President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon,
First of all, thank you for inviting us to your school. I have come here, to your little school in Izmailovka, to talk about school life in general, but I also particularly want to discuss some ideas that I expressed in my Presidential Address, which I gave two days ago. You may have noted that it included a fairly long section devoted to school matters. This is a follow-up to what I said in my 2009 Address, where I outlined the Our New School initiative. Our goal now is for all our schools to get the necessary incentives for development – not just material ones, although they might be the most important ones.
I want to say straight away that you have a great school.
Reply: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: I am not saying this to flatter the hosts; it really is great. Indeed, Ms Glebova [Galina Glebova, School No. 55 Principal] and I were walking down the hall – and of course, not all of our schools are so small and ungraded; we have some schools that are housed in less attractive buildings, and often, they do not even provide normal conditions for studying; even the conveniences are outdoors. But naturally, we will be working gradually to reduce the number of such schools, working to create modern schools. That is exactly the goal of the Our New School initiative and of the idea I shared in my Address.
So, what is this idea about? Regardless of what a school is like – whether it’s a school with fifteen hundred students (a long time ago, I was in a school like that in Leningrad, where there were five class sections in each grade – at the time, birth rates were higher, and our nation was larger), or a very small school (perhaps, even smaller than yours), which is located in a somewhat difficult setting – each school must have its own development programme. And this development programme should not be based on some blue-sky ideas, but still it should involve a stretch of imagination as to what we would all like to see in our schools, depending on local conditions.
Naturally, it is impossible to imagine that a small school will be replaced with one that it ten times bigger, but that isn’t necessary anyway, because everything should be done according to the location and the number of people there. However, I think that it’s the appearance of a school that matters. I have preliminarily discussed this issue with the Government, with the public at large, and with experts. Granted, it will take us more than just a year or two or three to create these schools, but if every school – how many do we have right now, Mr Fursenko?
Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko: Fifty-two thousand.
Dmitry Medvedev: Fifty-two thousand. So, if these fifty-two thousand schools have their own development concepts over five or ten years, then that will already be a kind of step forward, because we can count money: local funds, regional funds, and federal funds. We can attract sponsors, or draft certain programmes to suit the new conditions. In other words, I think that each school in the Russian Federation should have such a promising look in mind, and I propose that you too work on the one for your school. Indeed, you have very good conditions, but clearly, there is always room for improvement and development. This is my idea.
I would like to discuss the same topics with you that I discuss with other school educators: the current education system, the National Final School Exam (EGE), the per capita funding system, as well as the most sacramental issue – your salaries – and what can be done here. Incidentally, a lot of people are talking and writing on this topic right now. I took a look, and at the moment, the issue is being debated on the Internet, and there has been a new wave of discussions on how much schoolteachers are really earning. Overall, the figures given vary widely, and I wanted to ask you about it. If you could tell me, that would be good – I mean, if the salaries depend on the performance and other things.
Well, this is the general range of issues that we could discuss, if you are interested, as well as any other questions that you have, because I do not often visit rural schools – even ones located in such lovely mountainous areas. So please, go ahead.