The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to assure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal, but to become, different- to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind and spirit he or she possesses. - John Fischer

LIBOV ANDREEVNA. Are you still a student?TROFIMOV. I expect I shall be a student to the end of mydays. - Anton Chekhov







JULY 1993



The Soviet School System

Schooling For Socially Useful Labor

Higher Education

Teacher Preparation

Perestroika, Glasnost And Educational Reform



Appendix A: Virtues Common to Good Citizens

Appendix B: Author's Biographical Sketch

Appendix C: Social Composition of Students


The purpose of this paper is to create a body of knowledge for follow-on research. For this focus, data were gathered through the study and analysis of material presented in books, research journals, and professional publications so as to determine: "What was the impact of perestroika and glasnost on Soviet education?"

On initial consideration, the question posed here appeared to bracket nicely the period between the introduction of perestroika by Mikhail Gorbachev and the breakup of the Soviet Union, 1985-1990. But I was wrong. I found it troublesome knowing where the past ends and where the present begins when it came to making judgments concerning the impact of perestroika and glasnost on Soviet education. Consequently my research became more expansive, and I found it necessary to chronicle a content analysis of the Soviet educational system from a cultural and historical perspective before moving on to the question. Although adding significantly to the length of the paper, this was rewarding. It permitted me greater insight and an opening to increase the body of knowledge for follow-on research.

Beyond this introduction, the paper has six sections: The Soviet School System; Schooling for Socially Useful Labor; Higher Education; Teacher Preparation; Perestroika, Glasnost and Educational Reform; and Findings. The body of the paper begins below with a historical inquiry before examining the perestroika, glasnost and Soviet educational tie-ins so as to answer the question.

In the findings, I note there is no way of knowing at this time the real impact perestroika and glasnost has had on Soviet education; nor is there a way of knowing the impact these measures will have on the educational system now emerging as a result of the breakup of the USSR. I journal the certainty that perestroika and glasnost were intended to preserve institutions such as education and vospitania (upbringing) as pillars of national belief and key determinants of social structure; that perestroika and glasnost were part of a bigger representation. But when the parts all came en masse they could not hold the Soviet Union together. Further, a basic understanding of this dynamic can be realized by grasping the connection between the past with perestroika, glasnost, and Soviet education.


Education is one aspect of life where Soviet and American views nearly conform. In both the Soviet Union and the United States, education is a pillar of national belief and a key determinant of social structure (Daniels, p.305). The functions and expectations of education are similar: train the young for the specialized demands of a technologically modern state and keep each country respectively competitive with other nations in a geopolitical and socioeconomic sense. Education plays a dominant part in creating values and beliefs, in creating and maintaining creative talents for the preservation of national interests. Further, it is education, more than any other institution, that enables each country to think of itself as a classless society in which there are no barriers or inequalities among those who acquire socially valuable skills. It is education that underlies the social and economic development in both societies toward a new hierarchical system of meritocracy. And, although the two societies have evolved from the opposite extremes of collectivism and egalitarian individualism, both now determine status above all by one's education and the prestige of the school that he or she attended.

One of the successes of Soviet education has been the mass inculcation of language and basic math skills for the elimination of illiteracy and the creation of a moral Soviet citizen, that is, educational efforts which further the cause of building a communist society. Before the revolution, the literacy level was low. According to the 1897 census only 24 percent of the total population over nine year of age was literate. By 1930, four years of compulsory primary education was instituted in the country side and seven years of education in the towns. This development succeeded in inculcating basic ideas of order, numeracy, and literacy, and within nine years it permitted the claim that 81 percent of the population over nine years of age could read (Lane, p292). Recently, however, the approach of presenting the degree of Soviet literacy has been imbued in mass campaign efforts (Murray, p237). The entire population is mobilized and involved in the learning process in some way. Literacy is presented as part of a total package which impacts dramatically on the creation of "the new Soviet man" and promises tangible change in the quality of life for the entire society. The process is called "vospitania." Vospitania doesn't translate literally into English, but in general terms it means "upbringing." It is a planned process involving the cooperative efforts of the home, the community, and the school. Yet it is the school, guided by the Communist Party, that is charged with the task of coordinating the efforts of the family and the community in the moral upbringing of children. Vospitania has its roots in the teachings of Vladimir Il'ich Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state. In 1920, Lenin proclaimed that "the entire purpose of training, educating, and teaching the youth of today should be to imbue them with communist ethics....The School apart from life, apart from politics, is a lie and a hypocrisy." Over the years, the ultimate goal of education has not been academic but moral. "The formation of Communist, all-people the unifying foundation of the requirements for teaching children (Smith, p163)." Thus, the main precept of Soviet child psychology is that by creating the proper group atmosphere, the school insures that children will grow up properly. The challenge has been to produce good Soviet citizens, for the good of the state; to teach those skills required by the economy, for that classic socialist goal: production for use. And vospitania has facilitated this effort.

A Soviet citizen, as a result of vospitania, should think and act in accordance with the dictates of the Party. "To think and act in this manner is to posses, in the hierarchy of communist virtues, the highest virtue. A person who possesses this virtue is commonly referred to, in Party parlance, as 'the new Soviet man'--one who has developed a communist world view and acts in accordance with this world view (Long, p470)." "To achieve a communist world view, a Soviet youth must develop some virtues that are common to good citizens in most societies. For example, he or she must be honest, truthful, and helpful to others; and he or she must work hard in school to develop intellectual, aesthetic, and physical abilities--that is, to develop a comprehensive, harmonious personality (Long, p470)." Although these important virtues receive considerable attention in Soviet schools, the virtues regarded as most integral to the development of communist ethics are love of labor, patriotism, atheism, and collectivism (Long, p470). (For amplifying information concerning the virtues of labor, patriotism, atheism, and collectivism, see Appendix A.) Further, having a correct attitude toward work, patriotism, atheism and collectivism does not in itself make a model Soviet citizen, since a model citizen must not only have correct beliefs but must act on them. It is here that the school plays an important role. "The Communist Party relies heavily on the school not only to teach students basic Leninist-Marxist thought but also to provide them with opportunities to put this knowledge into action (Long, p470)." Clearly, vospitania is an integral part of the Soviet culture and educational system. In the years to come, the extent to which vospitania moves away from an administered model to a system wherein individuals and groups are allowed to govern their own interest will define the degree of transition to demokratiya (democracy) that has taken place (Lane, p15). Under perestroika, demokratiya seeks to involve the masses in a more positive way in public affairs. In so doing, it will restrict the power of the political leadership. A pluralism (plyuralizm) of points of view, rather than the previously centralized and controlled orientation, will be encouraged. Hence a movement to democracy is an important mechanism to restrict traditional interests that maintain the status quo and is thought to be a necessary condition to ensure the acceleration of economic development (uskorenie) (Lane, p15). Neither uskorenie nor demokratiya will occur over night. Attempts to change the system are only possible given the tolerance of top leaders who have the power to introduce "freedom" in measure doses and by means of authority. Clearly, there is a precarious circle in all this: democracy is permitted on orders from the bosses, who are free at any moment to increase or restirct it. I trust that in time coercion will not be a necessary condition of "freedom".


Vospitania and educational legislation in the Soviet Union over the past twenty-five or so years might be viewed as a continuing effort to achieve not only higher levels of economic efficiency but to improve scientific knowledge and technological competence, along with political orthodoxy. Stated differently, but in conformity with the insight captured by Professor Delbert H. Long, vospitania and educational legislation in the Soviet Union over the past twenty-five or so years might be viewed as a continuing effort to implement in a more comprehensive, coordinated manner the following principles:

1. Use of school as an important instrument for promoting policies of the Soviet leadership;

2. Coordination of the work of the school with industrial and agricultural enterprises;

3. Coordination of the work of the school with youth, community, and political organizations;

4. Combination of general education with polytechnical labor education;

5. Combination of polytechnical labor education and aesthetic and general education with moral education;

6. Equation of moral education with the communist ethical system delineated by Soviet leaders;

7. Union of academic and ethical knowledge with practical application in "socially useful" activities.

Each of these principles has been interpreted and implemented in the schools in different ways over the years. Sometimes these principles have been stressed. Sometimes these principles have been de-emphasized. And sometimes these principles have been ignored. But not one has ever been abandoned in theory (Long, p409). Further, each of these principles supports the contention that the Soviet educational system is geared toward economic utility (socially useful labor) rather than the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.

Like the United States, the Soviet Union uses a variety of approaches to educate and develop preschool children from birth to age six. Chief among these is the babushka (grandmother). Based upon personal observation I found that whether the babushka lives with her grandchildren, subsists independently in her own home, or travels frequently she provides a nurturing that is similar to that provided by American grandmothers. As such very few families would willingly get along without her. In addition to the babushka caring for children at home, the Soviet Union provides the yasli (nursery) to accommodate children from infancy through age three, detskie sady (kindergarten) for children ages 4-6, and yasli sady (combined nursery/Kindergarten) programs.

The Soviet school system provides universal, free, compulsory education in a nine-year general schools program, starting at age six. Completion of eighth grade became the compulsory level nationwide in 1973, and in 1984 an educational reform increased the length of schooling by one year. Students matriculate the general schools program at the primary education level in two stages: an initial and an intermediate. During the initial stage, students learn reading, writing, arithmetic, elements of theoretical thinking, speech patterns and basics of personal hygiene. Students cover this stage in three or four years, depending on their personal abilities and aptitudes. At the intermediate stage, students continue their general educational training but with a greater concern for a more analytical understanding.

Secondary education is optional. Students matriculate the general schools program at the secondary level in two years. Soviet schools were to switch from a ten year curriculum to a eleven year curriculum in 1985, but not all the schools made the transition immediately (Kerr, 1989, p333). Students at this level are either selected to attend a vocational trade school or directed toward a vocational production training track. In the final two years (tenth and eleventh grades), vocational students continue their education in language, mathematics, physical education, and science. In addition they have considerable production training and become skilled in a trade. Students attending a secondary trade school (SPTU) reach a standard in their general studies sufficient to qualify for entry to a university or institute (Lane, p293).

In 1984, educational reform was initiated. The reform declared that "all main indicators of the system of education and training of manpower must be strictly determined by the requirements of the national economic complex (Lane, p293)." Although some might say the reform objective was to provide a general and common education for all, with regional variations and adaptation for children with special needs, a more realistic understanding would lead one to say that the goal was to improve the national economy.

This requirement to improve the national economy comes from above and will probably lead to greater differentiation and greater vocational emphasis after the ninth grade since the general schools, which prepare students for higher education, are targeted for only 30 percent of the student cohort, with the remainder obliged to enter vocational schools. Stated differently, reforms such as those promulgated in 1984 will lead to a more highly stratified educational and social system, intensifying the significance presented earlier that status will be determined above all by one's academic degree and the prestige of the school that bestowed it. General schools instruction is normally in the student's native tongue--Russian or one of the nearly one hundred minority languages. In minority schools, Russian is taught as a second language beginning in the second grade, since it is the nationwide lingua franca. In the major cities there are special schools (preferred by the elite) where English, French or other foreign languages are taught from the second grade on (Daniels, p306). By contrast, little or no effort is made to teach Russians any of the languages of the Soviet minorities (Daniels, p306). As noted previously, the government perceived education from its inception as an important tool in the creation of the Soviet state. Given the enormous linguistic diversity of the population of the USSR, as well as the equally diverse levels of economic and social development, national languages were considered to be instrumental in the inculcation of the new social ideas and for creating a sense of national identity (Thomas, p244). In fact, the first mass literacy campaign of the twentieth century was undertaken in many parts of the Soviet Union only after some 50 minority languages were cast in a written form (Thomas, p244). The dialectic between the importance of the over-arching lingua franca, Russian, and the development of the national languages to meet changing social and economic needs will continue today, tomorrow, and beyond. This dialectic has its roots in the policy resolution of the Tenth Congress of 1921, which underscored the relationship between centralizing forces and nationalist elements, namely:

1. To develop and consolidate their Soviet statehood in forms appropriate to the conditions of national way of life of the various peoples.

2. To develop and consolidate in the native language, justice, administration, economic and governmental bodies composed of local peoples who know the way of life and psychology of the local population.

3. To develop the press, theater, clubs and educational establishments generally, in the native tongue.

4. To establish and develop a wide network of courses and schools, general as well as professional and technical, in the native language (Lewis, p350).

According to the data derived by James Muckle, the post-1984 general schools curriculum is heavily weighted toward science. The number of periods over an eleven-year educational span are as follows (Muckle, p19): Russian language and literature 81, mathematics 60.5, other science subjects 40.5, physical education 22, vocational and labor training 28, foreign language 14, and other humanities subjects 57 (state and law and social studies totalled only 3.57). These numbers refer to total periods per week over eleven years: to find the average per week, per year, divide by eleven.

The 1984 reform mildly supported an extension in the number of electives in the secondary school. There are only two periods per week set aside for such options in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades; while three periods per week are set aside for such options in the tenth and four periods per week are set aside in the last year. Computer studies are compulsory in the tenth and eleventh grades, with one session per week occurring in the tenth grade and two sessions per week occurring in the final year.


There are four types of higher educational institutions: University Humanities Faculty, Technical Institutes, Agricultural Institutes and Medical Institutes. On Appendix C, Series 1 refers to the University Humanities Faculty track; Series 2 to the Technical Institute track; Series 3 to the Agricultural Institute track; and Series 4 to the Medical Institute track. On the "X" axis of Appendix C, attending students at the various institutes are clustered according to their fathers' occupations in one of four groups: Manual Workers, Unqualified Nonmanual Workers, Specialists (professionals), and Collective Farm Workers.

As in Western society, there is a definite correlation between the background and education of a parent and the ease of access a student finds to higher educational institutions. Note on Appendix C that there are four types of higher educational institutions and that the recruitment patterns of students by these institutions reflect social differences in the composition of the various student bodies. For example the data indicate:

1. Less than forty percent of the students attending higher education institutions come from families with fathers who are unqualified nonmanual workers.

2. The majority of the students attending higher education institutions come from families with fathers who are specialists (professionals).

3. Although they represent only 25 percent of the population, children of specialists (professional backgrounds) dominate in the humanities faculties of universities, the medical institutes and technical institutes (Lane, p295).

4. Collective farmers' children are well represented in the agricultural institutes.

5. Manual workers' offspring are best represented in the technical institutes.

Higher education in the Soviet Union duplicates the functions of the secondary schools: it is geared toward socially useful labor. It inculcates values and beliefs; forms adult personalities; and allocates statuses, jobs, and professions. In doing these things, it reproduces the system of social relations and deepens the likelihood that a highly stratified educational and social system will endure. Further, as in the secondary school system, there are no private institutions or schools funded or sponsored by charitable contributions. All higher education is carried out by agencies of the government or Party. It would be wrong to think of higher education as being homogeneous and controlled by a single state agency.

Various academies, institutes, state committees, and ministries and the Communist Party organize and effectively control their own educational facilities. For example research and education are carried out by select academies and institutes in the Soviet Union and Republics. These facilities serve various professions such as agriculture, medicine, art, and pedagogy. Most teaching is carried out under the auspices of the State Committee on National Education, which in March 1988 replaced two education ministries (one for general academic education through high school and one for higher and secondary-technical education) and a state committee on vocational education (Kerr, 1989, p23). In addition, ministries in industry, health, social services, and culture run separate higher educational institutions. The ministry of agriculture, for example, runs ninety-nine educational institutions while the ministry of civil aviation runs five. Such institutions pursue teaching and research in their respective fields of expertise. Finally, the Communist Party has it own system education facilities and schools concerned with training specialists in the social sciences, policy-related research, and the education cadres. Such courses range from part-time evening courses to research at the postdoctoral level.


Pedagogical academies prepare teachers to work in the general schools program at the initial stage of the primary education level, grades 1 through 3 or 4. They also train preschool teachers in subject areas such as music, art and elementary vocational education (a Soviet peculiarity) (Kerr, 1990, p333). Students are admitted to the academies at one or two points in their school careers: after completing a so-called "incomplete secondary education" (after the intermediate level general schools program), or after completing their secondary education. Those coming in after an incomplete secondary education take a three or four year course of study, receiving a secondary education along with work in teacher preparation. Those admitted following their secondary education receive a two or three years course of instruction in teacher education.

"The curriculum is fairly standardized, with obligatory course work in Russian language and literature, mathematics, history, natural science, and teaching methods. For preschool teachers, there is special emphasis on language development, singing, sculpting, and drawing. All academy students bound for regular classrooms learn to play a musical instrument. Following the completion of their course of study, teachers from the academies are assigned by "distribution" (raspredelenie) to a school where in theory they are required to work for at least three years before moving to another job. In practice, an increasing number have violated these provisions in recent years and worked where they wanted, increasing local supply problems (Kerr, 1990, p334)."

Pedagogical institutes are equivalent to universities. They prepare teachers for general schools program service at the intermediate and secondary education levels. They admit students only after they have completed a secondary education and keep them for four years of preparation. Students wishing to teach more than one subject matriculates for an additional year (Kerr, 1990, p334). Pedagogical institutes have the responsibility to matriculate vocational education teachers. They also prepare teachers to work in special schools for children with developmental disabilities, physical and emotional handicaps, and other problems; mainstreaming is only beginning to be introduced in the Soviet Union and most special-needs children are still segregated (Kerr, 1990, p334).

"The institutes are typically much larger than the academies, and their offerings of both courses and programs are consequently more varied. There are specialized institutes, for example, that concentrate on the teaching of foreign languages, art education, and physical education. In some institutes, a special department trains primary teachers and thus serves those who prefer to obtain a higher education rather than to attend one of the secondary-level academies. Many of the institutes offer courses by correspondence, in the evening, or both--features that are typical of Soviet higher education in general. Such programs, however, are viewed as being less casual than their counterparts in the West, and students in these divisions usually take only one additional year to complete their studies (Kerr, 1990, p334)."

The teacher preparation curriculum at the pedagogical institutes consists of three interrelated strands (Kerr, 1990):

1. Special Disciplines. Students work in their subject fields, that is, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and etc. This portion of the curriculum constitutes 70 percent of the total course of study.

2. Social Disciplines. Formerly this was instruction in Marxism-Leninism. Now this portion of the curriculum is being altered to focus more on basic psychology and sociology.

3. Pedagogical Disciplines. This portion of the curriculum includes pedagogy, history of education, educational psychology, school hygiene, and teaching methods particular to a particular field of study. Practical application of what is being learned at the pedagogical academies and institutes is an integral part of the curriculum. This is done through field-work experiences, which are designed to help prospective teachers appreciate the practical applications to which the knowledge they cultivate in children will eventually be used. For example, during the early phases of their practical work pedagogical students benefit from an opportunity to work with children in a setting that fosters "upbringing" (vospitania). They do this in schools, clubs, "circles," and in youth camps during in the summer (Kerr, 1990). Teachers of biology, chemistry, physics, and electronics also do a required practicum with industry. "The latter part of a future teacher's practical work is more traditionally concerned with full-time student teaching, with both pedagogical institute faculty and on-site teachers providing guidance and supervision. Expectations are established in advance, and each lesson is carefully discussed by the student and the supervisors after it is given. Students typically keep a notebook with sample lessons, notes, and so forth (Kerr, 1990)."


In 1985, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, as leader of the Soviet union and General Secretary of the Communist Party, submitted a plan for the reform of political and economic institutions, which included education. This reform was called perestroika. It was a set of mobilizing strategies aimed at resolving contradictions and initiating reform. The manner in which reform was initiated in the Soviet Union during this time was through glasnost, or openness, which encouraged candid treatment of crucial issues. To understand the interrelationships of perestroika, glasnost, and educational reform, a review concerning the relevance of these terms is crucial.

At some point in time, the concept of accelerated socio- economic development (uskorenie) emerged. It called for the all- round intensification of production on the basis of scientific and technical progress, with an ultimate aim of creating a new qualitative state in Soviet society. This was announced at the April 1985 Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee, which inaugurated the program as the new strategy of perestroika and formulated its basic principles. Later it was endorsed by the 27th Party Congress as the Party's general policy line. Gorbachev concedes that the analysis which led to perestroika began a long time before the April 1985 Plenary Meeting (Gorbachev, p24).

Gorbachev knew that the objective of uskorenie (accelerated socio-economic development) would take time; that it would take "reconstruction" and "openness". He knew it would require a different type of Soviet person and a different type of educational system, both of which would have to become more participatory rather than authoritarian. Accordingly, Gorbachev's first priority became the restructuring of the "nomenklaura" through the purge of ineffective Politburo members. During most of 1985, the term "glasnost" was used primarily in this context, that is, to expose corrupt and wasteful leadership (Goldman, p100).

Glasnost means public criticism and access to information. It authenticates the articulation of individual group interests and the answerability of decision-makers to criticism. It involves greater individual and group autonomy (Lane, p14).

Next, Gorbachev moved to effect structural change. His objective was to provoke a closer integration of education with the requirements of the economy. He and his supporters openly criticized the education establishment for its failure to implement the provisions of the 1984 reform, which concerned primary and secondary education.

Coming at the end of the Brezhnev era, the 1984 reform was motivated largely by the same forces that motivated Gorbachev to implement perestroika, namely, changing economic and demographic conditions. Labor shortages during the 1960's and 1970's created pressure for a large percentage of secondary education graduates to pursue vocational careers rather than seek postsecondary education opportunities (Kerr, 1982, p1-12). Intense career guidance was intended to steer students toward jobs needed in the labor force. In support of this objective, each school was to be linked to a base enterprise such as a firm, a laboratory, a factory, or a farm that would provide students with training and would hire many of them upon graduation. The 1984 reform also included an attempt to improve the status of education as a profession by raising teachers' salaries. In addition, students were to start first grade at age 6 instead of age 7, schools were to be equipped with audiovisual equipment, and student class size was to be reduced. Ideological education was to be improved in the hope of regenerating some enthusiasm among students and teachers for a part of the curriculum that has typically been tolerated at best (Kerr, 1989, p21).

During 1985, Gorbachev and his supporters began sending signals to educators that schools were free to concentrate on education, and that political dogma would no longer be enforced in schools (Brodinsky, p15). From pedagogical academies came calls urging principals to work on programs that enhanced the inclination for labor, discouraged habits of idleness, and gave students the broadest possible view of what work meant and how it could contribute to their social well-being (Brodinsky, p 10). By 1986, there were increasing indications that reforms had not gone far enough and that teachers should have a stronger role in determining the future course of education. This led to a "reform of the reform," a series of initiatives designed to bring education in line with perestroika and to reinvigorate the 1984 reform effort through public discussion and example-setting (Kerr, 1989, p21). The "reform of the reform" included radically restructuring the curriculum for the general education schools; shifting teaching methods away from lecturing and toward more "cooperative pedagogy" and the encouragement of active thinking; meeting more of the schools' needs for computers and other advanced instructional technology; and providing a more democratic environment for teachers (Kerr, 1989, p21).

The 1986-87 reform concerned higher education and specialized secondary schools. This reform came at the height of initial enthusiasm for Gorbachev's wide-ranging effort to restructure Soviet society (Kerr, 1989, p21). The objective of this reform included: integrating higher education with the economy; improving instruction; acquiring new technology, especially computers for science and engineering; and upgrading administration and faculty departments.

The 1987-89 reform stressed that the fundamental goal of education is to improve the national economy. "In practice, the schools are being asked to build a new socialist society (Read, p613)." They "must bear in serving as the instrument to achieve higher standards of quality in economic, political, social, and spiritual life (Read, p613)." The goals that have been set to achieve these things are the goals that perestroika has set for the 11-year Soviet schools of the future (Read, p613):

1. To develop a new qualitative concept of general education, spelling out all of its responsibilities in reconstructing society and achieving a new humanism that will counter the alienation of humankind;

2. To design educational research programs to forecast optimal goals of education and to find the means of achieving them;

3. To devise ways and means for self-financing secondary and higher education;

4. To create a differentiated salary scale that will reward quality and excellence in performance;

5. To demolish walls that separate the various kinds of secondary schools, in order to achieve a comprehensive education system capable of continually improving itself without controls from outside authorities;

6. To develop educational programs and research projects with the cooperation of relevant social, economic, political, and technical agencies in society;

7. To identify and transmit worthy traditional values and new democratic ideals of the social order;

8. To develop the means of self-government and collective decision making in all educational institutions;

9. To encourage local, regional, and republic-wide initiatives in instruction and administration;

10. To give greater emphasis to student-family-teacher cooperation in the rearing and education of young people;

11. To develop an international dimension in education to offset provincial biases and narrow nationalistic commitments;

12. To develop new methods and new curricula to recover the dynamism of Soviet education;

13. To design a modern and relevant program of teacher education that would make personality development a key to education reform;

14. To encourage and foster a broad range of individual abilities, initiative, and independence;

15. To support and apply the principle of glosnost throughout education;

16. To clarify the role of the party in education;

17. To achieve much higher standards of skill and of equality in the technical training of students;

18. To provide the best in technical education facilities and equipment; and

19. To achieve more and closer cooperation between the complete secondary schools and the higher and specialized secondary education institutions. The 1989-90 reform initially focused on resistance to change, as leaders attempted to overcome opposition to new policies during deteriorating socioeconomic conditions and on the heels of critical self-appraisal. Of the educational research studies undertaker in the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic (RSFSR) during 1986-1990, 25 percent represent "nothing but ideologized cliches," and none were devoted to analysis and preparation of new curricula or methods, either for schools or for teacher education (Kerr, 1990, p338). The conclusions here are distressingly similar concerning teacher preparation: "An analysis of the research underlying the processes of teacher preparation shows a gap between real pedagogical practice and the judgements of educational researchers. The absolute majority of conceptions of teacher education are speculative and declarative (Kerr, 1990, p338)."

Further, Gorbachev objected in 1987 that "the work of the USSR Ministry of Education and all its organs is at a standstill." Egor Ligachev, in 1988, deplored the low level of capital investment in education, the inadequate buildings, and the lack of computers and relevant education facilities (Lane, p293). He pointed out that reform had been limited to insignificant shifts and complained about the listlessness of organizational work to advance the projected transformations (Lane, p303). Further, he attacked the management of the schools by the Ministry of Education and the USSR State Committee for Vocational and Technical Education, saying that their administration "is carried out primarily by bureaucratic methods and in a conservative spirit (Lane, p303)." And Communist Party Secretary in 1988 said: "The main thing called for in the reform--substantial changes in the organization and content of the teaching and educational activities of the general and vocational schools, changes in the effort to enhance the level of students' knowledge, changes in the style and methods of a substantial portion of teaching collectives and teachers--has yet to take place (Lane, p303).

But as the economic and social conditions of the Soviet Union continued to deteriorate during 1989 and 1990, the attention to educational reform was redirected understandably toward the pressing problems of national survival. Change in education proceeded, but in a way that was increasingly less coordinated from the center and more determined by national, regional and local concerns (Kerr, 1990, p30).

Another factor contributing to listlessness in educational reform was the emergence of two potentially powerful but still somewhat inchoate new interest groups--the elected Congress of Peoples' Deputies and its higher body, the new Supreme Soviet (Kerr, 1990, p30). Many educators, both from public and higher education, serve as members of these organizations. And they have not been hesitant to voice their concerns about the problems facing education. But neither these delegates nor the other members of the educational establishment all speak with one voice. "There is considerable diversity in the views expressed, with some blaming the problems of schools on the country's past and the "period of stagnation" under Brezhnev, whereas others complain that it is Gorbachev and the new policies of glasnost and perestroika that are ruining education. Not only is there lack of unanimity among factions, there is often not evenagreement within factions on the appropriate policy to pursue or how to pursue it (Kerr, 1990, p30).


There is no way of knowing at this time the real impact perestroika and glasnost has had on Soviet education. Nor is there a way of knowing the impact these measures will have on the educational system now emerging as a result of the breakup of the USSR. These are matters for follow-on research. But my preliminary observation is that perestroika and glasnost were sincere efforts to improve the day-to-day economic and political life in the Soviet Union. They were intended to preserve institutions such as education and vospitania as pillars of national belief and key determinants of social structure. They were part of a bigger representation, but when the parts all came en masse they could not hold the Soviet Union together. I believe a basic understanding of this dynamic can be realized by grasping the connection between the past with perestroika, glasnost, and Soviet education. The following five points are key in this regard.

First, the government perceived education to be an important tool in the preservation of the Soviet state. It was understood that not only does education provide training of the young for the specialized demands of a technologically modern state but it keeps the country competitive with other nations in a geopolitical and socioeconomic sense. Education plays a dominant part in creating values and beliefs, in creating and maintaining creative talents for the preservation of national interests. Next, as the economic and social conditions of the Soviet Union deteriorated, the attention to educational reform was redirected understandably toward the pressing problems of national survival. In the end, plans aimed at restructuring (perestroika) went unfulfilled; educational reform stalled.

Third, vospitania is an integral part of the Soviet culture and educational system. In the years to come, the extent to which vospitania moves away from an administered model through glasnost, or openness, to a system wherein individuals and groups are allowed to govern their own interest will help to define the degree of transition to democracy that has taken place.

Fourth, under perestroika, demokratiya (democracy) seeks to involve the masses in a more positive way in public affairs. In so doing, it will restrict the power of the political leadership. A pluralism of points of view, rather than the previously centralized and controlled orientation, will emerge. Hence a movement to democracy is an important mechanism to restrict traditional interests that maintain the status quo and is thought to be a necessary condition to ensure the acceleration of economic development. Neither uskorenie nor demokratiya will occur over night. Attempts to change the system are only possible given the tolerance of top leaders who have the power to introduce "freedom" in measure doses and by means of authority. Clearly, there is a precarious circle in all this: democracy is permitted on orders from the bosses, who are free at any moment to increase or restirct it. I trust that in time coercion will not be a necessary condition of "freedom".

Finally, Soviet educational reforms from 1984 and beyond have been implemented unevenly, suggesting that a more highly stratified educational and social system will surface. With this will come the awareness that status is determined above all by one's education and the prestige of the school that bestowed it. The problem that this may or may not create is a matter of conjecture and a matter for follow-on research.


Brodinsky, Ben. "Soviet Secondary Principals under Perestroika: Changing Roles." The Education Digest. October 1991.

Daniels, Robert, V. Russia: The Roots of Confrontation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Goldman, Marshall, I. What Went Wrong With Perestroika. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.

Gorbachev, Mikhail. Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.

Kerr, Stephen, T. "Beyond Dogma: Teacher Education in the USSR." Journal of Teacher Education. November-December 1990, Vol. 42, No. 5.

Kerr, Stephen, T. "Will Glasnost Lead Perestroika? Directions of Educational Reform in the USSR." Educational Researcher. October 1990, p 30.

Kerr, Stephen, T. "Reform in Soviet and American Education: Parallels and Contrasts." Phi Delta Kappan. September 1989, Vol. 71, Number 1.

Kerr, Stephen, T. "Soviet Interest Groups and Policy Making in Higher Education." Slavic and European Education Review. Number 1, 1982.

Lane, David. Soviet Society under Perestroika. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Lewis, E. G. Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1981.

Long, Delbert, H. Continuity and Change in Soviet Education under Gorbachev. "American Educational Research Journal." Fall 1990, Vol. 27, Number 3.

Long, Delbert, H. Soviet Education and the Development of Communist Ethics. "Phi Delta Kappan." March 1984, Vol. 65, Number 7.

Muckle, James. A Guide to the Soviet Curriculum. London: Croom Helm, 1988.

Read, Howard, Gerald. "Education in the Soviet Union: Has Perestroika Met Its Match?" Phi Delta Kappan. April 1989.613.

Smith, Hedrick. The Russians. New York: Times Books, 1983.

Thomas, R. Murray. International Comparative Education. New York: Pergamon Press, 1991.


The following presents amplifying information concerning the virtues of Love of Labor, Patriotism, Atheism and Collectivism as discussed by Professor Delbert H. Long.

Love of Labor....To overcome the economic backwardness of their country, Soviet authorities have placed great emphasis on inculcating in people a love of labor. A true lover of labor is one who works not for personal benefit but for the benefit of society. To do this, one must develop "labor discipline," which means, when stripped of Party jargon, the moral commitment to do willingly whatever task the Party dictates, regardless of how difficult or unpleasant it may be.

Patriotism....A Soviet patriot is an internationalist who loves the military and the motherland and hates capitalists. Capitalists are to be hated not only because of their exploitation of the worker and their imperialistic designs but also because of their propaganda efforts "to exert a demoralizing influence on the minds of the Soviet people."

Atheism....A good communist must be an atheist. Religious faith is contrary to the materialistic doctrines of Marxism, and communists claim that churches have always supported elite classes that gain and sustain their power and wealth through the exploitation of the worker. To be an atheist, however, is not enough. The good communist must be a militant atheist--not only renouncing all religious beliefs but striving to convince others to do the same.

Collectivism...A collectivist is one who recognizes that to develop a communist world view is to develop a collective world view. Such a view is the "enemy of individualism." In the Soviet Union an "individualist" is one who selfishly works only for personal benefit; a collectivist works to improve society rather than to improve his or her own will-being.


Charles T. SWEENEY, 12560 McIntire Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22192, (703) 494-4193, holds a BS in Physical Education and an MBA. In addition to being a full-time teacher working with at risk students at the Alternative Learning Center, Prince William County Public Schools, he is a student at the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, doing graduate work under the tutelage of Dr. Valerie Sutter, Professor and Acting Director of Social Foundations of Education. Chuck Sweeney's recent academic interests are in comparative education, especially as they relate to Russian history, culture, and pedagogy.

During the 1991-1992 school year he received a Washington Post Grant for taking a holistic approach to education; and he was selected to the Prince William County Public Schools' Design Team, which was charged with the task of creating a plan which articulated a new generation of American schools that are light years beyond the existing education practices of today. His imaginativeness in presenting a thematic approach to the study of Russia, which spanned Alfred, Lord Tennyson' The Charge of the Light Brigade and the history of the Ukraine and the Crimean War, to Napoleon and the Invasion of Russia in 1812, to the works of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky, to the major geopolitical events of the 1990's, earned him an International Education Center, Ltd., fellowship to study in St. Petersburg and Moscow during the summer of 1992 and 1993. During the summer of 1993 he presented a paper entitled Impact of Perestroika and Glasnost on Soviet Education: A Historical Perspective for Follow-on Research at the Russian Academy of Education and the Moscow State Pedagogical University in Moscow as well as to representatives of the Baltic Academy, a higher professional vocational training institution in St. Petersburg.

His previous experience includes nearly 27 years of officer service with the United States Marine Corps, during which time he saw combat in the Republic of Vietnam in 1966 as an Infantry Officer and in 1970 as a Naval Aviator. During 1990 and 1991 he served in Southwest Asia, participating in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He has extensive experience with the U.S. Government planning and budgeting process; has examined specific Hi-tech electronic industries important to U.S. national security both in the United States and in the former Soviet Union; and has consulted with the Department of State on sensitive personnel issues, receiving a commendation from Secretary George Schultz in a private ceremony. He has been a Senior Fellow at the National Defense University where his academic interests have been in economics, emerging technological advancement, education and the growing interdependence of Asia, Europe and the United States.

Futher, he has been a frequent selectee to interact with distinguished civilians both here and abroad, for the purposes of integrating their perspectives with our judgements and insights concerning world order. During September 1987 he did individual research in the Philippines, which culminated in a strategy toward a successful outcome of the Philippines Base-Rights negotiations of 1988. During August 1988 he was one of 12 Americans--the only U.S. military officer so designated--to attend a conference in Bangkok on "Private Enterprise and Democratic Development in East Asia." His purpose in attending was to contribute meaningfully to the process for developing democracy and private enterprise values in East Asia. Participants included about 40 international business leaders, academicians and think-tank representatives from Asia and the United States. During 1989 he met with representatives from civilian scientific, business and research centers in New York and Hawaii, producing an eighteen month plan which articulated an effort to enhance our strategic policies with Japan. During June 1991 he was invited by the Association of Independent Publications to speak at a conference in Moscow and Kiev.

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