This dissertation aims to provide a genealogy of the relations between the public and the private in education. It does so by the exploring how public education and private tutoring form and transform each other and why they are seen as legitimate or problematic in different historical and cultural contexts. Drawing on curriculum theory and Foucault’s genealogical approach to history, the study examines how private tutoring has been problematised in Imperial, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia and discusses how these problematisations reflect and shape the dominant visions of education.
The results show that norms and values in relation to which private education has been problematised and addressed in Russia have varied in line with nationalist, communist and neoliberal visions of education. Although most questions, such as tutor competence, individual privilege, inequality, ethics, governance, and ideological conformity, have constantly been in the focus of critical reflection, they were ‘answered’ differently in different historical periods. Others, such as spatial inequality and ethical concern for corrupt tutoring practices, are of more recent origin. In contrast to previous research into shadow education, the study argues that the mimicking character of supplementary tutoring is not its natural feature. Rather, in the Russian case, it is the result of constant problematisation and the corresponding regulation of its conformity with what is regarded as ‘sacred’ national values.
In general, private tutoring in Russia has often been treated as a ‘symptom’ of other educational and societal problems, and addressed indirectly, through reforms in public education. Paradoxically, in fighting against undesirable effects of private tutoring, Russian schools had to adopt some of the traits commonly associated with just that industry, namely individualisation, exam drills, and the promotion of private and positional good. Conversely, changes in the structure, content, pedagogy, or assessment procedures in the mainstream system have provoked considerable changes in tutoring practices, which, however, are not limited to imitation and supplementation. The study concludes that this symbiotic relationship cannot be reduced to imitation, reproduction, or supplementation. Rather, it changes like shifting shadows reflecting and ultimately shaping the dominant perceptions of what education is and ought to be.