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State education is free, but by 1992 several state higher-education institutions had begun charging tuition. At that point, almost half of the students above the secondary level were paying fees of some sort. The 1992 Law on Education provides explicitly for private educational institutions; in the ensuing years, several organizations for private education have appeared, and a variety of private schools and colleges have opened. By 1992 about 300 nonstate schools were being attended by more than 20,000 students.
As public schools debated what to do with their new academic freedom, private schools and preschools became centers of innovation, with programs rediscovering prerevolutionary pedagogy and freely borrowing teaching methods from Western Europe and the United States. Serving largely Western-oriented families intent on making progress up the newly reconstructed social ladder, private schools emphasize learning English and other critical skills. Student-to-teacher ratios are very low, and teacher salaries average about US$170 per month (about three times the average for a public school teacher). Tuition may be as much as US$3,000 per year, but some private schools charge parents according to their means, surviving instead on donations of money and time from wealthy parents. Unlike public schools, all private schools must pay for rent, utilities, and textbooks, and many have struggled to retain adequate building space.
The literacy rate in Russia is nearly 100 percent except in some areas dominated by ethnic minorities, where the rate may be considerably lower. According to the 1989 census, three-fifths of Russia's people aged fifteen and older had completed secondary school, and 8 percent had completed higher education. Wide variations in educational attainment exist between urban and rural areas. The 1989 census indicated that two-thirds of the country's urban population aged fifteen and older had finished secondary school, as compared with just under one-half of the rural population. Schools can award diplomas only in three languages--Russian, Tatar, and Bashkir--a requirement that puts many of the country's more than 100 ethnic groups at a disadvantage.
Data as of July 1996