"I DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH I'M PAID "
NO STANDARDIZED WAGE SYSTEM FOR TEACHERS
By Stephen Wilson
At school we were taught to never ever ask such an intrusive and unwanted question : "How much do you earn?" It was just not done ! It was not just a case of encroaching upon a person's personal privacy which is regarded as sacrosanct, but rude. There are other practical reasons for refusing this, answer especially to a stranger. You might entice a criminal or the person, if he or she is narrow-minded and myopic, can respect you less. Many Russians ask me this question, but I never retort: " Mind your own business" or "Go to hell".
In fact, I just frankly answer: "I have not the faintest idea ". That is the answer many Russian school teachers might well answer because there exists no standardized Russian payment system in Russia where there is a typical average salary. For not only do salaries dramatically vary from region to region, but even a teacher's personal monthly salary can vary from month to month. In fact, the system of paying out salaries remains almost a conundrum.
In Soviet times the payment of school teachers was much more straightforward. Your income was dependent on how many hours you taught. Now, almost a quarter to a third of the salary is based on stimulated pay. A teacher is paid according to how many school students do well in Olympiads or obtain a five in exams. But in some schools you can be awarded points for taking students on an excursion, starting a poetry group on a patriotic theme, supervising a study circle or even organizing a special school newspaper. You receive points which can be converted into rubles according to an often complex point system decided by headmasters.
But in some schools, you might not be paid for those activities, while in another school you will obtain pay. In one school, there might be an 18 point system while in another school it can be a complex 100 point system which confuses teachers. A school which is poorly funded in a small impoverished town might not pay you while one in an enormous town can pay you.
But there exists an enormous yawning gap in income between regions which represents the most glaring injustice. The Russian government agency Rosstat can't even completely conceal this. And yet they present a rosier picture of the level of income. According to a recent Rosstat survey of 2019, a monthly teacher's salary in Moscow comes to 95,774 rubles, a salary in Dagestan can be 25,730. A teacher working in the southern regions of Russia can make as little as 18,126 rubles yet has to work 31 hours a week at school. And this is only at school. He must also check school notebooks as well as plan lessons, claims Valentina Fedoseeva, a member of the Union of Workers in Education and Science. "The cost of a lesson - for a colossal workload comes to a meager 91 rubles an hour. We are interested in how much a cashier in a supermarket earns. And frankly speaking, I am not surprised by the result : 150 rubles an hour", states Valentina.
In the Altaiski region of Russia a young teacher earns approximately 6000 rubles a month for an 18 hour week. In a huge town with massive local government budget, the young teacher can earn 60,000 rubles!
In order for poorer teachers to earn a half decent salary he must work 36 hours or more and this may well be the situation of over 80 % of teachers in Russia. But such a staggering workload takes an enormous toll on a teacher's health. And of course, the more hours you do, the poorer the quality of the lessons. What is strange is that so many people presume that the more pupils you have, the better your teaching. It means you are popular and hence in demand. But a teacher is not a business man. The level of pay or the number of students can't be correlated with the performance of a teacher. Even the grades students obtain might not reflect teacher performance. When directors threatened to cut the pay of teachers unless so many students got excellent results, the teachers dramatically awarded higher marks! The number of school students being awarded a five suddenly shot up. You have 'grade inflation' which is a common affliction in not only Russia but Britain. Anxiety about keeping your job can lead to teachers becoming too lenient!
So you have an absurd system where in Moscow, a school teacher might make 500-800 rubles an hour, while a few kilometers beyond Moscow a teacher earns 50- 100 rubles in a poor town! Asking the question, "How much do you earn?" is worse than a rude question. It is almost insulting!