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Teachers' Continuing Education and Russian School Reform

Stephen T. Kerr

University of Washington

Paper prepared for presentation at the Conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies

Washington, DC

October 28, 1995

Pity the teachers of Russia! Over the past decade, this group has been pushed and cajoled in several contradictory directions: innovate, adopt new practices, and reconstruct the school one day, provide an "island of pedagogical calm" in a chaotic society the next; uphold the strong psychological heritage of the Russian school this week, and next week adopt a new model of schooling imported from abroad; teach the students how to improve the functioning of a socialist economy this year, and next year teach them as fast as possible how a free-market economy works; support the ideals of free public education first promulgated under the early Soviet regime this month, and then next month split off and found your own private school, admit students on a competitive basis, and charge a high tuition fee.

How teachers are coping with these changing demands, what official and unofficial responses they given, and what their activities bode for the future of school change in the Russian Federation are our topics here. This paper seeks to do three things: first, review briefly how Russian education and Russian teachers have come to the situation they find themselves in today, and describe the conditions they face in their work in schools; second, consider the various approaches that have been used in providing for teachers' in-service (continuing professional) education across the country, including both unofficial agencies for consulting and educational development, as well as the official structure of institutes for teachers' and administrators' "improvement and qualification raising"; and third, examine the current problems that teachers appear to have in organizing themselves as a coherent social and political force. This latter point is especially important if teachers are to try on their own to resolve some of the particularly problematic issues that have arisen in recent years regarding funding of education.

Background: Teachers and Educational Reform

There is not sufficient room here to review the entire history of education in the late Soviet period and its attempted reconstruction with the break-up of the USSR in 1991. There are plenty of resources that cover the events of this era (see, for example, Davydov, 1995; Dunstan, 1992; Eklof, 1992; Jones, 1994; Kerr, 1990, 1991, 1994; Long, 1990; Read, Holmes, & Voskresenskaia, 1994). A brief summary is provided here to suggest the particulars of the context that the author considers most salient to the present discussion.

The history: Perestroika and education. By the mid-1980s, it was already clear to most involved in Soviet education that serious changes would be required not only to meet the social and economic demands of perestroika, but also simply to keep the educational system itself functioning as a social institution. The quality of teachers and their preparation had declined; teaching methods not only alienated students, they also caused problems as parents struggled to cope with the psychological damage inflicted on their children by authoritarian and cruel teachers; curriculum, emulated and praised around the world as a model for how to introduce tough subjects like mathematics and the natural sciences, left many less talented students behind in the dust; school administrators struggled to put in place the system of full access to general education that was mandated by the Central Committee of the CPSU in the late 1970s -- neither the administrators nor the teachers had any very clear sense of how to do this in a system that had been fairly rigidly striated and segregated among two levels of vocational preparation and a more rigorous academic preparatory track; textbooks were outdated; the administrative structure was stultifying and left little room for individual initiative on the parts of teachers or administrators; educational development, evaluation, and research was almost non-existent (at least in any sense visible and meaningful to the average educator). The system, in the words of one eminent authority, was designed to produce "cogs for the military-industrial complex."

Perestroika brought some rays of light into the dark chamber of education: teachers with special methods or unusual approaches were discovered to have been working all the time, sometimes under difficult conditions, and their work was brought to public attention and heralded by the news media. The values of the "Communard movement," a kind of "Communist Protestantism" that placed the needs of children above ideology or conformity, were made the basis of a campaign to re-think the education system that found its public outlet on the pages of Uchitel'skaia gazeta (Teachers Gazette), edited by Vladimir Matveev, its popular manifestation in practice through the work of a network of semi-official "Eureka Clubs," led by journalist and teacher Alexander Adamsky, and its official representation in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on the School, headed by Eduard Dneprov. When Dneprov unexpectedly became Minister of Education for the then-RSFSR in 1990, the values these groups expounded became, almost overnight, official policy.

While these groups experienced many problems as they tried to carry their ideas forward, and while their ability to influence real events in the schools eventually turned out to be limited, they did succeed at least in re-setting the agenda for Russian education following the collapse of the USSR. The documents prepared under Dneprov's leadership in the Russian Ministry of Education (Dneprov, Lazarev, & Sobkin, 1991; see also Dneprov, 1994; Strategiia, 1994) have continued to operate as the guiding principles for Russian education. Certain terms and key ideas -- humanization, differentiation, democratization, pluralization -- have remained at the center of educators' attention at all levels. Their actual implementation in the schools, however, has been a sometime thing, as we shall have occasion to explore further here.

The condition of education today: Poverty overwhelms principle. If one were to try to identify a single central defining trait for Russian education today, one would have to pass by the temptation to stress the exciting changes that are taking place in some schools, the return to a sense of the value of a classically oriented liberal education, the imaginative texts and materials that are beginning to appear, the many private schools and experimental programs. No, while these efforts are laudable and fascinating, they pale in the face of the overpowering effect of poverty on the nation's system of education. Perhaps Marx was indeed right: it is economics and the social relations economic structures engender that determine all else. For teachers, the schools, and those who attend there, this poverty takes several forms that bear mention.

First, and most obvious, teachers are not being well paid, or even regularly paid. Figures from the Ministry of Education clearly show the decline in teachers' salaries as compared with the national average for industrial workers. During the years of perestroika, teachers' wages typically amounted to 65% to 75% of the average for industrial workers. While the Ministry of Education's data show that proportion was still relatively high at 79% in February, 1994, by December of that year it had sunk to 61% (Ob itogakh, 1995, p. 76); by September, 1995, it had shrunk to less than 55% (Bastovat', 1995). To make matters worse, teachers frequently are left out when regional pay packets are distributed. The pages of the various teachers' newspapers (Pervoe sentiabria and Pedagogicheskii kaleidoskop, in addition to Uchitel'skaia gazeta) are regularly filled with complaints and pleas from teachers individually, by schools, and sometimes by entire cities or regions, regarding the non-payment of their salaries for two, three, sometimes four months. (The amounts Russian cities and regions pay to support education of their students varies widely, with regions such as Tiumen' oblast' providing only the equivalent of about $85 per pupil, and some, like the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) providing as much as $690. Moscow is ranked at 13th place with spending of about $450 per pupil; extrapolated from Polozhenie sub"ektov, 1995. Interestingly, the difference here of roughly 8 times between highest and lowest per-pupil figures is not too far off the comparable American figures of roughly $1800 and $12,000 per pupil, a difference of not quite 7 times).

The low salaries may contribute to the decline in the quality of educational personnel as perceived by the Ministry of Education. More teachers are women than ever before (over 84%, an increase of 2% over the past 4 years), more are still-working pensioners (over 9%), and the rise in average educational level among teachers has plateaued, with some 74% having a higher education, but 22% still hold only a certificate from a specialized secondary teacher's training school (uchilishche) and 1% have only a general secondary education (Ob itogakh, 1995, pp. 77-78). This is roughly comparable to the situation that obtained in the United States perhaps 50 years ago, when graduates of state normal schools still held a large place in the educational system.

Teachers' workplaces are also in poor condition. While the general outlines of this problem have been known since Ligachev's famous speech to the Central Committee in February, 1988, its true dimensions are slowly becoming more apparent as the Ministry collects and publishes more complete data on the state of school buildings throughout the Russian Federation. Data from the most recent year indicate that 11% of all schools are in need of some capital repair, and 1% are in dangerous condition. For schools serving special populations, the situation is even worse: 56% of those schools require capital repair, and 7% are dangerous condition (Ob itogakh, 1995, p. 82). Even in a relatively advanced region such as Nizhnii Novgorod, at the end of 1993, some 42% of schools lacked sewer connections, 29% lacked running water, and 27% lacked central heating (Stabilizatsiia, 1993, p. 45). Similar kinds of problems exist with the supply of textbooks. The lack of capital funds has meant that new school construction has virtually ceased, and an increasing percentage of students (25% in 1994) attend schools that receive them on a second or third shift. Teaching under these conditions make a teacher's work daunting at best.

Adding to teachers' burdens is the poor health of the students they are supposed to teach. Anyone who has been in a school classroom in the United States during flu season knows that there are many times when instruction virtually comes to a stop because of repeated absences and low attendance. In Russia, many young people come to school in a weakened physical condition; either their parents are unable to earn enough to buy nourishing food, or they have been born with congenital defects, or the surrounding physical environment presents challenges to their systems, or all of these factors are present. The Ministry estimated that, in 1994, some 80% of all students suffered from a variety of health problems, ranging from vision problems and serious tooth decay through skeletal deformities to heart and circulatory problems. Additionally, some 31% of students show a variety of neuro-psychological symptoms, including enuresis, delayed psychological development, neuroses, and other conditions; only 5% of these receive qualified treatment, while the others sit untreated in regular classrooms (Ob itogakh, 1995, pp. 72-75).

Further besetting teachers is the whole complex of confusing, often competing new demands on their attention and time that the new social and economic order have brought. New kinds of schools have opened, including both private schools and public-but-selective schools that have typically adopted such names as "lyceé," "gymnasium," or "college." Parents and administrators are more questioning and more demanding about teachers work, and the notion of accountability to the public ("adresnost'") is beginning to make itself felt. Many cities and regions have prepared new curricula, and some have commissioned their own new texts; at any rate, the supply of new curricular materials is growing, and although distribution has proceeded slowly, the simple existence of these items has put burdens on teachers unaccustomed to thinking for themselves about such matters as "instructional design" and "curriculum development." Finally, there is at least the beginning of a law-based culture of education, with a new law on education and a host of new specific legal requirements that teachers and administrators are expected to follow. Among these is a provision for regular evaluation of teachers' work and accreditation of institutions, factors that never before have been a regular part of Russian teachers' images of their work.

In sum, Russian teachers now live in a new and difficult world, one in which a small number of old certainties have been rapidly replaced with a large and growing number of uncertainties. For a social group that, under the Soviet regime, was largely self-selected to include those who would be comfortable working under conditions of little self-direction, little room for exercise of professional judgment, and little variation in working conditions, these changes have come at perhaps an even greater price than they would have for workers in other parts of the economy. What teachers have sought to do about these new challenges, what resources are available to them to help them reconceptualize what it means to be a teacher in a rapidly shifting social milieu, and their success in turning these resources to good advantage, are our subjects for the next section.

Teachers' In-Service and Continuing Professional Education

In Western societies, it is a truism that teachers need regular continuing professional training to stay connected with changes in their disciplines, to learn new ways to present content, to assimilate new methods for dealing with students from new social backgrounds, and to become aware of changes in laws and regulations affecting their work. While this was true also for the former Soviet Union, the opportunities teachers had were in fact quite limited: A few days every few years spent in a state Institute for Teacher Improvement (Institut usovershenstvovaniia uchitelei), an Institute for Qualification Raising (Institut povysheniia kvalifikatsii), or perhaps, if one were lucky enough to live near a real university, courses at a Department of Pedagogical Mastery (Fakul'tet pedagogicheskogo masterstva). The faculty at these institutes were not (in general; there were exceptions) highly regarded by teachers, and the material they learned there often was not seen as very relevant to their daily concerns on the job.

The heritage of the innovators' movement. In the late 1980s, new alternatives began to emerge. Primary among these were private consultants and experimental training groups of several sorts. I have chronicled the emergence of some of these elsewhere (Kerr, 1991, 1992, 1994). To summarize: The Eureka group, which organized much of the initial teacher reaction to the proposals for educational humanization and diversification in the late 1980s, successfully has provided seminars and training sessions for teachers around Russia and the former USSR since 1990. Several other organizations, such as the Center for Cultural Policy (Petr Shchedrovitskii, Director), the Moscow Academy for the Development of Education (Iurii Gromyko, Director), and the new (formed January, 1995) Association for Developmental Instruction (Assosiatsiia razvivaiushchego obucheniia; Vasily Davydov, President) have been active in making these kinds of training opportunities available to teachers. They, along with a host of local and other private entrepreneurs, have attracted teachers to learn about new pedagogical models and approaches, share ideas with each other, and learn about imported models (including a heavy stress on Montessori and Waldorf education).

But the poor state of the national economy has affected these organizations as well, and perhaps even more so than the older, official state structure of teacher retraining, which at least still receives some funding from the central government. Left to forage in a market that is increasingly bereft of resources at the local and regional levels, these independent entrepreneurs have had difficult in the past 18 months attracting enough teachers to their centrally offered workshops, and so increasingly have to go out to the regions, or try to provide other attractions as a way of raining money. (Eureka, for instance, has turned to offering summer programs for pupils and teachers in places such as England, the USA, and Cyprus; this kind of "educational tourism" can generate money from Russian nouveaux riches, but it seems a long way from the original purpose of these groups). A variety of notices for special workshops and seminars appear regularly in the pedagogical press, and they suggest that these sessions typically cost teachers somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 rubles per day, a rate at which a three-day seminar could easily cost a teacher the equivalent of a month's salary, and this does not even include the cost of airfare.

The slowed pace of activity for these "innovative" organizations may also signal a kind of pulling back on the part of Russian teachers more generally. While the initial enthusiasm for the notions of democratic education and the "Pedagogy of Cooperation" was very strong, it soon became clear to teachers that really adopting these principles was going to be a lot more difficult than they had at first suspected. (The reaction may in fact be similar to that of American teachers on looking more closely at such ideas as "site-based school management" and "collaborative learning.") If a change is so significant that adopting it means one will have to rethink one's entire pedagogic repertoire, there may be strong reasons not to adopt it, or at least to take a longer and slower look than first seemed necessary. This may lie behind the apparent success of the Association for Developmental Instruction, a new group that promulgates Davydov's ideas about how to use Vygotskian psychology as a basis for classroom teaching. The model is deep conceptually, but its realization in most schools does not result in an instructional model that looks radically different from what transpires in a traditional classroom (see Davydov, 1995).

It is perhaps this gradualness that accounts for developmental instruction's popularity among both teachers and administrators -- since Davydov and his colleagues began to disseminate the model in a useful format in 1992, it has spread to more than 42% of all primary classrooms in Russia (Ob itogakh, 1995, p. 63). The Association's literature describes several private organizations that offer training in the method of developmental teaching (e.g., the INTOR center, under the direction of V. A. L'vovskii; Tsentr, 1995). In reforming a school system, small but comprehensible steps may be easier for teachers to work with than major conceptual leaps that are not fleshed out with specifics of how and what to do on the level of the individual classroom. A good example is the work described by school principal Tatiana Kovaleva of Tomsk; she differentiates between a "special" school, a "lyceé" or "gymnasium," which she sees as things cut off from the experiences of real schools and teachers, and a "school-laboratory" which is distinguished by "the life of the teachers' collective," their working out of new approaches and ideas, testing them, and revising them. "Here," she suggests, "the role of the teacher-researcher can arise" (Kutasova, 1995; see also Tipovoe, 1995, for specific details). Officials in the Ministry of Education also seem to be tilting toward this less radical image of how school reform might come about (see Alexander Asmolov's comments on how "varied education" might be developed in Russia; Asmolov, 1994).

The new legal and administrative context of education also has played a role in the diminished activity of the innovator-consultants. While initial enthusiasm for the law was high, it has come to be seen by the innnovators with considerable suspicion as merely a cover for administrative foot-dragging and centralized control. The "standards" movement is an especially troubling example of these conflicts, with central administrators (some of them who started as members of the innovators) noting the importance of preserving a "unified educational space" within Russia while the more progressively inclined suggest that standards will only strengthen the "dead hand" of the center at a time when the regions need more flexibility and freedom, not less. The curious distribution of curricular responsibility added to this suspicion (with the definition of content in math, physics, astronomy, chemistry, Informatics [computers], and Russian language held at the center, while history and the social disciplines, art, biology, physical education, and vocational preparation are to be dealt with both regionally and federally; regional and ethnic culture are to be determined at the regional level, and electives may be determined by individual schools; Bazisnyi, 1993, pp. 26-27). As A. N. Tubel'skii, one of the founders of the Association of Innovative Schools and Centers and a Moscow school principal, said, "What is happening to the innovators' movement today: Is it spreading and developing, or has it died? It hasn't died, but I think it's dying" (Sprintery, 1995; see also Perepiska, 1995).

The official structure reemerges. If the innovators' movement has seen its star tarnished by the more general changes in the economy and the problems of encouraging large-scale change in what is arguably a very conservative institution in any society, then the traditional structure of teachers' in-service institutions and centers has, if not completely revived, at least stopped its decline. Some of the various IUUs and IPKs have undergone a significant transformation in recent years. Nizhnii Novgorod and Riazan' have changed their structures to Educational Development Institutes (Instituty razvitiia obrazovaniia), while Ekaterinburg has a Center for the Development of Regional Education, and Krasnodar and Novgorod have Experimental centers. The title changes may be significant if they in fact signify a real shift in institutional mission toward providing more than occasional course work for teachers and a move into areas that more administrators and thoughtful politicians see as necessary -- the long term planning of education, new approaches for diagnosis and treatment of specific educational and learning problems through classroom and school-based solutions, help with new approaches to testing and evaluation of both students and programs as a whole (Nikitin, 1995).

Perhaps the most interesting experiment is taking place in Samara, where officials have at last instituted a "voucher" system for educators that allows them to use their in-service training allotment at any institution that is offering services for teachers within the region. Those responsible suggest that the competition thus generated among institutions for the teachers rubles has made all programs more accountable, and thus improved overall quality (Nikol'skaia, 1994). Such approaches as the use of "organizational activity games" and modeling, long staples of the innovators' methods, have also come to be accepted in the regional IUUs and IPKs.

A number of other new approaches are being tried by the various in-service institutes. In Moscow, the Institute for Qualification Raising has moved seriously into investigating the use of new information technologies in support of education, in particular assuring common data formats for exchanges of information among schools (a "unified educational space for capital education"). The institute (headed by Alexei Semenov, a former participant in Evgenii Velikhov's specialized computer education project in the late 1980s) also will consider the use of technology to support instruction (Semenov, 1994). In Nizhnii Novgorod, efforts are being made to differentiate the types of preparing provided as continuing education to teachers, with levels of study leading eventually to a masters degree (an approach that is also supported by the Ministry in its declarations (Stabilizatsiia, 1993; Ob itogakh, 1995, p. 12). About 1/3 of all Russian in-service institutes are now offering degrees under this sort of regime. The All-Russian Institute of Qualification Raising (RIPKRO), established under Dneprov's tenure at the Ministry in 1991, is intended to provide a model for regional institutes and also train their faculty; it has offered course and special training sessions for administrators at local and regional levels, as well as for teachers engaged in experimental or development programs (RIPKRO, 1993; also Nikitin, 1995).

In sum, while the programs offered by the regional and other in-service institutes may still be viewed by some teachers as not meeting all their needs, they do seem to have taken serious steps toward revising their traditional ways of work, and are trying to make themselves relevant to the real concerns of educators. Partly this is a natural process in the current environment of increased competition and reduced central funding for all educational organizations, but it is perhaps also connected with the difficulty school staff have encountered in many countries in trying to revise radically their ways of working. Change in a fundamentally conservative social institution like schooling does not come rapidly or easily, a lesson that Western educator have been just as slow to appreciate as their Russian colleagues.

If teachers managed to make their way to one or the other of the various institutions offering in-service and continuing education -- the innovative workshops or the traditional programs of the IUUs and IPKs -- they still might not find there the things that might help them best to cope with the disintegration of their educational environment. What seems to be missing from the offerings of these organizations are experiences and studies that would prepare teachers to really become their own professional masters, the determiners of their professional fate and makers of their practice. While this kind of ideal is typically not achieved fully in Western societies, there are more elements there of teachers' helping to define their own work environment, to set the agenda for national discussion, and to help formulate the terms on which discussion of educational issues will proceed. Indeed, many Western sociologists see the development of professional thinking not so much in terms of "key features" of a profession (years of study, professional body of knowledge, matters of life and death, etc.) but rather as a matter of the ways in which an occupational group arranges for itself the contingencies of power that affect its work environment (see Johnson, 1973). In this sense, Russian teachers are babes in the woods. Three important factors will help determine whether they can become more politically attuned than they have in the past.

Problems and Prospects

Teachers need to become, paraphrasing Marx, a "profession for themselves," rather than a "profession in themselves," which they have been to date. The concept is close to what the radical Brazilian educator Paolo Friere calls "consciencization," the coming to consciousness of oneself, the seeing of one's own place in a social and political world. This has been far from Russian teachers' experiences, as the consideration of economic, social, and psychological factors below demonstrates.

The continuing problem of teachers' economic predicament. Whether Russian schools will be able to overcome the huge barriers they face in the economic arena is still open to question. There seems to be at least some awareness among parliamentary leaders that leaving this sector of the economy without support for much longer may be catastrophic. The way in which the government has attempted to manipulate teachers, however, is not encouraging. For example, during the spring of 1995, a number of changes were made in the "Edinnyi tarifnyi setok," or ETS, the pay schedule by which teachers' salaries are computed. The government felt compelled to make some changes when it was revealed that the ETS had seen only an index increase of 1.4 times over the previous 15 months, whereas prices had risen an average of 4.2 times during the same period (Vmesto, 1995). The government's recalibration of the pay scales, however, was later revealed to have actually resulted in a decrease or no real increase for many teachers, which led to an outcry and demands for a return to the previous scale.

The passivity of teachers on this account is nothing short of amazing, and encourages one to believe in theories of national character that posit a suffering Slavic soul. While there have been a few tentative strikes and an occasional court case (Uchitelia, 1995), relatively little in the way of serious disruption has occurred. Why have they not struck more, besieged regional education offices, marched on their representatives' offices, and otherwise protested their plight? Perhaps out of a feeling that no one else was doing much better, but the continuing support by the government for various failing heavy industrial enterprises belies the reality of this view. Many other groups did do better, because they had the political organization, will, and muscle to defend their interests. Teachers never had this, and now are feeling the lack.

The heritage of Communist trade-unionism. In the Soviet era, the trade union was simply there, a fact of life, and not an especially active organization when it came to confronting the powers that were. The current head of the Trade Union for Education and Science Workers, Vladimir Iakovlev, is a hold-over from the Soviet era, and while he makes positive speeches in support of teachers and regularly appears with Chernomyrdin and other government leaders in efforts to win salary increases for teachers, there is neither a sense of urgency in his pronouncements nor an indication that he would like to see more teachers at more levels engaged in these issues.

The strikes that were held sporadically in the spring of 1995, and the more important intended one-day national strike on September 26, 1995, at least demonstrated that there was some developing political consciousness among teachers. The level of interest, however, seemed minimal: across the country, some 11,000 schools (out of 70,000, or a bit more than 15%) were affected, and somewhat less than one-third of all teachers took part. The action seemed to be spotty across schools, however, with some teachers participating and others not; St. Petersburg reported the highest total participation among teachers of 11% (Zabastovka, 1995).

What seems most frightening to Russian educators is that their actions, even in striking, might be taken as a challenge to anyone's authority, or that they might be read as an expression of political will on the parts of teachers. For example, Liubov' Rozhkova, Chair of the Duma Committee on Science, Education, and Culture, affirms in an interview that "the activity of our committee is outside of politics" (Znakomo, 1995). A brief article that appeared a few weeks before the September, 1995, strike, was entitled "How to strike legally," and read more like a section of a negotiated bargaining agreement than a call to action (how many days may elapse between notices served on various bodies, what must be in writing, whether the administration is obligated to pay teachers while they are striking [they are not, but they may!]; Kak, 1995). A headline on the day of the strike reads "Organizers emphasize its non-political character" (26 sentiabria, 1995). If a strike is not a political statement, a commentary on one's place in the civic order (or chaos), then what is it?

Psychological passivity and the future of Russian teachers as professionals. The great enemy of Russian teachers in all of these matters seems to be their passivity, their unwillingness to see matters through a social and political lens. In a way, this is not surprising; they were not selected to be able to do this (if anything, their selection was for opposite qualities -- passive acceptance of what the Center passed down.) But their general ignorance about the order of things political is appalling. Consider the survey of 210 teachers in three schools in Moscow, Smolensk, and Nizhegorodskaia oblast' reported in March, 1995 (Tol'ko, 1995): most teachers indicated they didn't want anything to do with politics, calling it a "dirty business"; 77% had no idea what was in the new Law on Education; small numbers indicated any interest in active participation in politics (3% in Moscow to 18% in Smolensk); and only moderate numbers indicated they though citizenship education was important for young people (38% in Moscow; 33% in Smolensk; 49% in Nizhnii). Only 18%, when asked about the "recent activities of the Znanie Society," knew that it no longer exists. A leader of a strike committee at a school in Cheliabinsk oblast' in the spring of 1995 made this statement: "We lay all responsibility for this necessary work stoppage on the authorities. We don't even know who's responsible -- city or regional administration, but we know precisely that the government of the Russian Federation is required by the Constitution to assure that its orders are carried out" (Geografiia, 1995).

Relatively few people seem to be interested in the political persuasions of the leaders of the educational system. A survey by Uchitel'skaia gazeta of seven key figures showed that four of them are either strong supporters of or hold administrative positions in "Our Home Is Russia"; one (Iakovlev, the hold-over Communist trade unionist) supports "Women of Russia"; one is part of the "New Regional Policy" group in the Duma; and one was part of the "Education Is Russia's Future" program (Nauka, 1995).

Are Russian teachers capable of developing this sort of political consciousness? There is little evidence of it so far. In the descriptions of workshops and seminars for teachers conducted by the various in-service education providers (including both the innovators and the traditional structure), there are no references to this kind of political organizing. The closest that most teachers are likely to get to the kind of information that would enable them to move in this direction is that imported by the American Federation of Teachers and a few other European teachers' groups. Perhaps the closest that a native Russian organization has come to this is Kovaleva's image of a "laboratory school" where the life of the collective is part of the focus of attention, not merely a side issue. The approaches taken by Shchedrovitskii in using "organizational-activity games" may also be useful for its "activating" potential. But these are so far merely small blips on the horizon. We must wait to see if something more significant appears.


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