Media Review

17 february, 2012 13:47

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Socially-oriented solutions

The prime minister suggests a system of incentives in education instead of charity.

The prime minister suggests a system of incentives in education instead of charity

Vladimir Putin’s article “Building Justice: A Social Policy for Russia” published this week was not part of the election campaign either stylistically or by content. Talking about education issues that interest me most, I could describe this article as an attempt to formulate some concepts for the further modernisation of education. Putin did not adopt a no-one-left-behind policy but simply promised to increase education related salaries (which would have a positive impact), but salary increases that would incentivise a more effective and competitive environment, the key approach being to create incentives to increase educational effectiveness.   

I think the majority of Putin’s proposals are about this. He specified some of them at a meeting with university rectors. I think they expected this conversation, especially considering the continuous escalation of competition not only among state universities but also rapidly developing private and foreign institutions that have been actively pursuing a niche in the market with the fast progress of Internet-based education.

Therefore, even suggesting strictly socially-oriented solutions – higher allocations, more grants, bigger salaries for professors and teachers and making salaries between universities more consistent, Putin is talking not about charity but the need to form a system of incentives.

Students that receive average grants in the early years and serious grants for their research in their senior years are much more likely to remain at their universities and attend post-graduate courses if they know they can continue doing their favourite work and can receive decent money for doing it. Increase in the salaries of professors and teachers will make up for the enormous unfair gap between the pay of ordinary teachers that are in charge of the entire educational process and that of rectors.

Let me repeat that the goal is not simply to establish a fair system for paying teachers and supporting students. Apart from that, Putin suggested a package of measures aimed at creating a network of world class universities that can compete with their most prestigious foreign counterparts. In addition, Putin believes that effective higher education will become a basis for future social mobility that will allow young people to receive quality education and get a good job regardless of whether they were born and live in Moscow or in the regions.

To improve the quality of higher education, the prime minister suggested shutting down higher educational institutions that actually sell diplomas by installment, that don’t provide their students with practical knowledge and where students pay for their education over time even without showing up. Furthermore, the government will fund the restoration of research schools and continue joining higher educational institutions without serious research teams and labour markets for their graduates with respectable universities. Coupled with the Putin-proposed economic steps – budget investment in education and potential exemption of sponsorship assistance to higher educational institutions by companies from the tax on profits (this issue is now being reviewed by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance), these measures form a firm foundation for the further modernisation of higher education. 

I also appreciate that Putin did not impose his initiatives on the university community but only offered his vision on the development of the educational system. He outlined what the government is ready to do in this respect and what tasks should be formulated and carried out by universities. I think this approach is more productive and will receive a more positive response from the university community.

Vladimir Burmatov – first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Education and head of the chair of political science and sociology at Plekhanov Russian Economic University