We can still do this, or can we? The Russian system of educating and promoting talent in mathematics and science

Authored by: Ida Jeltova , Konstantin Lukin , Elena L. Grigorenko

The Routledge International Companion to Gifted Education

Print publication date:  September  2008
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415461368
eBook ISBN: 9780203609385
Adobe ISBN: 9781136028786

10.4324/9780203609385.ch12

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Abstract

In August 2006, a Russian mathematician from St. Petersburg named Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman was awarded the Fields Medal for his contributions to the fields of geometry and topology (specifically for his proof of the geometrisation conjecture, which includes the famous Poincaré conjecture as a particular case). In December 2006, Science acknowledged Perelman’s discoveries as the ‘Breakthrough of the Year’. Perelman declined the award, did not appear at the award ceremony at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Madrid, and has been avoiding media attention. Nonetheless, his achievement drew attention to his biography and, subsequently, to the Russian tradition of educating gifted youth. Perelman was educated and trained during the Soviet era, with its government-sponsored specialised schools, university programmes and research institutions emphasising mathematics and science over other disciplines and guaranteeing conditions for talent development. The contemporary Russian educational system is struggling with the many economic and social issues that resulted from the global instability following the collapse of the Soviet Union, when much of the financial, political, and social support for education in general and gifted education in particular eroded.

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