Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear friends.
First of all I thank you for the suggestion to attend your Congress and work together with you. The problems of education are topical for our entire country, all of society. It is obvious that not only the present, but also the future of Russia depends on a successful solution of these questions. And so today, in this audience I will allow myself to express some thoughts concerning not only sectoral aspects of education, but also encompassing some other questions closely adjoining what you are engaged in.
I would like to say at once that the high level of Russian education is one of the few factors that enables us to rank among the leading states of the world.
Of course, this asset, this level has not emerged by itself and has appeared, of course, not today and not even yesterday. That became possible only because from the very first days — way back from the times of formation of Moscow University, where we are today, educational policy was a matter of state importance. It was purposefully dealt with at the highest state level.
At the initial period, the European experience and foreign instructors were, of course, widely used. But after long years — its own system grew and materialized in Russia, its own models of education. As we see, they have stood the test of time, have proved to be of a pretty decent quality. And for all the need to modernize our education, no one disputes this fact today either within the country or abroad.
I would also like to recall that Russia is currently at a complex period of transformation. We have achieved many successes in democratic construction and in the formation of a civilized market. However, we all understand that a great deal has yet to be done. And it is the task of national education to help go through this transitional period quickly, competently, efficiently.
In this connection Russian citizens should get the knowledge they will need not only today, but also in the future. And it is a question of not only applied disciplines, but also fundamental knowledge in the domain of the social sciences, of international and public life.
I am speaking of this because Russian universities historically were not only a center for obtaining knowledge. They traditionally influenced the political, economic and cultural life of the country. Here in various periods of our history the issues of politics were widely discussed, debates took place in respect of the place of our country in the processes of world development. I think that these topics agitate no less today's professors and students of the Russian institutions of higher learning.
One still-popular debate is on the advantages of the geopolitical position of Russia. Another — on the importance of its rich natural resources in the competition for world markets. Thus, they often say of Russia that it still remains a raw material and energy export country. Of course, to a significant extent this is so, but it would be strange not to use the wealth which our country has a priori. Some countries with a favorable climate and good lands are traditionally agricultural countries, even with well- developed science and modern industry, for example, France. And never mind — they are proud that it is an agricultural country. Here there is nothing to be ashamed of.
We have already won serious positions in energy markets. And, let's say straight away, they should not be given up, we do not intend to do so.
Yet today's task is not only to use natural resources to our advantage, but also not to fall behind major world economic trends in the process.
By the way, developing the domestic fuel and energy sector is important not only in terms of international economic cooperation. This is very important for us ourselves. Russia is a northern country, and a huge part of our economy works, in the direct sense, ”for heating.“ In the direct, not in the figurative sense of the word. This is our reality. It is not bad and not good. But this objective factor we, just as other northern countries of the world, have to take into consideration. Specifically — in connection with the need for qualitative training of specialists for the energy industries.
It is also clear that even the most efficient utilization of natural resources will not bring Russia leading positions in the world economy. In our days high technologies account for an ever greater share in world markets. Including — in so important industries for Russia as transportation and energy.
We still use our own huge potentials of science and education poorly and we don't know how to enlist them to get a worthy spot on the information and communication maps of the world, in international economic markets.
I consider that the present disunity of science and education largely hinders that policy and I am confident that you will talk about this today. About this often and much has been talked recently. Just as the rigid division of science — into academic, university, corporate and sectoral. It is in the interest of Russia to stimulate the natural process of integration of the various levels and organizational forms of education and science into a single market of knowledge.
What is today being done in this direction is thus far too little, insufficient and I non-systemic. The uniform final state examination, essentially directed to bring general and higher education closer, will not solve all the problems in this sphere either. Without an interrelated set of measures to solve this task, we will not get the required effect.
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Modern education is aimed at obtaining systemic knowledge. Including — at understanding in what place of our history we are, what is our place in the contemporary world and what values of civilization should be chosen.
Thus, we rightfully consider ourselves Europeans and always remember that the culture of Russia and its traditions in their essence were formed precisely by European civilization. In this connection our policy is primarily directed to cooperation with the European countries and to the formation of a common European economic space.
But we are, of course, in Asia too. And here our national interests demand that we maintain normal, friendly relations with the countries of Central Asia and with China, India and Japan. It should not be forgotten that the most rapidly developing part of the world is precisely the countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
In this connection it is important for Russia to pursue a policy which will assure that it has stable positions in all the areas important for it. But there are objective obstacles on this road. One of the most serious is new threats to international stability.
Yes, thanks to the efforts of the world community world wars are a thing of the past. But they have been replaced, unfortunately, by other wars. And at issue are not regional and local conflicts. At issue are terrorism and extremism.
It is known that war is a ”continuation of politics,“ only by different means. International terrorists, whatever they may use as a cover, always wage a struggle for political and economic levers of influence in the world. This is their aim. They are not driven by ephemeral but rather by quite concrete aims. Today's terrorists carefully locate targets for themselves and then strike them with precision. They strike objects and models of civilized economic and social development.
Their objective is to sow fear and bring discord not only to individual cities and countries, but also in relations among states. In the final analysis — in the system of existing international legal relations, at the base of which lie the common democratic values of states and peoples.
Furthermore, particularly dangerous is terrorism the aim of which is the usurpation of state power. In this connection a major task of both national governments and international structures is to prevent the coalescence of the terrorist machine with ruling regimes and not to allow the penetration of the ideology of terror and violence into state policy.
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Dear colleagues. In conclusion I would like to dwell briefly on the questions of the training of specialists for individual areas of state life.
Despite the enormous number of students, our state organizations and enterprises experience a colossal shortage of professionals. In addition, private Russian companies are still forced to import qualified personnel from abroad. This means that there is demand for such specialists in the country. There is a market. And, of course, this market is yours. I believe that today it is in common interests to help domestic companies not only with the training of contemporary managers, but also of engineers, technicians, workers of the highest skill.
Needless to say, cadres must continue to be trained for the civil service as well. We are extremely short of well-trained people able to work according to world standards in the domain of state and public services.
I consider it important to modernize also our military education system. I see many military men in the hall and they will understand what I am speaking about. It should be noted that not only Russia today faces this task in relation to new threats. But here too we have many positive things amassed. To forget the positive experience in the sphere of military education is likewise absolutely incorrect.
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And, lastly, a few words on the often criticized conservatism of Russia's education system. A blessing for our country is not the conservation of outdated models, but the preservation of the best traditions and standards of the classical Russian school of education. In this sense we have something to be proud of.
But under today's conditions there can be no question of dogmatism and obtuse conservatism. In the present-day world the rapidity of changes increases from generation to generation. And increases qualitatively, in geometric progression.
Now one can no longer give the child education once and for all life. And it is not even enough to learn all one's life. People have to be taught to learn. And you know that that's precisely how they do in advanced universities. And then, if such is the case, our students and pupils will be able not simply to adapt to changes in the country and the world, but will also themselves shape these changes for the good of the country.
I believe only in this way shall we able to ensure the priority development of education as the most intellectually capacious ”branch“ of the Russian economy.
Thank you for your attention.
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I must say that I liked the report very much — it is very substantial and concrete on very many ; it provokes discussion, sometimes a wish to agree, sometimes to dispute. I would like, if I may, to make but a few remarks.
First, I also think that all those who consider education a part of their lives have taken notice of the suggestion which has been made in the academic and political writings regarding the development of education. The rector of Moscow University has precisely mentioned the suggestion of Professor Yasin concerning the reconstruction of education. One can agree with some part of it and disagree with other points. I think that in the final analysis — it's up to the professionals. Based on your proposals and your experience it is necessary, after all, to make a decision.
I think that it is incorrect to raise the question of the aim of transformation as the reduction of the budget load. This is not an aim in itself. There is no such aim. At any rate — there shouldn't be (applause).
But this is not to say that there are no problems here. I draw your attention to the fact that in Moscow — Yuri Mikhailovich [Luzhkov] will confirm — 50 percent of the graduates of medical institutes do not go work as medical doctors, and 60 percent of the agricultural institutes' graduates do not go either. Of course, many will say: it's tough to work there, low salaries, and so on. All this is correct, but they actually do not go to work there. We must bear this in mind. In other areas too there are lots of questions and problems of this kind. This is not a simple problem, but it is there. Of course, it is not only a problem of personnel training, but that also has something to do with this.
Our speaker now spoke of the readiness of our colleges and universities to engage in the training of foreigners and, above all, focus attention on the training of specialists for the CIS. An absolute priority for Russia both in the civilian sphere and in the sphere of military education. The only question is how to solve it. At budget expense or on a commercial basis?
It was said that in some developed countries foreigners are being trained at budget expense, especially in the sphere of military education. But a considerable sector of education there is private. From this sector taxes are collected and then are so distributed as is thought necessary, proceeding from political priorities. This is, of course, very important.
Fundamental science must be profitable for the state. We here this more and more now. Of course, that's nonsense. My own opinion, the opinion of the leadership of the Government does not coincide with this statement. Fundamental science cannot be profitable for the state, it altogether cannot be profitable. If we want to speak of the future of the country, we must put money into this, just as we do into art (applause).
I consider it correct that we must think how to improve the tax legislation as applied to the sphere of education (applause).
As for expenditures, the Treasury, of course, must be watchful, but also liberalizing is a must (applause).
I absolutely agree that colleges and universities must have the legal status of scientific institutions. I am not sure that right now the Ministry of Finance will be ready to at once allocate the required funds, just as concerns the Academy of Sciences, or take something away from the Academy of Sciences. This would be also incorrect. But the lack of this status does not give the right to take part in tenders, to obtain a license for something, to sell an intellectual product, and so on. This is simply absurd.
When we spoke of the system of modernizing education — still, I want to bring it to your notice: the number of students being admitted to the Russian colleges and universities on free-of-charge terms is not down. On the contrary, it is up by 3–4 percent. This is a fact, and we have no right to forget about this. That paid education grows is in it itself not a bad thing. The only bad thing is that the quality is bad. With this I absolutely agree. The state must pay attention to this. They begin competing with major higher educational institutions. But their competition absolutely does not correspond to the reality. It is simply a fraud against the population and the state. Issuing but scraps of paper (applause).
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When they say that some or other problem is closely linked to state security issues, that is mostly to underline the importance of the problem. I must say that all the problems in the sphere of education do not need this additional dramatization. Education by itself is a system-forming thing. If there is advanced and effective education, then there will be an effective state. If not, then there will be no effective state (applause).
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Now with regard to teachers. You know, this is the right way to put the question. Your salary increase was, of course, small, but with what difficulty this is being implemented, both at the center and in the regions, is also well known. I, frankly speaking, had known that there would be failures, and all the same I made this decision in order to activate the work of the Government on this problem. For three or four months, even up to six months there were failures in some regions with the implementation of the salary increase. Now, it seems, for the most part it is all in the condition in which it should be. Of course, we shall give further thought to this matter.
Finally, the last remark. I cannot but express support. You know that fundamental science is separate, but it should not be forgotten, and the state must understand its responsibility, that it is, of course, necessary to enlist the material resources of business for the training of specialists for business and for the economy, to enlist the resource of citizens themselves. By all means so, otherwise you all know what this may lead to.
Viktor Antonovich Sadovnichy has already spoken to the effect that we will train personnel at state expense and export them to the West free of charge. This is a dangerous path. And absolutely incorrect. It is clear that this is a multifaceted problem, and we must create conditions for the work of people here at home. Overnight, we will not be able to do that all the same. This depends on the level of the economy. There will be no great leaps. Gradual evolution is a must. It may be slow, it may be fast. One would like it to be faster, but all the same this will not occur overnight. If business will use its own resources, will spend on human resources, then it will use them. The same holds for citizens. If citizens have gotten an education on their own — then it is their choice where to work. The state must understand where it spends its money and what will come of it in the future. It is without any final decisions that I am saying this. I am saying it so that some thinking should be done on that score.
In Canada, for example, there is a whole program for the attraction of specialists. They do not even try to conceal that. In their embassies there sit special foreign ministry officials who are concerned with the attraction of specialists. I may be mistaken, but, to my mind, the quota is this: 10 percent of the population must be attracted to Canada in a year. And the Canadian Prime Minister says to me: the foreign ministry is a poor worker, it does not provide the 10 percent quota. They attract and select the best specialists at that. Half jokingly, they tell me laughing: you train specialists and we will take them.
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Concerning financing for equipment. A very important problem. I know that this problem is known to everyone here. Young people leave not because the pay is small, but because they see no point in their working here, there is nothing to work with and at. Next year financing for the purchase of equipment for colleges and universities will be increased by 68 percent. The increase for renewing and completing libraries will constitute 240 percent. I understand that 240 percent may be up from zero, but it sounds beautiful, I cannot help citing such a figure.
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Now regarding some other problems which were touched on in passing. For capital construction the budget-allocated funds will be doubled, to three billion rubles. Salary additions for an academic degree will be trippled. Not much, but still it’s something.
Thank you very much for your invitation.