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The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Galina Gurova (University of Tampere, Finland):

Soviet, Post-Soviet and Neoliberal: Governing Russian Schools through Quality Assurance and Evaluation

This paper analyses the implementation of the quality assurance and evaluation policy (QAE) in Russian school education. It starts from a brief inquiry into the history of the QAE policy in Russia, and then proceeds to analyze the conceptualizations of quality and the accounts of QAE practices in schools in a particular locality. The analysis is guided by two questions: 1) What has changed and what continued in Russian education policy with the transition from the Soviet period to current state? and 2) How different legacies and influences contribute to the enacted QAE policy at the local level? The historical analysis focuses on three periods: post-war Soviet Russia, transition period of the 1980-1990s, and modern Russia. In the first period, inspections, school reports and statistics represented the main quality control instruments. The state assumed responsibility over education quality, and secured it also through the means of ideological control. In the transition period, individualized teaching, customized quality, and school autonomy were emphasized. The modern Russia features a comprehensive QAE system resembling global trends. Quality is defined through student educational achievement as manifested in national examinations and international assessments; schools and teachers are subjected to performance management and motivated by financial incentives; and, an increasing number of measurements has been introduced in the name of evidence-based policy. At the same time, the national policy and discourse on quality still draw on some Soviet as well as post-Soviet legacies. Recognizing the specific characteristics of each of the reviewed periods, the paper highlights complexities, contradictions and continuities within and between previous and current regimes of education governance in Russia. The analysis of the implemented QAE policy at the local level demonstrates the intertwinement of diverse legacies, and the prevalence of the traditional practices in school governance.