Saturday, September 1, 2018

Since Putin Came to Power, Four Russian Schools, Three of Them Rural, have Closed Every Day

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 31 – Since 2000, four schools have closed in Russia every day, three of them in rural areas. As a result, pupils must travel further to go to school, many go into cities to study, the quality of education they receive has declined, and ever more Russian parents are electing to home school their children.

            These trends in turn are accelerating the death of the Russian village and the depopulation of rural Russia, developments that a Nakanune news agency report says are threatening the country’s ability to modernize at home and to defend itself against national security threats from abroad (

            The closure of schools in rural areas is casting a shadow on the entire country, the news agency continues. Not only are children having to travel up to 17 kilometers each day to get to school, up from 12 only 18 years ago, but ever more of them are forced to go into nearby cities to get any education, effectively condemning their villages to an early death.

            Statistics confirm this. In 2005, 99 percent of village pupils studied in rural schools, but in 2017, only 85 percent do. The remainder either study in cities, are homeschooled or have dropped out of the educational system altogether.

            “Of course,” the agency continues, “urbanization is a global process … but for Russia with its enormous distances and very small population, further urbanization will mean the risk of a loss of territory. And the mass liquidation of rural schools under the pretext of their unprofitability will only promote that process.”

            “The logic of the market,” Nakanune says, “where schools are rating by their effectiveness in these terms is murderous for Russia.” With their death, the village school ceases to be an anchor for the village and an escalator for young people there, thus further depressing birthrates and killing off the villages more quickly.

            This trend has been made worse, educational officials say, by the desire of the school system to make instruction “fun” rather than substantive. Parents can see this and are drawing their own conclusions, pulling their children out of schools and educating them at home so that they will be better prepared for universities and life.

            The Russian government doesn’t currently maintain statistics on home schooling, but it is clearly a growing phenomenon, especially in villages. Some activists estimate ther are as many as 100,000 young people being home schooled on a voluntary basis – that is, not because of problems with their health but because of the decision of parents.

            That is still a tiny fraction of all Russian pupils – less than one percent – but the share is growing, up by more than seven times over the last decade, at least in part because of the impact of the closure of schools in rural Russia.

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