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A. The article below describes the lives of two Russian teachers of English, Anya and Olga. Read the article and find out whether they are satisfied with their jobs.

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At a time of unprecedented East–West interchange, Russia is losing its English teachers, Pieta Monks reports from Moscow.

“I would never work as a teacher after I qualify – never!” Anya’s whole face expressed repugnance at the idea of being permanently stuck in a classroom with a lot of rowdy pupils. “They don’t even listen to me”.

She is a young, striking-looking, slim woman in her final year at the Moscow Pedagogical Institute – now upgraded to a university. She is very hard-working and able. She is at the moment on teaching practice, which she is finding difficult, hard and non-rewarding, financially and intellectually.

She looks even younger than her 21 years and lots of the children she teaches are bigger than her, and won’t do what she tells them. There is also a pile of good textbooks in her subject which is English.

She needs a powerful incentive to keep at it, which she won’t get. Russian schools are crying out for English teachers, any English teachers, let alone those of the caliber of Anya. English speakers can earn a fortune in private enterprise. On teaching practice Anya gets 3,000 roubles a month – a bit more than the basic rate for a teacher because she is at a special English school. Potatoes cost 80 roubles a kilo. A pair of shoes 3,000 roubles. She gets by because she lives at home. Her mother and father both work.

Of course, money is not everything to Anya, but she naturally wants enough to live on, especially if she doesn’t find the job that congenial anyway. In the holidays she enjoyed working as an interpreter which paid three times her present pay. Anya’s rejection of the teacher’s profession is typical of her peers in college. Many of them, in fact, didn’t even bother to finish the course but left once they found themselves profitable jobs in business, often earning, unqualified, more than their parents.

Olga is a lively, brilliant teacher, in her early thirties. She is an academic, who preferred to work in schools rather than carry on with her research. She teaches English, but did not train as a teacher. She is a graduate of the Institute of Linguistics, and worked at her thesis there, but found the professors stuffy.

She abandoned linguistics after getting her doctorate and became a computer expert, then an agricultural research scientist. Her English is excellent. She was persuaded to go into teaching by the head of English at School No. 57, an inner city school. This was four years ago. She discovered that she enjoyed teaching and her pupils seemed to enjoy being taught by her. She likes the new freedoms that allow her to teach the way she wants, as long as she broadly conforms to certain guidelines. A few years ago her timetable would have been rigidly controlled, even her ‘voluntary’ after-school work would have been strictly laid down.

There are particular problems in her inner city school. It is difficult to give special attention to pupils in classes of 40. There are the general problems too which she shares with Anya: lack of textbooks and other teaching aids. For her, however, these are challenges that she can overcome.

But will she stay a teacher? Olga has two dependent children and a mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She cannot afford to carry on working as a teacher if her salary doesn’t improve. Her husband earns twice as much as her, but in today’s inflationary Russia they are finding it difficult to simply get by. If a few years ago 20 per cent of their income went on food, today it is 80 per cent, leaving not enough for clothes and other basic necessities.

Anya and Olga are two women typical of today: Anya lured into private business that wouldn’t have existed to tempt her a few years back, and Olga lured into teaching by the new freedoms and ideas that now abound there. Both women now can reject the careers they were trained for. But will Russian teachers get the salary they deserve and will Olga be lost to the teaching profession as well? Who knows?


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