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The Soviet System at a Glance

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During the 1987-88 school year, the mandatory age for starting school was lowered from 7 to 6; compulsory schooling ends with grade 8. Typically, one-half of those who complete the 8th grade continue their schooling in one form or another.

The system includes four types of precollegiate schools:

The general-education school, for grades 1-8 or 1-10.

The higher school, a college-preparatory program for grades 9 and 10.

The "Technicum," a technical school for grades 9-10 and above, to prepare students for entry to technical institutes, and

The vocational-technical school, for grades 9-10 and above, offering vocational training as well as secondary education.

Distinguishing features of the system as a whole include:

Budget. The country spent about 40 billion rubles on education in 1986, 8 percent of the national budget of 500 billion rubles. At the current official exchange rate, 40 billion rubles would be the equivalent of $63.2 billion.

Governance. Statistics revealed for the first time at a Communist Party plenary meeting last February showed that higher schools are managed by 74 ministries and departments, and that technicums are overseen by 207. Several republics have proposed consolidating their education ministries.

Facilities. The Soviet Union will need considerably more school space to accomplish several of its goals: reducing the number of pupils per class to between 25 and 30, completing the move to compulsory education beginning at age 6, replacing old buildings, and eliminating school "shifts" employed because of overcrowding.

Estimates are that the country will have to expand its school capacity to accommodate 28 million more pupils and boost preschool space for an additional 4 million children age 6 and younger.

Computer literacy. Officials are calling for the placement of 400,000 personal computers in 9th- and 10th-grade classes by 1990. Estimates are that only 1,000 classrooms currently offer hands-on computer training. In the United States, by comparison, there are 20 million personal computers.

Bilingualism. Soviet schools in republics where Russian is not the native language are required to provide instruction in both the native language and Russian. Parents have the right to send their children to schools which emphasize either language but, historically, the more prestigious schools have stressed Russian.

There is currently a shortage of Russian-language teachers in the non-Russian schools.--kg

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