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Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Galina Gurova and Nelli Piattoeva (University of Tampere, Finland)

A Post-Soviet Audit Culture: Changing Practices and Subjectivities of School Teachers in a Russian Region

The paper discusses the recently introduced quality assurance policy in Russian schools, and the reactions of teachers and administrators to it. It describes the local audit culture (Shore and Wright 2015) in a region of Russia, and specifically focuses on the influence of performativity regime (Ball 2003) on teachers’ subjectivities and practices. These are analyzed in the light of the reports on audit culture in schools in Western contexts, and also through the lens offered by the study of late socialist citizens’ subjectivities by Alexei Yurchak. The data was collected through ten-week participant observation and twenty-five interviews with teachers and administrators in two schools. The results point to multiple contradictions in the implemented quality assurance policy. First, the policy aims to stimulate teachers to pursue students’ interests, and hence connects teachers’ payment to student achievement. However, the interests of students are diverse and not adequately reflected in grades or average test scores. Often these interests are jeopardized by the system that invokes the self-interest of teachers. Another policy assumption is that teachers are rewarded for improving their competence. However, significant time and effort are invested to document performance, and detract from teaching and preparing the lessons, so that actual competence may deteriorate. Yet another assumption is that students are eager ‘customers’ of education. It disregards the many students lacking motivation for education, so teachers must even struggle to ensure their attendance. Despite the prevalence of a critical attitude towards new policies among teachers and administrators, we observed no attempts at resistance. School staff complies with the policies; however, this does not necessarily signify the internalization of performativity aims, to which similar Western studies point. School workers consciously make a distinction between their professional identity and performativity thinking, and their behavior can be interpreted as noninvolvement and simulated support (Yurchak, 1997).