The Russian Federation itself is a relatively new state. It was shaped 30 years ago after the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Russia has a unique historical, social, and cultural background, with a mix between imperialism, soviet influence, and 30 years of modern history. All these different periods have had an impact on the educational system. There were numerous attempts to reform the education system after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Some of the most significant ones were the 1992 federal law “On Education” innovations, including the possibility of private schools, new textbooks, and school financial autonomy (Dashchinskaya, 1997); the 2003 signing of the Bologna Declaration marking the beginning of a unified European educational space in some Russian institutions; and the introduction of national standardized testing, which has been mandatory since 2009 (Tsyrlina-Spady, 2016).

According to an education expert, fundamental changes have come up with the 2009-2010 reforms and the issue of a new law directive (On Education in the Russian Federation, 2012). Crucial reforms included funding schools per student, new standardized tests for school graduates and college freshmen, prioritization of school proximity in the admission process, creation and sustainability of safe school environments, promotion of inclusive education, and gradual termination of specialized educational institutions.

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Such successful changes as a consistent investment in education, creation of a national assessment system and the inclusion of obtained scores as main indicators for university admission (providing equal access to universities for all adolescents, including lower-income families and people from distant regions), almost universal coverage of pre-school education, and per capita funding. These changes have allowed Russian students to exceed in results of Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) for 2019, which, upon publishing, showed Russia leading the rankings after the East Asian economies (Shmis, 2021). Nevertheless, the purpose of this article is to shed light on some of the most pressing issues within the Russian educational sector.

Inclusive education challenges

There are several types of challenges impeding the fulfillment of inclusive education. Firstly, there are insufficient specialists who possess the necessary skills and expertise to work with children with special needs. A study conducted in the Ural Federal region highlighted that around 60% of respondents noted the absence of highly specialized staff (psychologists, social pedagogues, tutors, etc.), especially in schools in small towns and rural areas (Grunt, 2019). Secondly, there is not enough material. Although most inclusive schools nowadays have elevators, ramps, widened doorways, Braille signs, and sound accompaniment, there is a lack of educational and methodological materials for teaching children with special needs (Mironova, Smolina, Novgorodtseva 2019). Thirdly, the bureaucracy around education is particularly burdensome regarding inclusive education. The distribution of power and responsibilities between teachers, tutors, psychologists, or social workers can pose barriers to reaching agreements. Finally, there is a huge gap in communication, collaboration, and proper interaction between teachers and parents, between children with and without special health needs. Value conflicts become apparent when the classes are mixed with disabled children and. Unfortunately, the actors involved in educational activities are not always willing to comprehend the changes that have occurred in the past few years.

A decline in the prestige of vocational and technical colleges

The widespread trend of obtaining a higher education diploma is undoubtedly beneficial for society; however, every coin has two sides. In the case of the Russian Federation, this trend has brought about the oversaturation of the labor market with specialists with higher education. This has, in turn, decreased the prestige of vocational and technical colleges and has resulted in the lack of technical specialists or workers with secondary vocational training (Ivanova, 2016). Russia has one of the highest tertiary attainment rates among the OECD members, as illustrated in Graph 1 below (OECD, 2019). Despite the declining levels of the prestige of vocational studies, vocational programs are still relatively more widespread than in other OECD countries.

Resource: OECD. (2019). Education at a Glance 2019: Country note. OECD.

Increase in investment resulting from the new challenges in the educational system

To increase the quality of Russian education, new investment is necessary. Russia offers great digital infrastructure, so the digitalization and creation of tailored educational platforms is just a matter of extra investment and collaborative efforts. It is crucial to adapt to changing teaching modalities such as hybrid and online regimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Introducing unique teaching and learning methods will increase students’ motivation and engagement in the process.

Teaching real-life skills development

After the participation by Russian students in the PISA assessment of collaborative problem-solving skills (2015), the most significant negative gap was noted between results in mathematics, science, and reading (core PISA tests) and the students’ ability to solve problems collaboratively (Shmis, 2021). As it is one of the vital modern skills, new reforms should be adapted to introduce new aspects of collaborative work in schools and make them a center of obtaining new knowledge and mastering skills necessary for the modern world.

By Elizaveta Rusakova


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