Speech by E. Malitikov, Chairman of the Interstate Committee for Knowledge Dissemination and Adult Education of the CIS
at the research and practice conference «The Rise of Industrial Production in Russia, Development of Interregional Scientific and Industrial Cooperation, Job Creation in Russian Regions
June 4, 1999
The topic of our conference is quite concrete and the brainstorming of authoritative highly intellectual participants will undoubtedly advance us on this path.
However, in my speech I want to draw your attention to more distant, but strategically necessary approaches to solving not only the tasks of our conference, but society as a whole, in the context of objective world processes.
I want to encourage you to revolutionize the traditional view of our education, rooted among the dogmas of the passing century, as education for life, to the setting: education through life.
The methods and attitudes of the expiring century will not give us a future.
In the budgetary and constitutional space, in the modern structure of society and time management, the life of the average Russian takes place in three historically established phases: fast, like a sprint, study to get a decent place in society, long, like climbing Mount Everest, work (better said service) to live worthily, and, as a rule, short, though indefinite rest in retirement, to also get off worthily (in English) on the side of the road.
Today, when the word dignified in all three phases is better left unused, these three phases do not make our lives effectively long happy.
So what do we have today?
The twentieth century is ending. A small handful of grains of sand remain in the clock of the second millennium…
The winds of history have created and destroyed empires, changed socio-economic formations, redrawn the borders of states, creating the preconditions of the new on the ruins of the old. Human destinies, the fate of peoples, living nature, the future of civilization were sacrificed. The planet became weaker than the contradictions tearing it apart. Contradictions between people and states, politics and humanity, conscience and expediency, technological progress and the stock of resources for human life.
The world began to talk about the unsustainable development of life on Earth, remembering the civilizations that had fallen into oblivion…
Spinning in a giant information cauldron, mastering the latest technology, the virtual world, interacting with the distant Cosmos and using inanimate digital thinking, the younger generation is becoming pragmatic and soulless in relation to those who created the world of today. It makes its future not on the shoulders but on the belly of its creator. More and more often the elderly person, and in his person the elderly world, is left with the unclaimed potential of his not fully exhausted experience and opportunities, acquires the syndrome of «sunset» philosophy and fading, propped up and displaced by his own shoots. The curves of life’s attitudes parabolic downward.
The bridge between the past and the future is broken…
Creating today, the present generation no longer guarantees its descendants the resource of habitat that it was able to consume itself.
The unsustainable development of humanity is a disease of civilization, the incubation period of which is still unknown…
In the search for a recovery of the world community, the United Nations has adopted «Agenda 21» as a priority and recommended that governments, national and international non-governmental organizations seek new ways of partnership of government and social structures, the media, business and industry, educators, scientists, young people to implement the basic principles of sustainable development.
Among these principles, the lifelong education of adults occupies a special place.
The concept of education in the world has undergone very significant changes in recent years. Previously, education was strictly tied to the possibilities of the state budget, which formed the basis of the constitutional responsibility of the state to its people for their education. At the beginning of the century knowledge renewal was taking place every 20-30 years and the society, represented by one generation, did not feel so sharply the lack of modern knowledge, maintaining a conservative system of education.
Today knowledge on the planet is updated by 15% per year, i.e. every 6 years. Unfortunately, however, the traditional basic education existing in most countries, due to its inertia, does not keep up with changes in the world. As a consequence, young people by the age of 22-23 are carriers of already outdated knowledge. They usually spend the next 5-6 years on their careers and, depending on their talent and determination, reach a certain place in society, and some of them achieve top managerial positions. During the career «afterburner» many people spend all their energy in this direction and, having finally acquired a high social position, often become pseudo-specialists, lacking modern knowledge, and often simply intellectual bankrupts in high rank.
The new generation, in its turn, will also suffer from the imperfection of the educational system and will be pushed to the sidelines even faster by the next generation of young people, who have ridden on more modern technologies and approaches to solving applied, financial, economic, scientific and technical problems.
There will be a new social problem of underutilization by each previous generation of its resource, experience, energy of creation. Attitudes about the need to make room and, as a consequence, a complex of natural fading, accelerated biological aging, spiritual exhaustion and departure into oblivion are formed. And as long as the system and technology of education will lag behind the rate of renewal of knowledge, the effective time of each new generation will be reduced.
Therefore, adult education, along with the economy and nation-building, is today the most important factor and one of the main arguments and tools of social development.
Already in the next decade, when humanity will face many previously unknown, acute problems, the role of knowledge, education and creativity will increase immeasurably, because without them the future problems cannot be solved. And then in the historical foreground will be those countries, those peoples who will be able to provide a higher level of organization, ability to search, education and skill in all its manifestations.
It is obvious that with the shift of economic competition of states from the sphere of production to the sphere of science, new technologies and education, the state and level of their development will determine the competitiveness of countries, their position in world markets, in the world economic community and, ultimately, their national security, including, above all, economic and defense. Consequently, the changes on the geopolitical map will depend on this. And they have already begun, as we see in Yugoslavia.
Economic development in the coming decades, according to experts, will be determined by resources consisting of «black gold and gray matter. It is not by chance that many economically developed and rapidly developing countries, working out national doctrines, concepts and programs of sustainable and safe development, include the development of fundamentally new approaches to national systems of education as one of their strategic directions.
The following fact is noteworthy. After the launch of the first artificial satellite in the USSR, developed countries of the West, and the United States in the first place, embarked on deep structural and substantive reforms in education, putting it at the top of the list of priorities for development.
It is no coincidence that the first U.S. response to the outstanding achievements of the Soviet Union in space was not an increase in NASA appropriations, but a multiple increase in education appropriations and the adoption by Congress in 1958 of the National Defense Education Act.
It defined the role of continuing adult education in strengthening U.S. military-technical and scientific capabilities, measures to maintain up-to-date knowledge of specialists in engineering and science, as well as specialists with knowledge of foreign languages. At the same time the foundations of the national policy in the field of lifelong learning and the strategy of its development were laid. And the continuity of this policy, which was based on the principle of the priority of adult education and its exclusive role in ensuring the leading position of the United States in the world.
From Eisenhower to Clinton, education has been one of the top priorities in their national security policy.
Over the past 10 years, U.S. education spending, in favor of continuing education, has increased two and a half times and now totals more than $500 billion, almost twice as much as defense spending. The percentage of adults, age 25 and older, with a college degree has increased from 7.7% to 21.3% since 1975.
The world has realized that it is necessary to invest in adult education about 6% of gross national product, allocating in each branch of the economy (industry, agriculture, health, etc.) shares of its budget and considering the cost of adult education as an investment in production in each enterprise. The well-known name companies of the world, such as Sony, Toshiba, etc., operate according to this scheme.
The Advisory Committee on Industrial Research and Development of the European Commission of the European Union, based on an analysis of the qualification level of the European workforce, concluded in its report in the late 1980s that without a competitive education system there can be no competitive workforce, and without the latter, there can be no competitive economy.
It could not be otherwise, because in today’s conditions, when human resources account for 80% of the gross domestic product in developed countries, education is paramount in shaping this competitive workforce.
The availability of such a workforce is a prerequisite for survival in the fierce competition for export markets. Yugoslavia is a living example of the struggle for export markets (in this case the arms market), a U.S. laboratory work on the real demonstrative destruction of an independent state. The winners will be those who can more quickly invest the results of basic research into new technologies and begin producing high-quality goods and selling them at an affordable price. This is the ABC of modern economic science. But without education and, above all, education of adults, it is impossible to master this ABC.
Standard methods of assessing economic development say nothing about the well-being of the nation.
The conclusion of years of research by the World Bank is the fact that in the national wealth of any country, even such disparate ones as the United States and the Malagasy Republic (Madagascar), the production component is equally small at just over 16%. The remaining more than 80% comes from human resources.
It is important to note that, according to the advanced representatives of the world community, adult education is not an integral part of basic education received by the young generation. The fact is that it should be the main continuous activity of the entire adult population, combined with science, production, services, throughout life.
At the next meeting of the Club of Rome, this issue will be on the agenda.
Only by mixing and alternating throughout life education, work and, within these processes and periods, free time for our hobbies, for family, for social activities, we will become effective, durable and happy, necessary for each other, for previous and future generations, for the country and will return the planet slipping into the abyss to a sustainable option of development.
Thus, adult education becomes a separate, independent superbranch in the life of human society, because it is well known that the crucial decisions of the development of society are the sole prerogative of the adult population of the planet.
In many countries around the world adult education has already become a new, supranational industry, which has international, European, Asian, African and other continental, national structures of management and distribution.
Adult education is the only and most important industry, whose supranational superstatus is not a struggle in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the world.
The development of this most promising industry on the planet, which has the power to change the current dangerous trends in the geopolitical map of the world, provided the integration and interaction of government and non-governmental organizations. It is very important that, at its core, adult education uses minimal or no funds from the state budget.
The main task is to create conditions, prerequisites, laws to ensure continuing education as a factor in increasing the duration of active life, as a factor in the maximum and effective use of human experience and intelligence throughout his life, as a factor in eliminating the «sunset» philosophy of the older generation.
It is necessary to ensure the formation in the public consciousness of attitudes towards lifelong learning.
It is necessary to support the beginning of the process of creating a legal framework guaranteeing equality of all types of education before the law and the right to education at any age. And also the developing network of state and non-state educational institutions and structures that accumulate funds to finance educational activities.
All these issues were discussed at the World Conference on Adult Education, held in July 1997 in Hamburg under the auspices of UNESCO. The Forum was held under the theme: «Adult Education — the key to the twenty-first century. Among its participants were: ministers of education from 74 countries, heads of major international and national public education associations. Russia was not the only country absent at the conference. Opinion prevailed that we have adult education (at the level of training courses), all is well. But, as they say, ambitions are not a position.
One of the main issues of the conference was the financing of adult education of the planet.
The conference in its declaration recommended to all governments — to consider adult education as a priority of state policy and to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to use one hour of working time a day to improve their education.
Naturally, without the support of the employer from the state this will not happen.
As for the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, we must admit — a new, modern system of adult education is only emerging.
The desire of Russia and other CIS countries to accelerate the democratic transformation of society and market relations in the economy is at odds with the pace of change in the spiritual sphere. Historical experience shows that the success of any country in overcoming critical situations is determined primarily by the extent to which public consciousness was receptive to the achievements of world civilization. Only this can ensure an evolutionary non-violent process of transformation in the state. The main tool to provide the necessary changes in spiritual life is undoubtedly a system of continuous lifelong education of the population.
The desire of Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth to accelerate democratic reforms in society and market relations in the economy is at odds with the pace of change in the spiritual sphere. Historical experience shows that the success of any country in overcoming critical situations is determined primarily by the extent to which public consciousness was receptive to the achievements of world civilization. Only this can ensure an evolutionary non-violent process of transformation in the state. The main tool to provide the necessary changes in spiritual life is undoubtedly a system of continuous lifelong education of the population.
A major step in the creation of such a system in the Commonwealth was the «Agreement on cooperation in the field of dissemination of knowledge and adult education. In January 1997 it was signed by the heads of the governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia and Tajikistan. To implement this Agreement the Interstate Committee of the CIS on the dissemination of knowledge and adult education was formed. A year and a half later Georgia joined the Agreement.
The idea of creating such a structure belongs to the International Association «Znanie», which is represented in the Interstate Committee on an equal basis with the participating states.
One of the most important tasks of the Committee is the transformation of educational and training activities, as well as coordination of the preparation of laws on adult education in the CIS countries.
In this we lag behind and will long be behind the more prosperous states.
Today adult education is the most valuable resource and asset in the face of an uncertain future.
Increasing competition in the labor market, structural changes in industry associated with the elimination of whole industries and the closure of a large number of enterprises, the military reform, as a result of which a large number of military personnel are forced to acquire a new profession, the most adverse effect on the fate of people, leading to increased social tensions and instability in society. No social payments of severance pay, no matter how great they may be, can give a person the most important thing — confidence in the future. Only continuous improvement of general and specialized knowledge, an established service of professional orientation for retraining, the availability of evening and correspondence forms of education for everyone will allow people to change their profession and place of work at the lowest cost in case of unfavorable circumstances. This will also enable each person to more fully realize the talents and inclinations inherent in his or her nature.
Today it is impossible to imagine the picture of the future without computers and communications. They are the ones who have greatly expanded access to information sources. The task is to bring them into every home, classroom, business, and, most importantly, into every hospital, so that a bedridden sick child or adult can remain in contact with school, institute, colleagues, family, friends.
Another important problem that will need to be addressed is the provision of the widest possible range of information services. After all, any human society in its development depends on both the amount of knowledge and the ability to select the necessary information from a huge flow. Global computer networks contain an ocean of information. Even a specialist who is well prepared and knows English (the language of the Net) needs a lot of time to find exactly what he needs.
Therefore, it is necessary to create special information agencies that would undertake the search, processing and electronic delivery to the consumer of the information he or she needs, (as is the preparation of books in a library).
The Interstate Committee considers the creation of systems of such agencies its most important task. In the future they are likely to replace libraries.
Just as the economy cannot be stabilized without integration into the world market, which will ultimately lead to the financial collapse of the state, so without integration into the world information space, sustainable development cannot be ensured. Therefore, the Committee will contribute in every way to the introduction of adult education in Russia and CIS countries to the European and world level in order to speak in the future on the European and world educational space.
To do this, above all, need a legal framework.
The Committee initiated a thorough analysis of all the processes taking place in the CIS countries in the field of adult education. We intend to give an assessment of those innovations, many of which, as is now clear, not so much to improve the situation as to complicate and confuse it.
Guided by the recent decision of the Council of Heads of State of the CIS «On the Main Development Trends» the Intergovernmental Committee has prepared a new Programme of its activities for 1999-2000 and made its proposals in the CIS Development Programme.
Guided by the recent decision of the Council of Heads of State of the CIS, «On the Main Directions of Development,» the Interstate Committee has prepared a new Program of its activities for 1999-2000 and made its proposals in the CIS Development Program.
The Committee is submitting the following issues for the next meetings of the SGG and the SGP:
— «On changing the concept of education in line with global trends at the threshold of the XXI century.»
— «On differentiation of authorities, tasks and responsibilities between systems of basic education and adult education and cooperation between them».
— «On opening the doors of schools, colleges, universities, universities for use as a training base of adult education.
— «On amendments to the constitutions and laws of the CIS countries, which guarantee:
equality of all types of education before the law;
The right of citizens to receive any type of education throughout life, without limitation of age.
At the next meeting the Committee will consider a draft model law «On Adult Education.
The implementation of our planned programs and projects will allow us to actively involve the huge human potential of Russia and other CIS countries in the progressive economic, social and political processes taking place on the planet.
All sensible people understand the inseparability and interdependence of the world around us.
I would like to conclude with Rasul Gamzatov’s famous eight-liner:
Our world is a ship and it is weaker than
Its overpowering squall
And in the hold there are many women and children
And those who can swim are the minority
And if there’s a feud on board
And if the sailors fight,
What’s everybody should do? What’s to be done?
All those who are weak, all those who can’t swim