Comparison of CIS Curricula in Russian and American Universities

By Schellenberger, R. E.; Mechitov, A. I. et al. | Education, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview

Comparison of CIS Curricula in Russian and American Universities


Schellenberger, R. E., Mechitov, A. I., Olson, D. L., Education


Russia is undergoing a great transition period, with many large-scale economic changes taking place at a very vapid pace. At this time, almost half of the economy has been converted from the old centralized economy to a privatized environment. Many changes have occurred in social life, such as the development of large private firms, private banks, a new tax system, and the first bankruptcy actions. During the Soviet period, lay people were primarily interested in foreign politics and sporting events. Today, the focus of newspapers is on economic news, changes in local and foreign currencies, negotiations with the World Monetary Fund, stocks and securities markets, and so on. The greatest changes have occurred within the minds of the people (Breev, 1993). Under socialism, people relied on the state system for most of their needs. Now the majority of Russians understand that their well-being depends on the success of their own efforts, on their ability to adapt to the new and dynamic labor market realities. Evans and Birch (1995) found that the vast majority of Russian students did not believe their education was relevant to their intended careers.

These great changes in the economic field have created new opportunities and demands on the Russian education system (Alenchikov, 1993; Kitaev, 1993). New economic realities demand new business specialists. Therefore, business and economic education (as well as related fields such as law and business law) were very popular in the first years of the decade of the 1990s. There was an almost immediate recognition by business people that they needed more knowledge, shifting from the old "planning in advance" behavior to a more flexible attitude capable of operating in a dynamic and highly risky environment. Many older managers were not able to make this transition. Consequently, new business institutions hired predominantly young people with new educational backgrounds and fresh world outlooks. At present, it is not out of the ordinary to meet young people, 25 and 30 years old, as heads and top mangers of the leading banks, trading companies, investment firms, and other business organizations.

As a result, business education has undergone dramatic changes. Hundreds of new business schools of very different types, sizes, programs, and educational quality have opened in recent years (Kitaev, 1993; Meddoks, 1994). Many old state universities have opened new business colleges. A lot of separate business schools have been opened as well. These schools offer widely varying educational programs. Several business schools, primarily in Moscow, have affiliated with American schools, and copied the curricula from the corresponding American school. There are also many short terms schools, with program ranging from four months to one year, where accelerated training is available. Many of these schools offer programs in accounting and in computer information systems. There has been a high demand for specialists in these areas and this demand continues.

Business professions have become very prestigious. During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, business was not a very attractive discipline for young Russians. Now, however, business schools and law schools have the highest prestige (Breev, 1993) This contention is confirmed by the fact that the majority of educational programs paid for by students (the Russian education system was, and still is predominantly, free of charge) has been in the business field.

Because of the unique nature of the Russian computer market, the computer information system field is one of the most attractive in business schools. There has always been a large technological gap between Russia and western countries in many fields, with the largest gap being in computer information systems. The planned Soviet economy was quite inert, unable to cope with the extremely rapid developments in computer applications. Therefore, at the beginning of the 1990s, new liberal import rules led to the importation of many modern computer systems into Russia. …

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