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, Chairman of the Russian Academy of Astronautics K.E. Tsiolkovsky Russian Academy of Cosmonautics,
President of the International Association “Znanie”
“A PERSONAL WAY OUT OF THE CRISIS FOR EVERYONE”.
(Interview with Efim Malitikov for Voice of Russia on April 10, 2009)
Remember in 1992, hyperinflation drove state employees and industry workers to collect their salaries? An influx of workers and employees into unfamiliar spheres began, and the time of dilettantes began. The state had no means of preventing this professional collapse, and the officials themselves proved to be dilettantes in the new conditions. In particular, the modernization of society was impeded by its socio-cultural backwardness. It was necessary to “re-educate” millions of people from the Soviet “yesterday” into the residents of the market-oriented “tomorrow”, quickly creating an adequate education industry. This was probably best understood by Yefim Malitikov, one of the leaders of the Soviet military-industrial complex, who came up with the idea of a modern university with a predominance of humanities specialties. As a result, the Contemporary Humanities Academy was born in Moscow in 1992, which made a significant contribution to helping the country emerge from the crisis. Can education help in overcoming the current crisis? I, Viktor Samarin, am talking about this with our guest of the Voice of Russia, academician Efim Malitikov, patron of the Academy, president of the International Knowledge Association.
– Hello, Yefim Malitikov.
– Good afternoon.
– Tell me, how did educational issues come into the sphere of your academic interests?
– During Perestroika, as Deputy Minister of the Soviet Union, I had a chance to oversee the foreign economic activities of my Defense Ministry. The Cold War was almost over, and the Americans and I had a common and huge problem: what to do with the surplus defense industry? We actively exchanged experience, in particular, I studied conversion in such important states for the U.S. military-industrial complex as Ohio and Colorado. For example, in Denver, right at the time of my visit, the giant Martin Marietta Aerospace Corporation was laying off forty thousand of its two hundred thousand employees. How do you help them find jobs? The answer is to pre-educate, to give them new, marketable jobs. The same thing was happening in our country, only latently; the process took an acute form right after the collapse of the USSR.
– Does the current situation in both Russia and the U.S. remind you of what happened about two decades ago?
– The consequences of today’s crisis are indeed painfully familiar, we have “been there. Huge numbers of Russians and Americans have lost their jobs and haven’t been able to find work for months, even though there are a lot of jobs available on the labor market. But to apply for them, it is necessary to study seriously, and almost all the time. After all, in the information age human knowledge – this energy medium of civilization – is completely renewed not once in thirty years, as it was at the beginning of the last century, but every five years. Accordingly, the requirements for workers are changing rapidly. Only a lifelong adult education based on the formula “education never ends” will help to meet them. Konstantin Simonov, one of the initiators of our legal predecessor, the All-Union Society “Znanie”, said: “The educated person differs from uneducated, because he continues to consider his education incomplete.
– Could it be that the global economic crisis is, at least in part, caused by the lack of education of the population?
– I agree that the root cause of the crisis is mass incompetence. Both in our country and in America, education usually ends with a diploma. And the people who leave university with largely outdated baggage: while they have been studying for five years, their knowledge has had time to be renewed. If these young people are not educated later, they will be intellectually bankrupt. How did the crisis happen? To put it simply, in the U.S. uneducated people took loans from uneducated bankers who also began to trade these debts (so-called derivatives). So the time of the dilettantes has become the burden of the dilettantes. I mean, how could you give out mortgages to the chronically unemployed? And how ignorant of economics do you have to be to get involved in pyramid schemes?
– Yes, you can’t help but wonder about the mental health of these same bankers with no knowledge… But who and where can teach almost all adults of the planet?
– Indeed, there is a whole tangle of problems here. First, the number of classrooms must be increased by a thousand times or more-no classrooms will be enough for that. Secondly, how can we provide teachers for all those who need them? There are not enough teachers in the world already: there are some forty-five million of them, and it should be a third more. Third, most of the available teachers pass on to their pupils obsolete knowledge, which is reinforced by even more obsolete textbooks. Fourth, knowledge is not spread evenly across the planet, like butter on bread. Sometimes you can only get it from the hands of a unique scientist from a distant continent. But counting on a personal conversation with the author of the course is an increasingly unaffordable luxury. This is why today’s distinguished professor needs not a forty-seat audience, not a classroom, but an army of half a million listeners. In general, traditional classroom-lesson education has exhausted itself, it runs on the platform from which the train of knowledge departs, and we need to run inside the train.
– Do you know how to do that?
– Fortunately, in contrast to the crisis of the early nineties, today’s educational technology, including the Modern Academy for the Humanities, has been perfected, which previously could only be a dream. I mean distance learning. Only this technology allows all students, regardless of their location, to obtain knowledge directly from the best professors on the planet – from their video lectures. A video signal with high-quality educational content is transmitted either via a space teleport to a satellite and from there to the student’s TV receiver, or via the Internet to the student’s computer. This kind of education is especially suitable for adults, since they study to improve the competitiveness of their own labor force, not for the sake of marks in their diary or record book.
– That is not for fear, but for conscience?
– Absolutely. Grades alone will not help an adult to find a job, he needs up-to-date knowledge. And theoretically, any decent science popularizer today is able to bring it into every home – literally. Thus, a resident of Texas can learn physics from lectures by a Nobel laureate from St. Petersburg, while a resident of Yakutia will acquire a profession as an economist from lectures by a Nobel laureate from Chicago. Of course, the video signal is subtitled in the language of the students; in addition to subtitles, simultaneous translation is also provided. Seminars and consultations before exams are also held remotely, as are the exams themselves, which are taken by test.
– And who takes the exams and evaluates the test results?
– The author of the respective course himself – along with his assistants. First, the student does a self-test, trying to get the maximum number of points and re-watching the video to supplement, reinforce, and sharpen his knowledge. If the student doesn’t understand something, he or she remotely asks questions, the answers to which come from the teacher within 24 hours. “Seriously”, “not pretend” the student proceeds to the exam after feeling ready for a high grade. In distance learning, assessment is a true measure of knowledge, not an end in itself, as is often the case in face-to-face education. And the audience of the world’s best educators becomes virtually unlimited. Thus, we implement not only the UNESCO principles “education for all” and “education through life”, but also the third principle – “education of metropolitan quality on the spot”. This is how we de facto evenly distribute knowledge across the planet, “spreading” it like butter on bread.
– You are the head of a specialized interstate committee of the CIS. How do the governments of the Commonwealth of Independent States treat adult education?
– Adult education is undervalued throughout the world, not only in the CIS. The state education system receives budgetary funding, pumps a bureaucratically approved educational product in a young person, and then throws him out of classes and classrooms on the street. We need to achieve real, rather than declarative inclusion in the priorities of public policy supranational extrabudgetary superbranch of the planetary world order – Adult Education. Today it is not prescribed in the constitutions and statutes of the ministries of education – a kind of economic snowdrop. Meanwhile, super-industry turnover has already exceeded two and a half times the total education budget of the world. As you can see, adult education is self-sufficient, because it is in demand by a conscious part of the population of the world, it is a fishing rod for career growth and maintenance of the family. Our task is to involve in education the illiterate majority, on which the crisis hits the hardest; here we can’t do without state support.
– What is the attitude towards adult education at the Russian top?
– Before the crisis, they treated it seriously enough, but then attention was distracted by purely financial issues such as the rescue of the largest companies. Meanwhile, the government’s concept of Russia’s development until the twentieth year provides for the change of the development scenario from the current dead-end (raw materials) to the optimal, high-tech – innovative. Alas, it is impossible to modernize the economy without mass retraining of personnel – I think this is obvious even to schoolchildren. This is exactly what we need to do right now, in the midst of the crisis. This is the only way for Russia to emerge from it renewed and more powerful. But so far no one even knows the word “andragogics”.
– And indeed, what is this?
– It’s a science, investigating regularities of teaching adults: “andros” in Greek is “adult person” (in the genitive case), “agoge” is “education”. In the information society the importance of andragogy is objectively increasing. While individual states have yet to realize this fact, at the UN level the understanding is already there, as I witnessed at my recent meeting with its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Regardless of how long the global crisis lasts, a year or five, the best anti-crisis measure is to increase the value of human capital. After all, according to the World Bank, no more than sixteen percent of the GDP of economically polar countries like the United States and the Malagasy Republic (Madagascar) comes from the industrial production component. The rest is human resources. Lifelong education is the tool, the rod that will loosen the grip of poverty and violence, create jobs, and minimize chaotic migration.