Experts claim new minister can deescalate situation in education system

Experts claim new minister can deescalate situation in education system

Olga Vasilyeva, the new Minister of Education and Science, will be able to subdue the recent complaints against the Russian education system. To deal with these issues, the new Minister will now have to create an effective management team, according to experts interviewed by RIA Novosti.⁠

Last Friday, the Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed with the proposal of the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to appoint a member of the presidential administration Olga Vasilyeva as the new Head of the Ministry of Education and Science. Dmitry Livanov, who had previously held this position, would be the special representative of the Head of state for trade and economic relations with Ukraine.

The reason for dismissal

According to the director of the International Institute of the Newly Established States Alexey Martynov, Livanov was a Minister, who had the "most negative rating" not only in the current government, but "probably in the entire Russian history."

"The public opinion about minister Livanov is very critical. The latest VCIOM (Russian Public Opinion Research Center) opinion poll has shown it distinctively," said Martynov.

In April, VCIOM presented regular rankings of the ministers of Russian government based on their awareness and the quality of work in the eyes of the citizens. The study showed a drop from 3.01 to 2.72 points in three months (from the last quarter of 2015) for Livanov (on a 5-point scale). Thus, Livanov appeared last in the ranking among the total of 30 ministers.

Professor Vladimir Slatinov of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration thinks that the resignation was caused by the upcoming election to the State Duma and the reconfiguration of state personnel system before the presidential election. "Livanov’s resignation is connected with both change in the management system, and with new people coming for new challenges. However, it is also related to the election on September 18. I would like to remind you that our government is headed by the leader of the United Russia list. Therefore, it is quite natural that if the public is irritated by the actions of the government and of some of its personalities, it naturally spread to the ruling party as well. So, the changes in the government and dismissals of people, who provoke negative reaction, is surely supposed to help the United Russia," stated the expert.

Slatinov also noted that Livanov "annoyed the public the most," in particular, because of the mixed feelings the society has regarding the Unified State Exam, the optimization of the education system, the salaries of teachers, and the reform of the Russian Academy of Science. "That is an absolute chaos with the standards, if we are talking about higher education, combined with a huge bureaucracy. Surely, first of all, it paralyzed the education system, and secondly, it provoked massive discontent," explained Slatinov.

Community worker instead of manager

At the same time, Martynov believes that Livanov "will be able to handle" the new position, and that the new Minister of Education is "the president’s brilliant personnel decision."

"She is absolutely a part of national education system, a person, who has passed all the stages. This is very important... I think that the assignments set by the president when he approved Vasilyeva as the ministers, will be completed," said the analyst.

Slatinov believes that in case with Livanov and other personnel changes in the government, the authorities are acting softly, calling the new position of the ex-Minister "a soft dismissal option."

"Those, who fail to manage, are being transferred (unless there are some serious corruption claims against these people), we have no tradition of loud dismissals of the officials... Because we understand that the Minister of Education is from a huge area, which affects the society, indirectly affects the economy and politics, and most importantly - a great area for resources. Anyway, it is a soft option dismissal," concluded the expert.

Martynov believes that in order to fix the problems, "you need to begin, it is necessary to start doing something."

"We have been talking about it for a few years, but the situation continues if not to deteriorate, then to remain at the same point as before. Therefore, to fix it, you need to start doing something," he said.

Slatinova thinks that Vasilyeva’s appointment is "an interesting personnel decision", because she faces serious managerial problems. "But on the other hand, it is possible that without focusing excessively on purely technical and managerial issues is what we need right now. An attempt to look at the education system in terms of social issues and social needs," he said.

The political analyst noted that much now depends on how Vasilyeva will assemble her team. "If she gathers an effective management team, she will combine her view — more of a scholar, teacher and public figure — with the managing one. I do not exclude that this was the definite cause for this personnel decision," Slatinov said.

In his opinion, the key moment was also the fact that, given the current attention to the issues of preserving traditional values in society, it is important to have a person who studied the history of the Russian Orthodox Church as a professional and wrote theses on this topic. "Whether it works when facing new challenges, remains to be seen. This is a different type of solution. This person is not just a manager, it is a social worker," said Slatinov.

Unified State Exam

As for the cancellation of the Unified State Exam, the political analyst believes that the set course is unlikely to have a radical change with Vasilyeva. There are some fundamental things, the provisions and principles of reforming the education system, which were formulated "not by Livanov".

"They are formulated at a higher political level, it includes the Unified State Exam, the reform of the Russian Academy of Science, and the issues related to the state of education... It is obvious that here Livanov did not make any major political decisions, he was more of a manager after all, who implements the course set at higher political levels. From my point of view, this course will hardly get a radical change now," Slatinov said.

The expert believes that Livanov could not find and offer efficient and balanced decisions on the implementation of the relevant principles. Therefore, the education system became monstrously bureaucratized, there was "chaos with the state standards," and that is why there are some serious concerns about the Unified State Exam. "By bringing Vasilyeva the authorities try to smooth things over in the implementation of these programs. I am sure that we will see no radical changes, but, for example, a certain transformation of the exam, it is already happening. Livanov talked about it. There will be a certain transformation of the Unified State Exam into a softer, more acceptable and less provoking form for the society," he concluded.



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