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Neo-liberal globalization and reform of education in Russia

Most of the Russian people think positively about meeting of the heads of G8 countries in St. Petersburg, because it is a sign of “superpower status” which still exists in their mind. The ordinary Russian people do not quite understand the sense of the protest, if protests are motivated with logics such as “why a group of elite, not ourselves determines our lives?”, since they have already become accustomed with this state of affaires. They need to know, what the real consequences for their day-to-day existence were entailed by the summits decisions.

As is well known one of the topics planned to be discussed on summit is education. Negotiations will concern measures to be carried out in the context of Bologna Process. Russia joined to this Process in September 2003. Most of “Bologna ideals” – rise of the mobility of students and tutors, simplification of enrolling to a foreign university, recognition of diplomas in all participating countries, autonomy of universities as a foundational principle are all good. But concrete consequences of their implantation into the educational system raise big doubts. Unification of education between different countries by introduction of common professional demands and examination units (European credits transfer system) in force will lighten life of the bureaucrats and employers, not life of students and tutors. It is indicative that the initiative of Bologna Process came from state bureaucracy, not from academic community. The simplification of moving educational services and qualified personnel on the market isn’t the same as improvement the quality of education. For Russia, integration of the educational system to all-European standards is one of the conditions of affiliation to the World Trade Organization. Membership in WTO means the participation in General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which open the road for commercialization of education as one of services. Due to lack of the trade unions and social laws Russian educational system meets liberal tyranny of the state face to face. Aim of educational reform in Russia is to create an ideal market of educational services which European ideologists of neo-liberalism could not even dream about.

Some examples: The one aspect is moving into two-step system of higher education (bachelor’s and master’s degrees). This system is traditional for Europe but totally artificial for Russia. In Soviet Union students studied for 5 years and got the diploma of a specialist. As a result of reform substantial part of students will study only 3-4 years to get bachelor’s degree and their diploma will be of much less prestige than before. Those students who would like to get a master’s degree should pay for their education. They should have enough money or try to find a sponsor among employers. In that way the new two-step system worsens the quality of education and divides students into privileged and non- privileged according to their financial capability and current market conditions. The reform proposes something like this for the secondary school as well. A basic curriculum, for which a budget financing is guaranteed, will be greatly reduced, but at the same time, special courses requiring payments will be introduced at the higher grades.

The regional technical schools and colleges will be supported from the local budgets only. This means closure of the most educational institutions in the Russian province, because they survive only due to federal subsidies. Reform also includes invitation of employers not only to financing, but also to planning of educational standards. Thus contents of the curriculum will not be defined by demands of the society as whole, but by needs of the corporations. So main goal of the educational reform in Russia is to completely submit system of education to demands of the market.

So what may be our position? Education should have a value in itself. It provides society with cultural reproduction, forms an intellectual framework in which new projects and concepts of the development are formed. Education can not and should not prepare only narrow specialists, who provide new cadres to administration of the state and economics. Total capitulation of education to market will result loss of this central social resource. There will be nothing more to put against reproduction of the market relations.

How we may oppose attack against education? For sure, for anarchists it would be strange to demand increase of budget spending. But in another hand, there would also be a certain sense in this – after all, state coffin is filled as a result of looting local communities and individuals, and even if it is violently formed, it is a “common stock”. So it would be completely logical to give powers the following condition – if state gives up its responsibility to support system of education and passes it to private sector, citizens who are paying their education themselves should not be anymore required to pay taxes to the state. This same also holds with passing financial duties in regions to local authorities. For example Tyumen region, Yakutia and Hakassia, which are important producers of raw materials and thus crucial for maintaining state budget, could not only take responsibility of financing schools and universities to themselves, but also to live completely in clover, without giving a single kopek to state coffin.

We must set up common unions between students and teachers, which would be totally independent from both state power and private capital, which could decide all daily wants of university administration and educational programs on their own. Only their wide cooperation with social organizations and initiatives would make defense of a real autonomy of universities possible. For sure, in front of us there is a big task of distribution information on global resistance against world elite among Russian population, so that masses of Western and local activists would not be understood as a storm troopers of yet another “orange revolution”, but as a part of an international movement opposing neo-liberal attack against their rights.

ABB #24

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