Sunday, October 2, 2016

Teacher Servant?

By Stephen Wilson

MOSCOW -- "Everybody must understand that the work of a teacher - this is not a servant. I will forbid the use of the word : 'servant'... (Услуга)
A teacher 's job is a vocation , a calling, and not a service. This is not a speciality , this is a vocation.....The attention given by teachers to parents will be defined and will no longer seem a service".
The odd statement by the new Minister of Education , Olga Vasilieva is only the latest statement on her pet subject of how she defines the role of a school teacher. The Minister has also declared that the topic of Astronomy will be inserted into the school curriculum as well as the welcome announcement that there will be no more merging of institutes and universities in Russia .(From 2014 to March 2016 , the number of institutions of Further Education was cut from 2486 to 1450, with hundreds of teachers losing their jobs.)
The latest theatrical declaration has bemused many teachers. It is baffling because there is no reason or clear explanation as to why this word , servant must be banned from use in the first place. Is the word 'servant ' a dirty word ?
Alot of Russians tell me they can't grasp what the Minister of Education is waffling on about ! It is unfathomable. That has not stopped some journalists praising her inarticulate statements as mysteriously deep and profound .
The Minister of Education might as well be the Queen in Alice in Wonderland.
Why is the statement absurd ? It is playing if not patently abusing the use of the Russian language and her job doesn't entitle her to prerogatively overturn many Russian laws .
For a start , article 29 ,1 of the Russian constitution states : "Everybody has the right to freedom of thought and speech ''. Telling teachers what word they can use in schools would represent a gross violation of speech.
However , there is another problem indentified by Victor Panin, who heads the 'Society for Defending the Rights of Users of Education.' He states "There is no legal substitute for the term servant in Russian legal documents....
Firstly, I want to remind you that the Law , 273, Education services, in practically all legal documents relating to schools, this term is used. Using the term 'servant' is unavoidable practice because in any case, education is a social service. In other words , her directive does not mean anything as we
use the word 'servant ' in all the areas of culture, health and sport. We have no legal substitute for this word and to replace it would be too complicated."
According to the Union ' Teacher', the word 'slave ' would be a more appropriate term for Russian teacher. This was the term used when Leonid Perlov last spoke to me. In a recent interview with Novaya Gazeta, Vsevolod Lukhovitskii stated that teachers can't even decide which textbooks of the program they must follow . Instead , they have to strictly observe the program laid down by officials . They have to justify using any very good textbook by claiming : 'It is on the state recommended list'. If officials insist a school uses expensive electronic boards which many teachers don't want
to use they must comply. If they don't, they risk being fired ! (see Novaya Gazeta, number 108, 28.09. 2016, власть говорит - "Учителя -Подвижники, им можно платить мало")
Now if the Minister of Education frankly acknowedged that teachers should no longer be slaves this would be welcome!

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