One of the Soviet Union’s greatest achievements was education. From an agrarian society in which literacy was limited to the few in the upper classes, the USSR achieved a literacy rate of 98%, among the best in the world. Russia continues to benefit from this legacy, although mandatory schooling has fallen to eight years from the Soviet Union’s 11. However, this has been in part attributed to the fact that fully 25% of coursework under the Soviet system involved ideological subjects such as Marxism and the like.
Russian schools today emphasise basics such as reading and mathematics, and the high literacy rate has been maintained. Students wishing to attend a further two years of secondary education must pass rigorous tests. The hurdles are even tougher for those wishing to attend a university. Technical subjects such as science and mathematics are valued and bright students are encouraged to specialise in a particular area from a young age. This has been criticised because it limits a student’s educational choice. While Russian teachers and professors are held in high regard by their international peers, at home they are among the worst victims of the economic hardships. Their government-paid salaries are among the lowest in the land.