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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


From its inception, Soviet education had Marxist-Leninist philosophical underpinnings, including the dual aim of educating youth and shaping their character. These aims were brought together, as well, in the notion of "polytechnical education," defined loosely as integrating education with life--ideally connecting formal schooling with practical training in all kinds of schools and at all levels of education--with the aim of providing a dedicated and skilled work force.

The government operated all schools, except for a handful of officially approved church-run seminaries, which had an enrollment of only several hundred people. Other characteristics were the leading role of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in all aspects of education; the centralized and hierarchically structured administrative organs; and an essentially conservative approach to pedagogy. The contemporary system also reflected some holdovers from tsarist schools, including the five-point grading scale, a formal and regimented classroom environment, and school uniforms--dark dresses with white collars (and white pinafores in the lower grades) for girls and dark pants and white shirts for boys--in the secondary schools.

Educational reforms in the 1980s called for increased funding and changes in curriculum, textbooks, and teaching methods to correct serious shortcomings in the schools and improve the quality of education nationwide. An important aim of the reforms was the creation of a "new school" that could meet fully the economic and social demands of the greatly modernized and technologically advanced nation the Soviet leadership wished to create as it led the country into the twenty-first century.

Data as of May 1989