President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon.
The topic of today's meeting of the State Council Presidium, held just before the start of the new school year, is the Russian regions’ priorities with regard to school education.
Indeed, each level of government has its own legislatively documented responsibilities, authority and competencies. But we all understand that education, its development and improvement are part of the national agenda and are among the key state priorities. They are extremely important for our entire society, for every family, every person.
Without the availability of modern, high-quality and affordable education in all regions of the country, it is impossible to achieve development. What we need most is to ensure justice, equal starting opportunities for each child to reveal their talents, and contribute to their future success, professionally as well as generally, later in life.
In this regard, I would like to point out a few things right at the start and I think they are of the essence. I have just spoken – I will say more about this – I have met with representatives of the education sphere, including schoolchildren, with people who deal with these issues from academic platforms. Many of them are offended by the word and term “service.” I have already expressed my attitude on this matter, but if referring to a teacher's work as a “service” sounds dismissive and people think that this cheapens the effort they make and invalidates its high social significance, let us consider adjusting the legislation to avoid using this word with reference to a teacher’s highly important work, limiting it to budgetary and financial documents.
A teacher does not only provide students with knowledge; a teacher also has a tremendous influence on their personal development, on their mindset and value system. This was something I heard again, explicitly enough, during today's meeting with teachers, parents, and graduates.
The participants in that meeting raised many questions, and everyone mentioned the idea of the importance of the teacher’s profession and the multi-faceted nature of their work, the importance of schools as centres of education, including for the development of the potential of Russian regions and municipalities.
I would like to repeat once again – we need to strive to ensure the best conditions in all schools across Russia for revealing children’s abilities and talents and helping them grow spiritually and physically.
In September, we plan to hold a meeting of the Council for the Development of Physical Culture and Sport, which will focus on children and creating proper conditions for them to engage in physical culture and sports.
Much here depends on regional and municipal teams and schools themselves, as well as their level of engagement in educational programmes that will become operational in schools from the beginning of this school year.
Our children – we are well aware of this – are not easily impressed by modern technology and are well versed in it, which can occasionally even catch you completely off guard, but it is a fact. Even at a very young age they are quite internet savvy, which, of course, helps if you want to learn new things and have access to new information.
As soon as this year, all schools in the country should get access to broadband internet, not just the internet. I have already mentioned many times that digitalisation is on top of the conventional educational process, it does not replace it. I would like to once again emphasise this basic premise, because this worries great numbers of our citizens.
I would like to thank all teachers from the bottom of my heart. Friends, you not only quickly mastered distance technologies during the difficult period of the pandemic, but also supported your students and their parents.
Once again, this confirmed the teacher’s key role in education and upbringing and the importance of their in-person communication with students.
Clearly, direct contact and leading by personal example help convey interest in acquiring knowledge and share life and cultural experience accumulated by numerous generations of our ancestors, as well as our traditional values.
I would like to underscore once again that upbringing and education are very delicate and sensitive matters. Crude or lukewarm perfunctory approaches do not work here. Profound knowledge that can captivate children is not the only thing that matters here. You must put your heart and soul into this, and express sincere emotions that will inspire the students.
Upbringing and education should be inseparable and go hand-in-hand. Importantly, all teachers must engage in them, not just classroom teachers.
Extracurricular activities also significantly contribute to education, including centres for art and sports as well as school theatres and music studios. We need to create conditions for the involvement of schoolchildren in activities in the field of science and technology, and we have many successful practices in this respect.
I would like to ask the Ministry of Education to summarise this information and make it available to our colleagues, so that education advisors to school directors could use this experience in their work.
I would like to add that such advisers will start working in schools in ten regions this year; we already touched upon this today. Later on, we will extend this practice to the entire country taking into account their experience.
What is important is that such specialists should rely on the civic and patriotic values that are common for us all, on the historical heritage of our peoples. Yet, they should not act indiscriminately, using a single template for everyone. They need to totally take into account the traditions and culture of every single region. Russia has great diversity, and each region is different in its own way. But Russia is also strong because of the unity of its diversity.
Children should be able to spend time in school after classes. This offers great support to a large number of families where both parents have to work.
By the way, sociologists and psychologists note that most conflicts between children and parents are about homework. So children can do their homework in such extended day groups with the help of mentors, calmly and on time, and then they can also attend extracurricular activities, exercise, and chat with friends.
The so-called extended-day schools are in high demand today. I would like to hear how their development is going, as well as about the experience of organising integrated educational centres in rural areas and small towns, which can house kindergartens, gyms, and cultural centres along with schools.
The quality of education is of paramount importance. Our goal is to ensure it is of a high standard across schools and to do so not only because we strive to join the ranks of the world’s leading countries in terms of the quality of general education and to be part of some top ten or top five rankings, or the like. This is not the point. Most importantly, our children should be provided with fundamental knowledge in key subjects and know how to use it in real life. We must create the proper environment to help them discover their abilities and make a choice about their future profession as early as possible; to help children who, for various reasons, struggle at school, which may stem from psychological problems, excessive study load or a difficult family situation.
I would like to note that today the disparity in the quality of education in our country remains exceedingly high, especially at the level of basic general education, grades 5 through 9. Clearly, schools that are below the standard need help. This is one of the most important tasks facing the federal centre, the regions and the municipalities. It is necessary to thoroughly analyse the reasons for this state of affairs at each institution.
Let me underscore the fact that the basic principle of the Russian education system – a fair approach where high quality education is available to every child depending on their interests and abilities – must be unconditionally observed regardless of where they live, a city or a village, Moscow or in any other region, or where they study – a public school or a private school. And of course, it must be available regardless of their parents’ social status or income level.
Dynamics in supporting children with disabilities are positive. Inclusive classes, specialised schools and home schooling are part of it, but much remains to be done. I want the regions to focus on this and to get together with parents and schoolchildren more often in order to better understand their problems and the kind of help they may need.
Importantly, such students, as well as orphans and children without parental care, must be involved in competitions and Olympiads. Gifted and talented children can be found anywhere, in any environment, and we must keep this in mind.
As you are aware, the Education national project envisages opening 1,300 new schools in Russia by 2024 given the growing number of schoolchildren.
In addition, in June, I instructed the Government as well as the regions to prepare a special programme for major repairs of schools, focusing on rural schools.
The specific parameters of this programme have been determined – by the end of 2026, the plan is to overhaul more than 7,300 schools, including 3,000 in the next two years.
As Yelena Shmeleva has proposed – apart from her being popular, she is also an experienced person, one of the organisers behind successful operation of the Sirius educational centre – we decided to make this programme comprehensive, that is, to include, along with repairs, new internal infrastructure and modern training equipment at schools.
School is definitely a second home for children and teachers alike, they, and not just officials, should certainly have a say in what their new or renovated school should be like. Some regions already have had successful experience of involving students in school modernisation, even at the design stage.
This is a great undertaking, and we certainly need to develop this practice – the children will be more interested if they know that their school is, at least in part, the result of their creativity.
It is not just about painting walls or installing infrastructure, but about understanding what they want, and then making sure the school meets the ideas that schoolchildren, teachers, and parents have about it. A school’s development or re-arrangement should be a common cause, so exciting processes can take place in renovated schools, student self-government can grow, arts and sports centres and studios can offer extracurricular activities, primarily chosen at the children’s requests and their parents’ suggestions, the teachers support children and actively join in such projects.
Opinion polls show that the overwhelming majority of teachers – about 96 percent – value and love their profession. Such an attitude to their work, to their mission must be supported and encouraged.
And this naturally brings up the issue of salaries. Yes, in recent years, average teacher salaries have grown, especially in regions with strong economic and budgetary potentials.
But at the same time, we have already said more than once that the current compensation system needs to be modernised to take into account the new, higher requirements for the profession, for teacher qualifications. This means we must make an effort to increase the prestige of teaching in society. I ask today's speakers to talk more about this.
What I would like to say in conclusion is that school plays a huge role in the development of each person, of society, and of the state. School education in many ways unites the country, rallies us together as a nation, and the way schools develop is a significant indicator of how effective regional and municipal teams are.
As the new school year is about to begin, I sincerely wish all the best to teachers and, of course, their students, especially the first-graders, who will soon cross the threshold of their first school. Good luck everyone!