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Meeting of the Commission for the Implementation of Priority National Projects and Demographic Policy

August 31, 2011, Sochi

Dmitry Medvedev chaired a meeting of the Commission for the Implementation of Priority National Projects and Demographic Policy on developing school education.

The agenda included discussion of the Our New School initiative, improving the national final school exam (EGE) system, funding matters, state accreditation of schools, and schools’ preparedness for the start of the new school year. 

Mr Medvedev issued a number of instructions for the Government following the meeting. They include drafting a set of common criteria for state accreditation of study programmes regardless of the type of educational establishment, ensuring that students’ results are recorded throughout the entire learning period, putting in place the conditions for teachers to do internships, and forming a personnel reserve of education sector managers in all of the country’s regions. 

The issue of granting people greater access to high-technology medical treatment was also discussed at the meeting.

* * *

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,

Tomorrow is the start of the new school year. Today’s meeting of the Commission is devoted to developing school education, and above all, of course, the Our New School initiative, which I presented a while ago.

Around 1.5 million families will take their children to start their very first day of school this year. These children will all start their studies under a new set of education standards. We have a total of 47,000 schools in the country. The number has dropped somewhat compared to before we began the education reforms, but all of them must be fully prepared for the new school year. I want to hear information on the state of affairs today, what has been done, and whether there are still any problems. (Addressing Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko) Mr Fursenko, I want a direct report from you on all of this.

Schools must meet modern standards of security, medical services, school meals, and of course the latest demands regarding organisation of the study process itself.

Before we move on to the main subject on the agenda, I want to say a few words first on work on the national projects. Five years have passed now since we began this work. I think that even our staunchest critics would have to admit that these national projects have produced real results in all of the priority areas. These results are impossible to ignore. In many cases they set an example for effective work in the sectors concerned.

But the best and most important result of all is that these projects have raised social standards and gained in status, and this translates into a better quality of life. In the healthcare sector, in particular, not only have we improved the quality of healthcare services, but we have also succeeded in raising the birth rate and life expectancy. This is an objective fact, no matter what one’s views on this subject. 

The statistics show that more than half of our people think there has been an improvement in the areas the national projects cover, but at the same time, we all know full well that there are still big problems in the housing sector, in healthcare, and in education. What our people think is to be the main yardstick we use to measure the success of our work, and so, there is still a great deal left to do. 

There were a number of targets that we failed to meet last year. The heat wave and drought had severe consequences for the harvest and for people’s health too of course. Then of course there was the crisis, which began in 2008, continued in 2009, and was still making its effects felt in 2010. Its effects are still felt on the pace of housing construction, for example. We are also behind in our plans for building high-technology medical and perinatal centres.

I want to make one comment along the way. The programme to give people greater access to high-technology medical treatment was part of the national project. A number of regions are currently experiencing big problems with implementing the quotas. I see that this is something people are busy discussing. People are writing about it, writing to me too. You must put this matter in order. There must be full funding available for the allocated quotas. I hope the Finance Ministry hears this message. We cannot make promises and then not be forthcoming with the money. (Addressing Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov) Mr Zhukov, I already asked you to put this issue in order as soon as possible. Of course, I realise that there might be objective circumstances to take into consideration, but if there are systematic delays in a whole area or number of areas, this is something that should be properly looked into, and the relevant conclusions, including dismissal decisions, must be made. I draw the Government officials’ attention to this point.

Now, coming to the Education national project. Let me remind you that more than 280 billion rubles was allocated from the budgets at the different levels for this project over 2006–2010. This is a lot of money and made it possible to modernise schools’ teaching and equipment resources, substantially in some cases, and not as much as we would have liked in others, but practically all schools have been upgraded in one way or another. They have received computers and internet access, and, most important of all, talented teachers are getting the support they need, and we are attracting young graduates into the teaching profession, which is also something we have talked about a lot.

Overall, the national project has gone quite a long way in helping to lay the foundations for modern schools that meet the demands of innovative development. We have put the main emphasis on modernising the content and quality of education. This aspect of work received attention last year too with the launch of the Our New School initiative. A total of 210 billion rubles, including 40 billion from the federal budget, were allocated for this programme’s implementation in 2010. 

As I mentioned, new standards are already being implemented for the first year of school, and also, in part, for the fifth year classes. We now are to continue this work on the standards for general school education.

A total of 110,000 teachers have attended on-going training courses, and in almost half of our regions – 44 to be exact – programmes for gifted children have been launched. More attention is being paid now to developing distance learning and inclusive education. 

The draft law on education was drawn up and submitted to broad public discussion. On my instruction, the results of this public discussion must be summarised and taken into account, and the draft law itself is to be reworked in accordance. 

This year, we began implementing the second stage of our national initiative, namely, the programme to modernise regional education systems. Around 120 billion rubles in federal subsidies will be allocated to the regions for this work over the next three years. This is in addition to the funds allocated for schools’ routine maintenance. This is also a considerable amount of money and must be spent as effectively as possible on the most urgent and important measures, which I will now list.

First, we must put into place the conditions for all children to receive a good quality education. All schools, regardless of their type, must teach modern skills and knowledge, and their work must be judged according to the concrete results they produce and the quality and complexity of their programmes. This work should be based on the existing best practice in our country, including that developed through the national project’s implementation and through individual regional programmes. These criteria also have to be used in deciding on financing matters and state accreditation of schools.

We also are to put in place a system making it possible to take into account the overall results and performance of students not just in the very last years of school, as has been the tradition here, but starting from an earlier stage covering the year 5 to year 9 study period. This would give students greater incentive to study hard throughout the entire school process and not just before sitting the final school exams.

As for the national final exam itself, there is still a lot of improvement to be made. Following the teachers’ council meeting in Maikop in August, when I met with teachers from Adygeya, I gave instructions on this matter, including the instruction to hold public discussions on this subject and take the results into account. At the same time, I want to say that for all its problems, the national final school exam nonetheless does broaden access to higher education and should remain the main means of assessing the quality of education. It should be the main instrument, but as I have said many times, not the only instrument.

Finally, I think it a good idea to get post-graduate students and young graduates involved in teaching their speciality subjects to the senior classes in our schools. One of the basic conditions for modernising our schools is to ensure a high quality of teaching and bring new people and skills into the teachers’ corps. We are putting a lot of investment into education and of course expect to see the according results. The new measures taken to raise teachers’ social status and wages are aimed at motivating them to produce a high quality of work, learn and make use of new teaching methods and technology, and quite simply show creativity in their work.

We discussed all of these issues at the August meeting. I would like to hear your views on these same matters today, and hear to what extent you think these things are being taken into account in teachers’ pay rises at the moment.

We also need a modern teacher training system. We still have a lot of work to do to modernise the network of teacher training colleges. This work began several years ago. It was one of the things I was working on when I was in the Government. We have to get top professionals involved in this work. Teachers must have opportunities for on-going training, including through individual schemes, and for doing internships in leading Russian and foreign educational centres. 

Another important issue is that of training education managers – school principals and senior staff. The most talented among them should be included in a personnel reserve of education managers. It would be good for each region to have its personnel reserve. This is something to think about.

Finally, one of our biggest tasks is to modernise school infrastructure. This is one of the most difficult tasks because the infrastructure is in a neglected state. We have many schools in very different regions. But regardless of the difficulties, active work to develop new standards of school building design, equipment for classrooms, medical facilities, school canteens, and sports facilities remains a priority task.

Around 13 percent of schools have undergone complete renovation over the first year of the national initiative’s implementation. This is an acceptable result if we manage to pick the pace up with time. The number of schools with their own school gyms has increased. A tender for the best school building design received 62 bids, of which 20 were selected. I would like to know where these projects are being carried out, and if even a single school has actually been built to any of these new designs yet.

Finally, I want to say that modern schools’ biggest demand is the ability to identify and develop children’s talents so that they can be turned later into life achievements. Ultimately, this is vital for our competitiveness and our ability to resolve our big economic and social development problems at the national level and in the various regions.

Let’s begin work now.


President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Keeping with everything we have discussed today, as I already said, I am giving the Russian Federation Government the instruction to ensure that records are kept of students’ various results and achievements throughout the entire learning period and in the final exams. Students’ performance throughout the entire initial schooling period and from years five to nine, must be taken into account in their overall final results.

I am also giving the instruction to make the legal amendments required to establish a set of common criteria and common approach for state accreditation of study programmes irrespective of the type of school concerned. Both of these instructions must be implemented by February 1, 2012.

Another thing I already mentioned is the need to get post-graduate students and young graduates involved in teaching their speciality subjects. The business community representatives should also be involved. This is a good idea. The Government has also received an instruction on this.

On the subject of internships, we are to draw up the measures for organising internships [for teachers] in leading educational centres in Russia and abroad (the deadline for this work is longer – it must be completed over the course of the year). We must work at the same time on attracting specialists into the teacher training field. We need top professionals from home and abroad here. This is important too.

Finally, regarding the personnel reserve, as I said to the regional governors, I want this matter included among the instructions coming out of today’s meeting. The Education Ministry and the regional governors will have the task of forming personnel reserves of education sector managers, including school education managers, in their respective regions, so as to have a pool of suitable people at the ready and not have to rush around frantically looking for school principals and study programme heads.

Everything else that we discussed will also be included in the instructions drawn up following this meeting. I wish all of you a good start to the new school year.

August 31, 2011, Sochi