Vladimir Putin: Friends,
I am very pleased to welcome you all to this wonderful hall in Moscow, the capital of Russia. I am pleased to welcome all the participants in the World Forum of Foreign Graduates of Russian and Soviet Higher Education Institutions. It is attended by representatives from nearly 120 countries and your alma maters are the higher education institutions in Moscow, Vladivostok, St Petersburg, Riga, Alma-Ata, Minsk and Tashkent.
We see this meeting as the common undertaking of the Commonwealth of Independent States. It is not by chance that some of our colleagues, the Education Ministers of CIS countries, are present here. We see your presence as one more confirmation of the kind feelings you have for your teachers, your schools and the friends with whom you studied.
I am absolutely sure and I know that your teachers are proud that among their graduates are the heads of state, government members, members of parliament, prominent politicians in their countries and initiators of entire scientific schools, the elite of the creative intelligentsia in the full sense of the word.
To be sure, you owe your success not only to the good education you acquired in the Soviet Union and in Russia, but above all to your personal ability, your talent, and your life experiences, some of which you gained while you were students. Student life has at all times been noted for a spirit of camaraderie, mutual assistance and respect for the cultures of other people. And today the good traditions of student fraternity are alive, and provide a solid basis for new contacts, and cultural and business initiatives that bring our peoples closer together.
Associations of graduates of Russian and Soviet higher education institutions have been created in nearly 60 countries and we appreciate your wish to maintain friendly contacts with your teachers and classmates. We also welcome your commitment to contributing to the deepening of multifaceted links with Russia, your joint work with the centres of compatriots and friendship societies and of course we attach particular significance to your activities in developing, supporting and spreading the Russian language.
You contribute in a major way to the establishment of direct contracts, the development of humanitarian, trade and economic cooperation. It is not by chance that the overwhelming majority of the participants have signed up for the group where the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will preside. I am sure that such initiatives and such activity will always be met with a very positive response in Russia.
The system of education in our country, the system of training young people from other countries was formed almost a century and a half ago. It has a strong tradition and has always been open to talented youth regardless of their social status, economic class, religion and nationality. People who had studied in our country have always been valued for their broad education and quality of knowledge.
Today Russian higher education institutions open their doors every year to students, interns and experts who come to improve their skills – nearly 90,000 people from more than 150 countries.
We are well aware that the requirements for education today are much tougher than 20 or 30 years ago. The emerging global labour market is working out common approaches to the quality of education, and the practice of mutual recognition of diplomas is becoming more widespread.
Russia seeks to meet these high standards. The high level of our education is proved by the success of Russian university and school students at international olympiads and the growing demand for our specialists at major scientific and production centres around the world.
We are very glad that your fellow countrymen still choose Russian higher education institutions, and they do so partly because they see your example, your professional and personal successes in life.
Our education system is constantly improving to meet the requirements and interests of foreign students. The Russian Government has developed a concept for government policy on the training of national cadres for foreign countries. It envisages an increase in the number of foreign students enrolled. Budget financing will be doubled in 2004.
We will steadily expand programmes for the study of Russian. We also plan to develop a network of branches of Russian higher education institutions and joint education institutions abroad. We believe that distance learning has a good future.
I am convinced that your forum will further promote strong and time-tested links. These contacts enrich interstate relations and most importantly, strengthen the friendship and trust between our countries that are very necessary today.
I wish you success from the bottom of my heart. I would like to repeat: you are always welcome guests in Russia, dear friends.
I wish you all the best.