Mount Union Professor Reflects on Time Spent in Russia
September 18, 2009
While spending time in Russia this past summer, Dr. Santosh Saha, professor of history at Mount Union, gained hands-on knowledge of the country’s educational system, living conditions and metro system.
During his stay, Saha presented two research papers entitled “Ethnicity as a Resilient Paradigm: Socio-political Transition” and “Ethnic Conflict in Africa" at the Fifth International Conference of Hierarchy and Power in History of Civilizations in Moscow, Russia.
While he was abroad, he learned that the current learning motto in Russia is “teachers should teach – not simply become facilitators in the learning situation.” Saha noted that this motto was visible in institutions of higher learning in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “I saw professors teaching and discussed the methodology with students,” said Saha. “They told me how and what they learned; I got the impression that they go by the traditional method of imparting knowledge.”
Saha explained that the educational system in Russia is very different from the system in the United States. In Russia the general secondary education lasts for nine years and students can continue their education at secondary (complete) general school for two years or at a vocational school or non-university level institution. Those who decide to further their education at a secondary (complete) general school will earn the award of the Attestat o Srednem (Polnom) Obshchem Obrasovanii (School Leaving Certificate).
Higher education in Russia is provided by state and non-state educational institutions (HEIs). Approximately half of the State HEIs students pay for their studies and students who attend non-state HEIs only have to pay tuition fees. Since higher education falls within the Ministry of Education and Science's jurisdiction, The Federal Service of Supervision in Education and Science is responsible for quality assurance in education.
“Unlike the Western emphasis on both liberal and technical education, Russian students are largely interested in getting into technical education – science and mathematics are very much cherished in Russia,” said Saha. “I had various discussions with many students who are duty-bound. Some Russian students are interested in going to the West for education, although they are not adequately using the Internet yet to learn about the outside world.”
In Russia, buildings and flats are in poor condition, with broken windows and dirty walls. Saha noted that even at the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences, chairs and tables were in disrepair. Yet Saha noted that despite the huge unemployment rates and the poor environment that individuals live in, Russian academies still produce good graduates and dedicated students.
Even though many roads and bridges around the city are collapsing, Saha was able to still visit some of the highly-known and attractive venues in Russia.
The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has nearly three million exquisite items spanning from the stone age to modern day, which makes it one of the most highly-esteemed art galleries in the world. In Moscow, Kremlin grounds, cathedrals and patriarch’s palace centers speak adequately about the life and applied art, displaying ecclesiastical regalia, gold and silverware from Russia and Western Europe. The State Museum of Alexander S. Pushkin in Moscow, is also the largest literature museum in Russia.
“Foreigners of Russia have to be impressed by the metro system, both Moscow City and St. Petersburg,” said Saha. “The average daily passenger flow makes about 9 million. The Moscow metro is claimed to be the most efficient system in the world. It only costs 70 US cents to go anywhere in the transit system.”
Saha earned bachelor's degrees from Calcutta University in India and The University of London. He earned an LL.B degree from Calcutta University Law College, a master's degree from Calcutta University and a doctoral degree from Kent State University.
Before joining the staff at Mount Union, he taught history in India, Ethiopia, Zambia and Liberia. At the institution he teaches courses in western civilization, Asian civilization and problems of developing nations, among others.
Saha has published 13 books, 10 of them relating to the disciplines of history, religion and culture. Some of these books include The Politics of Ethnicity and the National Politics and Religious Fundamentalism in the Contemporary World: Critical Social and Political Issues. His recent research articles have been approved for publications in Australian and Russia. He also serves on various editorial boards of international journals.