kitchen table math, the sequel: Soviet Education - continued

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Soviet Education - continued

First, let me highlight few points touched in comments to my previous post. Since I experienced soviet school system only as a student and never as an employee, I consulted my husband's grandmother who works in that system for more than 40 years (she teaches Russian language and literature and Ukrainian language and literature in grades 5-10 in one of the schools in Odessa, Ukraine).

Thus, before year 1990 - all educational institutions (including art and music schools) and extracurricular activities, such as science, technology, math, journalism clubs, choirs, dance studios etc were free of charge.

General schools - 8 years (compulsory) or 10 years
Vocational schools - 2 years after grade 8, profession in manual labor (carpenter, seamstress, car mechanic etc)
Professional-technical school - 4 years after grade 8, 2 years after grade 10, analogous to a Community college Associate degree, lower level specialists, nurses, daycare teachers
Institute, Academy, University - 5 years after grade 10, specialists: engineers, teachers, veterinarians, doctors, lawyers, researchers. Medical school - all specialities except dentistry -6 years.

Prestige from lowest to highest: institute, academy, university. Institutes were "specialized" with a range of major available within specialization. For instance, I graduated from veterinary faculty of the Institute of Agriculture. This one was also offering majors in wine production technology, agronomy, live-stock breeding, plant-breeding, and economics of agriculture.

Universities offered more classical education, with broad curriculum in liberal arts and sciences. Students in universities had more opportunities to participate and stay in research. Odessa university was also preparing teachers for grades 5-10 (major in speciality +classes in teaching the subject).

Since it was the centralized system, and education was free, the funding was miserable. Higher ed institutions had yearly set up limits on enrollment with entrance exams given in July. The best institutions (or even majors within institutes) had very high number of students wishing to be accepted with low percentage of acceptance. When I took my entrance exams into a vet school, the competition was 5 students for 1 place. Thus, out of 500 students who took exams, a 100 was enrolled. The rest had to do something else and could try again next July. (I knew a guy who tried to enter medical school for 6 years in a row, and finally entered a vet. school. For all those "missed" years he was working as a nurse in a hospital).

After 1990, the institutes were allowed to accept 10% of the students above the limit charging them a tuition, so called contract students.

All other students who didn't pay money for education could receive a monthly stipend which depended on each semester's GPA. I was getting " an honor" stipend for all 5 years - you couldn't live on this money, but it was good enough for some treats.

The higher ed institutions have day and night sections. Day section - classes 5 days a week, from 8 to 3-4 pm; no choice in classes; programs set up for you and are not flexible. A student is placed in a group (about 20-30 people) and has all classes with the same people for all 5 years. If a student failed an exam session, he/she would be expelled from any year. After 1990 such students could repeat a semester they failed if they paid a tuition. All subjects are carefully sequenced and interconnected, so repeating a class you failed in Fall semester during Spring semester was not possible.

The acceptance for Day section was limited by age - after age 35 one could not get into Day section.

Night section - for working people and people getting a second degree. Also Distant learning was quite popular. In Distant learning classes you would visit your school twice in a semester - 1 week introductory sessions, and in 3 month - the exams. I was doing my post-grad studies (didn't finish) in another city by Distant learning. Very convenient.


Anonymous said...

Hi Exo,

What is the role of Euclidean geometry in Soviet math education? Was it limited to one year like in the US? Or was it covered across multiple years only one or two days a week?

Exo said...

geometry was taught as a separate subject but by the same math teacher starting in 5th grade and up to 10th. As I remember it, we had it once a week in grade 5, and two-three times a week in upper grades. And it was all proofs! We had to prove ALL tearems - I mean learn the proof step by step and then prove it orally or in writing. Correct innovations were appreciated, but only after the accepted proof was undersood.

Exo said...

I meant - theorems)

Anonymous said...

Exo, I have a translation of Kiselev's Geometry and was told that it took four years to cover this one small book! I couldn't imagine how it would take so long unless the teacher was giving many problems not in the book.

Exo said...

Of course, the book was essential, but it was for homework practice and reading. Every problem done in class was not from the book.The teachers used their own sources to teach us.

I don't remember if we used Kiselev's text... But anyway, it could took four years: no rush, with all details and more...
But I can tell you for sure - no "poster projects" in geometry or math.