Soviet Union Table of Contents
As was the case in every other major area of Soviet life in the late 1980s, the CPSU exercised ultimate control over the development and functioning of the nation's education system. Designated by the Constitution as "the leading core of all organizations of the working people, both public and state," the Central Committee of the CPSU made major policies and decisions regarding all aspects of education (see Central Committee , ch. 7). The party leadership accepted fully Lenin's dictum about the inseparability of politics and schooling/schools, and it appreciated the far-reaching power of education as a tool for refashioning the country's social fabric, "an instrument for the formation of a Communist society." Specifically, the Central Committee's Science and Education Institutions Department initiated education policies to ensure ideological conformity in all instruction. Together with the committee's Ideological Department, it issued laws and regulations governing all major spheres of education. The Council of Ministers and the Supreme Soviet, in turn, gave pro forma ratification to party directives and executed them (see Central Government , ch. 8). Administration of the school system was carried out by the government's education ministries under the direct authority of the Council of Ministers. In the late 1980s, the two chief administrative organs were the Ministry of Education, which administered primary and general secondary schools, and the Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education, which oversaw institutions of higher learning and specialized secondary schools. These central, union-republic ministries (see Glossary) operated through similarly named republic ministries, which were further broken down into province, district, and local school committees. The republic ministries and their administrative organs at the province, district, and local levels were responsible for implementing the laws, regulations, and directives concerning school curricula, methods of instruction, and textbooks, and they also supervised the allocation of funds at their respective levels.
Other main administrative organs (with counterpart agencies at lower governmental levels) were the Ministry of Culture, which operated special schools of art, ballet, and music, and the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, which oversaw vocational and technical schools. Management of higher education institutions involved administrative agencies from the various party organs and government ministries, such as those involved with health, agriculture, communications, and civil aviation. Not surprisingly, these numerous entities spawned a huge bureaucracy, one that represented a formidable obstacle to implementation of major school reforms introduced in the mid-1980s.
In the 1980s, overbureaucratization was openly criticized by the official press and by leading educators as a major cause of the serious lack of quality in education. For example, management of technical training, the most critical area for the success of economic reform, was excessive: seventy-four ministries and administrative departments oversaw institutions of higher learning, with thirty of these ministries directing only one or two institutes each. Another 200 administrative departments were in charge of specialized secondary schools.
Traditionally, the party apparatus had exercised control over not only the direction of educational development but also the implementation of policies and directives. The essentially parallel structure between party and government provided the main mechanism for this oversight. Furthermore, most administrators in central, republic, and local education posts were party members, as were the majority of school directors and many teachers, particularly at the higher levels (one-sixth of secondary school teachers belonged to the CPSU). The large body of Komsomol members in the upper grades of secondary schools and in institutions of higher learning also aided party oversight.
Data as of May 1989
Soviet Union Table of Contents