President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues,
Today we are examining the issue of developing our country’s education sector.
We all know that high-level education is the starting point for economic, scientific and technological progress. Any fall behind in educational development has direct consequences for a country’s competitiveness and future.
Over these last years we have undertaken targeted and consistent action to develop the country’s education system. We have put what amount to considerable resources for our country into education development. Federal budget expenditure on education has undergone an almost five-fold increase over the last five years, while consolidated budget education expenditure has seen a three-fold increase. We are not just talking about a percentage-point increase here, but about a several-fold rise in spending. What’s more, a considerable amount of this increased spending is coming from the regional and municipal budgets.
But fundamental modernisation has still not taken place in the sector. One of the aims of the national project in the education sector is precisely to give an impulse to transformation and bring about real change. The regions have received additional funding to support teachers and talented young people, to buy new technical equipment and develop the use of information technology.
I would like to express my thanks to the country’s regions and to you, dear colleagues, for your active participation in realising this project and, of course, for your own regional initiatives and the additional funds you are contributing.
I will repeat once again the priority tasks in this sector.
First of all, all our citizens should have access to education of the best national and international standards. This is our most fundamental objective.
We also need to establish principally new evaluation criteria for education quality, criteria based on the needs of society, the economy, employers and the labour market.
Second, we need to introduce new management methods and financial mechanisms to our education sector.
The regions and the education community itself can and should be more bold and active today in introducing targeted funding based on specific student numbers. Funding should go towards the education of concrete individuals – students, pupils. After all, in education it is the final result that is important and not faceless accounts of an establishment’s functioning.
The government should allocate the necessary funds to assist the regional authorities in developing and introducing these new funding systems in schools. The objective is to make sure that budget spending is used more effectively, raise the quality of education, better protect children’s health and promote educational work.
I know that this work is already successfully underway in some regions, while many other regions are ready to begin it, and I ask you, dear colleagues, and the government, to provide the funding needed to support this work and to make it available this year already.
Third, the education system must be genuinely responsible for the results of educational work, for the all-round education of the individual. In this respect, the position of parents and civil society is extremely important, but teachers, who spend so much time in close contact with their pupils, should also take a direct interest in successful educational work.
The priority national project in the education sector also aims at giving teachers greater incentives to pursue this kind of all-round educational work. Teachers who receive decent wages are able to put more time and energy precisely into this kind of work rather than simply trying to put in as many teaching hours as possible.
Our task, I repeat, is to get the education system working on principles that match the needs of the times. How we will live tomorrow depends to a great extent on how we learn and study today.
The modern education system requires modern professionals to work in it. Qualified teachers are the real strength and driving force for quality change in our schools and higher education establishments.
People with the proper training and skills, qualified young people, are needed in the education system. They must bring with them new methods, new approaches and all the benefits of higher education learning. In this respect I think that the special support for innovative development programmes in a number of universities and other higher education establishments is fully justified.
Our country needs education centres that will serve as a yardstick for improving higher education and developing science in Russia. I hope that the considerable funds allocated to innovative work in higher education as part of the national education project will have a positive impact. I think and I hope that the Education and Science Ministry will prepare as thoroughly as it can to select higher education establishments that are genuinely pursuing innovative work and merit state support.
Now a few words on primary and secondary vocational education: today, training in professional and vocational schools has become just an interim step towards entering university. Sometimes the whole purpose of vocational and professional education at this level seems to have been lost, and yet its original purpose was to train qualified specialists for various sectors of our industry, the agri-business sector and the services sector.
We need today to analyse the content and direction of these professional and vocational education programmes and refocus them on the demands of our country’s business community and specific segments of the labour market. We also need to take into account specific demand for different types of specialists from one region to another. In this context the federal and regional authorities must work together and this is an area for our joint efforts.
We also need to continue transferring primary and secondary professional and vocational education establishments to the regional authorities. In the cases where this has already been done we have seen real practical results.
Our country is taking an increasingly active part in international education processes. But the integration of education markets is possible only if people have access to global information systems and sources and only if education standards are compatible.
As the country holding the presidency of the G8 this year, Russia has proposed these systemic education issues as an item on the agenda for the G8 summit. Ultimately, quality education is in the interests of the world economy and integration of education systems helps bring cultures closer together, promotes understanding between peoples and countries and strengthens international stability.
Finally, it is the interests of Russia’s education system to expand our export of education services. Training specialists for other countries, after all, helps open the road to new markets for our country and the exchange of experience stimulates the joint search for new technology and investment. This is why we need to open foreign branches of Russian educational establishments, open Russian universities up more for foreign students and teachers, and reduce to a minimum the remaining restrictions on students from the CIS countries seeking to enter our higher education system. I ask the government to pay particular attention to this point. The CIS countries are our closest partners and their peoples share our education traditions, what’s more.
In conclusion I would like to stress once more that Russia has significant competitive advantages in the education sector and it should put them to advantageous use today. All the levels of state power must work together on this task in close partnership with the public.
Thank you for your attention.