Vladimir Putin: I know that Council members have worked in depth on the questions that we will address today, and please allow me to make some opening remarks.
As you well know, 60 percent of Russia's population is involved in the educational sphere. And citizens must be well informed of how and in which direction the field develops. The field which has been connected to their life for decades, as well as to the lives of their children and grandchildren.
Our society has long understood the unqualified value of education and everything connected with the field. Recently, people's aspirations to a successful life have become even more bound up with getting quality education. Around 80 percent of citizens under age 35 consider receiving a higher education their most important goal. I must say that even a few years ago this was not the case. In my opinion, the tendency I have just described is very positive, and this movement is an extremely important indicator. It shows how many young people are ready for a professional career. Without a doubt, the availability and quality of education directly influence our national prospects.
You know that we have started implementing a large-scale national project in education. It is necessary to support schools and universities with innovative programmes, and to reward talented teachers and gifted students.
I shall emphasize that all the financial and organizational measures allocated to this effect will be closely followed and supervised. In addition, we shall support young teachers during the implementation of two other national projects, those of providing accessible housing and improving rural life since in practice all of this is connected.
The final result of all these measures will be an additional impulse towards the systematic modernization of the branch as a whole. Modernization which is still proceeding slowly and with difficulty.
I am convinced that as of today it is quite realistic for education to actively help the inflow of qualified personnel into the fields of science and high-tech. It could become an effective and advanced part of the world's educational systems, by having kept – and we have already spoken about this many times, and in many different groups – the advantages of a national education system that developed over centuries and decades.
All parts of the education system, from preschool to universities should develop synchronously and at commensurate rates. And the system itself must be stable, modern and understood by all.
Already in the near future the Government should make decisions regarding obligatory, full secondary schooling, and on the fundamental change of the quality of work of technical community colleges and of all institutions of higher learning. Measures to counteract the unreasonable growth of paid services in higher education are needed. It is high time to put in order the numerous yet little-known universities and their affiliated institutes where the tuition fee has become and end in itself; not the quality of education, not the education itself, but the fee collected for this process.
The number one problem remains the quality of education. To improve this, one needs not only good material and educational resources but also teachers must have commendable living and working conditions. Teachers are the most important factor of qualitative updating of our universities and schools, and they need now support from the state.
You know about the offers which have been formulated by the government within the educational programme, and about the individual grants and payments of annual premiums that are planned in the national project. Of course we can discuss this issue. I recently met with representatives from trade unions, and colleagues who work in trade union organizations connected with the field of education made suggestions regarding this issue. If you have any reflections, I will gladly listen to them. Moreover, we will analyse the opportunity of making corrective amendments to the plans we already have.
Nevertheless, teachers must take action themselves to update their teaching approaches and introduce modern educational technologies. In this way they will be qualified to work with distance learning programmes and the Internet's many possibilities. Let me remind you that by 2007 more than 20,000, and by 2008 more than half, of all Russian schools will have access to the Internet.
The second issue I would like to discuss today is providing continuous education.
In the modern and quickly changing world people should study throughout their lives. Teachers both in higher and primary education know this best of all, as they are constantly engaged in this process. We – and by 'we' I mean the country's population – are still far away from this ideal. And people have trouble imagining how their aspirations to continue their education will be supported by the state.
I am convinced that not only the market should stimulate people's demand for increases in the level of education provided. In today's innovation and 'knowledge economy' it is natural that the state support its citizens' desire to increase their knowledge.
In addition, this will expand the various opportunities available for teachers. In particular, it will increase their professional mobility. It is known that because of our country's demographic situation, the previous waves of falling birthrates we are presently losing a million students a year. And teachers already have an unbalanced load. At the same time the number of newborns is increasing. A consequence of this is that there will be more children in primary school than several years ago.
In addition to this, there are not enough kindergartens and young, especially working, parents desperately need them. Regions and municipalities must work together to create a network of preschool establishments.
One more problem is integrating vocational training with industry. Here there is still no long-term planning for both objective requirements and the structure of the demand for personnel. Certainly, Russian business should be more actively involved here. It is the most interested party in this issue. I hope that Evgenii Maksimovich [Primakov] will say something about this today.
A few words about integrating the Russian education system into the European and international education systems as a whole. Alongside the ongoing work in the framework of the Bologna process I would ask to concentrate efforts on the global programme 'Education for All'. Russia has a key organizational role in preparing the G8 summit, and this question will be on its agenda.
We should more actively promote national educational services and technologies in the markets of other countries and, of course, first of all in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Over the last few years the countries of the CIS began to exchange experience gleaned from reforms more often, and to show a greater demand for quality Russian education services.
This is perfectly clear and natural – the national economies of the countries of the CIS grew and their dependence on the growth of intellectual capital was obvious. This demanded a more active turnover of knowledge and technology. And this in addition to the fact that the CIS countries are historically linked to similar traditions in education and research.
I draw attention to the fact that the opportunities that exist here should not be missed. In no way should it be possible to allow the local network of institutes affiliated to our universities be reduced nor should the quality of their work decrease. It is absolutely necessary to fill all the quotas allocated by Russia for students and graduate students from the countries of the CIS.
I know that Moscow State University is expanding its network of affiliated institutes and we will help and promote this process in every way possible.
Let me remind you that it is already the third year in which up to one percent of all students supported by the budget are chosen from these countries. I believe that already now we can work on the opportunity to increase their numbers. And with colleagues from the Commonwealth we can develop common, precise criteria for the selection of candidates. Perhaps since we are now reforming our education system this will not always be simple, but it is both possible and necessary to do so.
More than anything we must actively send Russian youth to study and do internships in the countries of the CIS. First of all in those disciplines such as national languages, cultural studies and history. These countries are our closest partners. It is necessary that we fully understand and appreciate their culture.
I would like to count on Council members' and your colleagues most productive participation in the implementation of the above tasks. I also hope that a younger community of national teachers will be more actively attracted to work.
I know about your initiative to form a National Council of young academics, teachers and graduates. I believe that integrating public efforts will only benefit research, education, the state and all the people of the Russian Federation.
I count on Natalia Viktorovna Polosmak, winner of last year's National Award, to assist in coordinating this activity and to bring her impressive academic authority and energy to the project.
Allow me to pass to the following part of our work, the discussion of all of the above mentioned themes. I now give the floor to Liudmila Alekseevna Verbitskaia.