By Paul Goble
Defenders of Vladimir Putin’s educational “optimization” program have defended this money-saving effort by saying that the rural schools involved had so few pupils that their continued existence could not be justified because they could not support the variety of courses the pupils needed.
In the 19 years of Putin’s rule, the number of schools in the Russian federation has fallen from 46,000 in 2001 to 24,000 with rural areas and smaller urban centers hit particularly hard. Also closed under this program have been a small number of kindergartens: their number has fallen from 51,000 to 48,000.
But in a report released this week, Svetlana Orlova, an investigator for the Russian Audit Chamber, says that the closings have clearly gone too far, with a one-size-fits-all approach meaning that in those areas with high birthrates (mostly Muslim), some schools are now forced to work two or even three shifts a day to accommodate all the children.
She points out that Moscow is now spending less than three percent on education what it is spending on the high-profile national projects and that it is devoting a far smaller share of GDP to education than leading countries, 3.6 percent as opposed to five to seven percent for others (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=37903).