By Paul Goble
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has called on Vladimir Putin to order the education ministry to cut the number of hours in schools devoted to instruction in both domestic non-Russian and foreign languages in order that there will be more time for pupils throughout the country to learn Russian well.
Medinsky told the Presidential Council on Interethnic Relations this week that “we have quite seriously increased the regional component both in language and in history. We are devoting more attention now to foreign languages, and this also of course is correct, but it must not harm the study of Russian” (rbc.ru/society/03/07/2014/934389.shtml).
Pupils naturally benefit from knowing what he called “regional languages.” That is “a bonus, but it makes sense only as an addition to a deep knowledge of our common language,” Russian. Consequently, it makes sense to rebalance the number of hours spent in the study of non-Russian languages to the benefit of Russian.
Putin, who was present when Medinsky made this argument, seems inclined to agree. He said that test results in the area of Russian language knowledge this year were anything but encouraging. That is a matter of concern and should be the focus of expanded attention by the government.
The test results really were less than Moscow hoped for, especially since the educational authorities cut the passing grade by two points in order to ensure that most pupils passed. Moreover, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets openly acknowledged that the tests showed “a reduction in the level of mastery of Russian.”