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Education for all

Five bloggers, five countries, one dialogue

“We shouldn’t seek some land of dreams abroad”

Talented young people are leaving small cities for the big and promising urban centers

The closer my graduation comes, the more I’ve been thinking about education in my country. And mostly Im worried. During the 3.5 years I’ve spent at my second university, I’ve talked with dozens of students about their views of the future, and I’ve heard their opinions about the situation today. I did the same at my former university, and I would say it’s like this: Many students who study in big cities and well-known universities (at least in Russia) are aiming to apply for positions in international companies so that they “get out of the country.” Just a few of them added “… and come back after having gained some experience there.”
Those in regional universities (like my fellow students here) are either confused about their future (I touched upon the young’ expectations here) or want to leave for big cities to get a second education there (having one degree doesn’t always mean getting a job as Emmy wrote) and eventually follow the same path of emigration.

Russia is the largest country by size in the world, but young brains get concentrated in just several points on the map. So what about the rest of the country? I think many local universities are underestimated. Their curricula are pulled up to modern standards, but there is a lack of young staff able to operate modern technical devices.  Many regions don’t develop as much as they could because the youth is moving to better places.

I have often wondered: is our minister of education in the government qualified enough? Doesn’t he notice this trend? Russia could offer so many opportunities to encourage active citizens to develop the country, to increase the standard of living and to make its economy stronger. Right now, our economy depends far too much on oil, wood and natural gas. Having a lot in stock, the country (among the top ten countries by oil reserves in 2009; among the top five by gas reserves in 2010) gets the biggest part of its GDP from them. Easy money often does little good. Instead, it corrupts.

So what do we end up with?

Deep contrasts emerge between Russia's urban and rural areas

1. A dominant industry that’s in need of regulation. In some cases, industry can dictate its conditions to the market. Entire regions in the North and East have oil wells as their main source of work. A number of small towns live from oil alone, and a crisis can be deadly for them.

2. A lot of applicants for majors in economics and state governance as it’s the easiest way to make a career in that sphere (but that has nothing to do with flexibility, which is vital and was covered by Kathrin.

3. Local and municipal authorities who don’t put enough effort into developing their regions.

As a result, most money is thrown into the oil hole, rather than being spent on scholarships or stimulating science or small businesses. The bureaucracy that remained from the former epoch slows Russia down, and it’s a burden. That all doesn’t sound typical for a democratic state, but it’s a common situation in authoritarian states.

However, I feel really hopeful as I see that my generation doesn’t want to accept the situation. Civil society is making itself heard in Russia now much more than 10 years ago. I believe that, with so many opportunities and an enormous country here, we shouldn’t seek some land of dreams abroad. Living as an au pair is not the top career abroad that you deserve. Job markets in Europe, America and Australia don’t have enough positions for everyone, and qualified specialists are preferred. We should try to create something similar here.


June 17, 2012 | 8:00 am