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Policy brief NATO on education in the USSR.

Аналитическая записка НАТО об образовании в СССР.

In may 1959, Dr. C. R. S. Manders prepared for the Committee on science of the NATO report on “Scientific and technological education and manpower reserves of the USSR”

The Committee on science

Note By The Registrar:

Remind Committee members that at the meeting of 22 and 23 April 1959

they heard a report from Dr. C. R. S. Manders on the above topic. It was agreed that the publication of this report, separately from the minutes of the meeting. According to this, Dr. Manders kindly provided the text of the report along with relevant graphs and tables that are attached to this document for consideration and use by the Committee.

“Scientific and technological education and manpower reserves of the USSR”

I. Introduction.
II. Some of the factors that contributed to the rapid improvement of education under the Soviet regime.
III. Level of education and change.
IV. Professionally trained personnel reserves of the USSR and the pace of production.
V. Difficulties and disadvantages.
VI. Disciplines of interest to the defense.
VII. Conclusions.
VIII. App.


1. When the Soviet Union was formed just over 40 years ago, the government had to face enormous challenges. The Soviet crop of the South was destroyed by locusts, resulting in the mentioned food shortages and low morale of the population. The defense did not contribute to anything except the rational use of the territorial and climatic conditions. The state is behind in education and other social areas, illiteracy was widespread, and after almost 10 years of Soviet journals and publications still reported the same level of literacy. Forty years ago is hopelessly not enough trained personnel to bring the Soviet people from a difficult situation, but today, the Soviet Union challenged America’s right to world domination. This is an achievement that knows no equal in modern history.


2. Naturally, a number of factors contributed to Soviet progress in the past forty years, those mentioned here represent only a small part of what mattered. Despite the fact that this document was written in relation to scientific and technical education, a large part of that can be attributed to any other sphere of human thought. Soviet practice is very different from Western practices, and the work pays the necessary attention to these differences.

(i) Leaders who had received education in science and technology

From the very beginning, the Soviet leaders clearly understood that science and technology is a vital means of achieving military and economic goals of communism. A scientific and technical discipline that for more than forty years emphasis is well represented in basic education of current Soviet leaders. President of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in virtue of the office, is a member of the Presidium, which can be compared with the office of the Prime Minister or the office of the Chairman of the Board of France. 39 of the 67 members of the authority receive non-technical education. Besides, the first Deputy Chairman and 9 of the 13 Vice-Chairpersons of the Council of Ministers received a scientific and technical education. The scientific and technological projects in the USSR more likely to be adopted at higher administrative level than in Western countries.

(ii) Centralized control and planning

These factors provide obvious benefits to maximize the effectiveness of training programmes. You can install a single educational standard for the entire country to facilitate training and eliminate most of the reasons led to confusion in Western countries, where the system became fragmented. If the planning and production agreed, there is no unemployment, and in all workplaces necessary to the state, are people with appropriate qualifications. In a centralized system, of course, it is possible to be either brilliantly right or catastrophically wrong. The essence of the Soviet method is as follows: the Ministry forecast their needs in materials and human resources 5 (now 7) -year plan in compliance with the General Directive from the party leadership. Presented by the ministries demands that each year a little change on the basis of experience, are compared, and the State planning Committee develops plans. Part of the plan relating to technical and scientific issues approved by the Academy of Sciences.

(iii) Newly trained staff at the disposal of the state

Almost everyone who enrolls in excess of the educational minimum established by the legislation of the Soviet Union, with public funding. The state requires that graduates of higher or secondary special educational institutions worked for three years on the distribution after completion of training. The number of young people, not burdened with other obligations, about 750 thousand received higher education and 1.2 million in secondary special education. These personnel reserves at any point can be connected to the priorities of the state such as Grand development plans, teaching and others. These 2 million professionals are not paid employees, they get a decent salary and, moreover, not obliged to serve in the army.

(iv) “Minor” discipline

The USSR is a large country, so it is able to organize a full group for the study of such subjects as the creation and arrangement of gyroscopes and steam boilers. At the same time, Western countries can offer only occasional courses not of the highest quality because of the small number of students and teachers.

(v) a Thorough study of Western resources

Western publications are generally available in translation in the major Soviet institutions not later than 2 months after original publication. The academic Institute of scientific information has the best and most complete abstracting services in the world. If circumstances require, the Tips is ready to receive information through espionage.

(vi) Return to the education system

For many years a significant proportion of trained staff back into the education system to prepare more specialists. Teaching is well-paid and prestigious job. Net annual growth of personnel trained is 7% in the USSR (for comparison, in the USA, 3.5% in the UK of 2.5 – 3 %).

(vi) advanced study of the major disciplines

In recent years, at least, in all educational programs offered in the Soviet Union, the emphasis is on advanced study of the major disciplines. In each of 200 training plans, technical direction, operating in higher education institutions, 10% of the time allotted to mathematics and the same physics. A large number of trained personnel and the rapid technological progress achieved is not a superficial effort.

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(viii) Training of teachers is a priority

With each new stage of scientific and technological progress starts a corresponding program of preparation of teachers. Since 1955 at Moscow state University trains teachers of programming (Annex 1).

(ix) Effective promotion of

In the West, the Soviet propaganda and lies are often considered synonyms. Propaganda successfully holding the national objectives in the field of view of the Soviet people, experiencing the excitement as you achieve these goals. In the USSR there are positions occupied reluctantly, the jobs which employ. Propaganda in the schools portrays such positions and the positions as a fascinating challenge and makes young people (iii) willingness to work for the good of his country in not the most favorable conditions.

III. Stages of Soviet education

3. The chart in Appendix 1 represents the situation during the last 5-year plan (which refused), although primary and secondary education, the coming changes, the diagram shows a system that will be used most of the time the current seven-year period.

4. The training in educational institutions in the Soviet Union begins with 7 years. Primary education lasts for 7 years. By 1960, the last 5-year plan aims to make 10-year-old public school. Where a 10-year education school education is available, local law makes it mandatory, with the result that the number of graduates 10-year-old school has grown over the last 5-year plan from 440 thousand to 1.5 million per year. Boys and girls study under the same program in 7 – and 10-year schools. In the second stage of classical education, that is, in the eighth, ninth and tenth grades of the 10-year school, students spend 42% of time studying mathematics, physics and chemistry. Graduates of the 10-year school are not as well trained as graduates of the sixth grade English language high school with a scientific slant or boys and girls who have completed second level academic French school. A significantly higher average level in scientific disciplines is achieved, however, all who completed 10 years of school in the USSR. We are talking about a much larger number of students than in the West (Annex 3).

5. Other opportunities at the end of the 7-year study are illustrated in the diagram in Appendix 1. For graduates there is a possibility to find a job, but the number of those who do has declined sharply during the last five years. School labor reserve work together with industry and agriculture. Special secondary schools, mostly technical schools with competent ministries, provide special education for two with superfluous thousand professions; the courses have a strong practical focus.

6. In recent years, around 40% of graduates 10-year schools along with a smaller percentage of graduates from secondary vocational educational institutions continue to study in higher education institutions (Appendix 2). There are rumors about increasing this figure to 70%. Universities prepare only 10% of personnel trained in the Soviet Union, and teaching in them is conducted only on the main disciplines. Course pedagogical Institute for 4 years, teaching major subjects in the universities (not including physics) lasts 5 years. Most technical training programs (also in physics) is designed for 5.5 years, and the program in medicine – 6 years. Students of all disciplines, in addition to pedagogy for the past 6 months working on a thesis project; the results of the study are embodied in a written thesis that is publicly protected. About 1 in 6 or 7 graduates continued education. Students, postgraduates and doctoral students must have knowledge of one, two and three languages respectively.


7. In a Memorandum to Khrushchev in September 1958, was the scheduled transition from 7 years of elementary education to 8-year-old. After him will follow the secondary education lasting from 3 to 4 years in one of five types of schools, namely:


  • high school academic orientation that is different from the eighth, ninth and tenth classes of 10-year-old school with four classes and receiving approximately 20% of the graduates of 8-year-old stage of learning;
  • high school technical orientation;
  • specialized high school for the needs of theatre, ballet, fine arts, military service, etc.;
  • high school part-time, combining studying with work in factories and in agriculture;
  • evening schools of the labour reserve.
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    Obviously, changes in the system do not mean lower standards. Moreover, the training base of existing secondary schools can easily be adapted to fulfil new goals.


    8. Annex 4 presents a generalized picture on this item. The first table shows a strong bias in the scientific-technological sphere in the USSR. You can also see that those who have received scientific or technical education tend to stay in these areas. The prestige and rewards in these fields of activity are high, particularly for teachers.
    9. At the level of post-graduate education of the USSR no shortage of professionals capable of managing public projects. In higher and school education, all indicates that the number of trained graduates not only to easily remain at the same level, but can be increased.
    10. Annexes 5 and 6 give the percentages, the latter also briefly describes the post-war achievements. This table is also visible a considerable percentage of women in the number of personnel trained of the USSR.


    11. The Soviet system of education at various levels which has about 35 million people, is a giant. One of its outstanding advantages resulting from centralized control and planning is its relative simplicity. It will be interesting to find out how the Soviet Union successfully coped with the problems that have plagued Western countries.

    (i) classrooms

    In Soviet schools at any level remains normal training in 2 shifts, and training in 3 shifts is not something unheard of. Provision of classrooms, lecture halls and laboratories, without a doubt, the most difficult problem with which to cope of Soviet education. Shortfalls in the program of construction was one of the factors that contributed to the abandonment of the plan in the last five years. With high certainty it can be argued that this factor has accelerated changes in the education system at the secondary school level. Rumor has it that all candidates for higher education were required to serve two years in production and technical field prior to enrollment. Two years of respite will allow the construction program to catch up. Annex 1 shows that lack of space is not a new problem for the Soviet Union.

    (ii) Equipment

    Western experts, as a rule, jealous of the quantity and quality of equipment in Soviet schools.

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    (iii) the Ratio of pupils per teacher

    As mentioned earlier, in the Soviet Union there is no problem with the teachers, while in most Western countries, the situation leaves much to be desired.

    [approx. statehistory table – this table, apparently, we are talking about how many pupils per teacher]




    Educational institutions
    1 is 12.6
    1 – 14,1
    1 – 9

    1 – 17,6
    1 – 21 (medium)1 – 30 (initial.)
    1 – 18.1 per (environments. gymnasium)1 – 22,3 (environments. school)1 – 30,5 (initial)

    (iv) Military service

    In force formerly called causes in the Soviet Union poses no problem.

    (v) the Ratio of graduates of higher and secondary special educational institutions

    The Western experience indicates that in workplaces, one of the graduate educational institutions have three graduates of secondary special educational institutions. In most Soviet institutions visited by Western experts, this proportion seems commonly used. Ratio 3 to 1 is not characteristic of the education system, so we can assume that somewhere in the Soviet Union there is a shortage of graduates of secondary special educational institutions, which entails certain difficulties. The fact that these difficulties are not obvious, means that in the USSR, the graduates can be involved in areas to the West are considered non-commercial.


    (i) Mathematics

    12. The subject in the USSR, considered the most prestigious. There is a class of mathematical tradition, and the contemporary level of mathematics in the Soviet Union second only to the level in the United States. In the study of many Soviet scientific works, especially in physics, natural Sciences and engineering is becoming noticeable with what pleasure the Soviet scientists make derogations in the area of mathematics. Scientific work in the Kingdom often consist of two parts: the first part lays out the theory and the second is a confirmation of this theory, obtained experimentally. Soviet scientific works often consist exclusively of theory.

    Class Soviet mathematicians played a much greater role than their Western counterparts, in engineering conferences, which have relatively informal nature. Such a scientific approach to the solution of engineering problems, perhaps in part explains the rapid progress in this area. Soviet mathematicians are willing to use mathematical theory in a rather small-scale pilot study. With amazing ease they work in areas where Western scientists would require additional experimental data. Where the Soviet method is successful, it becomes possible to dispense with the intermediate stages of research development. Without a doubt, the recent Soviet progress in aerodynamics and chemical engineering owe much to the advice of mathematicians.

    Mathematics is strongly encouraged in schools. Olympiad and math competitions for students 8, 9 and 10 classes of 10-year school are held at city, regional, Republican and national levels. Gifted students isolated at a very early stage and subsequently contribute to their learning.

    In most countries there is a clear vertical structure of scientific disciplines and vertical hierarchy among scientists. This prevents interdisciplinary exchange of scientific ideas. In mathematics of the USSR has been active component in mutual enrichment of disciplines. Noteworthy example is the Laboratory of vibrations of the Physical Institute. Lebedev Academy of Sciences of the USSR. The laboratory is a research organization; the staff of the Moscow laboratory who work here one or two months a year, also working in institutions throughout the Union. They occupy a leading position in a number of disciplines: astronomy, radio astronomy, spectroscopy, acoustics, theoretical physics, instrumentation, marine, hydrology, electrical engineering and many other industries. The only thing they have in common is our interest in wave movements. Opportunities to exchange scientific ideas in a Laboratory vibration is huge.

    In Annex 8 is a detailed University study plan in applied mathematics, and Annex 7 – pure mathematics. The designated number of hours of practice and prospects for automation in paragraphs 19 and 20 of Annex 7.

    (ii) Physics

    Almost all issues of this discipline Soviet scientists are on a par with world science. Theoretical physics has reached enormous heights, and in the last five years demonstrate the outstanding achievements of Soviet research in the field of semiconductors. Annex 9 presents the curriculum in physics, including a significant number of the higher mathematics, and industry practices.

    (iii) Chemistry

    The status of this discipline in the USSR is described as pre-war, but we should not assume this statement is true. The Soviet Union lags behind in chemical engineering, but there is a clear understanding of the situation and the movement towards improvement in this area. The curriculum in chemistry in the Application 10 again produces a large number of hours training higher mathematics, and industry practices.

    (iv) mechanical engineering

    Appendix 11 typical example that shows that a large amount of time allocated for lessons in higher mathematics and physics. Also have a watch for industry practice. In conditions of growing economy, needs which are met through the development of industrialization, mechanical engineering is among priorities of the Soviet Union. In 1958-59 years it is planned to produce 3 times more engineers than the United States. It is possible that signs of saturation of specialists of engineering profile will soon become apparent.


    13. In the West there is a significant tendency to adhere to the extreme views against the Soviet Union. Its citizens, however, are not supermen and not second-rate material. In fact, people with the same abilities and emotions as everyone else. If 210 million people in the West will consistently work with the same priorities and the same fervor as their counterparts in the Soviet Union, they will achieve similar results. States, on their own competing with the Soviet Union, squander their energy and resources in attempts, doomed to failure. If it is impossible to constantly devise methods that surpass the methods of the Soviet Union, should seriously think about borrowing and adaptation of Soviet methods. This may include, among other things:

    (i) the waiver of the revered, traditional views regarding the role of women;

    (ii) the execution necessary state of the work of those whose educational training beyond the minimum established by law, financed by budgetary funds;

    (iii) the abolition of the “free market” of qualified human resources; the adoption and, perhaps, the strengthening of measures for state regulation.

    14. Whatever happens, any state experiencing a shortage of teaching staff must solve it in urgent, exceptional basis.

    (Signed) C. R. S. MANDERS

    © 2019, All rights reserved.

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