Volodin explains the need to address the affairs of bygone days by the fact that at that time there were a large number of outstanding scientists. But what was the tsarist education system like? Understanding this is not so easy. It is even more difficult to understand what elements of it the officials are going to revive. But Novye Izvestia, together with experts, tried to do it.
Now everything is simple: 4 years of elementary school, then 5 years of secondary school, after which the student chooses either to complete his studies for another 2 years, and then choose a university, or go immediately to receive secondary specialized education, after which you can also get higher. In pre-revolutionary Russia, everything was much more complicated. It was possible to get into either a one-class elementary school (grade 1 is 3 years of study) or a two-year elementary school (grade 1 is 2 or 3 years of study) with an emphasis on the study of "God's law". After elementary school, it was already possible to enter a vocational school. Only in a university, having a professional education, you will no longer get, and, for example, you will not become a civil servant. Such a system made it possible to maintain the class division of the population and limited the outflow of skilled craftsmen.
Maybe this is the goal of the upcoming reforms? Or, perhaps, officials will want to return the level of accessibility of education from the times of tsarist Russia? In 1913, there were 140 thousand schools in Russia, and in 2020 there are only 135 thousand schools. But Tatyana Abankina , director of the HSE Center for Creative Economy, federal expert of the Education Priority National Project, is sure that the pre-revolutionary system is not the best example to follow in terms of access to education:
- The education system in the Russian Empire was characterized by a very low coverage of the population. The population covered by education beyond the level of the parochial school was no more than 18% - we are talking about those who studied at universities and real schools. In pre-revolutionary Russia, there were a number of discriminated categories, including on the basis of nationality, which were not admitted to higher education. At the same time, there were indeed very strong universities, although there were very few of them. No more than 9-10 universities.
Education in pre-revolutionary Russia was strict, including corporal punishment in schools until the revolution, despite the fact that in all European countries this was already considered a humiliation of human dignity. At the same time, the atmosphere in educational institutions was reminiscent of a monastic or military one, and the famous “Essays on the Bursa” by Pomyalovsky testifies to how difficult relations there were with hazing and everything else.
However, the expert draws attention to the fact that in the old system one can borrow an approach to secondary specialized education:
- There were notable successes in vocational education (real, as they said then), standards were then made on their basis, including the support of scientific schools, which gave certain results.
Yevgeny Spitsyn , adviser to the rectorate of the Moscow State Pedagogical University, treats the idea of borrowing from the tsarist education system with a fair amount of skepticism, arguing that in pre-revolutionary Russia there was no finally formed system in principle. And great scientists appeared thanks to their talents. Unlike the Soviet education system:
- When Mr. Volodin makes such statements, one is a little ashamed of him. I put the word "a little" in quotation marks, because in fact it is "a lot". There were indeed great scientists in tsarist Russia. And Bekhterev, and Mendeleev, and Stoletov, and a number of others. But these were units in the literal sense. The education system of tsarist Russia, especially primary and secondary, as such was absent. And far more outstanding scientists, creators of entire scientific areas, were given by the Soviet government.
If we blindly repeat the old tricks, then we will again come to the conclusion that education will be the lot of the elite, and in Russia there will be 80 percent of illiterate citizens who put a cross instead of a signature on documents. (That's exactly what happened in 1917). Moreover, popular social networks with videos will help illiterate people to get information without the need to be able to read and write…
We continue to figure out exactly what features of pre-revolutionary education could attract the speaker of parliament. Here is the opinion of his colleague, Vice Speaker of the State Duma Boris Chernyshov:
- The pre-revolutionary educational system was a fusion of education based on Orthodoxy or, if you like, on faith in general in those regions where Islam was widespread. All this was reinforced by the traditional system of education, social traditions and a systemic complex of knowledge of already European pedagogy, which was already gaining popularity in Russia. Upbringing and education, based on centuries-old traditions and patriotism, ran like a red line through all levels of education: from preschool to higher education. Plus, the cadet corps, military institutions, the Institute of Noble Maidens - all the reforms being introduced there led to a certain unified standard of education in Russia. We cannot go all the way back. But we must adopt the Act of Historical Reconciliation, which will allow us to accept all periods of our history in the field of education.
Passion for religion and Orthodoxy in schools is already quite evident. Patriarch Kirill recently stated that the church should work more with the education system so that children are taught the basics of Orthodoxy, and from September 1, 2022, students will begin every Monday by singing the anthem and raising the national flag. Even in elementary school, a new subject was introduced - "Fundamentals of Religion and Secular Ethics." The movement towards more than a century old traditions is obvious.
Evgeny Spitsyn is sure that for the appearance of outstanding scientists it is much more important to pay attention not to the tsarist, but to the Soviet experience in the development of science. And first of all, to finance schools and universities:
- The main difference between the Soviet system and the tsarist one is that science was one of the priorities of the authorities, which was financed not on a residual basis, but very worthily. Soviet scientists were literally the elite of Soviet society, and during the years of Soviet power, we became the first country in the world to provide universal not only primary, secondary, but also secondary specialized and higher education.
In the USSR, they really did not skimp on education. In the 1950s, more than 7% of GDP was spent on these purposes. This is significantly more than in the US (4%). But by the 1970s, the situation in the ranking of countries had changed: the United States accelerated spending to 9.2% of GDP, while the USSR slightly reduced it to 6.9%. There is no comparison with modern Russia. From the federal budget for 2022-2024, only 0.9% of GDP will be allocated to education. Of course, there are other sources of funding – regional and local budgets, but they do not fundamentally change the picture. According to the World Bank, Russia ranks 120th in the world in terms of total spending on education, with 3.7% of GDP. Slightly below Mali, Egypt and Kuwait, but slightly above Tuvalu and Peru. The actual values in 2022 may turn out to be better, but only because Russia's GDP in 2022 should fall by 7.5% according to the most optimistic estimates of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, and by 8.9% according to the World Bank forecast .
Increasing the funding of education and science by several times is obviously a utopia. But there is hope that the reforms will not end with the singing of hymns with religious education in elementary school, says Yury Moseikin, Dean of the Faculty of Economics of the Peoples' Friendship Friendship University of Russia. The trend of the coming years may be the variability of education. As in the elementary school of pre-revolutionary Russia, only shifted in a new way with a departure from the Bologna system, which divides higher education into a four-year bachelor's degree and a two-year master's degree:
- There will be no return to the old, because now we have completely new technologies and approaches. Therefore, it seems to me, there will be an attempt to create a kind of mixed mix, which will be associated with a certain freedom of universities and the right to choose one or another approach. What the reforms can focus on is the activation of the specialty, the modernization of the Bologna system and the introduction of new specialties. Which way, it seems to me, the reform will go – is the transition from the 4 plus 2 model to a model with a higher gradation – 2 plus 2 plus 2. Putin spoke about this not so long ago. This means that after admission, the student does not immediately consciously go to some narrow specialization, but goes in the first two years to general basic training in a complex of fundamental disciplines that form a general direction. And after 2 years of study, they will choose their direction. And there will be a third stage - the next two - where there will be an even narrower specialization, which today we have as a master's degree. What does it give? This enables students to determine their own educational trajectory and specialize more flexibly in senior years. After all, what is the lack of specialization? That it fixes one educational trajectory and a certain set of competencies for 5 years. But we live in a rapidly changing world, and having entered the first year, it may happen that the competencies for which we are preparing and are going to receive in 5 years will turn out to be unclaimed.
It is necessary to approach the revival of old principles very carefully. If you rush to put into practice Volodin’s words for the sake of appearances, as, alas, our officials often do without delving into the essence of the issue, then you can get to parochial schools and the possibility of entering the university only after completing some elite Gazprom School or some limited circle of departmental institutions. In this case, world-famous scientists will also be able to appear in Russia, but the probability of such an event will be negligible.