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Russia’s kids may be forced to draw knowledge from "average" books in "average" schools

October 10, 2014, 16:26 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Valery Matytsin

MOSCOW, October 10. /TASS/. Legislators from the State Duma’s Security Committee have come up with an idea that school students should draw knowledge from unified history, literature and Russian language manuals. In the meantime, the regional authorities are “streamlining” school education by reducing the financing of elite and specialized schools and merging them with ordinary ones.

A group of legislators from the United Russia party under the chairman of the State Duma’s Security Committee, coordinator of the Patriotic Platform Irina Yarovaya, submitted a bill of amendments to school education to the State Duma on Thursday. According to the proposals contained in the bill, there should be basic school manuals on three subjects — history, literature and the Russian language.

“The children — young citizens of Russia — must have one common history manual, one common Russian language manual and one common Russian literature manual,” Yarovaya explained the gist of the bill.

Another co-author of the document, deputy chairman of the Security Committee Franz Klintsevich, speaking at a meeting of the Patriotic Platform on the topic One Country — One Manual, explained, “Very uneasy days are coming. Efforts to destabilize the situation around Russia will continuing... In the meantime the chaos over our school manuals and unrestricted liberties have thrown our people entirely off balance. Whereas one can be calm about our military security, preserving the mental security of our children and people is a no simple task.”

The United Russia’s initiative has met with a cool response from many lawmakers. The deputy chief of the State Duma’s Committee for Education, Oleg Smolin, of the Communist Party, argues that the proposal runs counter to the concept of the law on education, which “implies a plurality, in other words, the possibility of existence of several schools of teaching, of different methodologies and, naturally, of several manuals.” Smolin is certain that “pressing for a unified manual is tantamount to narrowing the opportunities for modern school students to educate themselves.”

At the end of last August, Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov said that Russia would have several history manuals based on the same historical and cultural standard. Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012 called for drafting a concept of the history manual that would rule out dual interpretation of historical events. Last January, Putin approved a concept enabling scholars upholding any ideological preferences to produce such a history manual.

The authors of a new concept of Russia’s future history manual “were drafting a concept, and not a basic or unified manual,” the executive secretary of the Russian History Society, Andrey Petrov, told the daily Kommersant. In the meantime, the group of United Russia legislators has called for legalizing one basic manual mandatory for all.

The authors of the proposed bill proceed from the assumption that there exists some unified objective truth and that everything that departs from that truth is either false or unpatriotic,” senior lecturer Alexander Kobrinsky, of the Russian literature department at the Russian State Pedagogical University, told the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

In the meantime, as the school teachers’ community has noted with alarm, the process of adjusting school education to an average level is going on. The authorities are surely determined to slash costs. The earlier adopted federal law on education abolished the extra federal budget financing of special programs of gymnasiums, lyceums, and specialized and special resource educational establishments that envisaged in-depth studying of certain subjects, medical and psychological support for students and boarding programs.

The authors of that bill hoped that if the municipal authorities find spending expedient, they will fund them on their own from local budget money. But some regions, including Moscow, have opted for a different path. The Moscow Mayor’s Office has decided that as all children are equal, the elite schools should be merged with ordinary ones. As a result, the best Moscow schools are on the verge of bankruptcy. Their funding was slashed heavily last month. Now they have to look for sponsors or cut their own programs and become parts of larger educational corporations.

Teachers warn that elite schools will not survive this type of reorganization. The risk of enlargement and mergers is looming over schools for children with disabilities and children with deviant behavior. Experts are saying that the Moscow model of education levelling is spreading across the nation very fast. The same processes are underway in Tula, Ryazan and Ulyanovsk. On October 11, Moscow will see a rally in protest against attempts at unifying school education.

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