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Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Minister expired: lost year of Olga Vasilyeva

19 August 2016, a little-known employee of the Kremlin administration, Olga Vasilieva was appointed Minister of education and science of Russia. And already on 18 September of the same year (the day of elections to the state Duma) she has expired on the political shelf life. This statement may seem paradoxical. From the post of Minister no Olga Vasilyeva has not been removed. She has all the chances to remain in office at least until the end of the term of office of the Cabinet Medvedev. But I still stand by my thesis: at the head of the Russian education had irrevocably expired. The political task for which Vasilyev actually became a Minister, she has already performed. But associated with the appointment of the hopes of millions of parents and teachers, as shown by the past year, are doomed to remain hopes.

Photo: Ministry of education.Russia

The chain of events that led to the nomination of Olga Vasilyeva on the role of the Minister of education, began in may 2016, when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev started a particularly hard “cast in granite”. When dealing with a population of Feodosiya, Medvedev in response to the question of the pensioner was given a phrase which in a shortened version was included in “the Treasury” catch phrase of the Russian language: “no Money, but you hold fast.” In the summer of that year, speaking at the forum “Territory”, Mr Medvedev responded to a question about the low salaries of teachers: “I get asked that: teachers, and the teachers… It’s a calling. And if you want to earn money, there are lots of wonderful places where you can do faster and better. The same business. But you never went into business, I take it? Well!”

In society this statement was clearly regarded as a slap in the face to teachers. And in those located in the Old square in Moscow, the Russian power structures, who were responsible for the preparations for the upcoming Duma elections, this situation has caused undisguised anxiety. The teacher’s class is traditionally considered the backbone of the ruling party. For many years, school officials and representatives of the accounting budgetary institutions are the backbone of precinct election commissions. To alienate this class of men less than two months before the parliamentary elections would be for Russian authorities this madness. The Kremlin urgently needed to give a signal to Russian teachers: we are with you, we are for you!

But how exactly can this be done? Option to send such a signal by the then Minister of education Dmitry Livanov was not. Even those officials who are well disposed to Livanov, admit that communication with people was not his strong suit. The degree of their “tenderness” and “grace-style” Lebanon is not much different from other iconic “reformer” of our time — former defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. In the “political chess” there is a law: if a piece cannot perform its designated role, this figure should be ruthlessly wipe from the political chessboard and replace with new.

So fresh and suitable to execute an important political mission, the figure was found. All of a sudden, as they say, even without consultation with the relevant social Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, the education Ministry has a new leader. For the first time in the history of the USSR and Russia the head of the sphere of public education was a woman who worked at the dawn of his career in various Moscow schools singing teacher and teacher of history of the Kremlin’s official Olga Vasilyeva.

If you look at this appointment from a purely political point of view, it should be recognized as undoubtedly the best. One blow to the Kremlin protect yourself from potential troubles in the September elections to the State Duma elections, which turned out to be boring, but quite successful for Putin. However, millions of people were delighted with the change of the Minister of education, not because I considered it a good political maneuver.

They were glad because the line Minister Livanov and his associate and predecessor in this chair Andrei Fursenko has exhausted itself. Because designed to bring the Russian education system to the Western model of reform was not thought out to the end. Because a year ago Olga Vasilyeva appeared as a man, is able to return to our schools, common sense and the part of the Soviet educational experience, which did not have to give up. 12 months later we can say: our then-expectations were immeasurably high.

Just want to mention. I still believe that some of the usual accusations against the Minister of education are unjustified. For example, last summer there was a lot of talk about the fact that Olga Vasilyeva is a strong Stalinist. I sharply negative attitude to Joseph Stalin and his public activities. And so it is very carefully read those passages from the speeches of the new Minister cited as proof of its Stalinist sentiment. Perhaps I badly searched, but no real apologetics “leader” I in these passages is not seen.

Not quite correct I believe, and to assign to Olga Vasiliev blame for the fact that in our universities and schools continues to grow pay component. The Minister of education is not God and not even the highest leader of the state. In conditions when the economy is falling or at least not growing, the Minister of education can do little to protect the interests of their industry. Why, for example, Margaret Thatcher, as British Minister of education in the early 70‑ies of the last century decided to abolish the practice of free distribution of milk to schoolchildren? Not because she wanted to earn offensive nickname “Thatcher the milk Snatcher” which stuck to her for a few years. In those years Britain was raging a terrible economic crisis. And Prime Minister Edward Heath took the difficult, but it is a conscious decision: in times of crisis education is not a priority for his government. In modern Russia the same with the Hit position was Vladimir Putin. As confirmed to me by several respected experts, in the current tight budgetary constraints our country cannot invest adequate money in health and education and maintain the “muscular” foreign policy. Putin is known to have made a choice in favor of active protection of national interests of Russia in the international arena. Such choice is regardless of whether it is right or wrong, unfortunately, predetermined the further erosion of the principle of free education in our country.

But even in the conditions of limited financial resources, the Minister of education of Russia is not a helpless pawn. The Minister can — and should — do a lot. It is considered that the modern Russian education is very weak. I don’t agree completely. In some aspects of our education is very strong. The problem is that this force is directed not in the direction you need. If you call a spade a spade, we in education repeat the experience of China’s emperors.

For more than a thousand years official in Imperial China could be the only person who successfully passed a special state exam ketsui. Introduced this test in order for the opportunity to enter public service was, even the talented commoner. Therefore, the tasks in the field of calligraphy, classical literature, and arithmetic were stressed difficult. And in order to avoid scams, there were altogether savage measures: the examinee was locked up for three days in a special cell with a job and a supply of food and drink.

However, gradually degenerated in exam for exam. Katsui became a brake of development of the country, one of the reasons for its backwardness. To put an equality sign between ketsui and the exam would, of course, an exaggeration. But anyone who has personally faced with the exam, you know: in the senior classes of Russian schools children are not taught in the old sense of the word. Children are taught to pass the exam. Students and their parents do not understand for what are going through hell: the ability to guess where to put the cross does not make a child educated and fitted for successful professional life.

There is no indication that Olga Vasilyeva ready to begin to eliminate distortions in its field. One of the most egregious of these distortions is a stunning gap in income levels among University managers and University professors.

I monitor the social networks for the rector quite famous educational institutions of our Northern capital. Now, judging by the photos, this venerable rector resides in the Principality of Monaco inspects the most expensive restaurants and places of entertainment. Who knows what Monaco, he will understand that prices are not just high, but exorbitant. I recently spoke with the acquaintance — the teacher of the more famous St. Petersburg University. His salary comparable to the salary of the cleaners in respecting commercial Bank. I understand that such a comparison is not entirely correct. But the situation where the rector in chocolate, and teachers — in a completely different substance, is typical of modern Russia. And this is absolutely wrong. Another terrible problem of Russian education — busieness. All aspire to give their children a higher education, and the economy, meanwhile, is suffocating from a lack of skilled workers, which, in theory, should prepare in colleges and other similar educational institutions.

Will make another important caveat: to lay exclusively at Olga Vasilieva responsibility for what all these and many other urgent problems of our education or not resolved at all or resolved insanely slow, it would not be entirely correct. Vasiliev in office for only a year. She was not prepared to work as a Minister. It’s anyone need to contemplate. The trouble is that in Russia it time to lose no. Education in our country is a huge inertial system. To move it in the desired direction can only be super. And to make these super, you must have strategic vision must have a clear programme of action.

According to leaks from the Ministry of education, Olga Vasilyeva such vision and no such programme. And this is understandable: to have a vision and a program, you have time to prepare for the role of head of education a long time to cook in this field. Instead, in the face Vasilyeva we have a person who worked in a different field. The official, whose appointment to the post of Minister was due to situational political considerations.

Meanwhile, in the modern world, good education is the key to economic growth. And, by the way, not only economic. In the NINETEENTH century after the defeat of Austria in war with Prussia, the famous journalist, geographer and anthropologist from the Leipzig Oskar Peschel wrote them into editable newspaper “Abroad”: “education plays a crucial role in the war… when the Prussians beat the Austrians, it was a victory of the Prussian over the Austrian teacher school teacher”.

I don’t want Russia with anyone he fought. But equally I don’t want Russia lost in the world of competitive competition. And now we are in this competition at least not winning — not winning, and cannot win while in the sphere of our education will not begin a real breakthrough change for the better. For the year to your tenure as Minister Olga Vasilyeva has not done anything particularly bad. But at the same time, she didn’t do anything particularly good. Russian education has lost a year, which in theory could be filled with positive change. That’s why I think we need the Minister of education, whose shelf life has not expired.


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