WORLD INFORMATION SPACE AND MARKET ECONOMY OF RUSSIA
Efim Mikhailovich Malitikov – President of the International Association “Znanie”, the chairman of the Interstate Committee of the CIS on promoting knowledge and education of adults, the academician of the International Academy of Informatization.
Our Forum is devoted to the theme: “The global information space and the market economy of Russia. I would like to dwell on the importance and role of the human factor in the problem under discussion.
It is hardly necessary to prove for a long time the direct connection between information, economy and education at the end of the XX century.
It is no secret that modern society cannot exist without a huge amount of information. Just 15-20 years ago, its circulation in society was reduced to the transfer of knowledge in one way or another from one person to another. Now natural objects, scientific experiments, economic and production processes have become an independent source of information. Timely receipt and rapid processing of a variety of data directly affect not only the work of individual enterprises and firms, the normal functioning of the market economy, but also our daily lives.
The fact that informatization has become an important sphere of human activity is confirmed by the creation and activities of our International Informatization Academy.
After all, using the potential of knowledge accumulated over the centuries as a source ultimately determines the intellectual power of any modern state.
But the information explosion, the giant information flow raging in the world space should not escape from the control of man who will be able to curb it, to use it as a means of prosperity and well-being of peoples and mankind. The world information space should be used by everyone. Without the integration of every country into the world information space it is impossible to ensure the sustainable development of mankind. Similarly, without integration into the world market it is impossible to stabilize the economy of Russia and any other state experiencing economic difficulties. But to learn how to manage and use the laws of informatics and economics as a means of one’s activities it is necessary to be an educated person.
Only educated people understand that in the modern world the national wealth of any country consists of three components. These are: productive capital (industry, transport, energy, information and communication systems, etc.); natural capital (minerals, land, forest, water resources, etc.) and human capital (educational and cultural level of the population). Standard methods for assessing economic development say nothing about the well-being of a nation. Analysis shows that even such seemingly incomparable states as Madagascar and the United States receive the same – about 16 percent of their national wealth from the production component. Therefore, one of the main components of the national wealth is human resources.
It is not by chance that in his message of February 4 this year, U.S. President Bill Clinton highlighted the problem of education as one of the main tasks of the country in the future. The President believes that the 21st century presents the most difficult challenge to the United States. And to meet it the United States must achieve the best education for its people. The country must have the best educational institutions in the world, the best teachers and educators.
The specific challenge, says the President of the United States, is this: every child should be able to read and write at age 8. Today, four out of ten children in the United States are illiterate at that age. Everyone at age 12 should be able to connect to the Internet and have basic computer skills. At 18, be capable and be able to go to and attend college and get a college degree. And then study for the rest of your life. Isn’t that a good example to follow and care about the future of the country and the nation?
At the end of this century there is no doubt that sustainable human development serves as the key to the twenty-first century. We now know that sustainable development (balancing production and consumption for human reproduction) has more complex formulas than bare economic development.
If economic growth, the establishment of a market economy, is undoubtedly important for sustainable development, it is equally important to recognize the fact that lifelong education cannot be sacrificed to achieve this goal. It is time to put aside the idea that investment should only be made in the economy. Investing in people and increasing their education is more important and crucial for the creation of a market economy in Russia and other CIS countries, as well as for the sustainable development of mankind.
In search of recovery of the world community and achieving its sustainable development the United Nations adopted “Agenda 21” and as a priority recommended to governments, international and national non-governmental organizations to seek new ways of partnership of state and public structures, mass media, business and industry, education workers, scientists, youth to implement the basic principles of sustainable development.
Among these principles, continuing adult lifelong learning occupies a special place.
The views on education at the end of the twentieth century have changed seriously. At the beginning of this century knowledge renewal was taking place approximately every 20-30 years and the society did not feel very sharply the lack of modern knowledge. Education was directly tied to the possibilities of the state budget. It formed the basis of the state’s responsibility to its people for their education.
Today knowledge is updated every 6 years due to the rapid acceleration of scientific and technological progress. However, the traditional education that exists in most countries of the world has not kept up with this renewal. As a result, young people who graduate from higher education by the age of 25 or 28 grow out of date. The next five to six years are usually spent trying to find their place in society, and the most talented and ambitious achieve leadership positions. During this period, many young people spend all their energy and knowledge in order to get a certain social position and, having acquired it, often become leaders without modern knowledge, and some are simply intellectually bankrupt in high rank.
The new generation, as a result of the imperfections of the educational system, will face the same prospect. They will be pushed to the margins of life even more quickly by the next generation of young people, who are saddled with more modern technologies and approaches to solving the problems set by life.
Thus, a global social problem is born, which means that each previous generation passes away without having used to the end its resource, experience, energy of creation. In the minds of people there are attitudes about the need to make room and, as a consequence, a complex of natural fading, accelerated biological aging, spiritual exhaustion. And as long as the education system lags behind the speed of knowledge renewal, the effective and productive time of each new generation will be reduced.
Therefore, adult education is already one of the most important factors and imperatives for the sustainable development of mankind.
It is no coincidence that the European Community in the interest of creating a unified Eu-rope sets new requirements for the future man of Europe. And the most important of these requirements is the creation of a new educational system for the preparation of such a person. It is not only a question of future generations getting the same as we have, but much more and better. The main task is to create the necessary conditions, prerequisites, laws, which allow providing continuous education to increase the duration of the active life of the person, the maximum and effective use of human experience and intellect during the whole life and thus contribute to the elimination of the “sunset philosophy” of the older generation.
Note that in the countries of the European Community has already done a lot to create such a system of adult education. This is, first of all, the formation in the public consciousness of the settings for lifelong learning.
This is also the beginning of the process of creating a legal framework, which guarantees the equality of all types of education before the law and the right to education at any age. This is also a growing network of state and non-state educational institutions and structures that accumulate funds for educational activities.
It is these problems and discussed the World Conference on Adult Education, held in July 1997 in Hamburg, under the auspices of UNESCO. The Forum was held under the motto “adult education – the key to the twenty-first century. Participants included Education Ministers from 74 countries, heads of major international and national public education associations. The issue of financing adult education worldwide was seriously discussed at the Conference.
The Conference in its Declaration recommended to all governments to consider adult education as a priority of state policy and provide to each citizen an opportunity to use one hour of working time a day to improve their education.
We must recognize that in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States is still just taking its first steps. Although, more recently, in the former Soviet republics there was a high level of development of educational science, there was a large number of highly qualified teaching staff, there was a developed educational infrastructure. This system was fully state-owned and financed by it, but belonged mostly to basic education. Currently, as a result of financial and economic difficulties experienced by these states, adult education is experiencing difficult times.
The democratic transition and affirmation of market relations in the economy of Russia and other CIS countries is accompanied by a sharp weakening of the state’s attention to the spiritual sphere.
But we should not forget, and 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 in this way is it possible to ensure an evolutionary, non-violent process of progressive transformation in any state. One of such tools, providing the necessary changes in spiritual life, undoubtedly, was created exactly 50 years ago the All-Union Society “Knowledge”, at the origins of which stood prominent scientists and cultural figures. The first chairman of the Board of the society was then the president of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Sergey Ivanovich Vavilov. For almost half a century the Znanie Society has been the largest public educational organization, accumulating knowledge about the best achievements of academic and industrial science, higher school and disseminating it among the population.
Throughout its history, many of its members, while being very busy with scientific and state activities, considered dissemination of knowledge as no less important, following the precept of our famous compatriot M.V. Lomonosov: “Produce and disseminate sciences.
Realizing that investments in programs of disseminating knowledge of the most important achievements of the human civilization among the population have the greatest effect in terms of economic development, and realizing the lasting value of maintaining a common informational and educational space, the educational and non-governmental organizations “Znanie” of the sovereign states and republics decided to preserve their unique structure and transformed the All-Union Association “Znanie” into the International Association “Znanie” back in November 1991.
Today, the International Association “Znanie”, which includes non-governmental organizations and a number of countries of Europe, Asia and America, aims at promoting the integration of Russia, all CIS and Baltic countries into the world information space and thus including them in the global process of exchange of scientific, educational and enlightening achievements.
To this end, the Association widely uses its status as an advisory member of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as well as its membership in other international organizations, including the World Council and the European Association for the Education of Adults. It carries out joint programs with UNESCO, UNIDO, UNEP, as well as with a number of international non-governmental organizations. By disseminating information about the achievements of science and education, and following its motto “through knowledge – to mutual understanding, cooperation and progress,” the International Association “Knowledge” seeks to help raise the educational and cultural level of the population, educate them in the spirit of democratic traditions and ethical recovery of society.
An important step in creating a system of lifelong adult education in the Commonwealth was the “Agreement on Co-operation in the Spread of Knowledge and Adult Education.
In January 1997, it was signed by the heads of 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.
The idea to create such a structure belongs to the International Association “Znanie”, which considers one of its main objectives to promote the integration of the CIS countries in the European system of adult education. By the decision of the Council of Heads of Governments of the CIS International Association “Knowledge” is represented in the Interstate Committee on an equal basis with the participating states.
One of the most important tasks of the Committee is to transform advocacy and educational activities in the spirit of the times, as well as coordinate the preparation of laws on adult education in the CIS countries.
Because of the well-known financial and economic difficulties, the governments of the participating states of the Committee are limited in their ability to implement these tasks. In this respect we lag behind and will continue to lag behind the more prosperous states. This lag can be compensated by organizing a system of lifelong learning for people, as well as by attracting funds from international financial institutions to implement our joint programmes.
The Committee has already drawn up the main lines of action and outlined a programme for establishing a system of lifelong learning for adults in the Commonwealth.
It foresees, first of all, work with parents. It is they who help children take their first steps in exploring the world around them. Also defined work with teachers who teach children the basics of diverse knowledge.
It is hardly necessary to prove that nowadays education in Russia turns into the most valuable asset of a person in the face of changes taking place in the society. Growing competition in the labor market, structural changes in industry associated with the liquidation of entire industries and the closure of a large number of enterprises, the military reform, as a result of which a large number of military personnel must acquire a new profession, all this negatively affects the fate of people, leading to increased social tensions and instability in the country.
In these conditions of great importance become constant improvement of general and special knowledge, the organized service of professional orientation of retraining, availability of each evening and correspondence forms of education will allow people with the least cost to change the profession and place of work. It would also give each person the opportunity to fully realize the talents and abilities inherent in him or her by nature.
One such program could be the training of the political, state, technological, scientific and cultural elite. This training, on the basis of agreements (a kind of state order), would be carried out at leading institutions of higher learning in one or another specialty, which are not located only in Moscow.
We must not forget that education is no less important as a resource for the competitiveness of Russia and the CIS countries than their subsoil.
Drawing a picture of the 21st century, many experts are convinced that the role of education, the role of knowledge will increase in the context of the information revolution. Today, computers and means of communication have multiplied access to sources of information.
But the challenge is to get them into every home, into every classroom, into every auditorium of higher education institutions, into every business and every organization and, most importantly, into every hospital, so that the bedridden sick child or adult can remain in contact with school, institute, colleagues, family and friends.
Another important problem that the Committee will address is the provision of the broadest possible range of information services. After all, any human society depends in its development on both the volume of knowledge and the ability to select the necessary information from its enormous flow. Global computer networks contain an ocean of information. Even a specialist who is well trained and knows English (the language of the network) needs a lot of time to find what he needs. Therefore, it is necessary to create special information agencies that would search for, process and deliver to the consumer the information he or she needs.
Implementation of the planned programs will allow involving a huge potential of Russia and other CIS countries in the progressive processes occurring on the planet.
Not only peoples of our countries are interested in this, but all people who understand the inseparability and interconnection of the world surrounding mankind.
As long as people live in the spirit of striving for knowledge, the spirit of creativity, development, civilization, scientific and artistic search, as long as they see the beauty of poetry and mathematical formulas, people have every reason to believe in a better future. I am sure that intellectual labor, which in the past was not particularly grateful, will still be fully appreciated. And it is precisely in our difficult times.