Chairman of the Interstate Committee for the dissemination of knowledge and adult education,
President of the International Association “Znanie”
Full member of the International Academy of Astronautics,
Academician of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics named after Konstantin Tsiolkovsky Academician of Russian Academy of Cosmonautics named after K.E. Tsiolkovsky
President of the International Association “Znanie”
“EDUCATIONAL CONTENT WILL END UP IN THE WORLD KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE
(Interview with Efim) by Efim Malitikov for Voice of Russia on February 27, 2009.
– At the microphone: Viktor Samarin, political observer of Voice of Russia radio. Hello, and I would like to introduce today’s guests in our studio – Professor Efim Malitikov, President of the International Znanie Association, Chairman of the CIS Committee for Knowledge and Adult Education, academician. Hello, Efim.
E.M. – Good afternoon.
– My colleague here, journalist Alexander Chernitsky, is also dealing with the issues we will be discussing today.
A.C. – Good afternoon.
– Good morning, Sasha. And we will be talking about the prospects for forming a common CIS scientific and educational space, without which I think integration will stall. The floor is yours, Efim Mikhailovich.
E. M. – I would like to say that first of all we need to separate the educational from the scientific. The educational thing is more about our children, when we take them out into the world, using the constitution and the budget of the country to give them an education. We have an obligation to give them a high school education and, on a competitive basis, a college education as well. And science is the province of adults. After all, adults themselves today need additional education, to get acquainted with the latest achievements of science. At the same time it is important to note that we do not have enough trained modern teachers…
V.S. – Yes, and life is changing…
E.M. – Yes, and life is changing rapidly. Today human knowledge of the world is changing by 20% per year, which means that in 5 years it is completely renewed. Consequently, in five years any of us, even if he is president of the country or president of the academy, becomes intellectually bankrupt – in the case, of course, if he does not improve himself. Therefore adult education – is a separate, supranational super-branch of planetary world order, and all leading countries of the world are engaged in it now.
V.S. – I know that your committee, the Interstate Committee for the dissemination of knowledge and adult education, which you chair, works under the auspices of the UN?
– Yes, that’s right. We work under UN programs, and together with the International Knowledge Association, which has been working on adult education for many years, for over 60 years. Today the world has changed, and the methods of disseminating knowledge have changed. Therefore, today’s society can only benefit from highly productive technology to disseminate knowledge, and not the class-lesson system of education. Once it was progressive and brought forth unique, outstanding scientists of whom we are proud to this day. But another time has come, and we need to improve the technology of knowledge dissemination and popularization.
V.S. – How does what you said translate or retranslate into our relations with the CIS countries?
E.M. -As you know, the very creation of the CIS closed the gap associated with the huge collapse – the collapse of the Soviet Union. I would say it closed like the bottom of the ocean. Thanks to this, the wave did not destroy many of our “islands” – the former republics of the Soviet Union. We were living in one country, and suddenly, overnight, the Soviet republics became independent states. But at the same time they remained closely intertwined links of the same chain, just as the organs of one man are organically linked: heart, liver, spleen, and so on…
V.S. – The activities of the Znanie Society extended to the entire Soviet space, to all Soviet people…
E.M. – For all, absolutely. And now imagine that one of our body organs has stopped working, or has simply been cut off. Be that as it may, no matter how self-sufficient it might be, even a heart cut out of the body of any animal could continue to beat for another five minutes. But in fact, this process of unified interaction of the CIS countries is gradually stopping. For decades, relations between “organs”, parts of a single state, have been adjusted in an evolutionary way. One republic had cotton, another had metal, a third had bread, and so on. And now, figuratively speaking, it’s very difficult to rebuild each country so they have everything of their own, like in the times of subsistence economy. Moreover it is practically impossible against the background of burgeoning economic crisis, because in the course of such restructuring we will inevitably have to create a deficit of foreign exchange. Yes, it was the creation of the CIS over 17 years ago that provided for a civilized divorce. But now the Commonwealth has outlived its usefulness. Today the CIS works according to the principle of the priority importance of national tasks, and not supranational tasks, which would ensure optimal, mutually advantageous cooperation between its members. Now we must look for other formulas, which, incidentally, the world has already found. The situation in the CIS contradicts what Europe created for many years, even if for half a hundred years, but still. And today in the face of crisis it looks stronger than our scattered republics.
V.S. – But in this respect, we have more potential. Unlike European countries, we have been living together for centuries without antagonizing each other.
A.C. – I would like to go back to the classroom-taskwork educational system, as long as it has outlived its usefulness. Yefim Mikhailovich, what do you oppose to it now? How can we disseminate knowledge, educate adults, and do so at a higher level of productivity than we do now?
E.M. – If you recall the All-Union Znaiye Society, it was a powerful organization which gave 20 million lectures a year, and 4.5 million of our outstanding scholars delivered them. But even this productivity is not enough for the world today – for a world in which billions of people cannot read or write at all. It is the productivity of knowledge dissemination that plays a major role today. The classroom, the forty-seat auditorium will never catch up, will never eliminate the digital divide that has now emerged between those who have the opportunity to acquire modern knowledge and those who do not. Thus society is more and more stratified, and as a result there are more and more helpless, unable to get by, who are a heavy burden on civilization and the world economy.
A.C. – Let me get this term “digital divide” straight. Do you mean that humanity is now divided into two parts, one is “analog”, with an “analog” mentality, and the other is “digitized”, these seem to be the overwhelming minority …
E.M. – Quite right. First of all, we are talking about technical capabilities….
A.C. – Do you mean the Internet?
Yes, of course. But even the mentality of those who do not have technical capabilities, it remains correspondingly “analog. And after all, this mentality is very much inherent in our generation, which not only participates in elections, but also runs the country. But without being fully “digital” people, the members of the government cannot create “e-government”, cannot productively interact with other states in the international arena. Therefore, the “analog” mentality today needs to be put on “digital” rails. It is encouraging that our president, Dmitry Medvedev, is now talking about this…
V.S. – Maybe our listeners did not quite understand this, quite scientific talk. Let me remind you that we are talking about the Znanie association, which is supposed to popularize the achievements of science, bringing them to the widest possible audience of adults. What specific projects now exist or, so to speak, are “on the way”, which could give, highlight the prospect of forming a unified educational space for adults in the CIS? In fact, science and education have much in common, we can talk about our children in the same way, they also need the opportunity to receive education not only in their native country, but also in their neighbors…
E.M. – It seems to me that the basis today is the creation of educational centers that provide knowledge, modern knowledge, rapidly changing knowledge to people who are not in the same audience, but in different regions and even in different parts of the world, all over the world. Such centers must necessarily encompass the CIS countries, because we have the most important condition for human commonality, we have the Russian language before we forget. But if we sit idly by, the next generations will depart from the Russian language more and more…
V.S. – So far, the historical, linguistic, cultural ties are still strong enough …
E.M. – While there is still a chance to save those ties from destruction! Look: if you, figuratively speaking, “impose” Russian-speaking people on our globe, we see that there will be whole new continents, speaking Russian. There are more Russian-speaking people in the world today than is commonly thought. In some countries, they are the ones who decide the choice of their governments, and in many countries, they are very influential both politically and economically. Meanwhile, with language not only a culture of speech spreads, but also a general culture and even a mentality. And already this ensures a deep relationship between people, no matter how far apart they live from each other.
A.CH. – Efim, as far as I understood you suggest increasing the productivity of education with the help of such technology as distance learning. Probably the Russian-speaking part of humanity will benefit from this doubly, because the spread of knowledge around the world in Russian will cement the Russian world.
E.M. – Yes, indeed, today the technical capabilities, the technical potential of any country, and especially a power like Russia, allows you to use just technical, distant education opportunities for people. And people who are interested in getting knowledge are able to get it not where it is given to them, but where they want to get it. Today there is a 26% deficit of teachers in the world, it means 15 million free vacancies. Yet we have the ability to get knowledge from anywhere in the world just as our children cross national borders 20 times a day by text message. They grow up with a sense that there are no barriers to communicating with their peers, no matter where they are. They seek to satisfy their interests and make friends on every continent. This is the way our generation, the people of the world, the first digital generation in the history of civilization, is being shaped. This is the same way education should be carried out, drawing knowledge in an intelligible popular form from anywhere in the world, from leading professors-populators.
V.S. – In the current struggle with the consequences of the global financial and economic recession, we are seeing a situation where the people, the Russian population, let alone our audience in the CIS countries, are very little informed about what is being done to overcome the crisis, and why. There are several radio stations, including Voice of Russia, that are trying to explain this to the public. After all, if anti-crisis measures are not explained in a popular form by the biggest, most interesting scientists, the most authoritative people, this is fraught with panic moods and a misunderstanding of what is happening, which will only exacerbate the crisis. Would you agree?
E.M. – Your question is exactly in line with the important topic we are discussing. So I will continue to answer the question you asked me a little earlier about our new educational projects. Today, the need to increase the productivity of a person who has something to say to the world, an outstanding educator, has led us, de jure and de facto, to create the World University of Distance Education – WUDE.
V.S. – Tell me more about that.
E.M. – This university is conceived as a global knowledge exchange where distinguished professors and the best universities in the world “pile up” their educational content. It becomes available to all those who want to acquire this knowledge – for a fee, of course. The fee is provided for a penny, but the law of value must be taken into account here, this is fundamental in psychological terms. If a person is ready to part with money, even a little, it shows that he really needs knowledge. As the university works, it becomes clear which teachers’ content is more in demand, which specific subjects are in maximum and minimum demand. Immediately there is a huge labor market for educators, who get to present their best popularization and methodological work. You can immediately see whose lectures people want to listen to with great interest, which teacher is in demand by students, you can see how many times people have referred to one or another of his lectures. And thus, on the one hand, there is a giant turnover of very small funds, which will allow to pay fees to teachers, to cover the cost of equipment, communication channels, facilities, and so on. On the other hand, teachers begin to compete with each other in the world, striving to create a lecture that students will be willing to take, because the fee increases as the number of users of that lecture grows. And most importantly: thanks to the Knowledge Exchange, we are spared the need to tolerate a teacher who gives outdated knowledge, which today, unfortunately, is all too common.
A.CH. – So we must recognize that, given the rapid renewal of knowledge in the information age, do people who come out of universities with knowledge that is already outdated, at least in part?
E.M. – Definitely. Not even partially, but mostly obsolete. Because knowledge itself, in the form of textbooks, is updated every 5-7 years. But in 5 years, this knowledge may not only be useless, but may even become harmful. This idea you will understand easier if I give a purely mundane example: once butter was considered simply vital, but now we know that it is a powerful source of so-called “bad” cholesterol.
V.S. – Is the rapid aging of knowledge a common process? Just as it is developing in Russia, does it also take place in Belorussia and Ukraine?
E.M. – This process is general and global. And if the productivity of knowledge renewal is not increased, then people will continue to live with the old knowledge and an engineer will use what he once received in school, in college. The employer will eventually say, “Look, you’re not bringing me profit,” and leave the person without a job.
V.S. – Earlier you said the words “labor market”. This is especially true today, when objectively, due to the crisis, production is decreasing. Accordingly, the need for many specialists is reduced and unemployment is growing, and on a global scale, including the post-Soviet space, in our country and our neighbors. Can the association you head, the Knowledge Association, have any influence on the structure of the labor market during the crisis, its modernization?
E.M. – Of course, that is our main task. The United Nations Economic and Social Council, UNIDO, and UNESCO are now studying this question very actively. The themes that are becoming the programmatic themes of the UN are highlighted in red lines. These are poverty, poverty, chaotic migration. How can we fight these phenomena? It is necessary to give people the opportunity to work, to take jobs. After all, people only from the worst to seek the best. If they cannot find a job in their homeland, they will invariably break the laws, cross the borders, legally or illegally, but – irresistibly!
V.S. – At one time the U.S. would not have emerged if there had been no migration…
E.M. – Absolutely right! See, the U.S. is a unique experiment, when there is no nation, but America. They gathered people from all over the planet and found the tools, nevertheless, in fifty states to support their unified constitution.
AC. – I have an unexpected question, since you can get an education practically from the comfort of your own home. Satellite technologies in education are implemented like this, I guess: you sit in front of the TV, you watch a video lecture by a professor from Cambridge, you hear simultaneous interpretation. But wouldn’t this paradoxically divide people, deprive them of the need to have extra contact, to cross borders, to visit each other’s homes? You can do everything at home, in your republic, in your city: you can get an education here, get a job here, so why travel somewhere else?
V.S. – Unfortunately, this is already in place.
E.M. – This is observed because the situation has not yet become universal, the world is not yet entangled in “knowledge pipelines” to the extent that it is necessary in our time. A person with knowledge, automatically, by nature, needs to share it, to create some communities which will have this knowledge, which will be able to create new production capacities, new jobs on their basis. One man in the apartment, even if he communicates with the whole world, is no warrior in the field. On the contrary, when the situation becomes universal, when there are practically no people without access to educational content and to the Internet, people will have a mental need to communicate not only with their neighbor in the house or on the staircase, but with their contemporaries who live on the other side of the world, even complete strangers. In the future the culture of relations between people and the culture of information exchange will change, and then there will be millions of small projects that will give everyone work and earn money.
V.S. Thank you very much. We’re ending on that optimistic note, because, alas, the airtime for our program is running out. But I hope this is not the last time we will meet in the studio. Thank you very much. And I would like to remind you that that was the president of the Znanie International Association, chairman of the CIS committee for the dissemination of knowledge and adult education, academician, Professor Efim Malitikov. And with me was my colleague Alexander Chernitsky.