Vladimir Putin: Everything looks so solid here. As fundamental as the basic principles on which national education is founded: no changes in forty years.
Good afternoon dear colleagues! Dear friends!
I am very glad to have the opportunity to welcome such a representative audience. Your congress gathered rectors from the majority of national universities. As our host said, a great number of your colleagues from CIS member states, Europe, Asia and America are gathered here today. And of course this is a testimony to the importance of national education, the national education community as well as the active, interested cooperation within your profession.
At the congress we will address crucial issues for education. Undoubtedly, developing Russia’s potential in science, economics and technology as well as the possibility of making rapid progress in these areas depends directly on your efforts.
Making sure that education corresponds to modern requirements and that it is competitive both within the country and the world at large has implications not only for teachers, but also for science, our industrialists and, of course, for our society as a whole.
It is obvious that the new social and economic realities of the beginning of the 1990s presented a difficult test for Russian universities. The difficulties of the transition period and many years of insufficient funding have affected their development.
Meanwhile, institutes of higher education reacted quite quickly and flexibly to the revival of the idea that receiving an education is both prestigious and a fundamental of successful life. But there was a period that we both remember when this idea started to dissipate, a strange phenomenon in our country where receiving an education has always been concomitant to personal success and status. Meanwhile new universities were established, new programmes became available. Unfortunately, the increase in the number of students was accompanied by a decrease in the quality of educational services provided. This is something that we are all aware of .
As I just said, in Russia there is a tradition – and I will add that this tradition is more present here than in other countries – whereby people aspire to receive university degrees. But these diplomas must constitute proof of their real professional value and not only of what I just mentioned, of their personal status.
And this is especially important today now that the education system is subject to the very highest demands. Otherwise it will translate into the fact that university graduates are unwanted on the labour market, that all sectors of the economy will suffer from a deficiency of qualified personnel, and that Russia will see its competitiveness on international markets decrease.
One of the reasons behind the poor quality of education involves the lack of efficiency with which budgetary funds are spent. Let me point out that these funds are considerable: every year around 140 billion rubles are allocated from the federal budget towards universities.
Today public first and foremost expects adequate personnel and innovative results from higher education.
In connection with this I would like to touch on what I consider to be several priority tasks.
I am convinced that increasing the independence of educational institutions, an independence that allows them more freedom to undertake both pedagogical and administrative initiatives, must remain the general principle that underscores education’s development. However, more economic independence entails more responsibility and increasingly modern forms of management.
Establishing funds of capital resources is an important step in creating new financial opportunities. They will be composed of funds from the federal budget, funds from businesses or of some combination of the two. The corresponding orders have been formulated. I hope that very shortly all the necessary documents will be prepared so that we can implement all these ideas.
The system of financing must be designed to increase the quality of education offered, to ensure that resources are spent effectively and increase professors’ salaries. By the way, we have proposed a number of modern budgetary and administrative methods within the national project concerning education.
With regards to increasing the independence of institutes of higher education we must not forget that they remain responsible for all parts of the educational process. It is crucial that external evaluations determine the quality of knowledge that students obtain. .
In particular, we must develop an objective rating system for universities and not only by the employers – we have already spoken about this with business representatives many times –representatives from the public and academia at large must be included in the evaluation process. It is also necessary to develop new forms of evaluation. The competition to determine the most innovative universities that took place within the national project on education has provided us with experience and what I consider to be a good result.
We must standardize the names of specializations and the contents of the curriculum. And here again a great deal – if not everything – depends on you.
I know that you are ready to sign an agreement for a strategic partnership between the Union of Rectors and various national business associations and that this will most likely be signed today. This initiative is undoubtedly a promising one. But the main thing that we must obtain from the initiative is that these documents must constitute a solid and useful basis for systematic cooperation. They must help resolve the most crucial problems of both universities and the economy.
I shall mention one more very thorny issue. It is the question of preparing future academics and educators.
It is very important to solve the problem concerning the inflow of young graduates into academia and education. It is necessary to eliminate all the barriers that could prevent the growth of the careers of talented youth, to help them obtain housing and provide assistance in other such material issues.
Universities must be interested in cooperating with secondary schools as well as help them develop their pedagogical capacities and new methods with a view to preparing personnel for schools.
And finally a few words on the so-called export of Russian educational services. The level of national education has been in demand outside of the country already for a long time. This is especially true because while a great many positive things are happening in these countries the interest in education is not as high as it is in Russia – there is only a medium level of interest whereas in Russia it is increasing.
Academics and teachers are the most important factor in our successful integration with the world. Developing a network of subsidiaries of national universities and increasing the availability of our universities to foreign students, first and foremost from CIS member countries, is the best way to do this.
Along with this I would like to point out that the quality of work done by various Russian subsidiary universities leaves much to be desired. I would like to emphasize that standards must be uniform, the same as for Moscow as for any other subsidiary.
In conclusion I would like to say some things that we all know, but that must be said out loud today in front of this auditorium. Education is the most important resource for the development of the nation’s intellectual, spiritual and moral potential. In turn, the future depends on the successful development of education, both our country’s future and that of our children.
I wish you success.
Many thanks for your attention.