soviet legacy

ETF podcast series: Soviet heritage in education and training

Many countries where the ETF works share the common heritage of the Soviet education system and each has navigated its own path in education reform over the last three decades. In our latest podcast we explore this legacy. The ETF’s Communication Officer, Maria Lvova Zolotarevskaya, chats with  ETF expert, Timo Kuusela, from Finland, who has worked in many countries of the region and is presently country liaison for Belarus and Georgia, and Mr Aram Avagyan, Expert in Education, Director of Global Developments Fund, from Armenia.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Features of the Soviet education system

‘A highly centralised and structured education system in which the government controlled all aspects including content, organisation, and teacher and student behaviour’ are some of the defining features of the former Soviet education system, as described by the ETF’s Timo Kuusela. Yet, the speakers agree some positive elements existed within the system which explains an attachment for some people to this era. Education was free and accessible to all students, teachers had high status, there was strong cooperation with employers, and jobs were guaranteed to those finishing vocational and higher education. Nevertheless, the speakers acknowledge that these elements occurred within the constraints of the Soviet ideology and economic model, which also left it isolated from other systems across the globe.

Looking to the future

The podcast discussion focuses on the experience of different countries moving beyond the Soviet legacy. Building on the better elements of the former system is not without its challenges. Aram Avagyan speaks about the obstacle created by the centralised, conformist mentality of the Soviet system which made decision-making and taking initiative difficult for countries trying to implement education reform in the post-Soviet period. Another contributor to the education reform trajectory of each country is its youth population which is considered less attached to the Soviet legacy and to prefer more choice and freedom. Additionally, the level and pace of country reform is influenced by external support which can be politically and geographically determined.  

Check out the ETF’s podcast series “Skills Factory: Thoughts and Ideas about Skills from Europe and Beyond”  at Podcasts | ETF (

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