20 september 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko

The two officials discussed the modernisation of secondary school education and regional efforts to increase teachers’ salaries. The prime minister, who had earlier ordered an increase in teachers’ salaries to match the average wage for the regional economy, said that these efforts should continue until the desired effect is reached nationwide.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Fursenko, isn’t time passing fast? It seems like September 1 was only yesterday. How is the school modernisation project progressing? How would you assess the results of the regions’ efforts to increase teachers’ pay? How high is it now?

Andrei Fursenko: I will discuss this briefly. Nearly everything is ready. The first pay rise will take place on September 20-25 when teachers get their first pay check this school year. They will get their final September pay check in early October, but we can say that they will be given a rise already in September. We have signed the required agreements on time, and transferred the money to the regions. The regions took the necessary steps. I can tell you, Mr Putin, that 44 regions have drafted their own programmes. In four regions, teachers’ salaries will be above average, and in 44 regions they will be around the average across all sector of the economy. In 38 regions, they increased teachers’ pay by 30%. So, we still need to focus on regions where it is still below average. Our first goal, to raise salaries, has been met – or will be met quite soon.

Now my second point is…

Vladimir Putin: Let me emphasise that, as we have agreed, teachers’ pay should be brought up to the average everywhere, so these efforts should continue until the desired effect is reached nationwide. I know that this cannot be done everywhere in one stroke because in some regions the gap was too wide to close immediately. Regional incomes are not always high enough, and the federal money we provide for the programme cannot entirely cover the costs. However, all of the regional officials I have talked to have agreed that this goal can be accomplished within the next year.

Andrei Fursenko: We have set ourselves the deadline for the first quarter of 2012. We believe the number of regions that are not there yet will decrease significantly because this spending has been approved in next year’s budgets. It is also important that this project seems to have influenced the entire system, as in many regions other workers employed in education have seen their wages grow alongside teachers.

Vladimir Putin: This is very important indeed. And don’t forget when you contact your colleagues in the regions to always remind them that they should not forget preschool and kindergarten teachers.

Andrei Fursenko: The Sverdlovsk Region is one region that managed to raise additional funds and gave a pay rise to all education professionals at about the same time. The same holds true for Novgorod and several more regions.

Another point I would like to make is that we are closely monitoring the spending of the funds allocated by the federal and regional governments. What’s really important is how the federal subsidies served as the catalyst for this project, prompting the regions to allocate more money.

Would you look at this chart? It is interesting that the bulk of the funds went towards buying equipment. They have also expanded libraries, improved distance education programmes and transport, and made renovations. When you were formulating this task, you said, once teachers’ salaries reach the average level, the regions will be authorised to spend the remaining funds for whatever other projects they need. So, we gave the green light to those regions that have completed this task, warning them that no money should be spent on capital repairs until this goal is achieved. But for the regions that have met this goal, we plan, as has been agreed, to allow them to spend the money on other projects, including capital repairs. Some regions have already started doing this.

And my last important point is that we have established very tight monitoring. All of the agreements have been published on the United Russia party website. The Popular Front is also in control in each region, which is important because the Education Ministry does not have regional branches, so we cannot reach every region. Meanwhile, regional policies stipulate specific allocations for specific schools. This is being monitored and we will meet later this month for a large conference involving the Popular Front to assess the progress made by the regions, as well as the first results that they report. Afterwards, Mr Putin, I will be able to report the results of the first three months of the project.

Vladimir Putin: Good.