Polytechnical education

Polytechnical education (політехнічна освіта; politekhnichna osvita). Instruction in the basics of science and technology, particularly in their practical application to industry and agriculture. Introductory polytechnical education was said to be fundamental to the Soviet general education schools, and was implemented through classroom instruction, visits to agricultural and industrial enterprises, and practical experience developed in school workshops. The mandate of polytechnical education is to familiarize students with the theory and practice of the main sectors of production and to provide a medium in which students can become proficient in the use of basic equipment and tools. This kind of education differs from professional and vocational education in that no attempt is made to prepare pupils for any particular occupation. Polytechnical education was considered to be a central component of the Marxist-Leninist theory of education, as set forth in the 1919 Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

In the early years of Soviet rule the Ukrainian People's Commissariat of Education placed little emphasis on polytechnical education in general education schools; instead it focused on professional and social education in the seven-year schools. Ukrainian educational authorities argued that polytechnical education was a utopian ideal, given the economic devastation and ruin of the republic. They maintained that the path to an eventual polytechnical education system lay in specific professional and vocational training. In 1928, however, a Plenum of the CPSU Central Committee decreed the unification of the system of technical education, and the Ukrainian People's Commissariat of Education introduced a differentiated seven-year school: in rural areas it entailed agricultural training, and in urban centers, experience in factories. Hence, schools for collective-farm youth (see Schools for peasant youth) and factory seven-year schools were established. In 1930–1 the 1,088 schools for collective-farm youth accounted for 53.4 percent of rural schools, and the 900 factory seven-year schools represented 78 percent of all urban seven-year schools in Ukraine. In general, however, the combination of schooling and industry retained a purely formal character: polytechnical education in elementary schools and secondary schools consisted only of basic industrial arts and home economics, components which were entirely removed from the regular schooling process.

In 1937 industrial instruction in the schools was terminated, school workshops were closed, and polytechnical education was essentially discontinued. Following the Nineteenth Congress of the CPSU (October 1952) industrial training courses were reintroduced into the school curriculum. Under Nikita Khrushchev an attempt was made to unify general and polytechnical education with industry (as outlined in the December 1958 law ‘On the strengthening of the ties between school and life, and on the further development of public education in the country’). The new scheme introduced a massive polytechnical component into the curriculum, with practical orientation of subject matter, the teaching of manual skills, involvement of pupils in the production processes and manual jobs, and the creation of direct school–enterprise links. To accommodate the extra activities the complete secondary education program was extended by one year (from 10 to 11), and work activities were added to the school holiday period. The reform met with considerable opposition from educators, parents, and enterprise managers, and schoolchildren failed to develop an interest in the program. Financial and administrative difficulties as well as a shortage of equipment contributed further to the failure of the program. In November 1966 a new law on the general school system, which downplayed the polytechnization of education, was enacted. Subsequently a December 1977 education decree, which strongly emphasized the need for a ‘link with life’ (in order to meet the growing labor shortage), represented a move toward the greater development of vocational-technical schools rather than a move toward polytechnical education.

The difficulties encountered in the polytechnization of the general schools were again addressed by the 1985 school reform, which emphasized the need to acquaint pupils, in theory and practice, with all the main branches of production. In 1988, however, a report to the CPSU Central Committee noted that little progress had been made in this endeavor. Instead of polytechnical education, schools were providing primitive vocational training in highly inadequate school facilities.

More advanced polytechnical instruction is conducted through industrial and polytechnical institutes, higher-level educational establishments which train engineers for various industrial enterprises, and other institutions of higher learning. In 1984 there were 6 polytechnical institutes and 2 industrial institutes, and 44 other technical institutions of higher learning in Ukraine.

Riappo, Ian. Narodnia osvita na Ukraïni za desiat’ rokiv revoliutsiï (Kharkiv 1927)
Siropolko, Stepan. Narodnia osvita na Soviets’kii Ukraïni (Warsaw 1934)
Tomiak, Janusz J. Soviet Education in the 1980s (New York 1983)

Ivan Bakalo, Natalka Freeland, Bohdan Krawchenko

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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