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Minister offers 50 per cent pay rise

Russian teachers have mixed feelings about swapping flexibility for money. Judith Judd reports from Moscow

Russian teachers will receive a 50 per cent pay rise in return for a standard 36-hour week under plans put forward by the federal government.

At present, teachers in Russia's 63,000 schools may earn as little as pound;100 a month, though the number of hours they are required to teach varies, usually between 12 and 24.

As Vladimir Filippov, the Russian education minister, acknowledges: "It is not enough." From January 1 next year he is offering a substantial pay increase in return for a fixed working week, to include time for teaching, marking and preparation.

Even in Moscow, where the city pays a supplement of 80 per cent on salaries, teachers have to make ends meet by taking private pupils after school. They complain that shop assistants often earn twice as much, though training to be a teacher takes four or five years.

Mr Filippov hopes that better salaries will help to solve the recruitment crisis. In Moscow, an expanding private sector offers much more lucrative options for teachers of English, IT and PE.

Male teachers are in particularly short supply. At school 1253, a Moscow secondary, three men have left during the past year because they could not feed their families. Just three men remain on a teaching staff of 62.

Svetlana Vysotina, a teacher for 20 years who spent a term on an exchange to King's College, Wimbledon, the south London private school, has doubts about the proposed reforms. As head of the school's English department, she earns about pound;200 a month which she supplements by giving private lessons all day on Saturday.

She said: "It is impossible to say how many hours I work. Sometimes I get to school at 8am and I do not leave until 9pm. I love my job and I would not want to do anything else."

But she wants to maintain the freedom of the present system. "I would not like to have to come into school at a fixed time and to leave at a fixed time."

Helen Kazananskuya, another English teacher, who is divorced and who has two children at the school, left a job as an engineer to become a teacher.

She teaches for 20 hours a week and earns just over pound;100 a month.

She lives with her parents and is able to survive because her mother-in-law gives her money. "But I am very happy because my sons are getting a brilliant education."

Alexei Kuznetsov, a history teacher at school 1253 whose predecessor quit because of poor pay, questioned whether the salary rise would be enough to make much difference, given the low starting point.

Larisa Kurneshova, first deputy chief of the Moscow city government's education department and a former teacher, thinks a balance must be struck between giving teachers a decent salary and preserving the job as a vocation.

"I am in favour of teachers being paid for everything they do," she said.

"But many teachers do the job because they are enthusiastic. If they count up everything and want money for it, the psychology of teaching would change."

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