Topic 1. Russian and American Systems of Higher Education
Russian and American Systems of Higher Education are similar in their pursuit of knowledge as a goal but are quite different in their organization and operation.
Firstly, to enter an institution of higher education in Russia an applicant should write an application and pass entrance examinations. Sometimes there is the so-called “contest of school-living certificates’ at universities. To become a student in the USA one should have: application, high school record, recommendations from teachers, personal commentary and interview.
Secondly, the systems of higher education in these countries differ in academic calendar. Though in both countries academic year lasts for nine months, in Russia there are no summer classes. As for the number of subjects studied during one term, in Russia there are no less than nine and in America there are only four or five. Besides, in contrast to Russian Universities, American ones lack national administration, each of the fifty states controls and directs its own schools.
American students attend courses at various colleges. During the first two years they follow a basic programme. After the first two years every student majors in one subject and minors in another. In addition to these courses he can select other subjects according to his professional interest. Nevertheless the most striking difference between the two systems of education is the system of grades. Although in both countries a five-point scale is used, in the USA the levels of achievement are indicated with letters, where A – is the highest mark and the letters go through B, C, D, E to F which denotes failure.
The third differing feature is student financial aid. If in Russia applicants for entry pass their entrance examinations successfully they are admitted to the University free of charge, otherwise they must pay a tuition fee. Scholarship and grant can be got only by successful students. In America both public and private universities are not free of charge. Grants and scholarship can be given only to those students who need financial aid to attend college. Besides, students in the USA can get a loan from the federal government.
As for cultural life of students both systems have much in common. Students in these countries participate in concerts, plays, festivals and what not. The centre of these out-of-class activities is the Students Union. Unlike Russian system of higher education, American one has a large number of national fraternities and sororities with chapters at almost 500 colleges and universities. As these societies are secret in character there is seldom any over-emphasis of ritual or mystery in their conduct.
There are several national nongovernmental associations of students in the USA. The largest and most active has been the United States National Student Association with headquarters in Washington, D.C. Each year the USNSA conducts a Student Congress which brings together delegates of member student governments for debates and the promulgation of resolutions on a wide variety of student, national and international issuers.
Obviously Russian and American system of higher education have similar educational aims but different means of achieving those aims.
Topic 2. The Principle Tasks of Higher Education
If we have a look at the State Law of Education which is still in effect we can see that it proclaims that “higher professional education is aimed at training and retraining of specialists of adequate level and at meeting the personality’s requirements in development and deepening his knowledge”. In a word, the major purpose of higher education in our country is training specialists. This point is clear and meets no objections, as each sphere of human life needs well-trained employees to function properly. But the primary role of this task is a rather controversial subject. It is apparent from the Law, that higher education is supposed to serve the state system first and only then – to serve the needs of a personality. It is highly contestable that this hierarchy is the only correct one.
There are numerous examples when people become specialists without learning the theory of their professions at universities. They learn from practice and everyday experience, and frequently achieve better results than their university-trained colleagues. Meanwhile, a great many of university graduates are not able to put their deep knowledge into practice. It shows that this task can be successfully done not only by the system of higher education but also without its help.
Certainly, there are spheres where one cannot work without proper training. A specialist in nuclear physics, for instance, has no right to learn by mistakes, for it may harm other people. A doctor also bears great responsibility and has to be trained much longer than an economist. But there are certain professions where experience is the best teacher.
That is why I consider it incorrect to set scrupulous training as the primary object of higher education. It is the personality that must have the primary importance in all spheres of life, and it is the man-orientated field where higher education can be of maximum use.
First of all, higher education institutions satisfy people’s requirements in self-development and cognition. In this light teaching philosophy, psychology and other “general outlook” subjects is justified in all universities irrelevantly of their specialization. Essentially we do not want to be narrow-minded, and these subjects are helpful in everyday life rather than in one’s professional sphere.
Secondly, higher education is a means of socialization, and this is to be taken into account when defining its principle tasks. A university is the unique place where different people of bents for similar activities study together and spend a considerable period of life. So, higher education should also satisfy their needs in communication and referent groups.
Thirdly, a person needs to become a specialist himself. One needs to realize himself in his profession as well as in other spheres. Consequently, he needs to be well-educated, and higher education provides him with a certain status.
To sum up, I believe that the system of higher education must be man-orientated rather than state-orientated, and its principle tasks are to grant an intellectual challenge for the students to meet their cognitive requirements, to assist their self-development and self-actualization, to provide them with a proper professional training and, finally, to allow normal condition for their socialization. If all these tasks are fulfilled successfully by the system of higher education, the state won’t be at a loss either.
Topic 6. Should drug addiction be publicly prosecuted?
Topic 7. What should children read?
For the most children the first book is «Alphabet». This book forms a reading habit early in life. But what should children read? The first that can get to your mind is tales. A tale can develop such features of character as kindness, justice. Reading such stories with happy ends, the children believe in success. Boys try to be so strong as Ilya Myromes, girls aspire to identify with Vasilisa Premydraya and want to have only good features.
Another genre is travel book. E.g. «The Adventure of Tom Soyer». In such books the main character is a child. It is easy for children to understand the describing events, because they can identify with the main character. They experience all the events together with their favorite characters.
The stories of animals develop the love for nature, animals. Also children get some knowledge from such books. The children’s poems develop rhetoric, memory.
To my mind children should read literature according to their age. Firstly, adult’s books can not be understood by children because of the plot, vocabulary. Secondly, such good wise children’s stories develop imagination, optimism. Children should read books according to their mentality. And it is up to adults to develop a reading habit in their children.
Topic 8. Library and its facilities.
To my mind one of the most important places at our university is library. It is a very big one. It provides students of different faculties with all books they need. And owning to this the students needn’t bye books for their own money. Library in our university, as I have already said, is a very big. It has a very big and light reading room, a room where the subject, author, title and on-line catalogues placed. There is also an enquiry desk there and a woman, who always sits there can help you to any book you need. There is also the section of rare books, where books dated since the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century are kept. In this library you can borrow not only books, but also CD, video, DVD tapes, different magazines and newspapers. If you want to take a rare book with home you should pay 5 rubles per night and work with this book at home. There is a computer room in the library. You can work on a computer there and use internet for you work. If you find in internet, you can print it there. But, of course, you should pay money for this too. Library has a lot of facilities and it makes student’s life (and not only student’s) easier.
Topic 9. Reading newspapers is a vital necessity for an educated person, isn’t it?
Topic 11. Some people prefer only classical music ignoring contemporary music. What do you say to it?