29 august 2012

A teleconference on how well prepared the education system is for the 2012-2013 school year


Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues. Take your seats, please. Let’s get down to work. As we agreed, today we will discuss how prepared the schools are for the new school year. The acceptance commissions are finishing off their work now. They have been checking whether schools comply with fire safety and sanitary regulations. But I’d like to hear about the state of affairs from our colleagues, from the governors and deputy governors, during the teleconference.

A few words about the current situation. Last year, the modernisation of regional educational systems was launched as part of the second stage of our national initiative “Our New School.” The federal budget is providing 120 billion roubles for these purposes. Half of this sum, 60 billion roubles, has already been transferred to the regions in 2012. This has enabled renovations, including major overhauls, to be carried out in nearly 35,000 schools all across Russia. By 1 September, 63 general education schools will be opened. The necessary modern equipment has been provided, including school laboratory equipment, sports gear, computers, equipment for medical and food units, and school buses. As of 1 September a total of 2 million pieces of equipment has been purchased and delivered.

I’d like to hear about the situation in the regions, including the regions affected by the flooding this summer. I know that 30 schools required repair in Gelendzhik, Novorossiysk and Krymsk, including 14 schools for children seven and older and 11 centres for children under seven. I’m not going to remind you how important it is for local children there to start school just like everyone else on September 1.Before we listen to the reports, I would like to say a few words about the government’s priorities in education. The main goal of modernising education in Russia is to create an environment for the ongoing intellectual and creative development of our young people. This goal can only be achieved through reforming the entire system from preschool education all the way through university.

So what exactly are we talking about here?

Firstly, despite the fact that many people are still dissatisfied, the waiting lists for 3 to 7-year-olds to start school have become shorter. The regions have already drafted programmes at the government’s direction to ensure 100% accessibility to education for children aged 3 to 7 by 2016. Eleven regions said they would achieve this goal as early as this year. Still, the accessibility of education in Russia varies greatly across regions. This is not entirely due to the problems piling up in the education system proper – although there are enough of them – but also with the varied quality of management in various regions. We discussed this issue with Ms. Golodets (Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets) earlier in the day. I would like everyone to focus on this as well.

Education is supported by federal loans of 8 billion roubles each for 2012 and 2013, as well as subsidies for creating more openings for children aged 3 to 7 as part of the federal targeted programme for the development of education in 2011-2015. As many as 431 institutions will have opened by the beginning of the school year. Plans call for creating more than 590 additional openings for children aged 3 to 7 over the next three years. After that we will focus on eliminating waiting lists for children under three.

It is also important that teachers’ salaries continue to grow. The plan is to raise their wages to the respective regional average. The same goes for educators working with children under 7. Allow me to note that the regional leaders are specifically responsible for this.

Thirdly, we are now assessing the efficiency of higher professional education. I have said before that there are many educational establishments in the country that are below university standard for material and technical reasons and also in terms of the teaching staff, which is especially important in the case of universities. This has had a powerful negative effect on the quality of higher education. The Ministry of Education and Science will monitor Russian universities until the end of this year and will submit proposals for reorganising the least efficient of them by March 2013. We must do this; we must take this step at long last. I’d like to stress, though, that the students of such universities are not to blame and so must not be made to suffer. They should be able to continue their education at the universities that are created as a result of the reorganisation.

Well, this seems to be all of our current priorities. Let’s get to work. I am giving the floor to Olga Golodets. Please, go ahead.

Olga Golodets (Deputy Prime Minister in charge of social issues): Thank you, Mr Medvedev. I’ll try to be succinct and so will cover only the fundamental aspects of the development plans in the education system for this year and for the near future.

It was mentioned here that one of the main development goals of the Russian education system is to provide access to education for all. It should be quality education in terms of living conditions and tuition. This year, our schools will have 13.356 million pupils and 5.6 million children will go to preschools. A growing number of children – 3.161 million – want to receive primary or secondary vocational training, and our universities will have 6.49 million students this year.

The important thing is that this number keeps going up, and we can start by monitoring the younger age groups. When we talk about the accessibility of education, it’s very important that we make plans not only for this academic year but also for subsequent years. I am not referring to forecasts, because all the children who will start school in seven years’ time have already been born. So the regional authorities who claim that the demographic situation has caught them unawares are lying. When we plan the building of new preschools or draft our policy on schools, we must know exactly how many children will attend school this year, next year and the year after that, and these plans must be closely linked to the demographics of the region.

A few words about access to education: The biggest problem is the availability of preschool education places (we have discussed this issue more than once). Many regions have done a great deal in this field, and we have discussed their plans with them. I hope that this year, in 2012, more than 11 regions will resolve the issue of providing enough preschool places for children aged 3 to 7. At the same time, we should understand that no region will resolve this issue if they limit their efforts to building new preschools. We need to adopt a package of serious measures, above all financial incentives. The regions which have switched to efficient financial mechanisms for organising work at preschools are reporting much more positive results in terms of the provision of preschool places and working with children. We are talking about raising salaries for preschool teachers, who must also have clear targets to hit and use modern tuition programmes aimed at intensive and effective work with preschool children. This is a fundamentally new challenge and we have to solve it.

And I hope that we will successfully cope with it throughout 2012. This is about pre-school education.

The second issue is making school education accessible to all children. There can be no “buts” about this. This year (we discussed this at the last teleconference), we said 51 schools were operating in three shifts. Due to the efforts of the governors regarding these schools, that number has now dropped to 33, and this is a good result. Today, we are dealing with those specific districts and schools that are really unable to provide access to school education to all. The regions should focus on these educational institutions because every school student has an unconditional right to a secondary education, and this right must be guaranteed. At the same time, we note that the number of children, due to study during the second shift, has decreased this year over 2011. The governors are now doing their best to create comfortable conditions for education. This is an obvious priority, and we can see this from the statistics.

I would like to dwell on another brief issue, that of additional education. Additional education, which was overlooked in the past, is now becoming a priority in terms of all its parameters. We are moving to fill additional education with real content, and I believe that we will be able to develop the most interesting and effective curricula together with regional specialists. These curricula will really elevate additional education to a new level consistent with modern standards in the world and the specific requirements for the development of a competent person for that world.

Let me say just a few words about human resources. This year, almost 500,000 educators and school headmasters have completed summer courses for professional development. What’s important is that average salaries have increased appreciably over 2011. The average salary of secondary school teachers totaled 15,100 roubles last year. It has reached 21,400 roubles in 2012. Every regional government says it will accomplish the directive’s objective, and that all relevant parameters will be attained by January 1, 2013. In effect, average salaries for secondary school teachers are to equal average wages for a given region’s economy.

Entirely new education quality is the next issue. The secondary school system converted to new standards last year. Expert assessments show that the conversion to the new standards is yielding positive results. It has been noted that children learn 20-25% faster than before, and, at the same time, that the new curricula help children to experience less stress. Students become more motivated. Instead of losing momentum, we must accelerate it. And we must pay attention to the fact that, this year, all second-form students learn in line with the new standards, and we are moving to introduce new secondary school and high school standards. This is a very serious step. Only those schools, which are ready to introduce these standards, will be involved in the pilot project. We will monitor the project closely, but we must convert to the new standards by 2020. At the same time, new pre-school education standards are being drafted. Moreover, new curricula and new approaches towards additional education will be drafted.

I would like to dwell on the last aspect, namely, the fact that education is changing today. Education is changing in terms of its content, and what’s important, in terms of society’s involvement in the development of the education process. Today, 84% of educational institutions have various public councils in their administration system. All educational institutions must create such councils, and it is very important that these councils not simply exist on paper. Today, parents and the market are voicing new demands for the development of education, and we must understand and provide for these demands. Notably, we must also develop the system in conjunction with socially active parents and the public as a whole. Thank you very much.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Ms Golodets. Mr Livanov (Addressing Dmitry Livanov, Minister of Education and Science), you now have the floor. Please.

Dmitry Livanov: Mr Medvedev, colleagues. Our ministry had developed and implemented a system to monitor educational institutions, which has been in place since July. Today this system covers all Russian regions, and we are constantly monitoring educational institutions’ key performance indicators online. This system will operate year-round and will allow us to keep track of all the education system’s key parameters.

The next slide shows the total number of educational institutions of all levels, 102,153 in all, with over 30 million students.

Next. The number of newly commissioned institutions is an important indicator. This year, 549 new educational institutions were commissioned, which is much more than last year. New kindergartens have been mostly commissioned to fill the need for preschool institutions. In general, the number of educational institutions is shrinking due to decreasing numbers of students in rural schools and the decommissioning of structurally unsafe buildings. Still, it is encouraging to know that we are introducing hundreds of new institutions every year.

Next. The number of school students in Russia totals 13,356,669. Ms Golodets said that we have more than 1.47 million first-formers in Russia. Clearly, this is much more than the number of ninth- and eleven-formers. This means that due to a demographic upsurge the number of school students will be increasing every year now. It is very important to keep this in mind as we do forward planning.

Next, there are 17,200 teacher openings at our schools. In fact, that’s not a lot, just 0.75% of the total number of teachers in Russia, and it is in line with normal turnover numbers. This is much less compared with previous years, although our schools are still fairly understaffed when it comes to teachers of foreign languages, mathematics and physical education. The shortage of teachers of other subjects is not that bad.

I would like to expand on the next slide. Indeed, 31 schools will work in three shifts, which is, of course, intolerable. However I want to draw your attention to the fact that the situation varies across regions. Of these 31 schools, 15 are located in the Republic of Dagestan and 14 in the Republic of Ingushetia. I was on a visit to the Republic of Ingushetia yesterday. The education system is disastrous there: there are only 30 kindergartens for 57,000 children aged seven and younger, half of which operate at buildings that are not suited for this kind of institutions. Two-thirds of schools in Ingushetia work in two shifts. That’s two-thirds of schools, which means that it’s a widespread phenomenon. Moreover, 88% of school buildings do not conform to current fire and sanitary-epidemiological safety standards. I'm not even talking about the level of development of additional education, which is extremely important for developing proper social skills in children and teenagers.

The situation in the Republic of Dagestan isn’t any better. These two regions cause particular concern, Mr Medvedev. Clearly, such a level of education, upbringing and socialisation of children and teenagers is contributing to social and political tensions in these regions. The budgetary tools that we have at our disposal today are not enough to effectively deal with such problems in these two regions. I noticed that there were several unfinished educational buildings in Ingushetia. They were being built as part of the South of Russia federal programme and were later abandoned when they ran out of the funds under the federal targeted programme. That’s even worse than doing nothing at all, because the money was spent and there’s nothing to show for this money. I think we need to adopt system-wide solutions with regard to these two regions.

Next slide. We have a comprehensive safety assessment methodology for social institutions in general, and educational institutions in particular. These methods have been agreed by the Interior Ministry, the Emergencies Ministry, the Ministry of Healthcare and us. Our colleagues and we use this methodology to estimate the educational institutions’ level of preparedness for the new school year. To date (the numbers are changing every hour, though), 95% of our educational institutions have been accepted, meaning that they are fully prepared for the new school year. We believe that the two or three days left until the first day of school will be enough to accept the remaining 5%. Fifty-eight educational institutions will not be accepted because major repairs are underway there, of which three institutions are located in a village in the Novomikhailovskoye District, namely, two kindergartens and one school, but the kindergartens will be commissioned during September. All educational institutions in the Krymsk District will open on September 1.

Next. Overall, we can identify the following trends if we compare the monitoring results of this year and the previous one. The first one is that the number of newly constructed educational buildings is growing, and the number of children using services provided by preschools and educational institutions of additional education is increasing as well.

We can now say with certainty that we have no shortage of school teachers any more. We see that the numbers of educational institutions working in three shifts and numbers of structurally deficient buildings decline. In general, I think that our education system is ready for the new school year. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Livanov. Let’s bring in the Kurgan Region.

Oleg Bogomolov(Kurgan Region governor): Good afternoon, Mr Medvedev and colleagues.

As of today, there are 507 federal and municipal schools in our region with 92,611 students. The number of students has not changed compared with 2011. We have 10,113 first-formers this year, which is about 300 students, or 22 classes, more than last year.

More than 111 million roubles were allocated from the regional budget to get the schools ready for the new school year. Funds allocated from the federal budget for the modernisation of regional general education systems helped better prepare schools for the new academic year. This year, we received 574 million roubles from the federal budget plus we used 55 million roubles of our own funds under the modernisation programme.

We have paid close attention to developing the infrastructure of our schools focusing primarily on making our schools modern institutions in accordance with the national general education initiative Our New School. We have purchased 12,000 units of school furniture that cover 61.5% of the total need. We will keep buying more through the end of the year using these funds. We have held all planned tenders and will replace all school furniture by late 2013. We have purchased modern equipment for medical rooms and school cafeterias. We have set ourselves the goal of covering 93% of schools with hot meals this year, including two hot meals a day at 30% of schools. Last year, these figures stood at 76% and 12.5%, respectively. Our region has been participating in a federal experiment to improve school meals for two years now, which is also instrumental in achieving positive results.

This year, we are continuing our work to upgrade the school bus fleet. Today, there are 458 buses in our education system and 380 school buses that give rides to 9,500 students. We are able to give rides to all students who need one. Still, there is an issue. We are still working on the task that you have set – equipping buses with GLONASS – and we plan to complete it within the next two years. If there’s a way to finance this work as part of the modernisation effort, then we will certainly be able to finish this project sooner.

Mr Medvedev, there have been positive changes in staffing. We are paying settling-in allowances in the amount of 100,000 roubles to young teachers who are willing to work in rural schools. Last year, 88 young teachers received such allowances and another 104 signed contracts this year. We are actively addressing housing issues and have reduced the interest rate on mortgages to 5%. In addition, we are paying regional maternity allowances in the amount of 314,000 roubles to all young families participating in the mortgage programme, if they have a new baby during the period of construction. This year, 41 teachers received such an allowance. For the first time, 15 teachers from our region will receive allowances in the amount of 320,000 roubles each to cover the down payment when they buy housing. Of course, this money will help. These measures allowed us to dramatically increase the number of young teachers who are willing to work at rural schools. This year, we will have 240 such young teachers, whereas last year this number stood at 210, and the year before 190. As a result, the number of teacher vacancies is now down to an all-time minimum, 27. We have conducted the campaign Get Children Ready for School, where we held fairs, ran children's clothing collection drives and so on. We have helped 4,000 children from socially disadvantaged and low-income families get ready for school.

Now with regard to accepting renovated school buildings. A total of 506 school buildings have been awaiting acceptance and all of them passed. We have decided not to present the Kolesnikovo High School from Ketovo District for acceptance, because it needed additional work in connection with ongoing major repairs. The work will be completed in October. All 115 children who were supposed to go to this school will start classes at the Kashira School, which is located within a short 3 km distance. Buses are in place, so we will give them rides to school and back until October, when the repairs will be completed and the school will open.

We have focused particularly on special categories of children who are enrolled in a boarding school for gifted and talented children and the distance-learning school for children with disabilities. The targeted funding from the federal and regional budgets helped us create an almost ideal learning environment for 150 gifted and talented children from rural areas and 176 children with disabilities. These schools are the prototypes of the smart school concept that you formulated earlier.

Mr Medvedev, I would like to thank you, Mr Putin and the Ministry of Education for allocating funds that we used to repair School No. 7 in Kurgan. After Mr Putin visited our region, we are now able to resolve all issues. We have got repairs underway, and I hope that the school will be ready for students by the next school year. We have merged schools Nos. 15 and 7, since they are located close to each other. We have also freed up space in School No. 15 by moving the children’s play centre to another location and will have the premises renovated.

In addition, we have already bought the furniture and modern interactive equipment for the premises that are currently being renovated. We had teachers take a professional development course, addressed energy conservation issues and so on. Therefore, the work is underway and we will finish it. Once again, thank you for providing such substantial help with regard to this school.

Mr Medvedev, our region’s schools are ready for the new school year. Thank you for your attention. If you have any questions, I’m ready to provide answers. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Bogomolov. Since you have no questions, then we have no questions for you, either. Thank you. Let’s bring in the Altai Territory.

Alexander Karlin (Altai Territory Governor): Good afternoon, Mr Medvedev!

Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, Mr Karlin!

Alexander Karlin: Good afternoon, colleagues! On 1 September, children will start school in 1,226 schools in the Altai Territory. These schools include 1,123 municipal general education schools and 49 branches, seven private schools, 33 boarding schools, 10 evening schools and four schools under territorial control.

From 1 September, 244,000 pupils will go to schools in the Altai Territory, which is 9,000 more than the last academic year. This year, 25,300 first-years, the same number as last year, will go to school for the first time. A specific feature of school education in the Altai Territory is not only the large number of schools, but also the fact that the majority, 80% of the schools, are located in rural areas. Of the total number of rural schools 70% are what we call low-capacity schools. Half of all pupils attend urban schools and half attend rural schools.

Our priority is to ensure the quality of education in rural schools, taking into consideration all the specifics of this section of the education system. Since 2006 our territory has had a territorial federal targeted programme for the development of education, including a section covering a set of measures for developing rural schools based on regional specifics. We pay special attention to creating a modern learning environment in these schools, as well as the appropriate social and living conditions for rural children. Since 2006, in the Altai Territory a total of 92 school buildings have been either built from scratch or renovated. It sometimes happens that the cost of renovating an old building is the same as building a new school. This year the Altai Territory has built and renovated a total of seven schools, including five in rural areas. The aforementioned 92 schools include 63 rural schools.

In recent years we have made great efforts to improve school meals. We have completely replaced the equipment in 726 school canteens in the Altai Territory. And now newly-equipped school canteens offer hot meals to 90% of the total number of pupils who have their meals in school. A total of 95.7% of pupils have hot meals in schools.

We have a problem with transporting children in rural areas. Currently we use 682 school buses, including 103 buses that we purchased this year. In the last two years, we have replaced 131 buses with modern ones. On the whole, we bring to school 11,000 children in rural areas. All school buses are equipped with GLONASS. All school bus routes meet the current requirements. This year we will spend only 2.7 billion roubles on preparing for the new academic year, of which 1.57 billion roubles is the allocation from the federal budget. I would like to take this opportunity, Mr Medvedev, to thank the government and the Ministry of Education and Science for this significant, sizeable support. Not only the schoolchildren but also all residents of the Altai Territory and most of all the parents are aware of this support. 

This year we have done major repairs in 181 schools. And this is not only whitewashing and painting, as has been the case in the past, now we have replaced window frames, we have installed new pyramidal roofs, we have repaired gym halls, we have done many other things that make a qualitative difference to the school environment. This is important for rural schools.  

Currently 90% of rural schools have heated toilets; the proportion of schools having shower rooms has increased from 28% to 72%. And 68% of rural schools have washrooms for girls. This shows that we are raising the quality of the education environment and educational technology, and now I’m not speaking about the equipment used in the educational process. This creates completely new conditions for the education of rural children.

To finish, Mr Medvedev, I’d like to say that we have been implementing a whole range of measures of social support of schoolteachers, primarily rural teachers. This includes housing support programmes for them. 

This is the second year that we have been implementing a programme of free rehabilitation breaks for schoolteachers in sanatoriums. We have been implementing programmes of subsidies for young teachers who come to work in rural areas, in rural schools. For almost six years we have been implementing a programme of support for rural teachers/innovators.

For the last two years we have been implementing an effective programme, which should justify itself, for extending material support to children from multi-child families who are getting ready for school. Last year we allocated 131 million roubles as part of this programme, and this year we are distributing 150 million roubles. This year a total of 28,500 children will receive this support. Multi-child families where one of the children goes to school for the first time will receive 7,500 roubles. Multi-child families with a child in years two to eleven will receive 5,000 roubles from the regional budget. This subsidy has considerably improved the overall environment of preparation for school for us, on the one hand. On the other hand, we know that material inequality creates psychological tension in children and reduces their incentive to attend school. We have noticed that this programme is very effective and we are happy to spend money on it. In the future, we will of course continue to implement comprehensive measures for developing school education in the region to meet the guidelines on school reforms adopted by the government. Thank you.    

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much, Mr Karlin.

Dmitry Livanov (Minister of Education and Science): May I ask a question?

Dmitry Medvedev: Please do.

Dmitry Livanov: Mr Karlin, there is a village called Karasuk in the Altai Territory; its school is in an advanced state of disrepair, children have their lessons in different premises that are not fit for holding classes. Are you planning on carrying out any major repairs in that school?

Alexander Karlin: I beg your pardon, but geographically it is closer to the Novosibirsk Region. The Karasuksky District is part of the Novosibirsk Region. We will consult with our neighbours and if it proves to be our school… Most probably this is not our school. 

Dmitry Medvedev: All the same do repair it.

Alexander Karlin: It’s still in Siberia.

Dmitry Medvedev: Good. Thank you. Mr Mitin (Sergei Mitin – Novgorod Region Governor),  the Novgorod Region. Please go ahead.

Sergei Mitin: Good afternoon, Mr Medvedev and colleagues! I will report on how well-prepared our educational institutions are. We have 554 educational institutions; all of them are ready for the new academic year. We began this work in April. This year we allocated twice as much on preparations. We used these funds to carry out major repairs in 121 schools. We made public announcements in all the municipal districts where schools were undergoing major repairs so that people would know which schools were being repaired. We succeeded in putting those schools into good order. In addition, we purchased 19 buses, and currently all educational institutions have been equipped with automatic fire alarm systems, all of them have alarm buttons and about 10% have video surveillance systems. Another good thing we did: this year we are making an additional 760 places in preschool institutions available by 1 September. This is a very positive development; the region currently has no waiting lists for children aged between three and seven. However, some districts do have waiting lists of 656 children under three years of age. Novgorod has no waiting lists at all. This has enabled us to resolve this important social problem of children attending preschools.

A feature of our regional education system is the fact that we have granted autonomous status to 84% of our educational institutions. This is very effective because it makes the heads of educational institutions much more independent and responsible. We do not always need to follow the statutes of federal law No. 94. This makes it possible to resolve certain issues on major repairs more quickly, but more importantly, it enables funds to be channelled for repairs of institutions, for salaries and pay rises for teachers. Here is an example. The Starorussky District has six schools: 18% of the funds they spent on major repairs was the money they have earned themselves.

On the whole, we believe that this is rather good. For instance, employees of one kindergarten have independently earned 238,000 roubles for preparatory work, and the municipal council has allocated an additional 66,000 roubles to it. In some cases, these institutions have comparable funding, which even exceeds the amount being received from the founder. As I see it, this is a very positive decision, which allowed us to raise salaries last year and to bring them up to the average in the region. Salaries have increased 4% in 2012, and we plan to continue raising the staff’s salaries at secondary educational institutions in the future.

Mr Medvedev, we would like to raise one more issue. As I mentioned, the regional situation with kindergartens is quite good. Nevertheless, we have to build new kindergartens, after assessing the demographic situation. We believe that nine kindergartens should be built in the next 12 to 18 months. The region will have to spend about 1.5 billion roubles on this project. I would like to note that this is a somewhat sizable sum for us. In addition, we will need more money to bring the salaries of pre-school personnel up to the average in the education system. We have to raise salaries so they meet the regional average and to be able to index the salaries of teachers. Consequently, our education expenses will have to increase by about 40-42% next year. This large sum totals about 2.7 billion roubles in absolute terms.

And, of course, we would very much like to have some state programme, apart from the one stipulating budget loans for kindergarten construction projects. For example, we could build nine kindergartens next year and solve this regional problem for the next five or six years or so. I believe this could become a positive example that would allow many other regions to resolve their kindergarten-related issues. Unfortunately, we can only receive budget loans today. Although this is, of course, helpful, it increases the regional budget’s public debt. At the same time, we have other obligations. I would like to ask you to consider the possibility of providing kindergarten subsidies, which would be very helpful.

In general, we believe that the situation in our region is rather positive. All of our schools are ready to open on September 1. We have assigned the regional leaders and senior officials who will attend school-opening ceremonies on September 1 together with the governor and municipal heads. This year, we will distribute free milk to first-graders for the first time. This, too, is a very positive aspect, and I believe that the region’s educational sector has prepared well for the new academic year. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you Mr Mitin. We will discuss possible allocations. To be honest, you are not the first one to mention this issue. Let’s continue our conversation. We have a link-up with the Krasnodar Territory, which has been affected by well publicised and dramatic events. Please put it on.

Galina Zolina: Good afternoon, Mr Medvedev.

Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon. How’s it going?

Galina Zolina: This is Krymsk speaking, thank you. My name is Galina Zolina, and I am a Deputy Governor in the Krasnodar Territory. We are at School No. 9 in Krymsk. This is one of the schools in our affected area. But, Mr Medvedev, the area has a very large educational sector comprising 3,044 educational institutions. Almost a million children are educated here. We have been preparing for September 1 over the entire previous academic year based on the plans and targets which were compiled and approved. All institutions were inspected by inter-departmental commissions comprising representatives of the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief, the Federal Service for Fire Safety Oversight (Rospozharnadzor), the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), the Prosecutor-General’s Office, the Territorial  Department of the Interior, the Federal Security Service and other public organisations. And all of our institutions have been approved in the run-up to the new academic year except only those schools which you have already mentioned.

As you said, 33 educational establishments were flooded in our territory. On August 21, eight Gelendzhik-based schools were ready for students at the start of the new academic year. Three Novorossiisk-based schools and two kindergartens are also ready for the new academic year. The Krymsk District was the hardest hit by the disaster, which affected numerous local institutions, including seven schools, six kindergartens, two extracurricular education institutions and two institutions of secondary professional education. An art school was inundated completely. A House of Culture, three libraries and four healthcare facilities were also damaged. So our schools, kindergartens and other educational institutions have incurred losses totaling 607 million roubles. In all, we had to spend 466 million roubles on furniture and 141 million roubles on equipment during the clean-up operations. The renovation of all schools and kindergartens is nearing completion. But we still continue repairs in kindergartens No. 4 and No. 11. Their awnings will soon be repaired, and tiles will also be installed. A serious problem was exposed during the initial renovation of kindergarten No. 19. We need to reinforce the foundation and reequip the utility systems. The structure needs to be dismantled completely, and we have to install floor-and-ceiling insulation panels. The result is that this kindergarten will open on September 15 by agreement with all the concerned services.

The intensive renovation of School No. 3, which has suffered the most, is nearing completion. The three-shift renovation project also involves volunteers, employees of educational institutions and other schools. The situation was aggravated by the fact that this school has several separate buildings housing a primary school, a library, workshops, etc. So the renovation project needed three shifts, and all the required equipment is already being delivered. One hundred people are assembling this equipment, including kitchen equipment for the school canteen, equipment for classrooms, etc. Still, we are confident that the school will be ready to receive children on September 1, and that the academic year will start on time.

As per Presidential and Government directives, additional leisure opportunities were provided for the children from the Krymsk District. As many as 3,844 children and teenagers were evacuated from the flooded area to healthcare centres and summer camps. In all, 623 mothers and 834 children were able to relax at the Krasnodar Territory’s resorts in line with the “Mother and Child” programme. The Ministry of Education provided assistance to former school students from the flooded area who were enrolling at higher educational institutions. These teenagers will study free of charge. An additional 20 high-school graduates have enrolled at secondary professional education institutions. A total of 1,297 first-graders from the flooded area in Krymsk and 794 children from other inundated areas will begin their studies. Backpacks, stationery, textbooks and new school uniforms have been prepared for every first-grader. Actually, all the children from Novomikhailovsky will get the same items.

I’d like to say a few words about Novomikhailovsky. As has already been noted, three educational institutions were damaged. Kindergarten No. 2 for 52 children was reopened yesterday as the result of an extremely effective and well-coordinated effort. We will continue to renovate kindergarten No. 10 for 150 children. School No. 30, which was also flooded, will be renovated too ... clean-up operations have already been completed. To me, it’s good when clean-up operations at all the social facilities in the Krasnodar Territory involve local educators and students who are really helpful. The renovation project has already been launched, the exterior surface has been removed, and the contractor is getting down to work. As per the governor’s directive, we expect the school to admit its children this September. During this month, the children will study at nearby school No. 35 in Novomikhailovsky. Unfortunately, they will have to study during a second shift. Each school has approximately the same number of students. The academic process is being organised,  and the children will be brought to school  by bus .

Mr Medvedev, I would like to tell you that heavy rains fell in the Krasnodar Territory tonight totaling about 50% of the average monthly level. A storm warning was issued in anticipation of further rains. Thank God the cyclone drifted away towards the Black Sea. Consequently, the damage was not substantial. I would like to use this opportunity to thank the president, the government, the ministries, Olga Golodets personally and all of Russia for the attention given to our territory, our affected areas and our children. As a result of this charitable work our children will experience virtually no stress at the start of the new school year. And those beautiful and modern schools will open their doors and will receive their children. Thank you. 

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you Ms Zolina. Nevertheless and in spite of your positive report, please tell us right away if you need anything, and I will issue the relevant instructions. Those who would address these issues are here. Do you need anything?

Galina Zolina: No, thank you, Mr Medvedev. As I said, the entire situation is still tense. But everyone feels responsible for the children, so we are controlling the situation, which gives no reason for alarm …

Dmitry Medvedev: All right, thank you. We have talked to our colleagues from various regions, and I would like to ask the minister once again. Do we have any information on any regions where the situation is not as good as is often implied by the reports? If so, please name them.

Dmitry Livanov: No, Mr Medvedev. On the whole, we don’t have any problem regions except the persisting situation in Ingushetia and Dagestan, which is not linked with the new academic year.

Dmitry Medvedev: All right. In that case, I would like to address the ministers who are present here, including the Interior Minister and the Minister of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief, Vladimir Kolokoltsev and Vladimir Puchkov.

Vladimir Puchkov: Mr Medvedev, colleagues. Each year the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief implements a set of measures to ensure the safety of educational institutions. Generally positive trends have been noted over the past seven years, and one can say that the accidental deaths of children have been prevented at educational institutions. All the security-related issues and all the problems have been discussed at a meeting of the Government Commission on Prevention and Elimination of Emergency Situations. On August 7, we also examined all these issues in a nationwide teleconference. The commissions involved in school acceptance projects are working today. We plan to complete this work either tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, and virtually all of our schools will be secure enough to admit children on September 1. That’s all.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. Mr Kolokoltsev, please.

Vladimir Kolokoltsev: Mr Medvedev, conference participants. The greatest concern for us in the Interior Ministry is equipping preschools and schools with alarm buttons. In Dagestan, less than 6% of general education institutions have these alarm buttons.

Today’s situation in the North Caucasus is fairly disquieting. We have recently witnessed a series of terrorist attacks there. Children are our most treasured asset, and unfortunately they are not getting the protection they need.

Things are no better in Ingushetia, so I would like to ask the heads of these regions to focus particularly on the installation of alarm buttons in schools. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. Indeed, the costs involved are nothing to write home about. I would like to draw the attention of all the regional heads taking part in this teleconference to the fact that they simply have to find the money. Six percent really is a shockingly low figure. There is nothing very complicated about finding the money and purchasing the appropriate alarm systems. Let’s do this please.

Mr Onishchenko, are there any issues you would like to raise?

Gennady Onishchenko (Head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare): Mr Medvedev, conference participants. I believe one subject has been omitted from our discussion, which is fundamental and important for preparing our children for school – their health. A health improvement programme is now drawing to a close. There were pronounced health benefits in 88% of children, which is 5% more than last year, which shows that this complex and multi-faceted problem has been dealt with successfully across Russia. At the same time, there are regions that performed poorly in this respect and so I would like to see more attention being paid to the drafting of such programmes and to the issues which we and you, Mr Medvedev, have raised. This is that every programme should have at least a short-term strategy for the summer for healthcare institutions.

The second issue, also challenging and demanding, concerns meals for children. The project that you took charge of and which wrapped up last year involved 44 regions, and it is clear that where it ran for some time more hot meals were provided than the average across the whole of Russia. The figure for schools who took part in this experiment is 88.9%, and something like 80% to 83% for schools not in the scheme. This is important for us today, and so we should continue this work. I would like to draw the attention of the governors to the fact that. Law No. 94, or rather the amendments to it, came into effect today. Some schools used to make complaints about their suppliers, which we could do nothing about. Now, we can renegotiate our contracts with them and introduce meaningful yardsticks for choosing suppliers, which is a good basis for providing our children with hot meals.  

As regards the presentation of schools for acceptance following repair works being carried out, the picture this year is better, although some regions are spoiling the overall impression. You see we have schools that have been undergoing capital repairs for years. To me this situation is totally incomprehensible.

Dmitry Medvedev: Which schools specifically? Name them.

Gennady Onishchenko: I’ll tell you now, Mr Medvedev. Look here. The percentage of schools on which the acceptance commissions have not yet passed their decisions is 0.4%, but repairs there will be finished on time. So this is the overall proportion of schools not yet accepted in 19 regions, but we still have two days to go before 1 September and we will get it done. Two schools have been refused acceptance (a lower figure than the average for the country as a whole): they are in the Nenets Autonomous Area and Udmurtia. For some reason, 26 schools were not presented for acceptance: 6 schools in Kalmykia, and so on. In Smolensk, there are seven of these schools. I would like to call your attention to this fact.

And, of course, one more thing. Here, colleagues, we need to return to the long-term programmes in this field. That’s about all I wanted to say, Mr Medvedev, in addition to what has been discussed today. Thank you. 

Dmitry Medvedev: Please pass this information to the minister to pass it on to the regions because we need the exact addresses of the schools. I hope all governors and vice governors participating in this conference will look into the matter.

We have invited some colleagues here. Please, Mr Kuzminov, what do you think of the situation?

Yaroslav Kuzminov (Rector of the Higher School of Economics): Mr Medvedev, I was asked to talk about another part of the education system, which is also starting lessons on 1 September.

Dmitry Medvedev: That’s right.  

Yaroslav Kuzminov: We have just summarised the monitoring of student admissions. We have been doing this for the last three years. That’s an analysis of university websites. Ladies and gentlemen, you have the information, all of you, though I am not sure whether it has been sent to your iPad, Mr Medvedev. At least, they were going to do it.

The situation is improving, on the whole. There are fewer universities and sectors where the quality of the admissions procedure is questionable. Many universities, including the leading one, have on  their own accord raised the threshold USE entry standard mark, including for paid tuition classes. It’s usually 50 for general disciplines and 55-60 for professional ones.

Mr Kropachev (Nikolai Kropachev, Rector of St. Petersburg State University) and I began with the association of the leading universities, but many other universities have joined us now. Improvements in the admissions procedure are evident in the majority of natural science departments of the classical universities – pedagogic, medicine, forestry, materials, engineering, geodetics and land development. Medical universities have reinforced their status as one of the best sectors of Russian higher education: in 83% of them more than half of first-year students were A-grade students at school, and the average entry mark in this sector was 75 out of 100. This rapid improvement only began last year. Many young people are choosing a medical career and their families believe in it, now that the state is paying much greater attention to healthcare.

Teacher training is another one of the big sectors. It has had enrolment problems for many years, with mediocre school pupils making up the majority of new students. Things are changing now though, with an average entrance mark of 61.5 out of 100, which is a solid B grade. C-grade students make up the majority of first-years in less than 10% of teacher training colleges. But there are still as few grade-A students as before, which means that a teaching career still holds little appeal for the most able young people. In only 10 out of the 122 higher education establishments that offer teacher training programmes more than half of all new admissions made up of grade-A students. Of these, only two are pedagogical universities. The other eight are classical universities. It’s probably time to put an end to pedagogical education being limited to specialist universities – it’s safe to say that the best school heads generally prefer to hire classical university graduates.

Today 11 technical universities out of 133 have an average entry standard mark above 70 out of 100, which means that A-grade school pupils make up more than half of their first-year students. There were only four such universities two years ago. This shows the growing prestige of engineering careers, though in my opinion this change should be even greater. At the same time we are still admitting very weak candidates onto complex engineering and science courses which they are unlikely to be able to cope with. For instance, 19 universities have entry marks starting at 55 for their aviation systems faculty, and C-grade students account for more than half the students at automatic control engineering faculties with free tuition in 20 out of 120 universities. The worst situation – look at the dark brown in this basic graph – is in light industry equipment, agriculture, fish farming, engineering, forestry, and arms manufacturing. These are the professions with the greatest enrolment problems, where more than half of first-years achieved C grades in their basic subjects at school. That’s the situation across the country.

Another problem is that incorrect admissions figures are kept by many universities. This primarily concerns popular subjects like economics, law and management. The Kostroma Technological Institute and the St Petersburg and Novorossiisk Naval Academies enrolled two law students each, and according to our figures the St. Petersburg University of Economics and Consumer Services four. One or two economics students are enrolled for free tuition in many universities though it is impossible to employ all the necessary professors when less than 15 students are enrolled. Otherwise, we are obviously going to offer a poor quality of tuition.

The impression is that when we address universities’ problems we forget what social and economic problems lie behind them. We think it’s our primary duty to provide a sufficient workload for professors, rather than satisfy the national demand for good specialists.

We can see the first practical fruits from the tactic we launched last year – I mean merging problem universities into leading ones. The St. Petersburg State University of Refrigeration and Food Engineering was incorporated into the St. Petersburg University of Precision Mechanics and Optics (LITMO), while the Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM) became part of the Higher School of Economics. When I talked to LITMO Rector Vladimir Vasilyev, he told me that the entry standard mark in the newly-incorporated university rose by six points immediately after the merger. The rise for MIEM was 10 points. This was not only due to a change of brand. We reduced enrolment by 33% – something the previous managers did not dare to do though it should have been done a long time ago. Now the weakest students no longer stand a chance of getting in. The mechanism of setting targets for government orders leaves much to be desired. We should not blindly follow the opinions of regional leaders and employers who make orders paid for by others, thereby bloating the demands. Instead of paying normal salaries, they persuade the state to train four times more specialists than necessary in the hope that some will come to work for them. I think we need to put an end to such practices.

We find that the quality of the admissions process has greatly improved. More than 90% of universities placed all the relevant information for applicants on their websites in good time. The Federal Service for Supervision of Education and Science (Rosobrnadzor) has gotten its way at last – the university authorities are now handing papers back to people who have been rejected in time for them to try their luck at another university. This has been a sore point for the past two years. The university authorities never acknowledged that they held onto the papers too long. They said they had issued the relevant instructions but everyone was on holiday, and so on and so forth. Now that we are closely monitoring admissions we know there are practically no more of these instances. So Ms Glebova (Lyubov Glebova, Head of Rosobrnadzor) has done it at last.

You might remember last year’s infringements at the Pirogov University, Russia’s only national medical research university. There have been no transgressions this year, and I am happy to say that the average entry mark has shot up by 6 points. This is a record for a huge university which enrols 1,000 students at a time. That’s what the Unified State Exam can do when everything is above board.

Students’ merits are measured not so much on their USE points and the salaries they expect to earn as on their interest in the subject they choose. We must address the problem of selecting future engineers, psychologists, sociologists and others whose professions do not lend themselves very well to career guidance in secondary school. Our academic competitions (school Olympiads) are only held in school subjects, as Mr Dvorkovich reported when summarising the results of the commission monitoring. The only professions popular with school pupils are law and economics thanks to their general prestige. As I see it, we should arrange academic competitions on extracurricular school subjects within the strategy you approved during your presidency. That will bring much better students into engineering and agriculture universities, where this problem is at its most acute right now.

Last but not least, we urgently need to introduce new standards in secondary schools. As Ms Golodets said here, we will do this in 2020. But I don’t think we can afford to wait that long. We have excellent primary schooling, which meets international standards, but in secondary education the quality begins to slip; up to 30% of senior secondary school pupils simply ignore classes they don’t like – they play truant. Everybody knows that, and no one is lifting a finger to do anything about it. We only squander money as we insist on mandatory curricula and don’t introduce streaming in secondary schools while pupils select classes themselves. It would be wiser to spend budget allocations differently in secondary schools even if they are insufficient now.

Mr Medvedev, we have not yet fully analysed the emerging trends. There are regional spokesmen here. We could not analyse the information by region: we only received it yesterday. However, we’ll do it very soon and maybe it would make sense to convene a similar meeting on the restructuring of higher education.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Kuzminov, for your informative statement. We also have school principals in this audience. Please, does anyone want to speak up? Please go ahead.

Alexei Babetov (grammar school headmaster): I am the headmaster of the Korifei municipal grammar school in Yekaterinburg.

We have been working for a year now as an autonomous establishment, and I agree with my colleagues who spoke before me: this is definitely a big step forward in efficiency and effective spending of budget money. We are spending the money we’re saving on teacher training, higher wages, repairs, etc. We also have some experience of cooperating with parent and trustee councils, so this makes our work easier with the supervisory board, which has acquired an official legal footing in autonomous schools. This is the only public body with legal prerogatives, and I think it should be developed.

The second point is how ready we are for the educational process. Our school, like all the others, took part in the introduction of the new standards last year. Now, we are participating in a pilot project to introduce these standards into secondary schools. Teachers, parents and pupils are psychologically and mentally ready to accept them. We lack only one thing – new forms of raising the quality of teachers through on-the-job training and a more practical orientation of tuition. We have regional funding and federal allocations for equipment but new patterns of teacher training are inadequate. I think this needs to be looked at.

Last but not least, I would like to say a few words about the moral and psychological readiness of the staff of my school. Our team won an international competition last year for a draft concept of the Skolkovo school and we have been working on it for a year. Our school presented the project together with the Education Ministry at the Innoprom international exhibition of industrial innovations, and the regional governor displayed great interest in it.

Our ideas are very close to the new school standards and the new Federal State Educational Standards that are now being implemented. We have found private investors for our primary school and kindergarten. The only thing we lack are the funds for an ambitious architectural project for our secondary school. We all feel inspired because everyone has participated in the project – children, parents and teachers. I think such big contests for the vision of the future school should be held. They are being held, in actual fact. Our school is ready to expedite the introduction of new secondary school standards. They suit our school, and we think they have fine prospects. I agree with Mr Kuzminov that they urgently need to be introduced. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: That was very interesting. Thank you very much.

Tatyana Shchur (General Director of the Alma Mater private school, St Petersburg): May I?

Dmitry Medvedev: Of course. Go ahead.

Tatyana Shchur: Mr Medvedev, ladies and gentlemen, I represent here a small sector of our education. The first private schools were established in Russia in 1990. They are mainly concentrated in metropolises, and account for about 1% of the total student body. State funding amounts to 50% of the standard, and the parents pay roughly 20 times more than the state. Student tuition fees exceeded 17 billion roubles last year.

All accredited private schools had good the Unified State Exam results in 2011, no worse than the regional average. Private schooling is a subtle thing. It provides equal conditions for different types of students. Understandably, private schools stand up for their values.

We sometimes deal with sensitive matters, and I am afraid we underestimate private schools’ opportunities to cope with them. For instance, inclusion has long been practised at private schools, and they have sufficient experience with it that deserves to be emulated. Teaching children with different needs, particularly gifted children, is a subtle thing but private schools tackle this challenge successfully.

Moral education is one of the drawbacks of Russian schools that everyone is aware of. But then, there is practical experience to be studied and implemented. Private schools support and promote their teaching staff and make an individual approach to students a matter of principle. These excellent schools directly invest in education, and they should be encouraged. Private schools can be used as testing grounds for professional public inspections of education, which is the current trend.

Private schools need help if we want them to flourish. I see this help primarily as collaboration with the local authorities, which should realise that private education is part and parcel of general education. We see inspiring examples in Moscow, St Petersburg, and the Krasnodar and Perm territories, with their active and positive experience of private schooling. I cannot say, however, that all my colleagues across Russia take an interest in this.

Then, there is the problem of funding. It appears to be settled by the law On Education. There is only one small thing left to do – private schools should receive the funding by the same deadlines as state schools because subsidies for expenses already incurred by small schools, particularly ethnic and denominational ones are simply impossible. They have to borrow money, which slows down their development.

Premises for private schools is a major problem. We cannot discuss it now, it’s a theme for a separate discussion and possibly for a special programme. We can only make a start now – let say, by planning soft loans. New school buildings can also be granted to private schools, the way it is done in China, which endorsed a law on private schools back in 2002. They think it’s a lucrative business. Private schools could be granted privileges in renting premises, as is the case in St Petersburg, or be given premises for unlimited use or, again, for targeted purchase in accordance with regulations. We also think it is necessary to level out private and state school tax rates.

I would like to say by way of conclusion that in terms of preparation for the academic year – the subject under discussion today – private schools are absolutely equal to state schools. I think that’s perfectly right, and I would like private schools not to lag behind in other matters. On the contrary, we should make progress and offer experience to be borrowed. We will gladly share it with anyone and at any time. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much. Go ahead, please.

Dmitry Sukhobrusov: Thank you. My name is Dmitry Sukhobrusov. I am the chairman of the managerial council of Educational Centre No. 1953, Moscow. I don’t think anyone has congratulated us on the start of the academic year, so I want to do it. It’s my favourite holiday already for many years because I have many children. Today, however, I speak not as a father but as a representative of school self-government – a unique system taking shape in Russia, and nowhere else. I will speak about the opportunities it creates.

We have heard many informative reports today but Ms Golodets was the only speaker to mention school self-government and parent activists. Why is that? It couldn’t be simpler. Take building renovation for the new school year: why not attract the parents to planning it? The members of managerial and other councils could join committees or bodies for commissioning a renovated building. . After all, we are the clients. And on this note I will rounding off my lyrical digression.

Now, I think, the public and the government both realise that school reforms will come to a standstill without the support from clients – I mean students’ parents. The school system is undergoing a sweeping change. The headmaster’s job is becoming similar to a top manager’s but I don’t think the school personnel and relevant government agencies have the necessary knowledge.

There are hundreds of efficient managers in every region and there are some in every school. We must attract them, and we have every opportunity to do so. Managerial councils and other forms of parent representation have been established all over Russia. We can only regret that they are not practical enough because the majority of mothers on parent committees have shifted to managerial councils.

The state, the school and the students have not yet received any extra help from these parents. That is why I think that efficient managers from among parents should be attracted to the establishment of school self-government and assistance to headmasters and state officials. It’s a good idea to have them cooperating on a voluntary basis but just you try to have a successful businessman working like that unless he gains influence on the school. I have agreed to take part because three out of my six children go to my school but other parents would not.

I would like to ask the government and regional leaders to think how to get these people involved. I suppose it requires simple things. School renovations and acceptance of the work are all in a day’s work but we need regular procedures involving parents. Take, for instance, such a simple job as hiring or dismissing a headmaster. You should involve managerial councils in the process – which is not done at present. Why not announce a competition for participation in appointing headmasters? And you shouldn’t dismiss headmasters, either, without coordinating the matter with the council.

I think the state can attract such people by offering them certain opportunities. Council members and leaders should join the region’s public organisations and take part in Open Government work. Mr Medvedev, successful businessmen may wish to explore a field that is new to them.

I will finish here. I have a huge list of things I would like to say but I feel I should stop. I wish parents and the state successful cooperation. We have every opportunity for it. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much. There are among us successful businessmen making a career in politics. Mr Moshkovich, would you like to say something?

Vadim Moshkovich (Federation Council member): Mr Medvedev, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to speak about a project we are implementing. It pursues a supplementary goal of developing education – we are establishing a school that will combine the best achievements made in Russia and the world, and its graduates will be among the world’s best-educated people.

Demands to students will be made according to the standards of the world’s best universities. We want the school to create opportunities for future success and work for the benefit of our homeland. We want to train people who will be accepted at the best universities in the world, and I hope some Russian universities will be on the list.

The school must teach leadership skills  and instil in its students the values of a responsible citizen. The curricular and extra-curricular classes will give students all the information and practical skills necessary in the 21st century. Students will have every support to develop their gifts, choose a suitable career, prepare for exams, and show their true worth in extra-curricular activities.

Quality is a vital aspect. Nowadays, it is standard procedures and not particular people that determine the quality of education. The best Russian schools owe their merits to outstanding personalities with a trailblazing approach to education. The best schools we visited abroad are quite different. Practice is codified and the quality of education is determined by the entire system, not by individuals, when smooth mechanisms guarantee every teacher’s successful career and objective evaluation of his or her work, and effective monitoring of the quality of education.

The teaching talent certainly remain the determinant factor but we want to establish a system to provide progress even of the best teachers’ careers and succession of quality education without limiting creative freedom – that’s essential.

Next, we will build a state-of-the-art campus for children not only to study but to improve their health. Mandatory PE lessons will be held every day. We hope that our comprehensive approach will make it possible to use our experience in improving education in other schools. We hope it will be a pilot school from which the entire national education system will benefit. Thank you.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much. Colleagues, would anyone like to speak or perhaps to add something? This has been a long meeting. It is time for our colleagues to go to bed, especially those who are in the Far East, where it’s night already.

To sum things up, I think our education system is ready for the new academic year. However, there are problems mentioned by the speakers and some of the governors, and these problems must be addressed. I will issue instructions on the results of the meeting.

I hope you will all enjoy September 1. Happy Knowledge Day and best wishes! Goodbye.