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Reform of the high school of Russia: Reality and perspectives

Valery Meskov and Vladimir Mironov
Committee for Higher Education of the Russian Federation

The Russian system of higher education has recognised the need to incorporate technology for learning and to devolve responsibility for management of learning centres to the local level. Reforms have been undertaken and legislation has been introduced to establish a market for educational services. Decentralisation, international links and use of technology for learning are key elements in the changes taking place.

The State Committee for Higher Education of Russia (State Committee) is the newly founded federal (central) body in the structure of Russian Government, governing the whole system of the higher education of our country.

The system of the higher education of Russia is one of the largest educational systems in the world. Now it includes more than 3.5 thousand educational institutions of the post-secondary education. Among them there are 539 State universities and other higher educational institutions which are given the same status. It also means about 3 thousand secondary special educational institutions and colleges. It's already more than 120 non-governmental (private) educational institutions.

The Russian system of higher education has an enormous potential. It is proved at least by the fact that more than 70% of Russian scientists teach in the higher education institutions. 227708 professors and teachers taught at higher school in 1992, including 15356 professors and 77240 assistant professors. 9912 students did a postgraduate course in 1991. 190136 students entered higher school in 1993.

As you know, any educational system is inseparably linked with the social economical changes going on in the society. That is why the system of education of Russia cannot and should not stay apart from the changes, which are going on in our society and country.

The Law of Russian Federation on Education and the Edicts of the Russian President Boris Yeltsin are the legislative foundation of these changes. According to them, Russian higher educational institutions got the autonomy and became the owners of the earth, buildings and equipment.

The reform affects all aspects of the activity of the high school; the structure of the higher education, its content, the range of different directions of training and specialities, the system of financing, higher educational science, principles of management, material technical base and social sphere.

The main purpose of the reform is to make the system of education more open and dynamic, orientated to the satisfaction of educational needs of citizens. This system should be capable of reacting flexibly to the requirements of the society, to function effectively on the world education market.

Development of the State educational standards in Russia became one of the most important stages of the reform. Paradoxical as it may seem, the standards give the opportunity to diversify the content and stages of education.

In addition to the previous multi-stage system of the specialists' training, a multi-level system has been introduced. Four main professional educational programs can be proposed for simultaneous use at higher school institutions. Graduates get master's, bachelor's specialist's diplomas. The time of mastering of these programs is 4 to 6 or 4 to 5 years. The construction of these programs gives the students an opportunity to proceed from one program to another. Now about 20% of Russian higher educational institutes have passed to a multi-level system.

It is necessary to introduce the complete standard for solving problems of academic mobility and academic freedoms. It will also be the foundation for regulating the questions of equivalence of educational documents.

It is obvious, that the standards should be based on new educational-methodical foundation. It is especially important for those directions of the training, specialities and disciplines, which were not developed in Russia earlier, or they were taught in the rigid ideological frameworks. We can say, that it is necessary to create new educational-methodical basis for the social-political disciplines, business, management and education in the economical field. This base should be created with the use of the world experience.

It is necessary to include interdisciplinary links and knowledge into standard. It is more important to study the methodology of the subject that to accumulate the elementary data base. We need a pedagogical paradigm, developing the intellectual abilities of graduates. We mean the "knowledge engineering".

The realisation of new paradigm requires modern educational technologies, information systems for education, development of the local global networks, access to the international data bases. The international UNICOM Project is used in Russia for the universities' networks. All these changes, including the development of the training programs, can be conducted on the basis of fundamental scientific investigations. To solve the problem, considerable effort is given to the support of scientific schools, development of the infrastructure of innovative activities, establishment of scientific and technological "incubators". Large scale programs are under way, including "Universities of Russia", "Conversion of the Higher Scientific and Technical Potential". At present, 78 international scientific joint projects are being carried out.

An important trend in the reform is optimisation of the economics of higher school functioning in the period of transition to market economy. We see our task as creating optimum conditions for higher school institutions to be able to offer paid educational services. A market of educational services is being created in Russia. Higher school institution are acquiring the experience necessary for work in the market economy system. The task of federal institutions is to provide a legislative basis for such work. A multi-channel system of university and college funding is already in operation. This includes state budgeting, regional and municipal investments, work of universities and colleges at the market of education services.

The Russian high school has a great potential for development and commercial introduction of high technology processes, equipment, materials and information services. Decentralisation and diversification of the system of higher school management is an important problem. This assumes a transfer from the unitary-state to state-public type of management. A new regional policy should be worked out. Subjects of the Federation, the regions including, claim to have greater authority in the development of local educational systems. The current trend can lead to a state when only general programs of the educational development (funded from the state budget and carried out on a contest basis) are developed and introduced at the Federal level.

The reform also requires changes in the international activities of higher school, which is both an essential element of the reform, and a means to provide for the above aspects. Russia has been always cooperating in the world educational system. During the recent 50 years more than 400,000 foreign students were educated in the USSR, more than a half of them in Russia. Nevertheless, Russia has never been a full and equal participant in the world market of education services. The reform implies development of mechanisms providing for each university and college a possibility of being a subject of international cooperation. One of such mechanisms is working out and signing of inter-governmental and inter-departmental agreements and treaties for particular programs. The programs should be aimed at realisation of the priority and strategic interests in the interstate relations.

For the development of such treaties and agreements it can be expedient to set up joint interdepartmental commissions. We are going to do the international marketing of our educational services, take an active part in and introduce our universities and colleges at the European and world educational fairs.

Of special importance is the trend in our work which is connected with the participation of Russian higher school teachers and scientists in international programs and projects. This includes existing programs, but also initiations of new projects. "Partnership" is the most adequate term for the nature of the Russian higher school activities in the field of international cooperation.

Authors: Valery Meskov, Vice-Minister, Committee for Higher Education of the Russian Federation
Vladimir Mironov, Counsellor, Committee for Higher Education of the Russian Federation

Please cite as: Meskov, V. and Mironov, V. (1994). Reform of the high school of Russia: Reality and perspectives. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Learning Environment Technology: Selected papers from LETA 94, 163-164. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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