Monday, May 10, 2010

Rumor or reality?

When Russians tell me that they have to pay for some sort of service, I'm not usually surprised. Pay for a trip to the doctor? Music lessons? It is hard for me to imagine that these things ever came free of charge.

Then I was having lunch with a friend recently and she said, "Did you know that Russian schools are going to start charging tuition?"

WHAT? It makes sense for higher education, since people take different paths... but public elementary school? Has someone gone insane?

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The particular proposal being tossed around suggested that a few hours of Math, Russian, Phys Ed, and "Religion" per week would be free, while additional subjects would cost a certain amount per hour. By one person's estimations, this would cost families about 5000-6000 rubles per month for a basic set of lessons. That's about $200.

Here are a few observations:

1) The Russian Constitution* states that "The basic general education shall be free of charge."**

2) $200 is 1/3 of the average salary (data is uncertain but you get the idea).

3) The country has been campaigning to raise the birth rate.

This may all just be speculation. It seems like there would be a lot of reasons for the bill not to pass. But who knows? Definitely something to follow in the news.

*The Constitution is actually worth taking a look at. For example, check out Article 38, point 3: Able-bodied children over 18 years of age shall take care of disabled parents. Interesting.

**I should point out that school is not entirely free at the moment, either. There are lots of unofficial fees that parents have to pay already if they wish their child to attend school: payment of the security guard, school uniforms, etc.

5 comments:

  1. In the early New England schools students had to pay for extra subjects, I think Math was one of them, but not sure when that changed.
    When in GA as a child every pupil had to bring 50 cents for the annual use of his/her desk. The school used the money for supplies; I think. Workbooks also had to be paid for by parents; I'm not sure when that ended. There were always kids who could not pay, but they were taken care of. I remember at the end of one year, 4th grade, hiding my math workbook from my parents because the teacher had us do only a few pages and I knew my parents had difficulty paying for the workbooks.
    I think a small fee should be collected at the beginning of each school year. The cost of education has gone way beyond what anyone would have believed. In a small town like S'ton about 85% of the budget is for schools; I think education should be funded per pupil by the State and not the local government. It is a great topic of debate. Charging those who use a service the most a small fee seems only logical to me. I think it also makes people more responsible. In most town trash disposal is not free, but certainly necessary. A small fee per bag makes people more responsible and more likely to recycle items which have no fee connected to them. So, if parents were paying for workbooks and perhaps other supplies they may help their children learn to be more responsible with those materials. It is part of out sinful nature that "free" things are seldom appreciated. Just look at Grace.
    Thanks again Liz for posting such thought provoking topics.

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  2. The thing is that those fees are already charged, "under the table." So what are these new fees for? I think a flat fee would be okay, but once you start charging per class or hour, a family's economic position is going to determine the level of education the child receives. That already happens, but I can see it getting a lot worse. So if you have children missing out on education because of poverty, that seems like a contradiction to the Constitution. But I am probably stating the obvious...

    I guess to me it seems like taxes are a better answer because the funds will be collected and distributed more universally, rather than the family's income directing impacting the level of education a child receives.

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  3. Yes, taxes are the best way, but in our country it should be at the state level so a child has access to an "equal" portion. When S'ton was spending less than $5K on each child a number of years ago, Sherborn was spending $llK. Which children had the greater opportunities and all within the same State?

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  4. Wow--now this is interesting...wonder how many kids will drop out even early with less education if this happens...sad.

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  5. I see what you mean, Hosea.

    The figures being tossed around seem astronomical, but maybe a toned-down version will end up being implemented. Still, I can't imagine it being efficient in Russia. For example, how are they going to figure out who needs financial aid if parents' salaries aren't reported correctly?

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