History of Primary Education in Russia

Historical factors that shaped the Primary Education system of Russia edit


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Objective Overview of the Chapter edit

After reading this chapter, the learner will edit

  • Know the history of primary education system of Russia and how it evolved throughout the years
  • Be able to identify economic, social and political influences that shaped the current primary education of Russia
  • Understand how centralization/decentralization has influenced primary education of Russia
  • Understand different political agendas, reforms and views on primary education in Russia

Pre-socialist, socialist legacies and Post-Soviet period edit

Pre-socialist legacy edit

In the late 18th century, during the Russian Empire, education had become a state concern with several universities, an academy of science and secondary schools being established followed by the creation of the Ministry of Education back in 1802 (Silova & Eklof, 2013). The influence of the Orthodox church was also seen through seminaries which were founded by the church that played an important role in educating the prominent civil servants and revolutionists. The Russian educational system was at the turning point during the Great Reforms of the 1860s which was carried out as part of fundamental transformations under Czar Alexander II (1818-1881). Elementary education was declared open to all social class under The Statute on Elementary Public Schools of 1864. (Cherkasov, 2015). The Great Reforms have made the schooling possible for the newly liberated serfs and women were given better educational opportunities. However, in the late 19th century, the peasant class was still mainly uneducated (Rumyantseva et al., 2018).

In 1894, Nikolay II inherited the Russian Empire with the population of 120 million people, and the state of education was inspected by the Literacy Committee under his orders. Based on the results of the inspection, it was shown that the primary schools and literacy schools accounted for 60,592 with 2,970,066 students. (Cherkasov, 2015). All-Russian First Census Data (1905), also shows that only 21 percent of the population were able to write and count. (p. 139). Prior to World War I, there had been a rise of state emphasis on public schooling for the lower classes in hopes of achieving universal primary education by 1922 (Silova & Eklof, 2013). According to the public education system data in the late 19th century, by 1897, more than 3.3 million people studied in primary educational institutions. (Cherkasov, 2015). There was a great emphasis in youth’s upbringing to labor in pre-revolutionary textbooks. Academic year at primary schools usually started from 1 to 15 September with children in the age group of 8-11 attending the school. In 1903, the Ministry of Public Education published a report that shows an increase in the number of primary schools of different types up to 87,973 with the number of students studying up to 5,088,029 (Cherkasov, 2015). This achievement was not as significant as it seemed, in fact, the government’s efforts for public education was rather inadequate due to the fact that it coincided with the demographic explosion occurred at that time. Nevertheless, during the years of 1894-1917, the primary education in Russia made some positive progress.

Socialist legacy / Post-World War I / The October Revolution of 1917 edit

World War I led to the collapse of the Russian Empire and all the new countries, including Russia itself, started to build a strong foundation for educational infrastructure. Most policymakers highly supported the creation of a comprehensive primary education system. The Russian revolution of 1917 got rid of all the old systems of the Russian Empire and educational institutions of all types were nationalized. The responsibility for development and control of education were taken by the People’s Commissariat for Education. The statue on Unified Labor School was approved in 1918 that created the free, unified, labor compulsory school divided into two stages: primary school (ages 8-13) and the secondary school (ages 13-17) with the emphasis on polytechnic education and productive labor. (Education Encyclopedia, n.d.). New, secular and democratic, school system was implemented without uniforms, grades, textbooks, religious education or conventional disciplinary boundaries of the czarist school. (Silova & Eklof, 2013). “The collective” as the main agent of socialization was put into effect by rejecting teachers’ and parental authority. The Bolsheviks designed the schools in a way that it would eventually build socialism by indoctrinating communist ideology. The Russian educational system incorporated political and ideological indoctrination and the practice became an integral part of the system. (Froumin & Remorenko, 2020).

Toward the middle of 1920s, under Joseph Stalin’s rule, education system became highly centralized placing a great deal of emphasis on industrialization, collectivization of agriculture, and cultural revolution. The communist Party controlled all the levels of education, including primary education, by materializing the legal decisions in standard curricula, syllabi, and textbooks. The education system under Stalin’s rule was rather egalitarian and collectivist that rejected individual initiative or choice. (Silova & Eklof, 2013). However, it’s worth noting that delivering universal literacy was effectively implemented under Stalin’s reign. Another positive aspect of the Soviet educational system was associated with its attempts and efforts to achieve social equality and offer mass educational opportunities despite the issues of repression and corruption (Froumin & Remorenko, 2020).

Following the death of Stalin, the Communist Party headed by Nikita Khrushchev started de-Stalinization of the country which brought about radical changes in economic, political and social spheres of life. (Education Encyclopedia, n.d.). Major features that came with Khrushchev’s educational reforms were later eliminated after new figure Leonid Brezhnev rose to power in 1964. However, new changes initiated by the government under Brezhnev’s rule mainly concerned the secondary education and by the mid-1970s the transfer to universal secondary education was accomplished. As for primary school system, the propagation of Communist Ideology resumed through the Octobrist organization involving children aged 7-10. (Education Encyclopedia, n.d.). The qualitative increase under the new leadership did not compensate for the gap between the country's requirements and the educational system's capabilities. This education problem, which emerged in the 1980s, echoed broader trends in Soviet society. The long-standing Russian educational tradition and collected intellectual property have clashed with the Soviet bureaucratic administrative machine's ideological strain. The state's monopoly on education lacked initiative, diversity, and enthusiasm. It eventually curtailed society's intellectual capacity. The attempt at educational reform in 1984 did not only fail to resolve the situation but exacerbated it. School, which was largely used to indoctrinate children, was unconcerned about their uniqueness, national, and regional requirements.

Post-Soviet period edit

Since 1991, Russian education has undergone a post-Soviet transformation that must be viewed in the context of social, political, cultural, and economic change (Silova & Palandjian, 2018). The major concepts of the revolutionary reforms launched by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, ‘perestroika’ (restructuring) and ‘glasnost’ (openness), had a tremendous impact on the educational system (Silova & Eklof, 2013). The All-Union Educational Convention accepted democratization, pluralism, diversity, humanization, and continuity as the primary principles for its ongoing development in 1988. (Education Encyclopedia, n.d.). The new program began in 1990 and was carried out in Russia, which formed as an independent country following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The post-Soviet Russian educational changes were notable for a number of factors. The school had finally gained its independence and could now pursue democratic teaching methods. From the late 1980s through the early 1990s, novel ideas were rapidly developed and spontaneously implemented. Educators recognized the need to pay greater attention to each individual student, but they concluded that doing so in classrooms of twenty-five to thirty individuals was far too challenging. It became evident that the concept of humanization could only be achieved in tandem with significant societal changes. The fundamental objectives are outlined in the federal Education Law of 1992. (Education Encyclopedia, n.d.).

Conclusion edit

Because of the socioeconomic background, the changes were a lengthy and hard process. The need to make economic changes eclipsed the educational duties to some extent. The autonomy granted to educational institutions was not always handled wisely and resulted in unfavorable outcomes. Many instructors began generating low-quality courses, textbooks, and methodological materials because they lacked adequate professional training, psychology, and practical experience. These unfavorable inclinations prompted the creation of state standards. By 1999-2000, the situation had stabilized, and the educational system had undergone fundamental legislative and conceptual adjustments (Education Encyclopedia, n.d.).

Reference List edit

Cherkasov, A. (2015). All-Russian Primary Education (1894–1917): Developmental Milestones. Social Evolution & History, Vol. 10 No. 2, (pp. 138–149). ‘Uchitel’ Publishing House.

Education Encyclopedia, (n.d.). Russian Federation. History & Background.

Froumin, I., Remorenko, I. (2020). From the “Best-in-the World” Soviet School to a Modern Globally Competitive School System. In: Reimers, F. (eds), Audacious Education Purposes. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-41882-3_9

Rumyantseva, N., Matveenko, V., Tretiyakova, L., & Yurova, Y. (2018). State Reforms in the Field of Education in Russia (Late 18th-Early 19th Centuries). Journal of History Culture and Art Research, 7(1), 46-54. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.7596/taksad.v7i1.1440

Silova, I. & Eklof, B. (2013). Education in Eastern and Central Europe: Re-thinking post-socialism in the context of globalization. In R. F. Arnove & C. A. Torres (Eds.), Comparative education: The dialectic between the global and the local (4th edition) (pp. 379-402). New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Silova, I., & Palandjian, G. (2018). Soviet empire, childhood, and education. Revista Española de Educación Comparada, 31, 147–171. https://doi.org/10.5944/reec.31.2018.21592.

Miro [Online Whiteboard for Visual Collaboration]. (2011). Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://miro.com

Review Questions edit

  1. How would you categorize the historical periods of Primary Education development of Russia?
  2. What are the main factors that influenced the Primary Education in Russia?
  3. Please explain, how centralization and decentralization of the Primary Education occured.
  4. What were the main educational reforms that shaped the Primary Education of Russia throughout the history?