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The Khrushchev reforms
The Khrushchev reforms.After the death of Stalin in 1953, changes in official policy affected both education and science. The 20th Party Congress in 1956 paved the way for a period of reforms inaugurated by Nikita S. Khrushchev. The central idea was formulated as "strengthening ties between school and life" at all levels of the educational system. The Soviet reform influenced to a high degree similar reforms in the eastern European countries.
The old idea of polytechnical education was revived, but mainly in the sense of preparing secondary- school students for specialized vocational work in industry or agriculture. Since the early 1950s there had been a growing imbalance between the output of secondary-school graduates desiring higher education and the economic demands of skilled manpower at different levels. The educational reforms of 1958 pursued the aim of combining general and polytechnical education with vocational training in a way that directed the bulk of young people after the age of 15 straight into "production."
The new structure of the school system after 1958 developed as follows: (1) the basic school with compulsory education became the eight-year general and polytechnical labour school, for ages seven to 15 (vosmiletnyaya shkola); and (2) secondary education, embracing grades nine to 11, was provided alternatively by secondary general and polytechnical labour schools with production training (srednyaya obshcheobrazovatelnaya trudovaya politekhnicheskaya shkola s proizvodstvennym obucheniem) or by evening or alternating-shift secondary general education schools (vechernyaya smennaya srednyaya obshcheobrazovatelnaya shkola).
The connection of study and productive work was to be continued during the course of higher education. Great emphasis was laid upon the further expansion of evening and correspondence education both at the level of secondary specialized education and at the level of the universities and other higher institutes. In the academic year 1967-68, 56.3 percent of all Soviet students in higher education (of the total number of 4,311,000) carried out their studies in this way.
The reform of 1958 also brought a transformation of the former labour-reserve schools into urban vocational-technical schools or rural schools of the same type (gorodskiye i selskye professionalno- tekhnicheskiye uchilishcha). As a rule these schools required the completion of the eight-year school, but in fact there were many pupils with lower achievements; the length of training was from one to three years, depending upon the type of career.
Besides introducing polytechnic education and productive labour, the Khrushchev reforms emphasized the idea of collective education from early childhood. Preschool education for the age group up to seven years was to be rapidly developed within the newly organized unified creches and nursery schools (yasli i detskiye sady); and, as a new type of education, boarding schools (shkoly- internaty) that embraced grades one to eight or one to 11 had been created in 1956. Some party circles wanted this kind of boarding education for the majority of all young people, but development lagged behind planning, and the idea of full boarding education was later abandoned.
The polytechnization of the Soviet school system as it took shape during the Khrushchev period turned out, in the course of its realization, to be a failure. A revision of the school reform was carried out between August 1964 and November 1966 that brought about several important results: (1) the grade 11 of the secondary school (except for the evening school) was abolished; general education returned to the 10-year program; (2) vocational training in the upper grades was retained only in a small number of well-equipped secondary schools; and (3) a new curriculum and new syllabi for all subjects were elaborated. After 1958 hundreds of secondary schools for gifted pupils in mathematics, science, or foreign languages were developed, besides the well-known special schools for music, the arts, and sports. They recruited students mainly from the urban intelligentsia and were therefore sometimes criticized by adherents of egalitarian principles in education.
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