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Vyacheslav Nikonov: Education System Should Be a Meritocracy

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Vyacheslav Nikonov: Education System Should Be a Meritocracy


The State Duma is considering in a second reading the Law on Education in the Russian Federation. The Civil Chamber has proposed substantial amendments to the legislation. One of the proposals is to increase the passing grade for entry into study programs for profile professions in order to weed out unqualified students. Dean of the MSU School of Public Administration and Chairman of the Russkiy Mir Foundation Management Board Vyacheslav Nikonov commented on the proposed changes.

“Before we make these sorts of decisions, we need to at least have clear criteria for matriculating into a university. These delineations at certain institutions of higher education are unclear. In contemporary Russia the concept of a “C” student is fading away as knowledge is evaluated according to the results of the Unified State Exam (USE). In principle it is not a bad idea to raise the passing score… But there are some hidden obstacles here. Firstly, the main score is the overall score. If a prospective student does not do so well on one subject he can make this up by performing better in other areas. Secondly, it would not be correct to deprive students of the opportunity to study and thus ruin their lives. Although now it sometimes seems that more people enroll in universities than complete high school and few encounter difficulties here. Such a system in which failing to pass an exam means being deprived of lifetime opportunities exists in certain countries, primarily in the East. For example, in Japan a large number of teenage suicides are associated with this. Nonetheless, in the majority of civilized states as a rule people have the opportunity to study regardless of their results on exams.

The best stimulus for pupils to study well is the promise of a good life in the future. But, above all else, top students should be given preferences over those who do not study so well. Unfortunately things do not always work out that way here. The most convenient system of punishment and encouragement that has been developed over the centuries is the evaluation of learning and expulsion for academic failure. Nothing new is needed here. If someone studies well and is successful in education, as a rule, he will be successful in life. This is called a meritocracy – a system of promoting based on merits. This is particularly true in China, where good students are sought-after specialist. This is a certain ideal which we should strive toward, albeit, taking into consideration the specifics of each state. But nowhere has it been fully realized.

It seems to me that the level of education in Russia is rather high, which can be seen in the fact that in recent years you cannot find very many Western universities where our compatriots are not teaching. The fact that most of them left Russia in the 1990s in search of better employment is another matter. And all our outstanding scientists are now the outstanding scientists of science abroad. Add to this underfunding of education and you get the result which we now have. Right now the reverse process is taking place. People, including rather successful people, are returning to our country. The process of restoration will be quite lengthy, but I am sure that it will achieve positive results.”

Source: Rossiyskaya Gazeta


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