11 october 2012

Government meeting


Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, today we are discussing the state programme for the development of education. Obviously, education is our top priority. At our first meeting here, in May, I enumerated the priorities of our work for the next six months. They include adopting key state programmes in major social and economic spheres, including education, of course. It is fundamentally important that schools and universities will prepare young people for work in certain competitive conditions, and help them discover their capabilities and initiative. And of course this is a major driver for the development of our country.

The state programme lays out basic indicators that must be achieved by 2020, and the planned total volume of investment. I will provide some numbers, as the amount of funding is rather large. It should certainly be appropriated properly, but the figures are significant. The federal budget’s expenses until 2020 will total nearly 4 trillion roubles. Annual budgetary expenses will increase from 446 billion in 2013 to 631 billion in 2020. Expenses of the consolidated budget on education planned until 2015 will amount to 8 trillion roubles, and over 20 trillion roubles in 2016 and 2020. We should count consolidated expenditures, not only those planned by federal budget, as this is the only right practice.  

These figures are comparable with the expenses for the development of the defence industry. We frequently hear the accusation that defence is our priority and education is neglected, so I am drawing your attention to the fact that the numbers are very close.

Let’s proceed to the tasks that need to be resolved. Firstly, we should provide high quality education for all children, including children with disabilities, introduce affordable preschool and secondary education, and if possible, extracurricular activities. The gradual transfer of primary and secondary schools to the new standards of education has begun. By 2020 all senior high school students should be receiving education based on these standards. The emphasis will be placed on mathematical education, which is the basis for the formation of a high-tech economy. Let’s put it honestly – this is our competitive advantage. This field is well-developed, unlike many others, and we should preserve it.

An all-Russian system for support of talented children and youth is now being created. By 2020, half of Russian pupils should take part in Science Olympiads and competitions of different levels, and two thirds of pupils should be involved in the system of extra-curriculum activities.

Secondly, we should ensure that our universities are competitive (we have set this mission several times), with a view to their integration into the international educational system. We have discussed many times the necessity to push our five largest universities onto the list of the world’s top 100 universities. Whatever they say, I believe that this goal is achievable if not only ministries, but also the universities themselves work on this, because making it to the top 100 (the top 100, 200 or 300 – it does not matter) is also a form of self-promotion. This goal should be addressed consistently, attention should be focused on those who are always ahead, because this has to do with our universities. And of course this move should be followed by a qualitative change in our education. Comfortable and modern university buildings, student campuses and laboratories should be built if possible, and all these buildings should be adjusted for all students, including those with disabilities. By 2020, we agreed to create more than 800,000 new places in student campuses, this is an issue we must address. That’s a very complicated issue for us.

Thirdly, the state’s key priority is to increase teachers’ salaries (lots of discussions have recently emerged around this issue), which serves as their motivation for efficient work.  Pay attention to the fact that both the federal centre and the regions are responsible for this.

Fourthly, a lot should be done to improve the system of evaluation of the quality of education. This system should be sustainable, unbiased and transparent. I have recently taken part in a meeting of the expert council held in the Open Government format. The meeting addressed the draft law on education and the draft of the state programme we are now discussing. Lots of ideas and proposals were voiced at this meeting, which were taken into account when the draft was elaborated.

Experts believe that the programme has the potential to develop schools’ autonomy and instruments for monitoring its implementation, including feedback from parents, pupils, students and everyone else who is interested in improving our system of education.

This Sunday we will celebrate the Day of Agricultural Workers. This is a holiday for about one-third of the country’s population. I would like to wish these people a happy holiday on behalf of the Government. I hope that today we will also talk about the preliminary results of the harvesting campaign (the time seems to be right for this), preparations for next spring’s sowing campaign and steps we should take on some of the issues associated with Russia’s accession to the WTO.

Other issues I’d like to mention have to do with amendments to the law on the status of judges and laws on judges’ pay. We know that it is very important for Russia to have an efficiently functioning judicial system that would be trusted by both people and businesses. Judges’ work entails serious responsibility, because people’s lives depend on them. Our courts are overburdened, the judges have many cases on the table, and this affects the quality of their work, which means that their remuneration should be commensurate with their efforts. The draft law provides, in part, for improving the system of qualification categories for judges with salaries that depend on categories – the higher the category, the larger the income. I hope that we will not only increase judges’ salaries and streamline their payment, but also create additional incentives for improving their performance.

Another very challenging issue concerns amendments to the law on road traffic safety, which involve legal entities whose business is to transport people and cargo. You are aware that quite a few traffic accidents involving minibus taxis have lead to the injury and death of passengers. This is the result of violations of traffic rules, insufficient driving skills and malfunctions. Another reason is the unconsolidated and fragmentary nature of the transportation services market, which explains the insufficient quality of services. In addition, the number of vehicles has grown alongside the number of transport companies and self-employed people involved in the business of transportation. It is a fact that many of them cannot ensure the safety of vehicles or the qualification of drivers.

The proposed amendments to this law will enable the Ministry of Transport to approve the rules on the provision of transport services to the population, including drivers who are allowed to transport people, and safety and serviceability checks for vehicles on the urban and interurban routes. But we not only need strict regulations – we know very well how to formulate them – but also strict control over their fulfilment, including responsibility on the part of all transport operators for their violations, which are numerous and which we must highlight.

Let’s start our discussion of the first issue – the Government programme for the development of education. Mr Livanov, please go ahead.

Dmitry Livanov (Minister of Education and Science): Mr Medvedev, members of Government, the federal programme for the development of education in 2013-2020 was drafted in accordance with the Government resolution approving the procedure for drafting, implementing and assessing the efficiency of Government programmes.

The federal programme for the development of education is designed to ensure high standards of education in Russia based on the changing requirements of the people and goals of the country’s socioeconomic development.

The programme is divided into four basic subprogrammes and one auxiliary subprogramme. The first of the basic subprogrammes covers the development of professional education. It is aimed at increasing the contribution of professional education to Russia's socioeconomic and cultural modernisation, to enhancing the country’s global competitiveness and ensuring the economic and social demand for each graduate.

The second subprogramme deals with the development of preschool and supplementary education, and is designed to create equal opportunities for quality education and positive socialisation of all children.

The third subprogramme is aimed at developing the system of assessing the quality of information transparency. The goal of education is to offer the consumers of educational services reliable modern information about the decision-making processes in the system of education.

The fourth subprogramme is designed to involve young people in social practices by creating conditions for their socialisation and self-actualisation.

The goal of the auxiliary subprogramme is to provide analytical, legal and information support to the key activities of the Government programme.

The Government education programme is based on the provisions of the main strategic documents that have to do with the development of education, including Presidential Executive Orders No 597 and No 599 of May 7, 2012, as well as Russia’s socioeconomic development strategy and innovative development strategy until 2020. The Government programme’s events also take into account the provisions of the federal law on education, which the State Duma of the Federal Assembly will discuss in the first reading next week, on October 16.

The key figures of the Government education programme have been geared toward achieving the goals stipulated in the aforementioned strategic documents. The goal of increasing salaries provides for reaching a specified level of the relationship between the average pay of preschool teachers and the average pay in the system of general school education in a given region, as well as between the average monthly salaries of teachers at general schools, teachers and vocational training instructors and primary and secondary vocational training establishments, and the average pay in the region. A specified balance has been approved for each of these categories.

The goals of available education include the provision of quality preschool education services to children between the ages of three and seven, and supplementary education services for children between the ages of five and 18 years, as well as an approved number of secondary and higher vocational training schools providing accessible education and boarding to people with special needs, and lastly, the provision of lifelong learning programmes for the population.

Seeking to ensure international competitiveness and the quality of the Russian system of education, the Government programme stipulates the universities that should join the group of the top 100 international schools of higher education, as well as the places Russian pupils should occupy based on the results of three most widely used international testing systems. These systems are used to assess the quality of training in mathematics and natural sciences, reading ability, as well as the functional literacy of pupils, which is the ability to apply knowledge in a non-academic situation. Each level of education in the Government programme is complemented with a roadmap of changes, which comprise the complex of events that are interconnected in terms of timeframe and resources, whose implementation is designed to ensure the achievement of target goals by the specified deadlines.

Funding for the Government programme in 2013-2015 has been approved with due regard for the financial obligations stipulated in the draft federal budget for 2013 and the planning period of 2014-2015. However, it should be said that this budgetary scenario cannot guarantee the achievement of two vital targets by 2015: firstly, ensuring that five Russian universities join the group of the top 100 international educational establishments (because the relevant allocations are only stipulated in the draft federal budget for 2013 but not for 2014 or 2015), and secondly, increasing the number of children aged five to 18 years who are involved in supplementary education programmes. Our proposals on additional allocations for regional programmes of supplementary education and for the measures stipulated in the national programme of identifying and supporting talented children have not been approved. We may also fail to achieve by 2015 the target goals of pay increases for the teaching staff of preschools, general and supplementary educational establishments, as well as teachers and vocational training instructors of primary and secondary vocational schools, which should be financed from regional budgets.

Funding for 2016-2020 has been calculated within the limits of the federal budget allocations for Government programmes tentatively assessed by the Ministry of Finance. This funding is insufficient for achieving the targets stipulated in the Presidential Executive Orders of May 7, 2012, or the parameters of Russia’s long-term socioeconomic development scenario until 2013 approved by the Government. We believe that to achieve the stipulated target goals we will need additional allocations ranging from 104 billion roubles in 2016 to 360 billion in 2020. This will make it possible to carry out planned budget allocations for education as a percentage of GDP and to accumulate the required resources for restructuring all stages of the education system. In this regard, we plan to raise the issue of expanded federal education allocations, including a joint subsidy to Russian territories for the development of regional education systems. I am talking about the continuation of the current project, which is to end in 2013. The draft state programme has been discussed rather actively with experts, including at a meeting of the Expert Council of the Open Government on July 27, 2012. After the discussion, more than 400 expert remarks and proposals were included in the draft programme. We have also noted the remarks of state programme participants, including federal executive bodies, leading state universities and the Academy of Sciences. The state programme has been coordinated with the Ministry of Economic Development. The Ministry of Finance has made comments concerning the discrepancy between programme parameters and specific parameters that were used to calculate the volume of federal budget allocations for the 2013-2015 period.In addition, the Ministry of Finance made some comments on linking the main programme parameters with the GDP parameters. We have noted that programme parameters meet the relevant timeframe for accomplishing various objectives in the sphere of education and science, as stipulated by the May 7, 2012 presidential executive order. This timeframe was approved by Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets. In our opinion, the link between the main programme parameters and GDP parameters sets long-term social spending guidelines needed to ensure the sustained development of the education system and to facilitate its contribution to the socio-economic development of the Russian Federation.

That concludes my report.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. Please sit down. Colleagues, who would like to say a few words about the programme and our subsequent work? Mr Abyzov, please (Addressing Mikhail Abyzov).

Mikhail Abyzov (Minister of the Russian Federation): Mr Medvedev, colleagues. Indeed, an entire range of measures was implemented within the format of the Government Expert Council during the drafting of the education development programme, whose results were submitted to you, Mr Medvedev. On the whole, this state programme has taken into account the recommendations of the Expert Council.

I would like to draw your attention to the third and fourth sections of the programme. The third section deals with information transparency. We plan to draft additional measures in line with this section. These measures will not require funding, and they will simplify the procedure for information exchanges between teachers and the education system regarding forms and records and a serious reduction in the load on teachers and lecturers. And a new, fourth section deals with ways to get young people involved in social practice. And I would like to say once again here that, as the Minister has noted in his report, the programme currently stipulates no allocations for supporting the regional programme for gifted young people. Mr Medvedev, I believe that the programme, which was developed over the past few years on your initiative, has yielded some results, and that we must find programme funding and development options as soon as possible. We will not be able to accomplish objectives set by the Government, unless the programme is elevated to a new level, rather than mothballed. I would like to express special thanks to the programme’s developers and to the Ministry of Education and Science because the programme sets forth clear and simply wonderful performance-assessment criteria. Clear three-year parameters are stipulated for every section. There are also parameters up to 2020, as well as specific targets and their volumes during the implementation of the programme. You see, this is a good road map for assessing the effectiveness of government bodies day by day. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. Does anyone else want to speak? Please.

Alexander Khloponin (Deputy Prime Minister – Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy in the North Caucasus Federal District): Mr Medvedev, I have a question for Mr Livanov (Dmitry Livanov): We have recently held a meeting of the Government Commission on the Socio-Economic Development of the North Caucasus Federal District. Participants in the meeting examined education development separately. We were informed that this would become part of the state programme for the development of the North Caucasus. To what extent are these two programmes integrated? We need to clarify this issue, so that there will be no subsequent duplication or different statistics that don’t add up. To what extent has this been taken into account and included in this state programme?

Dmitry Livanov: The state education development programme includes current education projects being implemented with federal funds. They include allocations to finance the education system in the North Caucasus. We realise that, given the current level of the education system in the North Caucasus, this funding is insufficient. Consequently, we will raise the issue of additional allocations for these purposes as part of the budget process.

Alexander Khloponin: Mr Livanov, I believe that this is somewhat incorrect. In effect, the departmental programme should be the main programme, namely, the education development programme. As I see it, all these statistics or funding, that we’re discussing with regard to the North Caucasus should be included in the education development programme. In reality, these formal expenditures are included in the education programme. We should avoid a situation where we prioritise our own interests, and where the education system exists separately …  

Dmitry Medvedev: We should avoid a situation where nothing will be accomplished as a result, where everything will be disregarded by these two programmes, and where we will be unable to take any decisions. 

Here is what we should do. Please think of how all this can be formalised. You, Mr Khloponin (Addressing Alexander Khloponin) and you, Mr Osipov (Addressing Yury Osipov, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences) should address this issue. OK? Frankly speaking, I will be satisfied with any methodologically correct option you choose.

Please (Addressing Olga Golodets).

Olga Golodets (Deputy Prime Minister): I would simply add that this programme includes accepted mandatory projects that are currently being implemented under the programme regardless of their location. Specific allocations and the programme we discussed at the latest meeting in Makhachkala amount to additional requirements. We confirm that these are real requirements. But no funding sources have yet been found for this programme. As soon as we find these sources of funding, their inclusion in the programme for the development of the North Caucasus and, consequently, the education programme will amount to a mere technicality. We must now find the allocations, and this is a serious task.  

Dmitry Medvedev: It is necessary to find funding. We had decided to do that as the situation there is very hard, even critical, in some areas. We must do that.

Fine. Who wants the floor? No one? Then two more comments on the document. The document must be adopted, so I suggest we vote. Regarding the issues related to 2013, my wish is that we should use all resources available, including extra funds. Now as regards the general situation with the implementation of the long-term programme: the additional requirement the Minister mentioned is necessary starting from 2015. I think that if everything is fine in the economy in the next two years, we must find and consider this requirement as the funding is necessary to achieve target indicators that were set, and the programme’s objectives. Let us do so. Agree? Good, then we approve the programme. We must work out the nuances mentioned and go ahead.

Now issue number two. The law on introducing amendments to Article 20 of the law on road safety. Maxim Sokolov, please.

Maxim Sokolov (Minister of Transport): Mr Medvedev, colleagues. The draft federal law on introducing amendments to Article 20 of the law on road safety has been submitted for consideration. The Article lays out the main requirements for ensuring road traffic safety for both legal entities and individual businessmen while using vehicles. These activities include commercial passenger and freight transport, as well as transport for one’s own purposes. The latter regards custom-ordered transport, for example transport of children by school buses and employees to their offices and back. The bill was drafted to invest the Transport Ministry with powers to adopt rules for the safe transport of passengers and cargoes by cars and municipal electric surface transport. For that amendments have been introduced and a paragraph added to Article 20 of the federal law On Road Safety.    

As you’ve noted, currently we have to observe the trend of rising traffic accidents, often involving buses. Unfortunately, passengers die and, what’s most disturbing, sometimes children. We all remember the May tragedy in the Stavropol Territory when two children died and a few more were taken to hospital in a critical condition. The court fined the individual entrepreneur 5,000 roubles. Last month, a school bus collided with a milk truck in the Luga District of the Leningrad Region. Fortunately, no one died, but six children were injured to varying degrees. Human error is, of course, the main cause of the accidents   traffic violations, but not only that. Other causes include the abrupt increase in the number of businesses in the automobile transport complex, and the deterioration of transport infrastructure. You have already noted that the market of transport vehicles is divided up by too many small businesses. The majority of operators lack the necessary facilities for their operations as well as qualified personnel. The statistics support this. This year, the number of individual entrepreneurs prosecuted for transport accidents was twice more than legal entities. This proves the fact that the same requirements must be applied to individual entrepreneurs as to the legal entities.

Today, over 430,000 business entities are supervised by the Federal Service for Oversight of Transport, which is responsible for automobile transport. According to the State Road Safety Inspectorate, over 5.5 million freight vehicles are registered in Russia, of which 300,000 are used to transport hazardous freights. Also, there are over 900,000 buses, of which only 320,000 are licensed, or supervised by the Federal Service for Oversight of Transport.

For that purpose, as well as to fulfil the instruction you, Mr Medvedev, gave at the meeting on October 5, 2012, we think it is necessary to adopt a number of regulations to ensure the safety of passenger and freight transport by cars and electric surface transport. You already mentioned what these rules will cover. I will only say that they will not only guarantee professional security for drivers of transport vehicles, safety of passengers, and oversight of road conditions to ensure that they meet safety requirements. Oversight will be conducted by local branches of the Federal Service for Oversight of Transport. Requirements for providing safe transport conditions will apply not only to regular routes but also to custom-ordered transport as well as transport for one’s own needs.

The project had undergone all the necessary coordination. It needs your support.

Dmitry Medvedev:  Thanks. Any ideas? Let’s support it. Obviously, this is only one of the numerous problems we have to confront with respect to traffic violations, various serious offences and crimes on the roads. Unfortunately, tragic accidents continue, and we must solve not only the problem with drunk drivers, which we recently discussed at one of the meetings, but also regulate activities of carriers, many of whom behave in an irresponsible manner. You mentioned 5,000 roubles. I don’t know if the fines provided by administrative laws are adequate, and to what extent, but I think they can be raised. The fines must be substantial, especially if we are talking about legal entities and entrepreneurs. Why should we be so gentle if they fail to meet standards? If they cannot maintain their fleet in good working order, they have to be closed, there is no other way. There is no difference between an old plane and an old bus. Eventually, they all may lead to tragedies. Accepted? Good.