. , .

Bim-Bad B. M. et al. Perspectives on adult education in Russia

: B. M. Bim-Bad, L. L. Sokolova and S. I. Zmeyov

B. M. Bim-Bad, L. L. Sokolova and S. I. Zmeyov

Russian Open University

Adult education has long been the focus of attention in the USSR in general and in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in particular. Now that progress in science and technology is rocketing and the Union Republics are changing to a market economy, issues concerning adult education have come to the fore in the state system of education, employment and social welfare, both in practice and in scientific research.

However, as yet adult education has not become a distinct structure within the system of lifelong education. The creation of such a system is a goal for the state in the area of public education. Neither theoretical nor functional foundations have yet been developed for adult education. At present adult education exists in the shape of a conglomerate of separate schools, both formal and non-formal, not covered by any general conception of education for adults.

Nonetheless the adult population is educated quite intensively both in the USSR and Russia; in 1989 about 70 million people (42.7% of the 164 million active population) took part in adult education in various forms (Education and Culture in the USSR, 1989: 11).

Historical Background

There is a long history of adult education in Russia, starting as early as the middle of the nineteenth century. The first Sunday schools for adults emerged in Russia and the Ukraine in 1859. The demand was great, so that such schools met with wide public acceptance and their number grew rapidly. There were 200 in Russia in 1860, 300 in 1862 and 1,656 in 1905, with 89,000 students (Gornostayev, 1974: 6; Vladislavlev, 1978: 125).

Apart from the Sunday schools, other kinds of educational enterprises emerged, concerned mainly with providing education for adults: popular reading rooms, reading circles, evening schools and peoples universities. The objective of these was to spread literacy, culture and advanced democratic ideas among the population.

Schools for adults delivered education at various levels. The majority limited their activity to creating literacy, but some extended their offer to partial or complete programmes of secondary education, sometimes even up to the level of higher education. All the schools for adults were distinguished by their internal democracy and the flexibility of their curricula.

In the nineteenth century a foundation was laid for the theory of general adult education in Russia. In 1861 an article, The Sunday Schools, by K.D. Ushinskiy (1824-1871), a distinguished Russian peda­gogue, was published. The author set out a basic curriculum for Sunday schools, one which should contain the following fields of study:

religious history

the main events of Russian history

physical phenomena

the main animal species

mental arithmetic, related to measurement, weight, time, etc.

drawing from nature

initiation into crafts

acquaintance with major technical inventions.

Ushinskiy formulated a number of fundamental principles in the education of adults, most of which would still gain support today: the connection of adult learning with the learners work; practical objectives in learning; the use of adults life experience; the importance of visual aids; the importance of recognising individual learning needs; the developmental and lifelong character of adult education. The main task of Sunday schools, he wrote, is to awaken the intellectual abilities of learners to act independently. Another, related task of adult education was to develop the desire and the ability of students to obtain new knowledge independently of the teacher ... to be able to learn throughout their lifespan (Ushinskiy, 1988: 65-68).

At the threshold of the twentieth century, the science of educating adults was actively developed in Russia. Famous scientists concerned themselves with selecting training programmes for adults as distinct from those for children. Specialised teaching aids were developed and were adopted both in Russia and Europe.

The book What the Nation Should Read by Kh. D. Alchevskaya was awarded a gold medal at the Paris World Exhibition in 1889. In its three volumes the women teachers of the Harkov (Ukraine) Sunday school headed by Kh. D. Alchevskaya discussed the problems of creating reading books intended for the out-of-school (extra-mural) education of adults.

Thus, by the 1900s, the basic principles of adult education had been developed. They were discussed largely at the first All-Russia Congress of the Peoples Universities Personnel (1908) and the first All-Russia Congress on Popular Education (1914). At that time adult
education was known as extra-mural education. In Basic Problems of Organisation of Extra-mural Education in Russia (1909), V.I. Charnolusskiy described the extra-mural education of the time. It included schools for adults, establishments offering reading facilities (libraries, publishing houses, booksellers), the organisations spreading knowledge among the population through courses, public lectures, etc., public recreational and sports organisations, museums and art galleries and the so-called peoples houses.

Despite the huge efforts of Russian intellectuals to spread knowledge among the people, before the 1917 revolution Russia was, as V.I. Lenin described it, in the rearguard of European literacy (Lenin, 1978: v 23, 126). According to census data, only 28.4% of the population aged between the ages of 9 and 49 registering in 1897 were literate (40.3% male and 16.6% female) (Onushkin and Tonkonogaya, 1984: 97).

After the revolution of 1917, the elimination of illiteracy became one of the main challenges for the Soviet state. In particular, extra-mural education was developed. Only four days after the revolution, on 29 October 1917, the Peoples Commissar of Education wrote that schools for adults should be given an important place in the system of popular education (Gornostayev, 1974). In December 1919 a decree on Eliminating Illiteracy among the Population of the Russian Federation was adopted by the Soviet government. Adult education was discussed at congresses of the Bolshevist party, at the all-Russia congress on education in 1918 and at the all-Russia congress on extra-mural education in 1919. V.I. Lenin, Chairman of the Council of Peoples Commissars, delivered a speech to the last-mentioned congress, in which he emphasised the importance of this kind of education for the economic, social and political development of Soviet society.

In November 1917 the Department of Extra-mural Education was created at the Peoples Commissariat (Ministry) of Education. N.K. Krupskaya, a notable figure in the Communist movement and the Russian enlightenment, was its head. Just over a year later, the Institute of Extra-mural Education was established at Petrograd, with the aim of carrying out scientific research on non-school education. In 1919, the magazine Extra-mural Education was launched, and is still published today.

Soon a network of general education courses for adults, adult schools, higher peasants schools, workers schools and peoples universities started to emerge. The so-called workers faculties appeared, where workers received accelerated preparatory courses for high school enrolment. Huge efforts in state and public organisations meant that more than 40 million people became literate during the twenties and thirties. By 1939, the proportion of the literate among the population of the USSR had reached 87.4% (93.5 of the male population and 81.6% of the female). In Russia, 89.7% of the population was literate (Gretchishkin, 1976: 18). After World War II, adult education continued to develop, and by 1970, 99.7% of
the population aged between 9 and 49 was literate (Onushkin and Tonkonogaya, 1984: 97).

In the post-war period, the Soviet government adopted a series of laws on adult education (1958 and 1973). The Ministries of Enlightenment and Higher Education and the USSR State Committee on Education monitored the processes of adult education.

Present Forms of

At present, the following forms of adult education have become established in Russia and other Union republics.

Formal education

general secondary education in evening secondary schools

vocational education in evening and day-time vocational schools and vocational courses

secondary specialised education by correspondence in special corre­spondence secondary schools and evening and correspondence departments of regular secondary specialised schools

higher education in special correspondence institutes and evening and correspondence departments of regular (day-time) institutes

postgraduate training for those with higher or secondary specialised degrees in institutes and in departments of higher and further education.

Non-formal education

professionally-oriented and general courses in peoples universities and in centres of lifelong education, adult education centres and by means of public lectures (for example those of the Znaniye) and through television.

The main feature of adult education in Russia is the evening school and the correspondence form, so that people can learn without leaving their jobs. Formal postgraduate education and the specialised courses are mainly full-time and held during the day. Paid leave is offered to those taking examinations, and those who choose to study in the evening have their working time shortened by two hours. All formal education diplomas, whether taken in the evening, through correspondence courses or in day-time provision, have equal validity.

Recently there has been a boom in the development of non-formal adult education, with new kinds of institutions emerging and numbers of students growing. The most widespread form of non-formal education is at the peoples universities. This form appeared as early as the nineteenth century, following the example of Western Europe. Since then, such universities have developed considerably, from schools which concentrated on popular literacy to multi-functional enterprises able to provide training in great variety, up to graduate level. This modern stage began in the 1950s.

The Znaniye (Knowledge) Society was created in 1947. This is an organisation of non-formal education which aims to spread knowledge of different kinds among the population through lectures series. Under its guidance peoples universities started mushrooming, first the universities of culture and then those of pedagogy, science and technology, agriculture and others. In 1973 a law was adopted which included peoples universities in the Russian educational system. By 1987 there were 47,657 peoples universities in the Soviet Union, with 18,687,000 students. At the same time in Russia there were 26,102 such universities with 9,141,000 students {Education and Culture in the USSR, 1989: 360-1).

Along with the peoples universities, other kinds of educational enterprises for adults have appeared, which are known as centres of lifelong education and adult education centres. These are aimed at the rapid expansion of training in specific courses for specific purposes, either to enter a new profession or to improve ones qualifications, or to increase ones general level of culture. Courses in foreign languages, business and management, economics, pedagogy, family relations, law, psychology, etc., delivered in the variety of forms already outlined and also by co-operative and state bodies have also become very popular.

Training and Research

The Russian Association of Adult Education (101814, Moscow, Novaya Square, 3-4) was created in 1991 to co-ordinate the efforts of non­governmental forms of adult education. The emergence of the non­governmental schools has been a specific feature of recent years. A good example is the Russian Open University, which attracted about 100,000 applicants in 1991. One of its divisions is the College of Adult Education. This college is the first USSR higher education establishment aiming to:

carry out comparative research on problems of adult learning

disseminate good practice in learning methods

prepare specialists for teaching adults.

The college consists of the Comparative Research Centre and two departments: the Department of Adult Learning and the Adult Teachers Training Department. Postgraduate courses are also available. At the Comparative Research Centre the leading scholars in this field from Moscow State University, Moscow State Linguistic University, Moscow State Pedagogical University, the Pedagogical Academy of the USSR and from abroad undertake comparative studies and supervise postgraduate research under the following headings:

andragogical research (the theory of adult teaching and learning, the philosophy of adult education, the psychological concepts of adult education, self-directed learning)

the organisation of adult education (in the USSR, the USA, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, India, Scandi­navian and Latin American countries)

the organisation and technology of distance learning in the countries above

training teachers for adults.

At the end of the course students must write and defend a thesis, after which a Masters or Doctors degree is awarded. The Department of Adult Learning recommends to everybody, irrespective of their education, a one-year course in technology of learning which includes:

the theory of teaching and learning

andragogical principles

psycho-physiological characteristics of adult learners

fundamentals of the organisation of learning activities and learning skills.

At the end of the course students receive a certificate which allows them to continue their studies at the college.

Two programmes are offered by the Adult Teachers Training Department. Programme A is meant for graduates from higher or secondary specialised departments. It provides a one- or two-year course which consists of different credit units:

essential theories of education

adult learners psychology

andragogical models of education

adult teaching activities

special features of adult distance education

organisation of adult education in the USSR and abroad.

Programme B is intended for those with no further or higher specialised secondary education who wish to study andragogy. The course is for three or four years, and includes such credit units as:

philosophy and sociology of adult education

essential theories of adult education

developmental and pedagogical psychology

bases of pedagogy

psychological peculiarities of childhood and adult learning

pedagogical model of education

andragogical model of education

school teachers activities

adult teachers activities

organisation of adult education in the USSR and abroad

special features of adult distance education

organisation of adult learning activities.

Students who wish to teach adults certain particular subjects can take a special two- or three-year course in the colleges of the Russian Open University or other institutes. Those who pass the A or B programme are awarded a Bachelors degree in andragogy and are qualified as teachers of pedagogical and andragogical disciplines. The teaching process at the college is organised mainly by correspondence but also with the aid of radio, television, etc. Summer schools, seminars, conferences and tutorials are also available.

Scientific research work on education for adults is also carried out in the research and development Institute of General Education for Adults at the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences (St Petersburg), in pedagogical departments at the Faculty of Psychology of Moscow State University, Moscow State Linguistic University and in Moscow State Pedagogical University.


Economy of the RSFSR in 1970. Moscow. Economy of the RSFSR in 1980. Moscow. Economy of the RSFSR in 1988. Moscow. Economy of the USSR 1922-1982. Moscow. Education and Culture in the USSR, 1989. Moscow.

Gornostayev, P.V. (1974) The Theory of General Adult Education before the October Revolution and in the First Years after the Revolution. Moscow.

Gretchishkin, V.A. (1976) Socialism and Education. Moscow. Lenin, V.I. (pub. 1978) Complete Works, Volume 23. Moscow.

Onushkin, V.G. and Tonkonogaya, E.P. (1984) Adult Education in the USSR. Prague.

RSFSR in Figures in 1989. Moscow.

Ushinskiy, K.D. (1988) Pedagogical Works, Volume 2. Moscow.

Vladislavlev, A.P (1978) Lifelong Education: Issues and trends. Moscow.

Further Reading

Kuznetsov, V.M. (1975) Correspondence education in the USSR. In: Open Learning. Paris: Unesco.

Vladislavlev, A.P (1978) The Conceptual Framework for Lifelong Education in the USSR. Paris: Unesco.


Sovetskaya Pedagogika (Soviet Pedagogy) Moscow 119905 Pogodinskaya str 8

Vetchernyaya Srednyaya Shkola (Evening Secondary School) Moscow 119034 Smolenskiy boul 4

Vestnik Vyshey Shkoly (Higher School Herald) Moscow 113833 Liussinovkaya str 51

First published in 1992

Perspectives on Adult Education and Training in Europe / Edited by Peter Jarvis; Assisted by Annette Stannett. -The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. England. P. 108-115.

? :

25 2016
, . .

06 2016
, . 21

26 2016
. , . . .


17 2016
. , . .

, . , , , , .  
«, » .

17 2016
. . . -




  Google Reader