President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Vasilyeva, the academic year is over. Could you sum up the preliminary results?
I would like to talk about the general situation in the sector. I know that you have a lot of events: olympiads, the preparations for the next year already underway, and the Teacher of the Year competition already in full swing. Go ahead, please.
Education Minister Olga Vasilyeva: Thank you, Mr President. As many as 42,000 schools in the Russian Federation are finishing the school year. This year, 647,000 11-graders graduate, and 1.41 million 9-graders complete their secondary education. They are all graduates.
What is most important for us? When you and I last met, you spoke about keeping teachers’ wages at this level. For us, this is the biggest priority. We work with each region in a targeted manner to strictly fulfil the executive orders of 2012. We try to do this at all levels of education.
So what are our achievements this year? We have significantly reduced excessive paperwork. Teachers complained about this and school administrations did too, so we reduced reporting to a minimum, to only school reports – to avoid duplication.
You said correctly that we have a lot of good things happening. We have closed the All-Russian Olympiad, as in the past year, with 6 million participants and 5,000 finalists. We are starting the international level now. To date, as you know, the Asian Physics Olympiad has been held; our students have won two gold medals, four silvers and one bronze. That is, our students are stronger in terms of training than many of their peers from other countries.
What else is important? Speaking about the most important thing, education and its most interesting aspect, the education environment, this year we focused particularly on the quality. Truth be told, over the past few years there was a period when we greatly lowered the bar for gold medals and other marks of distinction. This year, we toughened the criteria for graduates with honours. Now candidates must get straight As for all year-round subjects. Eleventh-graders must get at least 70 points in Russian and mathematics. Only then can they qualify for a gold medal. This is very important. It shows the quality of education. It is a result of the common space that we all are fighting for together.
You rightly noted that we have a wonderful competition this year. As you know, Russia is the only country in the world that holds a contest for all teachers. Last year, 95,000 people participated. By tradition, you meet with 15 winners. This year the contest marks its 30th anniversary. If your schedule allows, we would love to see you at the finals in Moscow.
What else is very important to us? According to your instruction to organise early career guidance, we started a project called Ticket to the Future that offers early career guidance to students of the sixth to the eleventh grades. I have reported to you about it. Some 100,000 students participated. This year, we plan to engage 200,000 people, this time within the framework of the Education national project. The Education national project includes ten federal projects. Most importantly, it is a new qualitative level of our education.
And the last important achievement of this academic year is, again in response to your instruction, the project called Foundation School of the Russian Academy of Sciences. We really hope that on September 1 we can open 101 schools.
Vladimir Putin: One hundred and one?
Olga Vasilyeva: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: That is a pretty high number. It covers almost all regions.
Olga Vasilyeva: Yes, almost all regions. And there will be more than one school per region. We are working closely with the Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education – because that is essential.
The Russian Academy of Sciences appointed research coordinators. We are also developing special professional development training for teachers as well as new programmes. We are handling the issues concerning private and public partnerships and federal budget funding for these schools. It is a very big project that we are carrying out this year and as per your instruction.
I think this academic year was quite successful. Of course, there are some problems and there will always be something. However, it is absolutely obvious that we are gradually moving forward. We are finishing the public discussion on national education standards and hope that they will be implemented in the next academic year.
Among student competitions in Russia, there is now a competition in technology, where children get an opportunity to participate in projects. This is also a completely new trend that is already bringing big results. Overall, our children are wonderful and achieve great results.
Vladimir Putin: Good.