and Japan’s in 2031.


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