Secondary School

General framework
There were 59,260 general education schools in 2007-2008 school year, an increase from 58,503 in the previous year. However, prior to 2005-2006, the number of schools was steadily decreasing from 65,899 in 2000-2001. The 2007-2008 number includes 4,965 advanced learning schools specializing in foreign languages, mathematics etc.; 2,347 advanced general-purpose schools, and 1,884 schools for all categories of disabled children; it does not include vocational technical school and technicums. Private schools accounted for 0.3% of elementary school enrollment in 2005 and 0.5% in 2005.

According to a 2005 UNESCO report, 96% of the adult population has completed lower secondary schooling and most of them also have an upper secondary education.

Eleven-year secondary education in Russia is compulsory since September 1, 2007. Until 2007, it was limited to nine years with grades 10-11 optional; federal subjects of Russia could enforce higher compulsory standard through local legislation within the eleven-year federal programme. Moscow enacted compulsory eleven-year education in 2005, similar legislation existed in Altai Krai, Sakha and Tyumen Oblast. A student of 15 to 18 years of age may drop out of school with approval of his/her parent and local authorities, and without their consent upon reaching age of 18. Expulsion from school for multiple violations disrupting school life is possible starting at the age of 15.

The eleven-year school term is split into elementary (years 1-4), middle (years 5-9) and senior (years 10-11) classes. Absolute majority of children attend full programme schools providing eleven-year education; schools limited to elementary or elementary and middle classes typically exist in rural areas. Of 59,260 schools in Russia, 36,248 provide full eleven-year programme, 10,833 - nine-year "basic" (elementary and middle) programme, and 10,198 - elementary education only. Their number is disproportionately large compared to their share of students due to lesser class sizes in rural schools. In areas where school capacity is insufficient to teach all students on a normal, morning to afternoon, schedule, authorities resort to double shift schools, where two streams of students (morning shift and evening shift) share the same facility. There were 13,100 double shift and 75 triple shift schools in 2007-2008, compared to 19,201 and 235 in 2000-2001.

Children are accepted to first year at the age of 6 or 7, depending on individual development of each child. Until 1990, starting age was set at seven years and schooling lasted ten years for students who were planning to proceed to higher education in Universities. Students who were planning to proceed to technical schools were doing so, as a rule, after the 8th year. The switch from ten to eleven-year term was motivated by continuously increasing load in middle and senior years. In the 1960s, it resulted in a "conversion" of the fourth year from elementary to middle school. Decrease in elementary schooling led to greater disparity between children entering middle school; to compensate for the "missing" fourth year, elementary schooling was extended with a "zero year" for six-year-olds. This move remains a subject of controversy. ( Be careful citing questionable articles. "Zero year" was far and between in Soviet schools; it was an experimental program, implemented in only few of them out of hundreds of thousands, and practically unheard of. So the first years were busy as usual learning how to read and write the old fashion way, whether they've had previously preparation in day-cares or not. By the second year practically all children knew how to read and write, only with few lagging behind in second-third years. So by fourth year ( i.e. the beginning of the secondary school, children were NOT "entering middle school" with "greater disparity," since all schooling was done in the same school, from 1st to 10th years.))

Children of elementary classes are normally separated from other classes within their own floor of a school building. They are taught, ideally, by a single teacher through all four elementary years (except for physical training and, if available, foreign languages); 98.5% of elementary school teachers are women. Their number decreased from 349,000 in 1999 to 317,000 in 2005. Starting from the fifth year, each academic subject is taught by a dedicated subject teacher (80.4% women in 2004, an increase from 75.4% in 1991). Pupil-to-teacher ratio (11:1) is on par with developed European countries. Teachers' average monthly salaries in 2008 range from 6,200 roubles (96 US dollars) in Mordovia to 21,000 roubles (326 US dollars) in Moscow.

The school year extends from September 1 to end of May and is divided into four terms. Study programme in schools is fixed; unlike in some Western countries, schoolchildren or their parents have no choice of study subjects. Class load per student (638 hours a year for nine-year-olds, 893 for thirteen-year-olds) is lower than in Chile, Peru or Thailand, although official hours are frequently appended with additional classwork. Students are graded on a 5-step scale, ranging in practice from 2 ("unacceptable") to 5 ("excellent"); 1 is a rarely used sign of extreme failure. Teachers regularly subdivide these grades (i.e. 4+, 5-) in daily use, but term and year results are graded strictly 2, 3, 4 or 5

Vocational training option
Upon completion of a nine-year programme the student has a choice of either completing the remaining two years at normal school, or of a transfer to a specialized professional training school. Historically, those were divided into low-prestige PTUs and better-regarded technicums and medical (nurse level) schools; in the 2000s, many such institutions, if operational, have been renamed as colleges. They provide students with a vocational skill qualification and a high school certificate equivalent to 11-year education in a normal school; the programme, due to its work training component, extends over 3 years. In 2007-08 there were 2,800 such institutions with 2,280,000 students. Russian vocational schools, like the Tech Prep schools in the USA, fall out of ISCED classification, thus the enrollment number reported by UNESCO is lower, 1.41 million; the difference is attributed to senior classes of technicums that exceed secondary education standard.

All certificates of secondary education (Maturity Certificate, Russian: аттестат зрелости), regardless of issuing institution, conform to the same national standard and are considered, at least in law, to be fully equivalent. The state prescribes minimum (and nearly exhaustive) set of study subjects that must appear in each certificate. In practice, extension of study terms to three years slightly disadvantages vocational schools' male students who intend to continue: they reach conscription age before graduation or immediately after it, and normally must serve in the army before applying to undergraduate-level institutions.

Although all male pupils are eligible to postpone their conscription to receive higher education, they must be at least signed-up for the admission tests into the university the moment they get the conscription notice from the army. Most of military commissariats officials are fairly considerate towards the potential recruits on that matter and usually allow graduates enough time to choose the university and sign-up for admission or enroll there on paid basis despite the fact that the spring recruiting period is not yet ended by the time most schools graduate their students. All those people may legally be commanded to present themselves to the recruitment centers the next day after the graduation.

Males of conscription age that chose not to continue their education at any stage usually get notice from the army within half a year after their education ends, because of the periodic nature of recruitment periods in Russian army.

Unified state examinations
Traditionally, the universities and institutes conducted their own admissions tests regardless of the applicants' school record. There were no uniform measure of graduates' abilities; marks issued by high schools were perceived as incompatible due to grading variances between schools and regions. In 2003 the Ministry of Education launched the Unified state examination (USE) programme. The set of standardised tests for high school graduates, issued uniformly throughout the country and rated independent of the student's schoolmasters, akin to North American SAT, was supposed to replace entrance exams to state universities. Thus, the reformers reasoned, the USE will empower talented graduates from remote locations to compete for admissions at the universities of their choice, at the same time eliminating admission-related bribery, then estimated at 1 billion US dollars annually. In 2003, 858 university and college workers were indicted for bribery, admission "fee" in MGIMO allegedly reached 30,000 US dollars.

University heads, notably Moscow State University rector Viktor Sadovnichiy, resisted the novelty, arguing that their schools cannot survive without charging the applicants with their own entrance hurdles. Nevertheless, the legislators enacted USE in February 2007. In 2008 it was mandatory for the students and optional for the universities; it is fully mandatory since 2009. A few higher education establishments are still allowed to introduce their own entrance tests in addition to USE scoring; such tests must be publicized in advance.

Awarding USE grades involves two stages. In this system, a "primary grade" is the sum of points for completed tasks, with each of the tasks having a maximum number of points allocated to it. The maximum total primary grade varies by subject, so that one might obtain, for instance, a primary grade of 23 out of 37 in mathematics and a primary grade of 43 out of 80 in French. The primary grades are then converted into final or "test grades" by means of a sophisticated statistical calculation, which takes into account the distribution of primary grades among the examinees. This system has been criticized for its lack of transparency.

The first nationwide USE session covering all regions of Russia was held in the summer of 2008. 25.3% students failed literature test, 23.5% failed mathematics; the highest grades were recorded in French, English and social studies. Twenty thousand students filed objections against their grades; one third of objections were settled in the student's favor.