The Fall of Primary School Teachers’ Authority

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Olesya YURCHENKO, Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Federation
Valeriy MANSUROV, Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Federation, Department of Professions and Professional Groups, Russian Federation
Educational occupations in Russia have been, and remain, subordinate to the state and have only been subject to market forces at the margins. In this article, we shall consider the changing nature of primary school teachers’ professional knowledge and authority. We undertook a qualitative in-depth interview research in public and private Moscow schools. A new policy of the Ministry of Education and Science fostered changes of primary school education. It proclaimed the need to change the content of the school teachers’ job and to build an open and collegial management system in school education. The introduction of these new school standards resulted in the increased workload of primary teachers, who were burdened with bureaucratic responsibilities. Even the record-keeping of teachers doubled. They were required to keep an electronic record of pupils’ performance in addition to the hand-written records. The primary school teachers argued that state policymakers’ detailed control over this professional work grew, as did that of the parents who made higher demands of primary school education. The professional community was discontented with the implications of diminished discretion and with the fall of authority. There was no much freedom of choice regarding learning programmes, textbooks and working routine. The population survey showed that only 39% of adults were ready to acknowledge the authority of school teachers. Schoolchildren challenged the authority of primary school teachers too. Even primary school children were aware of the various ways to acquire knowledge (Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, etc.). They did not need teachers as a source of knowledge in the same way as pupils did a few years ago. Teachers could not derive their authority just from their position and knowledge. The most desirable type of authority was personal authority, based upon merit and respect.