17 january 2013

Government meeting


Dmitry Medvedev: We are here for our first meeting this year, so I wish everyone success. Today we will be discussing a vital sphere, education, in particular the implementation of the project to modernise the regional elements of our system of general education.

Education has been and will most likely remain the key priority of the state for the coming years and possibly even decades. It concerns long-term development trends and the future of the country and, of course, the lives of millions of people. It concerns both pupils and parents, as well as our large teaching community. The country needs well trained citizens with a modern mindset as the foundation for the country’s competitiveness and its ability to address the key issues of global development.

The implementation of the Education national priority project and the Our New School initiative has created an environment for modernising the content and conditions of education as well as schools’ financing and equipment. We have seen this happening, and this work has not yet been completed. The law On Education has been adopted recently, following lengthy and complex discussions. Working under the project to modernise regional elements of the system of general education, we have consolidated resources in the most important spheres of school development. Federal subsidies are being allocated to give the regions the possibility to fulfil their commitments most effectively.

I’d like to remind you that this project is designed for three years, from 2011 through 2013. In all, 120 billion roubles will be allocated for its implementation from the federal budget, including 60 billion in 2012 and 40 billion this year. The regions allocated about 20 billion roubles for this project in 2011 through 2012.

Much has been accomplished over the past two years. Many schools have been repaired and provided with modern equipment, including for introducing modern educational standards. Sport halls, libraries and canteens have been repaired at many schools. Last year, major repairs were completed at over 3,000 schools. Of course, we have not achieved the desired result at all schools, and parents still have reasons to complain, including to the Government. We understand that nothing had been done in many regions for years, if not decades. The situation there is dramatic, because no money had been invested there, and many schools had not been repaired for decades and so have become dilapidated.

Honestly speaking, the countryside and other regions sometimes lack  the basic amenities. Quite often at schools there is no heating, no hot food and even no toilets. Once, I visited a school at a community where they managed to show me everything, including a computer class. When I left the school, the parents whispered to my ear that there was no toilet there. At the same time they boasted of their computer class. We must make sure such situations do not exist. Actually, our consolidated efforts, those of the Federal Government, Russian regions and municipal entities, must aim to accomplish this. I would like to once again draw attention to the fact that substantial funding is being allocated. Therefore, the heads of territories and municipal entities are supposed to ensure their cost-effective spending.

In 2013, we must implement all planned measures. First of all, we must renovate school buildings, purchase additional equipment, which is lacking, install available equipment, deliver modern literature to libraries and connect libraries to online networks. And, of course, we must try to ensure modern Internet connections. The share of schools with broadband Internet access with a speed of at least two megabytes per second should increase. Whenever necessary, the concerned officials must buy vehicles and bus children to schools from other communities, especially where schools with few students are being merged into larger educational institutions. And, at long last, we must provide permanent professional improvement opportunities for teachers in line with the most advanced curricula.

The salaries of school teachers is a special parameter, which continues to be monitored. Indeed, this is a key factor of school renovation. I repeat that this is a key, but not the only, factor. Nevertheless, salaries must serve as an incentive enabling teachers to work better, effectively and creatively. The Ministry of Education and Science will now report on what has been accomplished.

In November 2012, the salaries of all teachers in Russia exceeded the average national economic wages by over 10%. However, this amounts to average wages. This parameter does not reflect the situation in specific regions. However, teachers’ salaries in over a third of Russian regions have exceeded the average regional economic wages in 2012. At any rate, we must completely even out the salaries of teachers, so that they would equal the average economic wages during the comparable period. We must do our best to accomplish this objective. I would like to stress that we have the right to expect effective results, while making such impressive allocations. The Minister will now tell us what has been done in various regions.

As usual, regional leaders have been invited to attend the Government meeting on the main issue. Today, I will give the floor to Tyumen Region Governor Vladimir Yakushev and Kirov Region Governor Nikita Belykh.

The next item on our agenda also deals with education and the allocation of federal-budget subsidies. As I have already said, first-category subsidies will be used to modernise regional education systems. Second-category subsidies will be used to pay bonuses to teachers for classroom management. Almost 11.5 billion roubles will be spent on these purposes in 2013. About 800,000 educators working at state and municipal educational institutions will receive 1,000-rouble bonuses for classroom management. These bonuses will be adjusted, depending on the number of students. And, finally, third-category subsidies worth 200 million roubles will be spent as bonuses for the best teachers. Each of them will receive 200,000 roubles. In all, every year one thousand of the most talented and successful educators receive these bonuses. I would like to remind you that this measure was introduced by the January 2010 Presidential Executive Order. And we will continue to implement it.

We will examine another important issue, although all issues are serious, and they concern the entire country. I am talking about measures to prepare for a more effective and high-tech response to large-scale emergencies and fires. The civil-defence and early-warning systems must be absolutely modern. We all realise this. The events of last year have proved this rather convincingly. It does not matter whether we are talking about industrial accidents or natural calamities. In this context, it is particularly important that we provide units and services of the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief with additional state-of-the-art equipment. We have been implementing these decisions over the past few years. Much has been done in line with a programme to re-equip units of this Ministry. We started actively implementing this programme after the events of the summer of 2010 with its wildfires. We purchased new fixed-wing aircraft, new-generation fire-fighting and rescue equipment and mobile communications systems. We spent an impressive 16 billion roubles for these purposes. In 2013, there are plans to purchase an additional 127 pieces of equipment worth over 1.5 billion roubles, along with other technical means. In effect, this work must continue, so that we receive modern capabilities, which would match the scale of our state.

As regards the first issue – the implementation of a project for the modernisation of regional education systems – Mr Dmitry Livanov, you have the floor.

Dmitry Livanov (Minister of Education and Science): Mr Medvedev, colleagues. Implementation of the project for the modernisation of regional systems of education began in September 2011. The key target was to provide systemic changes in our school education, including improving teaching conditions, making the system of education more transparent, and introducing and spreading modern educational technologies. Along with these changes, the average teachers’ salary has reached the average wage level of a region’s economy.

The ideology of the project of modernising regional educational systems is to switch over from supporting the leaders under the Education national project and the Our New School initiative to overall distribution of the best practices that have been accumulated. This should lead to deep and serious changes in our school education. Today every Russian region is implementing a set of measures for the modernisation of regional educational systems, coordinated with the Ministry of Education and Science. The measures contain the main parameters for the project’s realisation and areas on which funding should be spent.   

Mr Medvedev, the total volume of the project’s funding is 120 billion roubles, as you have already said. Above that, over nearly two years, the regions have spent 20 billion roubles on modernisation. This includes improving the infrastructure, teachers’ qualifications and more. In 2013, we plan to set aside 15 billion roubles for these purposes from regional budgets. In addition, regions bear serious expenses on increasing teachers’ salaries. By our estimate, in 2011-2012, 55 billion roubles was allocated for this purpose from the regional budgets, and in 2013 the relevant funding will be 23 billion roubles. Federal budget subsidies will mainly be provided for purchasing equipment, including that for gyms and libraries, improving teachers’ qualifications, replenishing school libraries’ shelves, major and minor repairs, energy conservation efforts and purchasing vehicles to deliver students to schools.

The amount of these subsidies depends on the number of pupils in urban and rural areas, but for each rural student the sum is doubled. This means accelerated development of rural schools is prioritised.    

Since the implementation of the project for the modernisation of regional educational systems was launched in September 2011, average teachers’ salary grew from 13,800 roubles to 25,200 roubles in November 2012, which is an increase of more than 70%. In 2011, salaries grew on average by 14% as compared to 2010, and by November 2012, by 52% above that. The most substantial increase and growth dynamics were observed in the Republic of Tatarstan, the Chukotka Autonomous Area, the Arkhangelsk and Tula regions and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area. 

Dmitry Medvedev: We still have problem areas. 

Dmitry Livanov: Yes, I will speak about them now.

According to the objectives agreed upon in spring 2012 between us and our regions, by the end of 2012 regions were to raise average teachers’ salary to the average 2011 salary level across all industries. That was the project’s ideology, and all the regions fulfilled the task. The President set an even more ambitious task to bring teachers’ salaries to the average level across all industries in the relevant period, that is November to November, the fourth quarter to the fourth quarter, and so on. 

This is the current situation: as of November 2012, the average teacher salary was higher than the regional average in 29 regions. The highest growth has taken place in Moscow (142%), the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area (122%), the Perm Territory (117%) and the Leningrad Region (117%). In 34 regions, the correlation between the average teacher salary and the regional average is about 90% - 100%, which is a pretty small gap, and we are confident that we will overcome it in the nearest future. There are also 21 regions where this gap is over 10%, such as the republics of Ingushetia, Kalmykia, Tyva, Dagestan and Altai. We also see that the situation is best in the regions where new models of per capita financing and a new system of teachers’ remuneration were put into practice.

The main results of 2012 projects are displayed in Chart 7, and I will comment on some of them. The main expenditures for 2011 and 2012 were equipment for schools. We pay a great deal of attention, above all, to purchasing equipment for schools in remote rural areas, including equipment for distance learning. We are sure that this trend will continue in 2013. In 2012, 14,000 schools received new equipment. Teachers are provided with additional training opportunities. In 2012, 240,000 teachers took part in additional training and re-training programmes. It is also very important that other personnel changes are taking place. Performance evaluation of teachers will be conducted at least once every five years, with their positions being confirmed. In 2013, we will introduce new requirements for meeting professional standards, thus standardising the performance criteria across each region.

In 2012, some significant funds were allocated to repair and renovate school buildings. This is a new direction, introduced in 2012 by requests of regional heads, school principals and parents. It is indeed very important. Thus, 10,000 schools were renovated in 2012, with a major overhaul conducted in 3,000. In all, 60 regions allocated money for the renovation of schools.

About 3,000 vehicles were purchased, a large number which will definitely solve the problem of accessibility for children living in remote villages.

Our project is being implemented in accordance with the principles of maximum openness. Polls suggest that the changes are having an impact on teachers, students and their parents. Ninety-four percent of respondents say that they are aware of what is being done to modernise the regional education systems, while 76% call the results of the project positive or satisfactory. But people also recognise faults. Most of them have to do with the quality of repair works and modernisaton of the buildings; the opportunity to control the attendance and achievements of children using an Internet or mobile service; free Internet access in any part of the school building (students are also interested in this); and a modern cafeteria with good meals. 

Dmitry Medvedev: Children will want to stay all day long in a cafeteria with Wi-Fi access. 

Dmitry Livanov: Yes. Teachers and principles see an increase in paperwork as a result of monitoring which we are conducting now.

I will say a couple of words about this. The analysis of the results of the measures aimed at modernising regional education systems for the past two years, social surveys, the constant work which is being done with the regions, have helped us outline the priorities and expected results of the project for 2013, which will be the last year of the project.

Plans call for each elementary school to be provided with multimedia equipment for lessons featuring electronic educational resources. Also, all rural schools attended by children from other villages will be equipped with school buses. We are actively working with the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of the Interior to make such transportation safe, which is also very important. And third, we will provide each high school pupil with the opportunity to study subjects that are interesting to them using distance learning programmes. This is particularly important for children with mobility restrictions and those living in remote areas. Fourth, we will provide advanced training in new educational standards for all primary and secondary school teachers. Fifth, we will provide free textbooks to all students as part of the standard. This hasn’t been done yet, and many parents contacted us, the Government and the President, about this issue.

By late 2013, each school should have water supply and sewage systems in accordance with sanitary regulations. We believe it is critical to conduct repairs at as many school buildings as possible in order to close this matter.

Another very important task that we are faced with is reducing the amount of reporting provided by secondary educational institutions. The current monitoring system covers all 45,158 schools in Russia. Information about teachers’ salaries and changes at schools goes into the system from each school, and is generalised. However, we see that the burden on schools has increased as a result and in the first half of 2013 we will end duplicate requests and introduce uniform federal monitoring. We will introduce a single information system, which will consolidate all existing qualitative and quantitative information about schools.

Mr Medvedev, in accordance with your directives we will expand, starting this year, the project to upgrade regional secondary education systems by including modernisation programmes for preschool and extended education. This will allow us to combine all projects related to increasing salaries of education workers and to bring all regional education systems into one integrated project.

That concludes my report.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. We have dozens of regions where teachers’ salaries are still an issue. I want to have a conference call with them to see why this is happening.

Dmitry Livanov: Mr Medvedev, may I report on the second matter? You have already listed the main types of subsidies that will be used to resolve...

Dmitry Medvedev: Please make arrangements for what I just said.

Dmitry Livanov: Yes, we will. I will not elaborate on this now. All guidelines and all calculations have been made in accordance with the approved Government decisions. The projects have been agreed in due course with the Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Finance. We need you to support these projects.

Dmitry Medvedev: All right. Please take a seat, Mr Livanov.

Colleagues, we have heard two reports, including the one on funding regional systems. Are there any questions for the Minister? Are there any proposals?

If you don’t have any material comments, then I would like to give the floor to our governors, who, in fact, are dealing with these projects. Let’s begin with the Tyumen Region. Mr Yakushev, over to you.

Vladimir Yakushev (Tyumen Region Governor): Mr Medvedev and meeting participants, the Tyumen Region has carried out all activities planned under the initiative of the Russian Government to modernise regional secondary education systems. We have complied with all targets provided by the project in accordance with the agreements that the region signed with the Ministry of Education and Science. We have raised salaries of school teachers and staff. As of late 2012, the average salary of school teachers was 29,300, which corresponds to the average salary in the Tyumen Region.

We are building modern education infrastructure. According to the Ministry of Education and Science, 92% of the students go to properly upgraded secondary schools. We have bought requisite amounts of modern teaching, laboratory, computer and technical equipment for schools. We have purchased 174 school buses that meet government standards. All schools have acquired textbooks and study aids in accordance with the new education standards. Internet bandwidth has been increased from 128 kbps to 512 kbps at all schools in the Tyumen Region. Work is being performed to create a barrier-free environment at educational institutions. In 2012, 39% of educational institutions were accessible for children with disabilities. We have created a system to identify and support talented children that includes over 250 regional contests and competitions. We have established a regional database of gifted children with over 1,800 names in it. Schools are improving professional guidance systems for students based on the priorities of innovation-driven development of the region. The focus is placed primarily on engineering, mathematics, physics and chemistry. We are creating a professional guidance centre in Tyumen for the entire Tyumen Region, which will be used not only by students, but by employees of all ages. Nevertheless, it will include a separate programme for schoolchildren.

We have expanded the social package available to employees of educational institutions. The regional budget is paying for housing improvements for teachers, including the provision of housing in rural areas, housing loans and subsidies, and mortgages with preferential terms. We are also covering teachers’ rent in urban areas. As a result, more than 1,740 employees of educational institutions have improved their living conditions over the past two years. As a result, the average age of teachers has dropped from 48 to 41 years over the last three years, and we believe the benefits package has played quite a significant role in this. All teachers and heads of educational institutions, 9,911 in all, have received advanced professional training in accordance with the new educational standards.

These measures are effective, particularly for keeping existing teachers; however, they are not enough to lure young professionals into teaching. We believe that this issue is directly related to the teacher training system. Higher schools, including universities, do not focus on teacher training properly. For them, it has become an almost non-core area of training. We believe that promoting teacher training should be a priority during the next phase of the education modernisation effort.

The monitoring conducted by the Ministry of Education and Science revealed that two federal teacher training universities in the Tyumen Region are inefficient and need to be reorganised. We share this view of the Ministry. However, these universities have accumulated considerable positive expertise over years and the necessary capacity for development. Based on the demographic forecasts, the Tyumen Region will need more skilled teachers trained under new programmes, especially in subjects such as science. Therefore, we believe that we should team up with the Ministry of Education and Science and focus on developing a road map for these educational institutions, taking into account the needs of the regional education system. We believe we should make use of the expertise gained by the Ministry of Healthcare when it organised targeted enrolment of students in medical schools, and at least 50% of students paid for by the budget should be trained as teachers.

To sum up, I can say that the intermediate results of the efforts to modernise the education system in our region lead us to believe that we will be able to further develop and improve it. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Yakushev. Mr Belykh, please tell us how things are in the Kirov Region?

Nikita Belykh (Kirov Region Governor): Mr Medvedev, Government members and guests, unlike the Tyumen Region, the Kirov Region has a number of limitations.

Dmitry Medvedev: We are aware of that.

Nikita Belykh: However, in terms of secondary education, the Kirov Region is a leader among other Russian regions, which can be seen not only from the average score of the unified state exam and the number of medal winners, but also the number of winners in nationwide and international contests and competitions. So, the regional government really focuses on upgrading the regional education system. Our socio-economic development strategy to 2020 includes forming a new education model so that everyone can get a high-quality and affordable education at any level regardless of health conditions or place of residence.

Accordingly, the modernisation project currently underway in Russia has substantially accelerated the process of resolving key issues in this industry. Significant increases in teachers' salaries are among the most important effects. The average salary of teachers was just over 9,000 in the Kirov Region in early 2011, whereas it stood at 19,000 in December 2012, thanks to federal support and our own regional efforts.

This project will greatly improve the technological level of schools and facilitate the implementation of innovative federal educational standards. We are introducing new technology not only for children with disabilities, but also for children living in remote areas. I would like to focus more on the challenges that we are faced with as we implement the regional educational system modernisation programme.

The teaching staff – I fully agree with my colleague Mr Yakushev – is the biggest problem. We are doing our best to resolve this problem. We have developed a systemic approach to attract young professionals to schools. We encourage the best school graduates to become teachers by paying them higher stipends in the amount of 5,000 roubles, and we also provide financial support to those who go to work in schools, particularly in rural areas. However, whereas the regional education system needs 600 teachers a year, only a little over 200 students enrol with teacher training departments. We are sending our considerations and numbers to the Ministry of Education, but they are advisory in nature, meaning that they have no legal power and the Ministry of Education cannot use them to make appropriate decisions. We have discovered an interesting relationship: the higher the average age of a teacher in a given subject, the fewer number of students are willing to choose this subject for taking their unified state exams. We have many teachers of retirement age in physics and chemistry, and the students are less willing to take these exams. If they don’t pass these exams they cannot pursue their studies in technical professions, which we’ve been discussing for a long time now.

The second issue that I would like to focus on is related to distance learning. Schools with small numbers of students are a big problem in the Kirov Region. We have a very large territory and lots of small towns and villages. In fact, we need about 120-140 schools with full attendance, whereas we have 600. Eighty percent of our schools have low numbers of students. We have schools with more teachers than students. It is absolutely clear that we will keep these schools as long as they are needed. However, the quality of education in rural schools should also be maintained at a proper level. The unified state exam makes it possible to run an in-depth analysis using a sufficiently large array of statistical data. It shows that small rural schools offer an inferior level and quality of education. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Therefore, we believe that it’s important to consider the system of distance learning not only in the context of children with disabilities, but also children residing in remote areas, and use all the positive achievements and skills that exist in the education system at the federal level. I believe that the experience of regions in distance education for children should be generalised at the federal level, appropriate guidelines developed, and best practices summarised, because each region has something to share.

The last issue I’d like to discuss – I’m glad that Mr Livanov mentioned it at the end of his report – is about additional or extended education and preschool education. We should realise that the processes currently taking place in secondary education will be finite and incomplete without similarly serious modernisation of extended and preschool education. The goal of modern schools is not only to educate but to raise children – the latter being a specific task of the extended education system – because general education builds on the instruction that the child receives in his preschool education and upbringing. Therefore, together with the regions, we should consider introducing a programme to modernise not only general education, but also early-childhood and preschool education.        

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Belykh. As far as distance learning is concerned, I think the governor is right: we should sum up all the best practices existing in this country. Our country is very large, and even if we reduce the number of small ungraded schools – which we should do this with care, as the Governor of the Kirov Region said – the need for a modern distance learning will remain and even grow. It will be necessary to sum up all these practices. 

Please, colleagues, any more ideas? Over to you (addressing Ignor Slyunyayev).

Igor Slyunyayev (Minister of Regional Development): Mr Medvedev, colleagues, the implementation of the priority project in education as well as the project Our New School have been backed up by a sociological study: 83% of teachers view the changes positively, according to the report. What is lacking? First, education standards, which must be raised. Following the results of 2012, only primary school received such standards, which included programmes, textbooks and all the rest. We should monitor our progress in upgrading standards in general education.

Two more problems – the new wage system and funding per person. We must understand to what extent we have embraced these new principles, this new wage system, and we must have a clear picture as regards inefficient spending in education because this represents a large reserve, including for regions.

The positive practices of regions are very important. We should study them, summarise them and promote them in the education system. For example, school meals, which are the prerogative of the regions. The fact is that children do not get school meals everywhere. In fact, schoolchildren’s health is greatly affected by what they eat during the school year. Unfortunately, not all children come from well-off families; therefore, both federal and regional authorities should take care of that, should shoulder this responsibility. Second, following your instruction, Mr Medvedev, for the first time in 2011 a so-called health passport of the regions of Russia was introduced. However, health of our schoolchildren is of paramount importance for our spending on healthcare in the future. A number of regions have introduced school students’ health cards – all secondary school students undergo regular medical checkups. This helps us analyse the situation and adequately respond to challenges relating to pupils’ health.

The ratio of teachers to other personnel is also a sensitive issue… It is an element of inefficient spending, but at times this ratio is too much. For example, 1:4 – four administrators per teacher. You have also issued an instruction to introduce a third hour of physical fitness a week. The majority of regions have introduced this third hour; it does not require large spending increases, because this hour can include exercise in gymnastics, track and field and so on – it requires no additional equipment or expense, but this is also a component of the health of our schoolchildren. In terms of introducing the third hour of physical fitness, we should bring back something like the famous Soviet-time GTO (Ready for Work and Defence of the USSR) programme: sports, health and so on. A number of regions have such nominations, and we could promote these positive practices, ensuring that 100% of pupils meet qualifying standards in sports.  

We need a special programme for small ungraded schools. This is a problem. Many municipal entities and regions are concerned about it. We should understand what path we are taking. 

Professional guidance for pupils is also a subject deserving special attention. This has to do with preparing future teachers and training for blue-collar jobs. I recall that in the Soviet times, extracurricular training offered pupils their first blue-collar profession; I recall that we used to develop our skills in trades at a secondary school. We graduated from schools with a secondary school diploma and a certificate of a plumber, tractor operator, driver and so on. It was voluntary, but that was a way to form future labour resources.  

The rebirth of patriotic education is an issue regularly addressed in your instructions; and one of its components is not Life Security Foundations, of course, but introductory military training. If we prepare boys to serve in the Armed Forces, if we are thinking about national defence, then we should promote introductory military training across Russia, as a positive regional practice.  

All pupils should take part in academic competitions in various subjects. It is true, a child’s specialisation can be seen at an early stage, whether he or she opts for humanities or science. The rate of participation of schoolchildren in such academic competitions should be one such criterion. On the whole, it is very important to use regional experience and promote positive practices throughout Russia. That is all. Thank you. 

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Slyunyaev. You did such a good job of telling us about it all that it occurred to me we should propose delegating some of the Education Ministry's functions to the Ministry of Regional Development. Do you think you are ready for this?  

Igor Slyunyaev: Thank you very much. I talked about what we'd been doing within one particular region and also of what I'd found out about the work of our counterparts in Tambov, Belgorod, Kaluga, and elsewhere. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: It looks like you're up to the task. So, ladies and gentlemen, we should wrap things up now. For some reason no comments were made after the keynote speech and now suddenly you all seem eager to have your say. Please speak out, but briefly and to the point.

Mikhail Abyzov (Federal Minister): I'd like to comment on the draft decision. Mr Prime Minister, colleagues. I go along with Mr Livanov's point about the inadequacy of today's standards for reporting on teacher performance to local regulators and the Ministry. We discussed this at a ministerial Public Council meeting. In my view, we should put a rigorous timeframe on the adoption of new teacher performance reporting standards for education authorities at every level, making the procedure as simple as possible. There's a lot of information to collate and we should bear this in mind when setting a deadline. I believe it is realistic to complete the information gathering work within the first quarter of the year. That's the first point.

Another point I'd like to make concerns the use of the information being gathered. The data we're putting together relates to the ethnic composition of schools, the Unified State Exam, student performance, and so on. That kind of information is stored in state data bases including ones under regional command. I believe that as part of the efforts to develop an information sharing standard, we should supplement Article 2 of the draft decision with a suggestion  to optimise our standards on sharing school-related information. That work, too, should be done by the end of the first or second quarter of the year. Once the standards are optimised and an open-source system is created, we should put this information into the public domain. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thanks. The information should be made public, of course. I would support the first part of Mr Abyzov's speech, as well as that of the Education Minister, who brought up the issue of performance reporting. The amount of performance-related information [to be submitted to regulators] is growing with every new programme we launch. There's too much paperwork passing from schools to regional education authorities and then on to the federal ministry. So keeping that paperwork to a minimum and introducing common standards would be a step in the right direction. Ms Golodets, you have something to say on this matter, don't you?

Olga Golodets (Deputy Prime Minister): I'd like to draw your attention to one issue we discussed while assessing the results of this programme and its guidelines. So far, we've been working in a situation where younger generation population is shrinking. But now we've got some demographic readjustments  to make... Because there's already a wide enough gap between the generations that entered school, say, in 2000 and those who will be coming along in the next 11 years. To give you an example, there were 1.2 million children born in 1993 and as many as 1,804,000 last year, meaning 604,000 more would-be school pupils. This increase will put pressure on school facilities. These days, any school headmaster in any region will tell you: "I have two secondary school classes, but as many as six primary school classes in the same year." That's a heavy strain on the school infrastructure as well as on the right to free school education guaranteed to every Russian family by the constitution (as was so rightly pointed out here earlier today, the quality of school facilities is key to people's sense of social well-being). So the prospective demographic boom has created a new challenge which we will have to face before long. We've had consultations with demographers on the issue. According to the estimates by the professional community, we were supposed to have zero growth last year. But there were clearly some errors in the forecasts. At the moment, experts cannot tell us with absolute certainty whether there is a link between objective or subjective factors and the actual trends. But we do have a precise idea of how many children will reach school age in each of the seven years ahead and we know that the number of potential pupils is not in line with the school infrastructure we currently have. So we'll have to...

Dmitry Medvedev: I'd put it the other way round: the infrastructure is not in line  with the number of potential school pupils...

Olga Golodets: Yes, definitely, the infrastructure doesn't correspond to the numbers. And we should already be preparing ourselves for those new challenges that lie ahead, factoring in prospective demographic growth in our modernisation programme, among others.

Dmitry Medvedev: Fair enough. On the other hand, though, it may be a positive thing that some of the demographic forecasts are not coming true. We make enormous efforts and spend a lot of money [to encourage child birth], and this seems to be paying off. So we do need to make our school infrastructure correspond to the growing birth rate. It's important that we factor in the change into our future draft programmes. I'd like to bring this to the attention of the Education Ministry, the Finance Ministry and all those involved. By the way, this applies to medical institutions as much as it does to schools.

I suggest we now adopt a resolution on two of our points. Okay, they are approved.

The next point is about measures to improve our capacities, including with the use of technology, to respond to large-scale emergencies, such as fires. Mr Puchkov over to  you.

Vladimir Puchkov (Minister of Civil Defence, Emergency Situations and Disaster Relief): Mr Prime Minister, colleagues. Last year the Unified Emergency Prevention and Response Service (RSChS) fulfilled all the tasks assigned to it, and the damage and loss from fires, accidents and disasters decreased as a result. You can see the relevant data on Slides 2 and 3. 

The number of fires was reduced by 8,000 and the death toll, by 700, thanks to a more effective system of response and prevention. More than 14 billion roubles was paid out in compensation from a federal government reserve fund, with 26 regions benefiting. Over 160,000 individuals received material compensation for property that was destroyed; 695 families received government vouchers for new houses and flats to replace housing lost due to fire. Residential facilities, complete with public service infrastructure, were built in badly affected areas. This was done through joint efforts with the regions concerned. More than 2 million people received aid and assistance from our agency.

Last year, we responded to 136 large-scale emergencies, including 96 major fires. Almost every other day saw a full-scale federal operation, involving the National Centre for Disaster Management and control systems as well as equipment and personnel from the Emergencies Ministry and the RSChS. Large-scale forces from across the country were engaged in the effort, which created an additional strain on logistics.

By and large, all the emergencies and fires we faced in 2012 were dealt with successfully and the Unified Emergency Prevention and Response Service proved their capabilities. In addition, the Russian President set new targets for improving all public administration services. Along these lines, we should continue our work to improve the emergencies agency's capabilities to respond to disasters. This will require the proactive use and introduction of new technologies. Related proposals are presented on slides 5 to 11. Let me touch upon some of them.

First of all, we propose developing the system of monitoring and preventing large-scale emergencies, such as fires. With this task in mind, a set of additional measures has been developed and is now being implemented. We also propose organising a wide-ranging exercise for the Unified Emergency Prevention and Response Service and for disaster management forces. This kind of exercise could be held under the auspices of the Russian Government in the first half of 2013, with the aim of raising the ability of emergencies units to cope with particularly challenging situations on the ground.

Another idea is to take additional measures towards upgrading the technical capacities and equipment of specialised fire and rescue units. The federal government programme to equip Emergencies Ministry forces with modern hardware and equipment is being implemented in full measure. This year emphasis will be made on upgrading hardware and equipment for fire and rescue brigades, including modern aviation technology. 

A third proposal consists in introducing a computer-aided control system and other information technology, including smart and high-tech sets integrated with the GLONASS satellite navigation system. We believe there is a need to form a new high-tech force, to respond to large-scale emergencies and fires, primarily in Siberia and the Russian Far East. That force could be formed in the first quarter of 2013 and reinforced, specifically by reducing the managerial staff and increasing the number of stand-by fire and rescue brigades to over 15,000. The Emergencies Ministry has been making consistent efforts towards this goal since 2011.

Given the existing supply schedules, we consider it realistic to cover the emergencies forces' needs for modern hardware by 80% by the end of the year and for modern equipment for personnel by 100%. Our approach to rapid-response operations also requires updating.

A fourth proposal I'd like to highlight here is about adopting new approaches to large-scale emergencies. There are plans to introduce new systems of control, monitoring, prevention and warning of fires and other emergencies, at publicly important sites primarily. We'll be working towards that goal as part of the federal targeted programme Fire Safety in the Russian Federation up to 2017, which was approved on December 30 last year. This will give a new impetus to introducing modern technologies for fighting massive fires.

Other efforts include setting up, with the participation of Russia’s regions, task groups at fire guard garrisons for responding to large-scale emergencies and fighting fires locally in Russia’s regions, as they are primarily affected by such disasters. By late 2013, mobile task groups will be established in each federal district in accordance with the plan of development of the Ministry of Emergencies, which has been approved by the President. The establishment of such groups will allow for a transition from the practice of protecting critical facilities to the practice of providing comprehensive security in the territories and protection of citizens in the country’s regions.

In Russia’s Arctic zone, ten rescue and emergency centres are planned to respond to emergency situations and wildfires. This will include creating reserves to support crews’ activities in northern regions. Top priority activities are already being implemented in this regard. Additional measures will be taken to improve the individual equipment and professional training of fire fighters and rescue workers. The training of related professions is a priority as well.

Based on methods of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group under the United Nations, we have completed the performance review of the Emergencies Ministry’s central state airmobile search and rescue team Tsentrospas, which has repeatedly been involved in working in severe conditions. Performance reviews will also be conducted for regional search and rescue crews in Siberia and the Far East.

Finally, a proposal has been made to carry out a set of measures, together with Russian executive bodies, to develop and improve the system of prevention and relief in the event of major emergencies and fires with due account of regional specifics. It is also appropriate to prepare related resources and manpower and train citizens and heads of bodies of local self-government chiefs on protection measures during emergencies.

Mr Medvedev, colleagues, all the measures and activities I mentioned are ultimately aimed at increasing the number of lives saved during disasters, reducing risks to people’s lives and health, cutting the response time for fire and rescue and other crews, and reducing losses from massive emergencies and wildfires. The draft resolution on this issue has been prepared and coordinated in accordance with established procedure. I hope that you will support it. That concludes my report.  

Dmitry Medvedev:  Thank you. Are there any questions for the Minister? Please go ahead [to Dmitry Rogozin].

Dmitry Rogozin (Deputy Prime Minister): Mr Medvedev, colleagues, I would like to make a brief comment. Mr Medvedev, last summer you held a meeting during the massive wildfires, and today Mr Puchkov has mentioned the decisions taken at that meeting. Overall, I would like to say that the programme we are considering today is largely based on those proposals, including the proposal to develop special equipment and hand it over to the Ministry of Emergencies. This equipment is designed for detecting wildfire flashpoints using thermal-imaging tools.

I would also like to confirm that by 2015 we will set up a satellite constellation, which will help us both battle fires and in put them out before they spread.

We will discuss all related technical issues next Monday, on January 21, at the conference call we will hold with all active participants of the defence industry involved in working on technologies that may well be used by the Ministry of Emergencies. Thank you.   

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. Mr Ishayev, please go ahead.

Viktor Ishayev (Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East, Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District): Mr Medvedev, colleagues, the meeting attendees have made particular note of Siberia and the Far East. The latter amounts to 36.1% of the country’s area but has only 4.4% of its population – this speaks to additional problems the territory faces due to the low population density. Owing to active efforts of the Ministry of Emergencies, which often went beyond their scope, such as extinguishing wildfires and taking part in other activities, in 2012 we managed to keep the situation at an acceptable level.

We vigorously support such efforts as setting up and enhancing crews and providing new equipment, and we are ready to cooperate in these areas. I have to say that the Ministry of Emergencies actively responds to proposals, and such joint efforts make it possible to keep the situation under control. So I request that you support it as well. I am not sure whether it is reasonable to reduce the number of people involved there. If necessary, the number should be increased. But such mobile equipped crews are highly important, as it is impossible to set up such groups in every region. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Is that all? Thanks. I propose that we take our final decision with due consideration of what has been said. That’s settled then.


More Information