Education in Russia: An Overview

History of Education

Mass education in Russia started under the reign of Peter the Great in the early 1700s. Peter had studied many subjects abroad in countries such as Germany, Holland, Prussia, and England. These experiences motivated him to create a modern education system in Russia. Before this system was put in place only the wealthy could afford to send their children to school. Under Peter’s rule, more students could receive a secondary education. This education was received in “gymnasia” from the ages of 10 to 12. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, schools started to become open to the general public.

Higher education began in the mid-18th century and was modelled after Germany’s system at the time. After secondary school, students could attend universities, which were started in major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Students received a “Diploma of Higher Education” after completion of five years of study.

Education System

Russia has a compulsory education system in place for children aged six to fifteen. Students go to primary schools from the ages of six to ten. Then, they go to secondary school from the ages of ten to fifteen. Students who want to go on to complete their higher education must attend secondary school for an additional two years. This education system has allowed Russia to boast a literacy rate of 99.7%.

Compulsory subjects include Russian language, Russian and world history, mathematics, and the sciences. A grading system of two to five is used. After students finish compulsory education, they must pass a unified state examination.  Then, depending on their examination results, students can choose to go to a university, vocational school, or a non-university level institute of higher education.

Students who choose to go to university can choose to pursue a four-year “Bakalavra” degree or a five- to six-year “Spetsialista” degree.  A “Bakalavra” degree can then be followed by a two-year “Magistra” degree, which can only be obtained after the successful defense of a thesis. The system has undergone reforms in recent years to be more similar to the systems in place in the United Kingdom and the United States.

There are two types of advanced science degrees. After completing either their “Spetsialista” or “Magistra” degrees, students can pursue a three-year “Kandidata Nauk” degree, which can be obtained after a successful thesis defense and passage of qualifying examinations. Afterward, students can continue on to earn their “Doktora Nauk” degree, which generally requires an extra five to fifteen years of research and study, but there is no set time limit.

Students seeking to follow a career in medical fields have several options. Medical students must typically undergo six years of training, while dentistry and pharmacy students must undergo five years, and nurses must undergo at least four. Students must typically undergo professional training at hospitals, clinics, and medical research institutes. Medical students can pursue a one-year “Internatura” program or a two- to four-year “Ordinatura” program in order to further specialize in a particular field for their chosen profession.

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