President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues!
Before we start work, I want to say just a word or two about my visit to Chuvashia and coming here to the Belgorod region. We had doubts about how the national projects would go. And the first steps were, indeed, difficult. When we first discussed this idea two and a half years ago of course there were a lot of doubts: would they work effectively and be productive? Were our housing programmes or the ones in agriculture and health just a way of throwing money at problems? Some were afraid that we would be simply doling out money, and that it would go to an unprepared infrastructure and untrained staff, that the government would just waste its money and get no results.
I am very glad that this didn’t happen and that the opposite is true.
Of course, we know and have pointed out that there are problems in the country that are much bigger than those that are addressed by national projects. Moreover, national projects will not help us resolve every problem. As we have said, these are only a catalyst. They are simply a nudge in the right direction, but one that has a number of effects. And the most important result is not even the amount of equipment that we have bought for the health system, for primary health care. It’s not the number of ambulances, although we have fully refitted our ambulance fleet. And it’s not grants, like the ones in the education system, or the new equipment. Nor is it the money devoted to agriculture (here in the Belgorod region 62 billion rubles in loans has been made available).
Actually, it seems to me that the most important result is that people believe that the state cares about them – that’s the first thing.
There’s something else: people have begun to change in relation to those demands that life presents. Eyes are sparkling. They are sparkling, indeed! Yesterday a teacher in Chuvashia who has been learning to use computer technology said to me: ”It’s time for me to retire. But I don’t want to go. It’s so interesting now. Work has become interesting.“ And this is the most important thing. The most important result is that people want to work, and to work efficiently in the jobs they have now.
The demographic project has actually begun to yield some modest results. The trend is small, but it is moving in the right direction, the one we want. This is also encouraging.
We must reflect on what else should be done to ensure that our work in these areas is more efficient, and the whole country must be involved, not just the leading regions. The Belgorod region and Chuvashia are of course the leaders in the national projects. What is most important, very important indeed, is that integrating national projects with these regions’ own development programmes have triggered transformation of the industry structure. The positive results in the Belgorod area in the agriculture industry are based on new technologies and new methods of production.
There are a large number of new agricultural enterprises, a large number. These are not reconditioned structures from the last century. The money hasn’t been thrown away. These are absolutely new, built from scratch, production facilities based on modern technology and new skills. Of course this is good. This affects the life in the rural areas, the qualityl of people’s lives.
In the Chuvash Republic, thanks to modern management techniques, the quality and accessibility of health care have improved. Through the use of smart technology, new equipment and increased training for medical personnel, maternal and neonatal mortality have been reduced by half. Well-designed plans for organising rural schools have resulted in a level of training and equipment that are as good as those in the city. In the rural areas the establishment of educational centres is proceeding apace, and by and large this decision has been vindicated. As the elementary and secondary school teachers said to me yesterday – and I was talking to them on-line in different regions, not just in the Chuvash schools – of course parents want to send their children to the educational centres. We talked a lot about this, and I know the views of those who believe that not every village school should be torn down. That makes sense too, but parents want to send their children to learning centres which offer high levels of expertise. And from which children can actually go on to attend the best universities in the country. In Chuvashia the number of children from rural schools who go on to attend a decent college or university has increased, not by a factor of 10 but a hundredfold! Imagine! This is the result of a combination of uniform state exams for everyone and the availability of educational centres.
Our Council session today is dedicated to the development of national education. The question is how, using the national project mechanisms, to bring about systemic change in educational institutions, how to make them more modern and open to all that is progressive and new.
I want to stress that competition in the national education system has become crucial for our global competitiveness. Today the winner is the one who adapts most quickly to the demands and challenges of a rapidly changing world. It is a world in which technology is constantly changing, the development of innovations is accelerating, and global markets for labour are emerging. Moreover, professional success requires, not knowledge acquired once in a lifetime, but continuous learning. In the foreground is people’s capacity to find their bearings in the vast field of information, the ability to find solutions independently, and implement them successfully.
Without exaggeration, it is the school and vocational system that ensure the future of our country. It is here that the basis of its prosperity and security is formed. Therefore, we must look very seriously at the modernisation of education as a strategic objective.
First and foremost, we need a modern system of educational standards. These must be focused, not only on the reception of knowledge, but on developing the ability to apply it effectively. I believe that we need to attract the best teachers and leaders of innovative educational institutions, including winners of competitions in the national education project, to the development of such standards. Employers, entrepreneurs, business people and those who work in government agencies and social services should all participate in the preparation of standards for higher professional education.
Clearly, the key issue is the quality of teachers. To ensure this, we must provide competitive salaries for teachers. At the same time, we must take into account not only the quantity but also the quality of teaching.
As part of the national programme in a number of regions there was an experiment conducted under the auspices of the Ministry of Education concerning the funding system and pay for those who work in schools. Under the new system the salaries of teachers can be increased by 50% or even 100%. This is noteworthy for schools.
Introducing new methodologies for teaching will also require sophisticated training programmes for teachers. An effective system of external evaluation of the quality of education is also needed.
All these areas must be worked out, not only in the course of the national education project, but continued in the future, as part of the entire education industry.
Further. We have already begun to modernise higher education. As a matter of fact, I am referring to the introduction of a system of various levels of higher education degrees, education credits and targeted capital.
And finally, we need to create effective incentives for universities to improve the quality of their expertise. It is well known that, as part of the national project, we are in the second year of support on a competitive basis of innovative programmes for universities’ development. This has helped to stimulate creative initiatives in the academic audience. And this practice should be made permanent.
In addition, we have begun to modernise the system of financing higher education. The amount of funds allocated to a particular university must depend on the quality and the popularity of their programmes. A growing part of public funding should go to grants for specific projects and programme development.
Such measures would support those educational establishments that set the bar for themselves and their students very high, placing their bets on innovation.
Russian higher education has been worse off than it is now. Even if it’s not exactly booming, one feels the potential for progress. In terms of students –we have about 500 out of every 10,000 people — we are among the world leaders. And we have almost twice as many as countries such as Germany, Britain and Japan.
People rightly believe education to be an integral part of success in life and personal fulfillment. But it is no secret that, given such a high level of interest in education, many are openly taking advantage of the system. And colleagues in higher education will surely understand what I’m talking about. Sometimes our universities seem more like diploma mills than the purveyors of new knowledge. We have already talked about this. To combat this, we need openness and transparency on the part of the universities. Graduates must know who will be teaching them, what they will be learning, how their prospective university is rated in the labour market and, finally, what sort of a career and salary they can count on after university. Universities should take responsibility for the accuracy of this information. Independent ratings can play a valuable role here, as can professional certification of people and educational programmes. They should become an integral part of the external evaluation of the quality of education.
In conclusion, I would like to raise one more subject, namely the development of continuing education. Today the whole area of upgrading skills is growing rapidly, evolving rapidly. There is a real demand for it. However, the quality of such services is still below the standard required to meet today’s demand, let alone tomorrow’s.
I repeat, in the education sphere we need an intelligible and effective public policy, one that will provide everyone in the country with new opportunities for professional growth. This is crucial for the success of Russia’s innovative economy, and for life in a progressive state and society.
I have already talked about my impressions of the people I’ve met, people who are working on national projects in all areas, and by and large, of course, I was seeing the positive examples. On the whole, these industries have many many problems. We must avoid looking at things through rose-coloured glasses. We need to face the truth. There are still so many problems! And we all need to work hard on all these fronts.