Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin asked Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko to report on how contests would be organized and subsidies issued to industrial enterprises that could place orders for R&D to institutions of higher education. Fursenko replied that the contests that were announced have evoked much interest in Russia and abroad and are a subject of active preparations. Putin recalled that the budget provided for the allocation of six billion roubles for these purposes in 2010.
They discussed separately the preparations being made by educational institutions for the beginning of the new academic year, in particular, the need to explain changes in the legislation on the funding of state educational institutions.
Fursenko also reported to Putin on the implementation of his instructions on countering abuses in the educational system. He mentioned that Vitaly Vladimirov, the director of the Mining Technical College in Kuzbass, was dismissed after a complaint was made by the widow of a miner who lost his life in the Raspadskaya mine accident. The director demanded money for issuing student diplomas. The woman made a complaint to Putin during his visit to Novokuznetsk on June 24.
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Vladimir Putin: Mr Fursenko, we have allocated six billion roubles this year to promote progress in science and 19 billion roubles in total for three years for the purpose of holding contests and issuing subsidies to the industrial enterprises that could place orders in educational institutions and contribute to funding for these projects. Have you announced these contests? How is this going?
Andrei Fursenko: We have announced these contests and we are doing a lot in this regard. Both industrial companies and institutions of higher education are very interested in these contests.
We have already held several seminars to explain the application process for these contests and we expect to get at least 300-400 applications. This means that there will be three, four or five applications for every grant. Some of the applications are very interesting.
Vladimir Putin: Three, four or five applications for every grant?
Andrei Fursenko: Yes. We have announced the priority areas that were determined by the Modernisation Commission and discussed in the context of innovative activities in your commission.
I think that such contests can completely change companies' attitudes to institutions of higher education and the latter's attitude to R&D.
In any event, the contests that were announced and the efforts of our institutions of higher education to invite leading scientists - both our former compatriots and foreigners - have evoked great interest both in Russia and abroad. I think they will achieve the purpose you set for them.
Vladimir Putin: Good. The second issue is preparations for a new academic year, for September 1.
Andrei Fursenko: The academic year has ended and exams are over. Now the main goal is enrollment in institutions of higher education. The admission campaign is going on. Our goal is to prepare educational institutions, primarily schools, for the new academic year.
Along with routine repairs and the purchase of new equipment, we are now working on the traditional teachers' meetings that happen in August. One of the main issues we are going to discuss at these meetings is the funding of school education that must be provided to the students absolutely for free.
We are now getting ready to transition to a new law - Law 83 (the federal law On Introducing Changes into Individual Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation with a View to Upgrading the Legal Status of State Municipal Institutions).
As you know, this issue was the subject of extensive debates. During this campaign, we are planning to explain to all regional officials and every school that education must remain completely free of charge in line with our constitution. We've prepared the necessary educational materials to explain how this transition will be carried out. Therefore, I'm absolutely sure that this transition will be carried out normally and that this absolute requirement will be observed everywhere.
Vladimir Putin: You've emphasized the need to abide by the constitutional requirement of free education. As you remember, we spoke on this subject with you before. During my last visit to Novokuznetsk I met with the widows of the late miners and rescue workers. During this conversation, a woman told me that the director of the Mining Technical College in the Kemerovo Region is extorting money from the families of students. I asked you to find out what was going on.
Andrei Fursenko: In a follow-up to your request, we went through the history of the college and found out that abuses had taken place there before.
The abuses which we were reported on and which the governor of the Kemerovo Region mentioned happened because the director of the college allowed abuses of executive discipline. The very principles of supervision in education were trampled. This case was reviewed by an ad hoc commission, with several officials from the Education Agency participating. The commission gave a reprimand to the leadership of the college, and even considered the possibility of dismissing them.
Vladimir Putin: When did this take place?
Andrei Fursenko: About a year ago. But the abuses were not eliminated completely. It was found that educators coerced the students' parents into giving bribes in the form of so-called sponsor support.
There is no evidence that this money was extorted, but we know that pressure was put on parents. We spoke with them and Kemerovo education officials and found out that parents were forced to make what was referred to as voluntarily contributions.
This is why we asked for an additional investigation of the cases of alleged extortion. Taking the previous abuses into account, I dismissed the director of the college. An acting director will be appointed soon. We have enough authority to dismiss the college director.
We'll also investigate into other cases where such sponsor support was provided. Parents are forced to make contributions, which compromises the very idea of free education and a transition to the new administrative system in government-funded organisations.
Vladimir Putin: That's exactly so. I'd like this case and the decision on it to become a clear signal for the education system in general.
We cannot allow the idea of free compulsory education, set forth in the constitution, to be discredited. Sponsorship and the patronage of arts, science and education are possible, and we'll do everything in our power to support that, but extorting money from students and their parents is absolutely inadmissible. It discredits the policy of the government and the very idea of free education.
How could anyone be coerced into making a voluntary contribution? Sponsor support should be provided by benefactors, charities or individuals who are not directly involved in education. One can certainly imagine a situation where a person related to an educational establishment supports it, but it should be done only voluntarily.
I repeat that forcing a person to make a contribution is extortion. I repeat it again, and ask you to keep in mind that this case should become a signal for the whole system. Bribery is absolutely inadmissible. I anticipate that all decisions will be prompt and radical.
You should root out this practice from education.
Andrei Fursenko: I understand.