Soviet Union Table of Contents
To provide free, universal, and multilingual education to all citizens, the government operated a vast network of learning institutions, including preschools, general secondary schools, specialized secondary schools, vocational-technical schools, trade schools, and special education schools, as well as universities and other institutions of higher learning (see fig. 11). Completion of the secondary school program, roughly equivalent to American high school, became compulsory in 1970. By 1987 more than 120 million people, out of a population of nearly 282 million, had completed secondary and higher education; another 43.7 million had finished at least eight years of schooling.
The common threads linking all institutions of learning were the central aims of rearing and educating youth; thus, political indoctrination and the education and training of specialists and skilled workers remained of pivotal concern at all levels of schooling. Curricula, textbooks, and teaching methods were standardized nationwide. Except for a low enrollment fee for preschool, all tuition was free, and the majority of students in specialized secondary schools and institutions of higher learning received monthly stipends. Although the degree of standardization and centralization was very great, the school system was not totally monolithic, and it reflected the multiethnic diversity of the country's fifteen republics as well as considerable differences, particularly in quality, between urban and rural schools.
About 600 schools specialized in teacher training. Many university graduates also joined the ranks of secondary school teachers. In general, although salaries were not always commensurate with status, Soviet society had a great deal of respect for the teaching profession.
Data as of May 1989