Pupils face extra year of study

Russian children could be at school until they are 18 if plans to extend primary and secondary education are approved by law-makers.

Vladimir Filippov, the new education minister and former rector of the People's Friendship University in Moscow, has appointed a commission to find ways of reducing the amount of work Russian youngsters are expected to do.

Currently, children start school at seven and leave at 17. The framework has remained unchanged for 40 years, while the range and depth of subjects studied has rapidly increased.

"The work expected of our children, at school and afterwards at home, has doubled," said Professor Filippov.

"Today, they need at least 12 hours a day to complete their schoolwork. It's causing stress and illness."

The cost of adding a year to school timetables will be offset by savings from a drop in enrolments, the minister believes. He plans to take advantage of a demographic dip that will see a fall of 30 per cent in the numbers of school-age children in Russia in the next 10 years.

The reform is part of a package of measures the new minister hopes to force through the State Duma (parliament) and Federation Council (upper house) within the next year.

Working parties have been given the task of creating a national educational doctrine and federal programme on educational development.

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