Over the past 20 years, the number of educational institutions has halved, per capita funding has only exacerbated the problem. And created a new one: no school - no village.
Yulia Suntsova, Natalya Seybil
The per capita system of financing education has been operating everywhere in Russia since 2006. If 30 children remain in the school, it is allowed to “optimize” it - that is, to make it a branch of a larger institution, and this leads to 1.5 classrooms, where one universal school teacher teaches everyone and everything from grades 1 to 11 at once. Also in case of "shortage" school are allowed to close. This is what happens most often.
On average, today there are more than four times fewer children studying in rural schools than in urban schools: 166 students versus 700. The difference in the material and technical base between rural and urban schools is colossal.
A significant number of wooden buildings and disadvantaged schools remain, over 15% of rural schools are not equipped with warm toilets, in some regions this figure reaches 70%. There are such institutions in the mountainous regions of the Caucasus, and in the Far East, and in the Central European regions.
The results of the final state certification of 9th and 11th grade graduates show that students from rural schools show lower results than their peers from urban schools. The main factor in declining educational results is personnel. In rural schools, there are not enough subject teachers and specialists who provide psychological and pedagogical support, the National Research University Higher School of Economics notes in its study.
In the regional capital of Perm, one of the schools was closed due to a low USE score, although at that time there were 109 children studying there. Parents learned about the closure 10 days before September 1st.
Rural schools are also lagging behind in terms of the level of digitalization. In 2020, when educational institutions were closed for self-isolation due to the coronavirus, rural schools actually stopped, while their peers from cities continued their educational process remotely.
E-learning is available only to 15% of schoolchildren. Only 2.5% of children study using distance technologies. Nearly 400 rural schools do not have Internet access, and half of the remaining schools have extremely slow connection speeds.
“Ensuring the speed of Internet access for schools is planned by the Digital Economy national program only by the end of 2024. At the same time, funds for the creation of data transmission networks inside buildings are not provided. It cannot be allowed when there is fast Internet, but it is impossible to use it in the school office, ” said the auditor of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Svetlana Orlova in 2019.
However, villagers in some localities are doing their best to keep the only school, even if there are practically no students left in it.
Rural teachers even become foster parents, sometimes the proportion of orphans in rescued schools reaches 50%. Moreover, adoptive teachers informally negotiate with the boarding schools about the age of their pupils: someone lacks first-graders, someone lacks students aged 16-17.
- Indeed, I know one such region where teachers adopted children from orphanages in order to save the school. When the trend to reduce rural schools was established, there were also cases when, on the contrary, domestic children were massively taken to boarding schools, only so that they were closer to a good school, so that they would have the opportunity to receive a better education. Finland went through all this in the early 2000s, during the recession after the collapse of the USSR. The economic crisis also hit schools. Their number began to decrease, children were taken to boarding schools - closer to educational institutions. But how did it all end? The Finns already know that we, apparently, have our own special path, we don’t look at someone else’s experience, ”Evgeny Yamburg, honored teacher of Russia, academician, director of GBOU School No. 109 in Moscow , tells NI. - As soon as the children disappeared from the villages, the Ministry of Health of Finland sounded the alarm. In the village, the alcoholization of the population has multiplied. Children are control over their parents. When the children are at home, it is inconvenient to drink in front of them. But as soon as the children are sent to a boarding school, take a walk, flaw. The village is filthy with drunkenness. Finland had to introduce a special program to revive rural schools.
- In the period between 2012-2017, there were constant mass indignations of parents in the villages. There were famous cases when the village was ready to be revived, young and active people came to it en masse, they said that they were ready to live and work here, and they wanted to give birth to children here. I remember that in one of the villages in the Pskov region, a movement in defense of the school was led by a young priest, who had also recently moved to the village. A community rallied around him, there were already 20 kids. But the closure of the school means that these 20 children and families in general will not automatically exist in the village. Now this problem has become acute in Karelia, where there are small villages, small districts. Parents do their best to protect schools. But the system is still grinding, - says Vsevolod Lukhovitsky, a member of the council of the interregional trade union "Teacher".
Those families who are not ready to leave their native villages have to transfer their children to schools in neighboring villages. Often this is tens of kilometers from home, without special transport, normal roads and the necessary lighting. The path of schoolchildren passes through unsafe forests and ravines. Parents who do not remain silent always remain extreme - they are accused of extremism and threatened with deprivation of parental rights.
No matter how hard teachers and parents try to save schools, even by literally adopting their students, the statistics are relentless. In Altai alone, more than 300 schools have been liquidated in recent years. A school is closed - the economically active part of the population immediately disappears from the village, as a result, the business that provided this school is bent, including private traders who provided this school with food. In the village, indeed, according to the experience of Finland in the 1990s, drunkenness and crime are on the rise.
- The system of per capita financing of schools does not exist by itself, but in conjunction with regional financing. Such a connection, of course, contributes to the fact that there are fewer and fewer schools. The “May Decrees” are still hanging over the regional authorities, according to which it is necessary to increase the salaries of teachers. Accordingly, the director argues as follows. I need the largest possible school with the maximum number of students, then more money will come, and I need the smallest possible number of employees, then these employees will receive a large salary. But the side effect is that in such a system very large classes are obtained with a very large load on teachers, and this immediately kills rural schools, - Vsevolod Lukhovitsky notes.
The regional ministries of education shrug their shoulders - local authorities do not obey them. In poor areas, up to 50-70% of budget funds are spent on "executing the functions of a public authority", in other words, on servicing themselves. With the exception of the minimum provision for the needs of citizens, schools in such settlements become a heavy burden.
The reduction of rural schools is a ticking time bomb. Already next year, the number of schoolchildren will increase sharply, and Russia is threatened with a shortage of places in schools, the Accounts Chamber of Russia warned about this back in 2019.
“ The result of the optimization was the reduction since 2001 of the number of kindergartens from 51 to 48 thousand, rural schools - from 46 to 24 thousand, urban schools - from 23 to 18 thousand units" , - explained the auditor Svetlana Orlova. - In 2019, 16 million children and adolescents received school education. By 2024, the number of schoolchildren will already be almost 20 million, and the general education system must meet this challenge .
The costs of the national project "Education" for the entire period of its implementation amount to less than 800 billion rubles. Considering that, in general, spending on education is about 27 trillion rubles a year, that is, 3.6% of GDP, and at the same time, in the best world practice, spending in this area is at the level of 5-7% of GDP, we obviously not enough.
The restructuring of rural schools was, on the one hand, a consequence of changes in the state and in society in the 1980s, when the outflow of the population to cities led to the degradation of villages.
On the other hand, almost a third - 28% of children in Russia are still studying in rural schools, and the outflow of these children is finally destroying civilization in the countryside. Reforms in the education system, most of which took place between 2005 and 2012, finally approved the per capita school funding system. This distribution system works in such a way that dying schools in small towns, but vital families, get the least money, and flourishing schools, which are already equipped with the latest technology and staffed with the best personnel, and students make their way there only under the conditions of tough competitive selection. - every year they give more and more budgets.
Is the idea of per capita financing correct in this case?
- The question is very complex and very delicate. We have higher funding for sick children. Gifted children also need additional support. Children with mental retardation (mental retardation) should not be abandoned either. But when schools are funded based on a faceless student population, the details matter. For example, it is impossible to compare on the same scale a lyceum in the center of Moscow, where there is a triple competitive selection, and a school in a marginal village, where drunken fathers and mothers are walking. In such a village, a teacher who can interest children in learning should receive a hero star. She fulfills the tasks of such a funding system 100%, but she will still be caught as a criminal when passing the exams in grades 9 and 11, because these children will never pass them with high scores. It is necessary to adapt different programs for different schools in order to make funding more reasonable, notes Evgeny Yamburg.
- I think that the policy of urbanization, the creation of agglomerations in Russia and the reduction of rural schools are unrelated processes. No one would have prevented then in Moscow and other million-plus cities from leaving small schools. Why did Moscow need to unite almost 3,000 schools and turn them into 750? There are two reasons, in my opinion. First, it's banal to save money on the whole thing. Secondly, the desire to make school management implicitly manageable. When a director manages a gigantic team, for example, of 500 people, then, of course, he has a gigantic salary, and he is no longer perceived by this team as someone “of his own” who you can talk to. And such a director ceases to depend on this team. He is now completely and completely dependent only on the department that appointed him, and at any second he can lose his precious position. It is easier to manage seven hundred schools than three thousand, it is easier to make seven hundred directors docile than three thousand, Vsevolod Lukhovitsky argues.