In a Z-Net commentary published yesterday, Boris Kagarlitsky describes what he sees as some of the problems with current education policy in Russia, including:
- forcing university-bound students to take unified state exams against the strong objections of educators, students and parents;
- removing class size limits in public schools (currently set at about 25 students/class);
- mass school closures.
What’s interesting here are the parallels among Russian, US, and Canadian educational “deforms”.
Kagarlitsky’s analysis of the Russian education reform scene is, unfortunately, short-sighted. For Kagarlitsky, these policies can be explained by pointing to incompetent government officials (particularly Andrei Fursenko) and others, who are fearful of an educated public, when, in fact, these policies result from application of the principle that public education serves corporate/capital interests, rather than public interests.
Kagarlitsky points out that Fursenko’s policies reflect “a systematic campaign aimed at downsizing public education as if it were a noncore, unprofitable business sector within a large company” seemingly missing the point that this is exactly how public education is being managed by the executive committees of the rich (governments) world-wide.
See two recent examples of how the corporate interest principle works in the USA and Canada (there are many, many more):
- the newly appointed school chancellor in New York City, Cathie Black, whose qualifications to lead the largest public school system in the USA are that she was chairman of Hearst Magazines and set the standard for dumbed-down journalism at USA Today.
- criticisms levelled at the Vancouver School Board by the British Columbia Ministry of Education (via a Comptroller General’s report) that trustees spend too much time and energy working to improve teaching and learning conditions in Vancouver schools. The Comptroller General and Minister of Education want the trustees to make “cost containment” their number one priority.
As Larry Stedman concludes, in a forthcoming two-article series examining standards-based education reform for the journal Critical Education,
…the changes we have seen in schooling and school culture were not only unavoidable, but were also the desired ones. What many of us perceive as a failure is, in fact, a success in managerial terms. A proficiency-driven, command-and-control, authoritarian type of schooling was, in fact, the goal of the reforms and serves capital’s interests well.