Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Literature - Why Dostoyevsky Is One of Russia's Best Teachers

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Literature - Why Dostoyevsky Is One of Russia's Best Teachers

Article excerpt

Kremlin schools chief says the greats instil 'cultural values'.

Russian novels are not known for their happy endings. But the country's education minister believes that the works of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov have ensured positive outcomes for thousands of students.

And Dmitry Livanov, the Russian minister of education and science, has suggested that the rest of the world should follow his country's lead by compelling students to study their own nation's literary canon.

Mr Livanov, who was speaking to TES during a visit to the UK for the Education World Forum this week, said it was a great source of pride for his country that all children read the Russian classics. Other nations, including England, should take note, he added.

"You can't leave a Russian school without having read poetry by Pushkin, novels by Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky or short stories by Chekhov," Mr Livanov said.

Russia had a "golden font of cultural values" that every student had to know by the time they left school, he added.

"I was surprised, for example, that you could leave a British school without having learned Dickens," Mr Livanov said. "We believe one of the most important functions of school education is passing values from generation to generation.

"So we're telling people of our experiences, we're prepared to share it, and we're also learning the best practices from elsewhere."

Mr Livanov will find a kindred spirit in England's education secretary Michael Gove, who has made little secret of his desire for children to read the English literary canon.

"The great tradition of our literature - Dryden, Pope, Swift, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Austen, Dickens and Hardy - should be at the heart of school life," Mr Gove said back in 2010. "Our literature is the best in the world - it is every child's birthright and we should be proud to teach it in every school."

But the education secretary scrapped the existing reading list for schools, and his reworked national curriculum demands that two works of Shakespeare are studied by the age of 16, as well as "English literature both pre-1914 and contemporary". …

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