During the videoconference, the President heard reports from the governors of Perm Territory, Kurgan Region, and Krasnodar Territory.
The President instructed the Education and Science Ministry to keep the regional education system modernisation process under its ongoing supervision.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Our meeting today is on the state of progress of our project to modernise the general education system in the regions. The project was planned for a timeframe of 2.5 years and is nearing completion now, or at least the purely federal component is nearing completion. I remind you that this comprehensive programme was launched more than a year ago, and the project’s main priorities were fixed in presidential executive orders issued in May this year.
Providing quality education and raising teachers’ qualifications and social status are our key policy priorities for the coming years. We realise that the general education system must meet our people’s demands, be affordable and open, fair, and offer equal opportunities for all.
”Providing quality education and raising teachers’ qualifications and social status are our key policy priorities for the coming years. We realise that the general education system must meet our people’s demands, be affordable and open, fair, and offer equal opportunities for all.“
Feedback from the teachers themselves, which I will speak more about later, shows that the education professionals as a whole have reacted very positively to the programme. What matters is that the project is developing and the surveys show an increasingly positive assessment coming from teachers over the last year.
The project’s success depends in large part on the effort the regions put in. We have a linkup here with our colleagues in Perm, Krasnodar, and Kurgan, and I will give them the floor during the meeting so that they can tell us how the work is going in their regions.
There are plenty of good examples, but unfortunately, the opposite is also true, and we find examples of blatant inaction and a formalist approach to work. We are to raise the demands and be firmer in such cases.
I expect to hear from the Education and Science Minister [Dmitry Livanov] a detailed report on the project’s state of progress. You will be our main speaker today, and I’d like to hear from you on all aspects of the work and how things are progressing. At the same time, I want to draw your attention to a few other matters I think are important.
First is the need to ensure the right conditions for children’s education, including measures to develop and better equip schools. I know that not all teachers and classrooms have modern equipment yet. Even in cases when the equipment has been delivered, the surveys show that one fifth of teachers have not been able to make use of it yet because of poor internet access and a lack of the necessary manuals and software.
Let me say to you all here and in the regions that we need not just formal reports on budget money spent. This is the easy part. We also need real change in the quality of the education process itself.
For your reference, 80 billion rubles [$2.6 billion] in federal budget money was allocated to the regions in 2011–2012. This is a considerable amount of money in the education sector. Another 40 billion rubles [$1.3 billion] has been earmarked in 2013. Regional budgets contributed a total of 8.8 billion rubles in 2011, and this total will come to 10.8 billion rubles for this year. As we always say in such cases, each ruble must be accounted for and put to effective use.
Second, we agreed with the regions that one of the main criteria for evaluating the project’s effectiveness would be that teachers’ wages are in line with the average wage in each particular region. This is something we have been talking about for the second year in a row now. I note that 62 regions fulfilled this task last year, while in the rest, teachers’ wages have been raised by 30 percent or more, but have still not reached the average for the region.
Right from the start, when we first discussed this matter, I agreed that it would be difficult for some regions to bring wages into line with the regional average in just a year, but almost all of the regional governors promised that within two years they would all do it. What do we see in reality though? I think the Minister will tell us more about this.
According to the survey results, 61.3 percent of respondents said they had had a pay rise at the end of 2011, and in 2012, 51.6 percent said they had had a pay rise, a total of 40.5 percent said their wages are at the same level as last year, and 7.9 percent said their wages are now lower than at the end of 2011.
Wages have risen faster for teachers on high and middle incomes. In other words, wages have been raised wherever it has been easiest to do so. I will not give the absolute figures right now, but there are some worrying facts about teachers’ pay, which remains very low.
Average wages are rising now around the country. Wages in schools, especially teachers’ wages, should follow suit. Why do I put such stress on this? The fact of the matter is that we are getting worrying signals from some regions. Instead of continued growth, average pay for teachers has decreased. The regions at greatest risk of not meeting the set objectives are the Republics of Chechnya, Daghestan, and Ingushetia, and Vologda, Magadan, and Chelyabinsk Regions.
”Education is a sector in which we must avoid inconsistent action and constant turns from one direction to another. We must explain and clearly justify all of our actions and management decisions. We are to be in constant and open dialogue with the public and with the professional community.“
Of course, we all know that the wage dynamic in the education sector has its own specific features. Wages cannot rise from month to month. Traditionally, bonuses are paid at the end of the year, and holiday pay is paid at the start of the summer. Wages objectively always decrease a little in July and August. What I am talking about is the average wage, which should be higher now, after the first three quarters of 2012, than it was at the end of 2011.
Let me stress, however, that it is unacceptable when some regions, in order to post good statistics, pump up teachers’ pay at the end of the year only to bring it down again at the start of the following year.
None of you can resort to this kind of ‘arithmetic’. Not only is this disrespectful towards our people, but it discredits the whole objective and the authorities in general. We promised that average wages for teachers would increase in line with the increase in average wages in the economy as a whole, and we must keep our word.
I would like to hear from the Education and Science Minister on how supervision of the project’s key components is being carried out. Which regions are struggling to meet the set objectives? What has been done and what do you plan to do to fix this situation?
Third, wage rises should be pegged to structural changes in the education system and higher professional demands on teachers themselves. It is fair that the best teachers should receive higher wages. The regions in their efforts should use the most effective methods of encouraging quality and conscientious work.
Teachers’ performance should be evaluated not on the basis of what individual higher-ups think, but on criteria that are clear and transparent for the teachers and for society in general.
These criteria should be set out in the professional standards. The first sets of professional standards – for maths, literature, and Russian language teachers – should be ready by March 2013, and the teachers and experts must be involved in their drafting. The Education Ministry has already received the relevant instruction, and I ask the Minister to say a few words about this too, today.
Fourth, we have to seriously review the situation in teacher training. This concerns both training for students and teachers’ professional development programmes.
As for the aspects I think are important here, future teachers need a good solid basic education, and so I think we should make more use of the possibilities our classical universities offer for training teachers.
Education is a sector in which we must avoid inconsistent action and constant turns from one direction to another. We must explain and clearly justify all of our actions and management decisions. You all know what I am talking about. There were no chance figures in the last Government Cabinet, and the same is true now, when our current minister was previously a deputy minister and the rector of one of Moscow’s biggest universities.
”We must ensure that the quality of education our children receive and the living standards of their teachers continue to rise. This work goes beyond the scope of what a single project can achieve and will be a long-term undertaking. Achieving these goals is the guarantee of our country’s success.“
When people do not understand what is happening, then mistakes and glitches in the overall process start occurring, and in education lack of understanding among the public is a very serious thing. We are to be in constant and open dialogue with the public and with the professional community. This demand applies to the authorities at every level. The regions must decide clearly how many teachers their schools need and what disciplines will be taught based on real demands, and get the universities to train specialists in accordance.
Teachers working in schools must have the conditions they need to be able to constantly improve their knowledge and skills and raise their qualifications. As the education modernisation project has shown in full measure, teachers have a huge desire for professional growth.
Colleagues, we must ensure that the quality of education our children receive and the living standards of their teachers continue to rise. This work goes beyond the scope of what a single project can achieve and will be a long-term undertaking. Achieving these goals is the guarantee of our country’s success.
I therefore particularly stress the point that once the federal financing ends the work to modernise education in the regions must continue. This is extremely important. After all, we allocated additional funding from the federal budget in order to set this process in motion.
Starting from the middle of next year, the responsibility for continuing this work, including providing the funding, will be fully in the hands of the regions. I therefore ask the Education and Science Ministry to continue monitoring this project even after the additional federal funding ends. The Ministry should coordinate this process with the regions and provide them with all methodological and other such help as may be required.
Reports are coming in from the regions that they are seriously lacking methodological material on carrying out education system modernisation. I ask the Education Ministry to give this its particular attention and to continue monitoring the situation with teachers’ pay, based on a common and justified approach.
I therefore ask that the regional budgets’ expenditure be analysed at this stage. This is something the Finance Ministry can do. You have all the information on this. I ask you to analyse the spending planned for general education in 2013 and for the 2014–2015 period, so that the regional budgets can make the necessary adjustments in time.
I propose that we return to the discussion of the education modernisation project’s results for 2012, and also look in detail at the plans for next year. I ask the Government to draft the relevant report by February. Of course, the bulk of the work will fall once more to the Education and Science Ministry.