WENR, Apr. 2006: Russia & The Commonwealth of Independent States


New Education Law to Reinvent Struggling Education System

The Armenian National Assembly [1] is confident that a wide-reaching education bill will be passed before the start of the school year in September. The new law will introduce a 12-year education system to replace the current 10-year system and put Armenian education on pace with international standards related to the Bologna Declaration that the country signed on to in 2005. Along with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, Armenia has committed itself to a harmonization process that proposes unified education benchmarks across the European continent, and jointly raised education standards by a 2010 deadline.

Armenia is trying to catch up with other nations who, as it currently stands, send students to school one year earlier and graduate them a year later than Armenian schools. There are, of course, many issues that Armenia’s education sector must address before they are ready to compare their education offerings to those of other Bologna signatories. In order to reach university enrollment standards, Armenian students must often enlist private tutors and forgo the final year of a weak secondary education to help them pass university entrance exams. However, when students choose not to attend their final year of secondary schooling they become ineligible for their high school graduation certificate and often must bribe teachers to receive their certification.

Armenian officials assure citizens that such hurdles will be a thing of the past with the instatement of the new education law, but many Armenians are still skeptical. Parents and educators alike have expressed concern that six year olds are not fit to enter school considering the poor infrastructure at most of the country’s institutions and that a 12-year system with the same shortcomings of the current system will not stand to benefit anyone. Current students who believe they might benefit from reform are encouraged by the proposed changes however, and are confident they will be made into law. The Ministry of Education and Science has stated that it will provide training to educators over the new curriculum before the school year starts, but it is unclear exactly how much will have changed and what the new curriculum will contain.

Institute for War and Peace Reporting [2]
Mar. 16, 2005


Japan Presents Students With Scholarship

The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology [3] has granted scholarship opportunities for Azeri students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the humanities, social, and natural sciences in the country’s universities over the next five years. To be eligible, students must be secondary school graduates between the ages of 17 and 21. The scholarship study shall also include instruction in the Japanese language.

AzerNEWS [4]
Mar. 21, 2006


Two Universities Merge as Students Protest

The merger of Sulkhan Saba Pedagogical University and the Ilia Chavchavadze State University of Language and Culture [5] last month incited student protest as to the motives behind the pairing. Students began protesting the merger after Minister of Education and Science, Kakha Lomaia, visited Sulkhan Saba University and announced that the new institution would be reorganized according to “European standards.”

The formation of the new institution, dubbed Ilia Chavchavadze University, angered current Slkhan Saba students who voiced a preference for the curriculum of Sulkhan Saba over Ilia Chavchavadze and cited that distinction as their reason for choosing the institution for their higher education. Minister Lomaia reassured students that the university merger would engender a prestigious university with excellent programs based on the principles of Europe’s top universities in only a short time. Students and professors seemed wary of Lomaia’s remarks, as he was unclear as to what exactly constituted “European standards.”

The Messenger [6]
Mar. 27, 2006


Corruption Rife in Universities

The results of a poll on corruption in Kyrgyzstan’s universities have revealed extensive corruption throughout the nation’s higher education sector. Sponsored by Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbay Bakir Uulu, the poll found that while students were reluctant to admit to the presence of corruption in their university, 270 of a polled 520 (54 percent) admitted to giving professors some form of a bribe to guarantee they would receive good grades.

Students attested that academics preferred cash to procure a good grade in a course, but that gifts such as the performance of household chores, expensive meals, spa appointments, and even sex were requested by lecturers to broker positive marks. Surprisingly, students polled did not blame their professors for being dishonest. Most students cited low teacher salaries and tough competition amongst students to pass their classes as catalysts for the development of a culture of corruption.

The ombudsman has recommended reforming the process for appointing university rectors to include the entire academic community in order to remedy the situation. Currently, rectors are appointed by a small number of staff and students whose support can easily be purchased.

Times Higher Education Supplement [7]
Feb. 17, 2006


US Institution to Foster Student Government in Former Soviet Countries

The University of North Dakota [8] (UND), a U.S. institution of higher education, has proposed helping the State University of Moldova [9] and Russia’s Herzen University of St. Petersburg [10] establish a student government system. UND is awaiting a response on proposals submitted to the Soros Foundation [11] and the EURASIA [12] foundation that request $50,000 to assist in funding the initiative. The student government exchange program is an effort to help the two former Soviet institutions make the transition from a Soviet-style education system to one more similar to the American higher education model.

The proposed exchange would first send student government members from UND on a tour of the two East European universities to give them an idea of how student organizations are currently structured. The European universities would then in turn send students to the United States to observe similar organizations. UND officials are still awaiting complete funding, but said that the program could expand if it proves to be a success.

The Dakota Student [13]
Feb. 13, 2006


Kremlin Backs Steps Towards Bologna

In an effort to adapt to new European education standards, the Russian government is promoting two reforms associated with the Bologna Process in the state university system. Despite some resistance from conservative members of the Russian education establishment, approximately 40 of Russia’s 600 state universities now offer two-tier degrees, where students may choose to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years, followed by specialist diplomas and master’s degrees after a further one or two additional years of study. And at 19 universities, including prestigious Russian State Social University and the People’s Friendship University in Moscow, a pilot program offering flexible credit transfer modular degree schemes is being introduced from September to give students an opportunity to experience flexibility and choice within their academic program.

Times Higher Education Supplement [7]
Mar. 1, 2006

President Pushes Education Agenda

Russian President Vladimir Putin has challenged the Russian education system to make itself more recognizable on an international level. Putin has recently encouraged Russian universities to market their services abroad by opening branch campuses overseas and increasing their recruitment of foreign students, especially students from the former Soviet Republics. According to Putin, Russia possesses “specific advantages in education” that it must utilize to spike economic and technological progress as well as create in-roads for investment and the development of new markets.

To this end, Putin has made education one of his three priority areas for the Group of Eight [14] meetings that are under Russia’s chairmanship this year. The Russian leader has also ordered the Ministry of Education [15] to implement several model institutions for higher education or elite universities; an initiative the federal government will direct US$180 million towards. The country’s vocational school program is also set to be revamped by passing responsibility for their administration on to regional leaders who can better cater to local needs.

Russian Information Agency Novosti [16]
Mar. 24, 2006
The Moscow Times [17]
Mar. 27, 2006

Russia Considers Student Loans

The Russian government is considering issuing federal student loans through the Ministry of Education [15] for their roughly 6 million higher education students. While the Russian constitution guarantees tuition-free study to all first-time students, more than 50 percent of the students in state universities pay their tuition and living costs. Russian President Vladimir Putin has singled-out education as a national priority, however only half of the US$14 billion needed to support Russia’s university system is included in the federal budget.

The student loan plan currently being debated by the Russian government would provide low-interest subsidized loans, funded through state banks, with repayment terms of up to ten years. Funds would be distributed on a sliding scale with the most academically talented student receiving the most money and the average student having around 70 percent of their education federally funded. Repayment schedules would begin when students entered jobs that pay above-average salaries. The average tuition fee in Russian universities is $2,600, but can be as much as $44,000 at the best institutions.

Times Higher Education Supplement [7]
Feb. 14, 2006


Fulbright Engenders Accord with U.S. University

The National Mining University of Ukraine [18] (NMU) and the University of Scranton [19] have signed an accord pledging collaboration in teaching and research through the exchange of students, faculty, and administrators. A student delegation from NMU visited the U.S. institution’s Kania School of Management [20] as part of that school’s globalization initiative. As a result of the agreement, the Kania School of Management will aid NMU in designing a web-based curriculum and distance education program for their new graduate degree in international marketing.

A University of Scranton professor who spent 2004 in the Ukraine on a Fulbright Visiting Professorship [21] organized the delegation.

The Times-Tribune [22]
Mar. 26, 2006