Times they are a-changing: Russia has signed the Bologna Convention, which, among other things, requires it to switch to a 12-year school curriculum. When I was growing up, school only took 10 years. In those ungolden years, from 7 to 17, I learned more than enough in some areas, and nothing at all in others. Still, at 17 I probably knew more math, physics, chemistry and general history than an average American college graduate. Which shouldn’t be surprising, since the spread of college education in the US was largely offset by a decline in its quality. Some of the things that used to be taught at high school in 1930 are now taught only at college.
Now I wonder why Russia needs so badly to keep up with Europe in education. As I’ve said before, not only is Russia’s economy underdeveloped and energy-centered, but–more importantly–it society is a political infant. European societies, on the contrary, are past their prime, having entered a postmodern, self-destructive stage. Their educational systems have followed suit–or been at the forefront of the movement. The Soviet educational tradition, on the contrary, retained some healthy conservatism that post-Soviet reformers have been trying to wash out. One begins to suspect that, for a dozen years already, the Russian government has been busy destroying the country’s competitive advantage in education.
In the longer term, my hope is for private schools and universities to set the standard. Putin’s government is naturally not supportive of private education; Yeltsin did little in that respect, either. I know of a few good private colleges in Moscow, but I suspect they are critically dependent on foreign funding.