THE MALITIKOV’S FORMULA
By the time the majority begins to share the leaders’ beliefs, they have already gone ahead–and are outnumbered again.
His speech is filled with vivid metaphors like poetry – “the old world”, “the digital divide”, “the laboratory work of the United States”… His monumental athletic figure combined with his boiling energy evokes the giants of the past – Alexander Nevsky, Peter I… About his work as Deputy Minister of the USSR he recalls: “Officials in ministries and agencies profess a formal, dogmatic, deadening principle of planning, deaf to the real needs of the case. I constituted a rare exception.” His enemies are ignorance, bureaucracy, treachery. His friends are like him – they are “people fiercely resisted by the environment.” Well, here we are: our guest is Academician Yefim Malitikov.
– Yefim Mikhailovich, first, please set the record straight. How are educational institutions and the “Znanie” society differentiated: where does the competence of colleges and universities end, and where is the zone of responsibility of “Znanie”?
– States guarantee secondary education to citizens and provide the opportunity to obtain higher education on a competitive basis as well, which is supported by appropriate budgetary allocations. In this fiscal-constitutional space, human life includes three phases: a quick, sprint-like study to get a decent place in society; a long, Everest-like ascent to work in order to exist decently; and a short, though indefinite, retirement to retire with dignity. Yet the word “dignified” in all three phases remains a dream for most of humanity.
– But why, because it is precisely universal education that is supposed to ensure universal well-being?
– First, the classroom-lesson form of education is morally obsolete. Today’s teachers are students unaccustomed to learning. If a teacher gives the same lecture for several years in a row, from useful it becomes harmful: by it you can create not the future, but only the past. For “digital” children such teachers are not an authority, with the buzz of voices the teacher is listened to by only a few people in the class. Secondly, there is a severe shortage even of “analog” teachers in the world.
Secondly, there is a severe shortage of even “analog” teachers in the world, for example, Russian elementary schools are often taught by unemployed milkmaids. Thirdly, guaranteed education applies only to young people, while adults are much more in need of continuous feeding of knowledge – they have to maintain a family, raise children, make a career, govern the country…
– This reasoning is perfectly logical, but it is just as unusual!
– As a result, the budget-constitutional and classroom-taskwork forms of education have created a deep rut from which many generations, governments and nations cannot get out. This is the “territory” of our International Association: education in fundamentally new technologies beyond budget-constitutional profanation.
– Last year, on the pages of our special issue devoted to the reform of Russian education, scientists and officials talked about these technologies in a hypothetical way. And you are already using these technologies. How do they work specifically?
– For centuries, knowledge has been represented as a limited volume that can only be acquired within the school or university walls. But in the information society, this volume is no longer enough for the rest of our lives; there are no pipelines of knowledge through all of life. Today knowledge is a kind of medium that flows from “growth points” – universities and academies, laboratories and design offices. There is little chance to educate oneself while floundering in this environment, since knowledge producers are rarely able to present their knowledge in a popular, intelligible way, hence the multitude of bad textbooks. This was the reason for the emergence of the Soviet Znanie Society: its founders felt that the country needed millions of at least partially wrested from ignorance more than a few Nobel laureates. Knowledge should have been disseminated not from the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, not from the schools of Landau and Kurchatov.
– Perhaps that is simply not their function?
– Of course, they have other tasks. But thanks to outstanding scientists, today we can communicate with main points of concentrated knowledge from space altitude. And from the same satellite we offer all mankind a video signal that allows us to meet with outstanding popularizers of knowledge in the remotest corner of the Earth. For example, our professors give a course on European law in English in Cambridge. And from the studio there – a small teleport – the signal with subtitles in the corresponding language is transmitted via the Modern Humanitarian University (SHU) satellite teleport to 400 settlements all over the world.
– So you are literally talking about adult education as a “new supranational super-branch of the planetary world order”?
– This is the only way we will change the approach to education: not people will go to the local mediocre school, but the best schools in the world will come to people on the wave of the digitized signal. The poorest billion earthlings, who live without transportation, schools, electricity, and other benefits of civilization, will finally have an elevator of social mobility. No educational “temples” with columns need be erected, just a snow-covered slope in the mountains or a lawn on which shepherds graze their cattle. A diesel generator will power
The diesel generator will power a television set that will receive the signal of our World University of Distance Learning (WUDL) through a $150 satellite dish. This technology alone will be the “train of life” on which entire tribes, millions of people, will break into the information society, jumping several socio-economic formations at once.
– Have any other new technologies been created?
– Another conceptual solution to the educational problem is that we have moved away from a passive form of education in which people, regardless of their abilities and aspirations, absorb knowledge from a single program. Our knowledge distribution center offers an active education: not only does a person choose courses in specific disciplines, but for each of these courses he or she chooses a teacher.
– It’s still quite hard to imagine how this happens…
– You see, the HUDO is not only an educational institution, but also a global knowledge exchange, where the content of the best universities and professors is flocked. For example, hundreds of physics popularizers from around the world have deposited their content in our repository, and every student has the opportunity to “flip through” it to choose the one he or she likes best, or that is more digestible. This is roughly how we choose audiotapes or movies in a store – a “natural selection” takes place. Pay attention – I take, I choose, not “I am given”. And in this case virtuality supports the well-known synergetic effect inherent in the face-to-face form of communication between a student and a teacher.
– Apparently, students themselves sometimes find it difficult to choose. Maybe in this case they need a tutor’s help?
– Of course, tutoring is one of our tools. But tutors are of little help in usual higher educational institutions – there students still have to tolerate their “analog” teachers who give the same lectures for 30 years. Instead of education, some students are interested only in passing “dinosaurs” exams and getting a diploma. And others drop out of school altogether. A “Loser” is not always the one who is stupid. It is the one who at first did not understand, and then was too embarrassed to ask, so as not to appear retarded. Often it is not the loser who is at fault, but the untalented course, but no teacher will admit it. With us, everyone gets to choose an exciting course in a subject they feel an affinity for. Our formula: regardless of starting conditions, a person in any field can grow from zero to professor in 15 years.
Not a bad fee.
– At the World University will there be entrance exams or is it enough to submit state exam results?
– You know, our free education is a bitter smile of fate. It’s all the same, it’s not free. And the final exams and admission to the budget place became a competition not so much knowledge as parental connections and wallets. All of these tests create stress and corruption and at the same time exacerbate inequality. Millions of the most gifted people remain forever deprived of a quality education – millions of distorted destinies. Are they to blame for the fact that there is no university center in their homeland, and that their parents have no money for tutors and bribes? Admission to HIGO is based on an interview, during which the teachers determine that the applicant is, first, adequate, second, motivated to study, and third, is ready to cover the minimum expenses by his or her own labor.
– What sums are we talking about, and what about someone who is not able to pay at all?
– In contrast to the Internet, space technology exponentially reduces the cost of learning as the number of users grows. For one person, a space teleport is unthinkably expensive. For 100 people, it’s very expensive. But the cost for one in millions of users is asymptotically close to zero. In addition, the cost of training is tied to the average salary: for example, in Moscow the cost is $900 a year, and in Kyrgyzstan – $300. And if a person is absolutely poor, our foundation “Culture and Education in Extreme Situations” will pay for the education. Poverty is one of these conditions. By the way, it is gratifying to note among the founders of the Foundation the deputy of the State Duma and the outstanding artist Iosif Kobzon.
– If I may how can paying less than 2,000 rubles a month cover the cost of the best professors from around the world?
– Indeed, the cost of our 45-minute lecture exceeds the monthly salary of a Russian professor. This is the reason why Russian universities do not invite world-class professors to their auditoriums. Soon UDO’s audience will come close to 200 thousand people, and if each of them will pay only 50 cents, the luminary will receive a very good fee.
– Tell me, how do you provide feedback to students and check their knowledge?
– Exams are taken over the Internet with the help of testing, which consists of hundreds of questions; the results are evaluated by the author of the relevant course with his assistants. But first, the student has to take a self-test, trying to get as many points as possible and looking at the recorded satellite video all over again. If the student doesn’t understand something, he or she also asks questions over the Internet, and the answers come back within
24 hours a day. And answers to frequently asked questions are posted on the University portal. “In earnest” the student will begin to pass the exam after he or she feels ready for a high grade.
– What opportunities are open to your graduates – what, so to speak, is the weight of such a diploma?
– There is no higher education in the usual sense. Without leaving your home country or even speaking English, a student receives a certificate from Cambridge, California, Princeton or another reputable university for each course studied, depending on the origin of the chosen content. These certificates are recognized by other institutions and employers. For example, a student at an SGU from Kazakhstan, where there are 27 educational centers, or from Kyrgyzstan, where there are more than 15 such centers, can get a job in any of the countries of content origin by presenting a certificate.
– Meanwhile, diplomas from the above-mentioned foreign universities are not recognized in Russia?
– And in the same way diplomas of “ordinary” domestic universities are not recognized in most countries. When other knowledge is needed, the student will resume his studies, choosing new courses. This continuity cancels the concept of “graduate” and is also a new technology. But if you have a diploma from, say, Chelyabinsk Industrial University, then if you add our certificates to it, you get a globally recognized diploma.
– Is it possible to predict when humanity will accept all these innovations on a mass scale?
– The new education is quickly making its way. For example, in Kaliningrad, where a former nuclear submarine commander is the university’s director, the number of students has reached 8,000 in two or three years. However this process can be accelerated significantly, if it is made a priority of state policy and if the necessary legal framework is supported by the constitution.