School Reform: Pros and Cons

                                                   Svetlana Levanova, 512 AE
                        SCHOOL REFORM: PROS AND CONS
       Suddenly the whole society realized the necessity of a school reform.
We clasped our hands with great surprise and exclaimed: Why,  but  we  have
to change it! There's no smoke without fire. If we inspect the  issue  more
profoundly it will be clear that the idea emerged not so accidentally.
       Investigations  prove  that  almost  90%  of  school  students   have
developed health problems or are now behind the norm of their age in  mental
and physical maturity. The reason for that can be found  not  only  in  poor
economy of the state and hostile environment, but also in the conditions  at
school in which students spend ten years. The load of new subjects  and  the
growing depth of learning are the basic reasons for health problems.
       Striving for a prestigious  status  of  gymnasiums  or  lyceums  some
schools introduce new subjects, include them into their curriculum and  make
them compulsory. They may teach logic, psychology, and culture  of  thought,
ecology, economics and what not! Frequently it is done  at  the  cost  of  a
reduced number of hours intended for such disciplines as  physics,  biology,
literature, history and others. The norms, standards and demands  remain  on
the same level though school children lack the time necessary to  learn  the
subjects successfully. At the same time they normally spend over  six  hours
at school and over four hours doing their homework. Hence the workweek of  a
regular high-school student is sixty hours!
       Specialized schools, which put  special  emphasis  on  humanities  or
sciences or languages, are reputed to be highly  professional.  They  double
the number of hours of specific subjects  thus  aiming  at  the  quality  of
students knowledge. The result is two faceted. On the one hand  the  volume
of acquired  knowledge  is  overly  increased  together  with  the  load  of
intensified process of learning, on the other hand we  face  a  catastrophic
fall in the condition of students bodies and minds.
       One  more  nerve-wrecking  factor  is  an   independent   examination
commission. Specialized schools introduced  exams  at  each  year  beginning
with the fifth grade. School students  strain  every  nerve  to  please  the
commission  to  simply  pass  from  one  grade  to  another  and  then  find
themselves in breakdowns. Theres no ground for that. Final control  testing
is proved to be sufficient except for graduate years.
       Transformations  will  be  first  of  all  done  in  the  educational
standards and the curriculum. It is necessary to create  new  standards,  to
give expertise and to discuss and criticize them.  Those  teachers  who  are
really  interested  in  their  students  performance  and   health   should
participate in this discussion.
      If we assess  the  whole  educational  system  of  Russia  critically,
successes of the past were linked to the skill  requirements  of  a  planned
economy, not to the demands  of  an  unplanned  labor  market  and  an  open
society. Capital investments in education have been declining for  the  last
decades.  Buildings  have  deteriorated,  libraries  are   antiquated,   and
laboratory equipment is becoming unusable.
      Russia's curricular traditions are ill-suited  for  an  economy  where
problem-solving  ability  and  occupational   flexibility   are   of   great
importance.  Soviet  curriculum  tended  to  emphasize  the  acquisition  of
factual material and to underemphasize the  skills  necessary  for  applying
this material to unfamiliar circumstances in  other  words,  problem-solving
      Teachers staff constitutes one more task for the government. There is
hardly any teacher in Russia who would be satisfied with his or  her  salary
and working condition. Therefore not so many  people,  young  girls  mostly,
are willing to acquire this  profession.  Experienced  school  teachers  say
that today teaching is based on pure enthusiasm. Only those who  feel  their
natural predisposition to  teaching  are  still  loyal  to  the  profession.
Teaching is neither well-paid nor prestigious.
      Defining the problems we  may  come  to  the  corollary  that  Russian
educational system has so many burning issues that it  is  hard  to  imagine
how this system still manages to survive. The bundle of  problems  seems  to
be tightly knitted. The much discussed school reform should  deal  not  only
with twelve-year education and curricular changes but  also  with  financing
as  well  as  legislation.  The  budgeting   process   should   be   revised
accordingly. The number of issues is immense but we have  to  bear  in  mind
that our future depends on education of the  young  generation  who  is  the
future of the country.

"School Reform: Pros and Cons "