Readin’ and Writin’ and Roosskie Rithmatic
One of the most hilarious features (or it would be if it were not so tragic) about the Russian psyche is the nation’s continued insistence that it is well-educated, especially compared to Americans. The actual facts tell a quite different story (not that Russians are ever over-interested in facts).
The United States spends 5.7% of its GDP on education, ranking #37 out of 132 countries surveyed by the United Nations Human Development Program.
Russia spends a woeful 3.8% of GDP, ranking a sad and sorry #88. Two-thirds of world nations spend more on education as a share of GDP than Russia does. The USA in particular spends over 65% more on education, as a share of its GDP, than Russia.
If you think about it in dollar terms, the picture is even more horrifying for Russia.
The US GDP is $14 trillion. That means the US is spending nearly $800 billion on education every year. The Russian GDP is $1.5 trillion. That means Russia is spending a mere $57 billion on education. In raw dollars, the USA is spending fourteen times more than Russia is on education, even though America’s population is only twice as great.
The USA has 300 million people. That means it is spending roughly $2,600 for every man, woman and child in the country on education. Russia has 140 million people. It is spending just $400 for each person. In dollar per capita terms, the USA is spending over six times more than Russia on education. Six times more.
What does this mean? It means that Russian teachers are paid slave wages and Russian students study in decrepit, backwards institutions. It means teachers are corrupt, eager to take bribes to support themselves, and students learn the ways of corruption, not the ways of knowledge. It means Russia’s schools graduate “students” who are closer to being criminals than they are to being scholars.
Reviewing facts like these make it perfectly plain why Russia is such an ignorant, backwards nation. And the important point to understand is that this isn’t an accident. The last thing the KGB Kremlin wants is a highly educated population that can think for itself. Such a population would generate its own power base and would ask the Kremlin a lot of very difficult questions about its policies that it could not answer.
Much better, thinks the Kremlin, for the population to be ignorant. The more ignorant, the easier to control. It’s much easier to lie to a stupid person, much easier to make them do what you want. What’s more, by not paying for education Russia has that much more money available for building additional palaces for Vladimir Putin to live in during his dotage.
Russians are fond of touting their high literacy rate. But teaching people to their ABC’s is only part of the battle. The rest involves teaching them critical thinking skills and giving them access to a wide variety of reading materials, not just that which the Kremlin finds acceptable. In these latter areas Russia fails miserably.
Russia’s low level of education explains the low level of support for opposition politics, the tolerance for a high level of corruption, and the general lack of progress in Russia. Not until Russians demand better for their children will Russia have any hope of becoming a modern, competitive, successful nation.