Edition 184 - August 2016

Russia places ministerial powers for education in the hands of woman & orthodox historian

Taking over the post from former minister Dimitry Livanov on 19 August, Olga Vasileva is now appointed Russia’s new Minister of Education and Science.

Vasileva’s background as a well known scholar on the relation of government and the orthodox church, and formerly responsible for religious public education in the presidential administration, incited some concern on a further encroachment of religious doctrine and spiritual reform in the realm of school and higher education. A historian, having taught in the discipline for many years, she is from within the field which hints that her new ministerial engagements potentially will entail a focus on primary and secondary education. According to the Moscow Times ‘’in her first public appearance, she said her main priority as minister would be to defend the interests of teachers’’.  

With President Valdimir Putin announcing Vasileva’s appointment, she is the first woman to take the powerful post of Education and science minister, signifying a first address to long standing gender equality issues in the mainly male dominated realms of government.

Particular reasons, for former minster Livanov stepping down from the post were not stipulated. Leaving a trail of criticism and controversy, brought about by such moves as reforming the Russian Academy of Sciences by merging different research institutes of science, medicine and agriculture, accompanied by budgetary cuts, he now is speculated to move on to fill a position in the presidential envoy on economic and trade relations with Ukraine - according to various local news agencies.   

The instatement of Russia’s first female minister in charge of education, with strong roots in the Russian Orthodox Church, is reflective of an ongoing search for the country’s identity, where grantedly conservative values have started to move into the forefront – now potentially chaired by discourses in the realm of Russian learning. In light of identity-disrupting forces that the European project currently faces and fears, rushing to revitalize values and solidarity, an increasing confrontation of Europe’s learning environments with controversial religious lessons is ongoing – spanning the plethora of diverse political groupings that seek to mobilize belief for their agendas and reorganise the relational triangle of state, education and religion.

Kremlin – press release (only available in Russian)
Moscow Times 

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