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Education for all

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Thinking back on former classmates

Picture: Pavel Mylnikov

Parting ways and thinking about what will come after the summer..

Summer is here, so pupils in Russia are saying goodbye to their high schools. For many of them, the period of college or university life is about to begin.

Sometimes I think about my former classmates and wonder whether they have successfully found their niche. I’m glad to know that one of my friends earned two university degrees in our native city and moved to a bigger one to take on a third course of study. Or another friend of mine, who is climbing up in the media sphere, calling people’s attention to different events in Russia and abroad. I remember also that a couple of boys decided not to enter a university but chose a vocational training program (VTA) – I wonder how they are doing now.
We were quite different at school, but since we all had to follow the same program, the differences weren’t so easy to notice. We were different in terms of our grades and (seldom) our behavior in school, but these things reflected only some surface peculiarities of our characters. However, peculiarities like these can have a bigger impact than one might expect.

Picture: Pavel Mylnikov

Where to work - in an office, a factory or somewhere else entirely?

People who end up choosing a VTA or a college usually do so because they either find these courses easier to pass, and that’s enough for them, or they simply realize that their grades in school won’t meet university requirements to get a scholarship, and they can’t afford paying for 4-5 years in university. That can create serious challenges for their future. As I mentioned in my previous entry, the system of vocational schools has degraded since the early 1990s and has to be rebuilt, but it will take years to accomplish that. The choice for those who follow this path is difficult: If they want to achieve something in life, they must build up good skills, become a respected specialist and then either start their own small firm in their field or work as a freelancer.

But many guys go on to a VTA simply because they’re not motivated to try and reach more important goals. Therefore, they end up joining the number of low-qualified workers or ‘cogs in some office routine machines’ with practically no promising future. The salary is not enough to afford extra courses to obtain new skills. That’s why many males do not live to reach their retirement age (60 years old). They die earlier. I think the whole situation could be improved by offering them some psychological help, but, again, it will take time before programs for offering that are available.

In spite of the higher education fetish, a qualified ‘blue-collar worker’ can earn more than a ‘white collar’ worker – but many are misled by the stereotype that holds the opposite. The quicker the VTA crisis is overcome, the better for our economy as a whole – and the better it is for the job market and education.


June 4, 2012 | 11:51 am