Soviet Time Pedagogy

Pedagogy of the Soviet Time stands out for formal reasons (because it was secular and disconnected from Christian concepts of education from the former Russian Empire) as well as for its content. Due to Soviet ideology a unique pedagogy was created. Besides, it was not only limited to the Soviet Union, the educational philosophy, didactics and methodology was replicated in all former Socialist countries such as East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Poland, and Bulgaria.​
There are astonishing examples: The wonder of Makarenko's juvenile colony, The "Wild" University, Dialectical materialism as a philosophy of education, "pedagogy of social creativity”, Free extracurricular classes...

Read on for a glimpse of what's in my upcoming book!


Early Soviet educators were attracted to progressive American education because the basic ideas seemed to fulfill Marx’s concept of polytechnical education and support the idea that theory must be informed by practice. Polytechnical education was recognized in the 1917 Soviet Constitution, which called for “free, compulsory, general and polytechnical education for all children of both sexes up to 16 years of age"; closely linking instruction with children’s socially productive work.

Soviet civilization aimed to educate a new man - "a man-creator, liberator, altruist," a man whose thought directed him into the future. This type of person was contrasted with the person-consumer, the egoist, the oppressor, the person aimed at preserving the past.
Socialist competition was based on cooperation and group competition as opposed to individual. Groups of workers tried to outperform other groups.  In schools, students were prepared for socialist competition by having students compete against each other by row or classroom for the best marks. In youth groups, such as the Young Pioneers, awards were given for the best group behavior.


Early Soviet  Educators
Soviet Union stamp, 1929 image: wikimedia

Makarenko - the pedagogical genius of the 20th century

Anton Makarenko became the head of a juvenile colony in the 1920s.
His students were victims of the Civil War, criminalized orphans, child-prostitutes, child-soldates, thieves...  Makarenko’s pedagogical genius and his unlimited faith in these children transformed these damaged personalities into happy, stable, honest and bright people within a few years.

Western visitors recalled that, “the colonists looked like Harvard students”. Interestingly, in his colony of 600 juveniles Makarenko completely abandoned the notion of supervisors. They had several adults as school-teachers, engineers at the plant, but the children's group of 500-600 people lived to some degree on their own.  ​​

How did he manage this? Due to his outstanding pedagogy! According to UNESCO Anton Makarenko is among the four teachers (along with John Dewey, Georg Kerschensteiner and Maria Montessori) who determined the method of pedagogical thinking in the 20th century.

Many of Makarenko’s ideas popped up in the works of educators, researchers, and psychologists in the West decades later. In Japan his works are considered a must-read for managers.

image: wikimedia

The main differences between Western and Soviet education
Anyone who studied in the Soviet Union and then experienced the Western-style of education can’t get rid of the feeling that something was substantially different. And not just in the ideology.
In the Soviet Union, the whole philosophy of education was built on “dialectical materialism” which formed the basis for the teaching science in terms of systemic processes and viewing natural processes in terms of interconnectedness, development, and transformation. The schoolbooks were based on these principals and every child knew and applied rules of dialectical materialism philosophy on a daily basis.
Another strong difference lay in strengthening abstract thinking as opposed to concrete thinking. Math was taught as problem solving, not step-by-step as in a cook book recipe. In general, sciences and mathematics were more prestigious in the USSR than medicine and law. Given the development of nuclear weapons and space exploration, the government, and society held scientists in high regard.
Character education was considered to be the soul of pedagogy itself; shaping the character of a child was the primary task of teachers. After the collapse of the Soviet Union it was removed from school education. 

Soviet school poster