In particular, meeting participants discussed measures aimed at improving the quality of school education, of school supplies and educational resources, improving teachers’ training, increasing wages, and creating new educational programmes.
* * *
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon colleagues, both those here in the Kremlin and those in the regions of the Russian Federation.
Today we shall take stock of the previous academic year and discuss how regional projects to modernise public education are proceeding.
The main objective that we set for these projects was, first and foremost, improving the quality of school education. In turn, this depends on upgrading schools’ educational resources, improving teacher training and increasing the prestige associated with educational work, including by fair, well-earned remuneration.
Did you know that over the past three years 120 billion rubles [$3.7 billion] have been allocated to regional projects from the federal budget alone? And another 40 billion rubles are provided for in this year’s federal budget.
Over more than two years now nearly 190,000 teachers and school directors have improved their qualifications. School libraries have received 63 million textbooks. The facilities of 34,000 schools across the country have been renovated. Nearly 20,000 schools have equipped their classrooms with new educational equipment.
At the same time, in many schools the overall picture relating to resources and improvements has still not improved, or has improved very little. Parents, students and teachers themselves rightly talk about this and draw attention to it.
It is obvious that many problems accumulated over the years. Thousands of Soviet-era schools lacked basic amenities. But together we are allocating important funds from the federal and – as I already said – regional budgets. I am convinced that results could be even more substantial and visible.
I would ask both the Minister and our colleagues from the regions of the Russian Federation, those working with us today, to comment on the situation, on what we need to do in order to increase the efficiency of our work to improve schools’ teaching and equipment resources. Let’s also talk about this.
Now a few words about teachers’ incomes. I promised that I would closely monitor this process and I have. I would like to point out that as of last year, the average teacher’s salary was equal to or higher than the average wage in only 13 regions of the Russian Federation. In another 34 regions it was slightly lower than the average, but in the vast majority of regions the targets were not achieved.
Let me remind that we specially paid with federal funds for urgent expenses to upgrade equipment and resources in schools, so that regions could redirect newly-available funds to increasing teachers’ salaries. I would emphasize that this year the question of teachers’ salaries must be definitively resolved in all Russian regions.
And the thing is, colleagues, both those right here, and those in the regions, we have already talked about this many, many times. In this respect we can refer back as much as you want to the fact that some imbalance might arise, that representatives of such and such a profession might start to receive less than teachers. You know what I want to say? Go to the representatives of those professions and ask them whether they want their children to get a good education, to have a solid start in life.
Ask people working in mines, in steel mills, in aircraft factories, in automotive plants, first and foremost people from blue-collar professions, whether they want their children to have a chance in life? I am confident that the vast majority of parents do want this. And education is a government priority. The future of individual people, individual families, and the country itself depends on it. Therefore, it is a choice; you must understand it’s a choice about priorities. There is nothing wrong about this, and there is no imbalance here.
Of course, and I’ll talk about this now, people have different professional qualifications, and this must be reflected in their salaries. Of course, there must also be variations between different professions. But there is no reason to be embarrassed of the fact that teachers in our middle schools receive an average wage. This is nothing to be embarrassed about. We must strive for this and ensure that it comes about. All the more so since money allocated to the majority of regions from the federal budget was part of the programme I mentioned, the one designed to modernise education.
In the future, once we have reached the levels we’ve agreed on (average wage in the economy) – annual increases in teacher incomes should be mandatory. It is important for people to feel stability, and for teacher incomes to no longer lag behind others in a given regional economy. Naturally, increases in salaries should be closely connected with professional development and improving the quality of work done.
Another question is differences in teachers’ salaries, even among regions that have similar capacities in this regard. This is often a direct result of different approaches to calculating wages. I would recall that as of 2013 a new technique designed to ensure a uniform approach to the issue of raising teachers’ salaries should be elaborated. I would ask the Education Minister to report today on how this work is proceeding.
Next, regions have prepared so-called road maps to improve the effectiveness of education and science. To implement them, they asked for additional financial resources, particularly to increase teachers’ salaries.
I would ask the Government, together with the presidential plenipotentiary envoys to the federal districts, to carefully analyze these figures and, in general, to objectively evaluate the road maps.
The Finance Ministry is able to do this. It has all the data in order to conduct a careful analysis and draw appropriate conclusions. The Ministry has records of all the expenses and understands on what the money is being spent. It follows that it must work closely together with our colleagues in the regions.
Dear friends, improving teachers’ qualifications is another important subject. Today I would like to hear how the development of new professional standards for math and Russian language teachers are proceeding. We initially agreed that this work should be completed by this March. But then we extended the deadline until November 5 to avoid unnecessary haste and a merely formal engagement with this important issue. You all agreed to this.
Professional standards must act as a systematic mechanism, facilitating teachers’ professional and career development, and ensuring that this development improves the quality of education that children receive. That is the point of this work.
Citizens and the professional community must have comprehensive information on how professional standards are developed. We also have to ensure an adequate transition period so that all teachers can get acquainted with the new requirements, receive the necessary training, but also have the opportunity to take advantage of it. They must be given this opportunity, because simply making retraining mandatory but failing to create the conditions for this work would be completely pointless.
Now about the creation of new educational programmes. Currently parents, students and teachers often wonder what a given subject entails, and precisely how it will be taught. Federal agencies are sometimes complete silent on this issue, they simply stonewall it. I would ask the Education and Science Ministry, together with specialist teachers, to discuss in detail the content of sample school programmes. It is also important to find the right balance between compulsory subjects and optional ones.
I would recall that a pilot programme introducing new educational standards into high schools (with specialised classes) is already planned for the coming academic year. I would emphasise that, naturally, this will occur in schools that are ready for it.
All students should have a choice of what specialist subjects they want to study in more detail, depending on their abilities and life plans. But of course the state must carry out a conscious educational policy in the interests of national development, based on the interests and needs of today’s labour market, and forecasts for the medium-term at least.
For that reason it would be very appropriate to pay special attention to promoting specialised education in the hard sciences. Of course, this does not mean that we are putting the humanities on the back burner. This is not the case. At the same time, we understand that the foundations for engineering and technical education – and today and in the near future these will be the kinds of professionals our country desperately needs – are laid at school.
Finally, another couple of issues. High school graduates currently take the National Final School Exam (EGE). I believe that it would be inappropriate to discuss this topic while students are taking the exam. But later, when they are finished, I would ask the Ministry of Education to revisit this issue; we spoke about it with the Minister yesterday. We must seriously analyse and identify problems, and suggest possible solutions.
And the second thing: both I personally and, to my knowledge, the Government regularly receives complaints from people about charges for textbooks and other ostensibly voluntary donations to schools. Once again I will emphasise that all major subjects included in the curriculum should be taught at the expense of the state, and charging for them is not permitted.