Monday, August 22, 2016

Education Minister Resigns


Fired Russian Education Minister Dimitry Livanov

Moscow, Russia --  Dmitri Livanov, the Russian Minister of Education  since 2012, has recently resigned, and been replaced by a teacher, and historian, Olga Vasilieva.

              Many observers presume he was pressurized to resign. If so, he is not the only victim of a government reshuffle. An old comrade , Sergei Ivanov, has also been dismissed from his post in the wake of an imminent Presidental election. This conveys the impression that the government seems to be edgy and anxious about the unpopularity of many Duma ministers.

              In some circles, Livanov was unpopular and even a scapegoat for often unwanted reforms in education.

              Livanov had a daunting job! In recent months Livanov, along with Medvedev, had come under fire for failing to increase teachers pay under the May 2012 accord. By 2015, teachers's salaries were lower than the promised amounts in 17 regions throughout Russia while the workload of teachers had often doubled.

              The attempts to close down poor quality institutions of education was often handled in a haphazard, and chaotic way  that even the existence of high-quality universities came under threat !  Livanov was also accused of attempting to close down the Russian Academy of Sciences and 100 scientists signed a petition of protest demanding " the end of this thoughtless reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences". However, perhaps the greatest scandal to have threatened Livanov was when someone leaked the exam questions in Russian literature openly publishing them on the Internet. Nevertheless, after this scandal, Livanov introduced  draconian measures of surveillance to prevent any potential cheating including the banning of mobile phones, classroom
surveillance cameras and an increase of strict observers.  What amazes many people is how Livanov happened to keep his job after this scandal.

               To be fair, Livanov did not have the easiest of jobs. Practically every problem arising in education was thrown on to his shoulders. He was a convenient punch ball as well as  scapegoat!

               Some people credit  Livanov with achievements. Firstly, he managed to introduce standardised school history books (Common Core in US), took steps to improve the fairness of the Unitary State Exams and attempted to address thorny issues such as whether new topics should be introduced into the school curriculum such as teaching the Orthodox religion. Other ministers would not have dared touch such questions and simply brushed them aside.

New Russian Education Minister Olga Vasilieva

               However, the new minister, Olga Vasilieva, raises some questions. She is not only a teacher, but a historian who wrote a curious paper titled: 'The Soviet Government and Patriotic activity of the Orthodox church during the years of The Great Patriotic war.' Vasilieva herself states that although historians have to strive for objectivity, it is almost impossible. Few people would disagree with this statement.  They might well take issue with whether Stalin himself
revived the Orthodox church during the war and a new ideological interpretation of Russian history where the role of the Orthodox church is idealised .

                In recent interviews, Vasilieva has reassured people she has no intentions of imposing her views of history, or Orthodoxy, on the school system.

                So why was Vasiliev appointed?  Because her Orthodox views appeal to the Partriarchy and conservative members of the Orthodox church and might reverse the poor image of the Russian Ministry of Education. It is important to stress that the Orthodox church remains a powerful lobby in Russian politics and its conservative wing are amongst the staunchest supporters of President Putin. So the appointment may represent an attempt to appease such a lobby who are striving to extend their influence in all areas of Russian life.

                The firing is also an attempt to cool down  the anger of Russians. Dismissing incompetent ministers is a way of taking the heat off Putin and Medvedev. 

                Not long ago the Prime Minister Medvedev made an insensitive gaffe on how teachers should stop complaining about pay and become businessmen.

                But instead of Medvedev being fired, Livanov lost his job!

               It is very unclear what, if any new steps, the new Minister of Education intends to make in education. All the recent statements to the press are generally vague         statements about the importance of teaching as a vocation and the role of education in bringing up children. She even refused to disclose her city of birth for inexplicable reasons!  Being religious, she put down her appointment to God's will!

No comments:

Post a Comment