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Breakthrough Solutions to Lead the Way in Modernizing Education

On April 11, the Education Symposium held as part of the XIX HSE April International Academic Conference featured a presentation and discussion of the paper ‘12 Solutions for New Education,’ which was prepared by the HSE Institute of Education and the Russian Centre for Strategic Development.

These 12 solutions make up a greater programme focused on looking at the entire spectrum of changes that are needed, noted HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov. Different scenarios are possible in carrying out these solutions, but the inertia or non-monetary options have been excluded as a matter of principle. The government does, however, have other social obligations, and the education system cannot therefore count on the maximum amount of desired financing. Because of this, of the proposed projects and subprojects it is necessary to select the most important ones and determine what can be given up, Yaroslav Kuzminov added.

Currently, four important areas have been selected based on discussions with the professional community: aligning children’s educational opportunities, reforming high school education, creating the conditions for adults to pursue continuing education, and ensuring equal access to quality professional education.

Yaroslav Kuzminov noted that 60% of families are ready to invest in education, and co-financing mechanisms do not have to touch the laws set forth by the Russian Constitution concerning free education. It is also important to attract money from businesses and use state and private partnerships to solve the problems education faces with infrastructure. Another resource for change is the development of the digital environment, which can be used to achieve results with fewer costs than if traditional forms alone were used.

According to the Head of the HSE Institute of Education Isak Froumin, Russia has a high level of educational attainment, but higher access to education does not lead to an increase in workforce productivity. In OECD countries with higher incomes, 70% of the national wealth consists of the human potential that is capitalised in intellectual products and services. In Russia, however, this figure is only 48%. But education is not hostage to imperfect labour market institutions or a bad business climate; the problem is the insufficient quality of education. For example, we have not yet been adequately successful at giving schoolchildren the tools of the 21st century. According to research conducted by PISA, fewer than 2% of Russian schoolchildren achieve the highest level of the three foundational literacy concepts, whereas 6.5% of South Korean students do.

Another problem is that Russia is incredibly behind competing countries as concerns education financing, Isak Froumin noted. Over the last few years, the level of real financing in education has dropped considerably, and there are simply not enough funds. It is therefore difficult to introduce the necessary methods for improving education. A classic example is notebooks for schoolchildren, notebooks that make the learning process more comfortable. The Russian regions are not prepared to spend budgetary funds on them every year, and parents are not ready to spend their own money since they believe that general education should be completely free.

Russian Presidential Aide and Former Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko explained that the authors of the paper aimed to answer two questions – how can education promote the country’s development, and how can education spending be used to guarantee that each person is able to realise his or her potential. The question of how those who work in education will feel is also important, but minor.

During the discussion, Moscow Department of Education Chief Isaak Kalina said it was necessary to factor in not only economic efficiency indicators for attracting additional funds for the education system, but also social and pedagogical ones as well, as done in Moscow. He added that an increase in budgetary spending on education does not need to be dragged out over the course of several years; Moscow’s experience shows that a 1.5-year allocation of larger financing provides a lasting effect.

The President of the Russian publishing house Prosveshchenie Vladimir Uzun noted the importance of creating new ‘digital schools’ in Russia that would become modern centres for education, and he suggested starting by transforming high schools. Businesses are also prepared to participate in this programme, so the money the government invests can be doubled in this case. ‘Financial models and roadmaps have already been prepared, and barriers have been identified that prevent private businesses from investing in education. Concrete steps have been set to help get rid of these [barriers],’ Vladimir Uzun concluded.

The Head of the Talent and Success Foundation Elena Shmeleva said that working with talent is a core factor in the country’s economic success. She believes it is critical for representatives of science and higher education, as well as mentors from the business sector, to teach gifted children. They are the ones who will become the ‘drivers of meaning,’ and it is under this model that the Sirius Educational Centre in Sochi is already operating.