Speech by Academician Efim Malitikov
Chairman of the Interstate Committee
on the dissemination of knowledge and adult education,
President of the International Association “Znanie”
The World University of the new type without language, national and cultural borders (New technologies of Sustainable Development in the global world)
Why do we believe that education is the key to overcoming most of today’s problems?
In this regard, I would suggest that we pay attention to one pattern. Most analysts believe that the cultural factor was at the root of the incredibly rapid recovery of some nations that had been defeated in wars. At the level of the private individual, this ability of a nation to regenerate is almost always explained by its average level of education. Let us try to put the problem differently: what other countries need to do to achieve the same ability to survive, to heal the wounds and in some one or two generations to be again at the forefront of world development. The answer will always be the same: get the education system right. Welfare in all historically observed typical examples always depends on the education of a critical mass of the population.
The most “laboratory-pure” example in this case would be the experience of the Soviet regime. Its development since its cradle was determined by an extremely strict framework of survival. And, look – at the very beginning, in desperate need of well-educated personnel, the Soviets were forced to draw “specialists” from the defeated classes into their armies and industries. The same need compelled them to begin the mass eradication of illiteracy and the unprecedented development of higher education and science.
Let us not forget – in the Soviet Union was created an exemplary system of education! This alone can explain the unique scientific and technical achievements, which were achieved by this regime, despite all its “immanent” vices.
But the regime proved weak in the face of the challenges that befell it. The reason was a lack of flexibility, based on a flawed decision-making system. An ideological scheme prevailed over the recommendations of scientists, but on the whole, the system was coping with the problems as long as their solution depended on a purely quantitative concentration of enormous resources. But the situation began to change rapidly when the quality of the challenges facing the Soviet Union during the stagnation period became different.
By the way, one of the earliest harbingers of the approaching crisis was a lag in the knowledge system. Soviet education was based, as we know, on the class-lesson system of teaching (the heir of the Socratic school of dialogue), which allowed its graduates to claim, until their retirement, the right to work, according to the Constitution of the USSR, without having to worry about their own qualifications.
Can we say today that the expansion of paid education is finally overcoming the shortcomings of the state classroom-taskwork system?
The paid form does not change the essence of the former system. It was recently calculated that up to 17% of the knowledge used today is renewed each year. This means that if you do not try to keep abreast of the latest developments in your specialty, in 5-6 years you will be a complete bankrupt. This, by the way, once again confirms a simple truth – today it is not the diploma that determines a person’s intellectual potential. It is no coincidence that now you can buy them on every corner.
Moreover, even being a graduate of Oxford, Cambridge or Stanford is no longer enough to guarantee a serious job. The glory of each such university is actually a very small handful of 3-4 professors – true luminaries in their field. That’s because it is not enough to be an outstanding scientist or even a Nobel laureate to teach in a university department. It requires the far rarer talent of popularizing the latest achievements of civilization in a variety of fields.
This shortage reflects a worldwide trend toward a growing shortage of qualified educators at the upper, middle, and lower levels. While 60 million teachers are needed, there are at present no more than 45 million teachers in any one country. The vast majority of the world’s population is ignorant and does not have access to existing education systems. What about teachers who manage to teach the same course for 30 years!
Using an accounting vocabulary, we can safely state – there is a “red balance” in the balance of the modern system of knowledge dissemination, the consequences of which will be felt by the coming generations.
The World Bank has derived a formula – industry accounts directly for no more than 16% of the potential of modern civilization. The main part of it is a human resource. As Vernadsky noted, humanity is a completely unique kind of earthly resources, with a very specific nature of energy replenishment – through knowledge!
But isn’t the World Wide Web the natural solution to such problems?
The Internet, indeed, was a real breakthrough in the field of communications. With one “but”, however, it only works in places where cables are installed.
For many people, the Internet is still too complicated a means of communication. Alas, it has not yet helped to overcome the social divide. There are many places on Earth where the Internet simply cannot be set up because of the landscape – in high mountains, for example.
In reality, this means that billions of people today do not have access to modern education. Think about it – billions of people cannot compete, cannot have jobs, cannot adequately participate in scientific and technological progress and cultural life.
More than three billion people earn less than two dollars a day, about two billion people live on one dollar a day!
This category of humanity lives in the absence of basic means of transport and communication, without communication even with their own administrative center… This is where the drug mafia, criminal structures, criminal clans draw their reserves from…
Backward areas probably exist in every country, and every country allocates funds from its budget to fight poverty. Planetary problems are so called because they have long crossed national boundaries. Their solution using traditional tools very often leads to counterproductive results.
The CIS countries, leaving the Soviet Union, arranged a “parade of sovereignty” instead of taking advantage of the unique chance to move forward and create powerful supranational institutions based on a common approach in assessing the benefits and dangers. A rare chance was missed! This is when revolutions only prove their futility in comparison with the gentle and creative nature of evolution.
That leaves satellite communication. But does it require fewer prerequisites?
This question can be answered with a calculator. It is necessary to spend on average $500 per year per person to maintain a one-way telephone cable. And the satellite link to connect 100,000 people – requires a cost of only $5 per user – virtually free! Satellite signal is already able to come to places where there is no cable or phone. If you already have a diesel or solar generator – communication via satellite will cost you a hundred (!) times less than laying cable for the Internet.
That is why every targeted satellite system can be called a global communications system, compared to the Internet, which in many places is only capable of being a local system.
Unfortunately, even such simple truths have to be repeated all the time…
Meanwhile, humanity has an extremely urgent need to optimize the global dissemination of knowledge and can hardly wait indefinitely for any of the current giants of world communications to respond to the call of the times.
In order to develop the virtual system of education in a meaningful way, it is necessary to present its work today in an unfolded form, no matter how far from us its embodiment is. It is important to state some things from the outset.
The need to manage global processes inevitably moves towards the ability to manage them. Critical mass must be managed.
Globalization inevitably leads to the elimination of borders and the formation of a kind of prototype of global electronic government.
All components of modern civilization – knowledge, information, people – should continuously move and interact in the world space according to the principle of communicating vessels, experiencing the action of all natural forces of social homeostasis – gravitation, magnetism and repulsion.
The most important thing today is to convey to as many minds as possible a fairly simple idea: knowledge must be evenly distributed across the planet. To put it figuratively, we need to “spread knowledge around the planet like butter on bread. Most importantly, it is necessary, by all means, to overcome the mental approach, deeply embedded in the minds of our educators-educators, according to which there is “my knowledge”, “my lecture”, “my course”, “my content”. People miss the main consideration for which all these lectures and content exist: the thirsty person for knowledge. The current situation leads to the fact that knowledge exists, but it is not distributed, there are excellent popularizers, but they are hidden behind a “forest” of trivial compilers.
Knowledge is such an energetic medium, which in civilization is “spilled” among many educational and scientific centers. And only from a common center of knowledge distribution (let’s call it the “world university”), where the global scientific potential and information about the teaching corps of the whole world is accumulated, it is possible to optimize the use of the genius potential of knowledge popularization with minimal losses for the global audience of listeners.
Very soon the global community will have to become more and more accustomed to such notions as “world university”, “global audience of listeners”. It would hardly be right to tie such a network to a particular place on Earth, which was capable of becoming the main distributor of knowledge and of being able to technologically accumulate global achievements. In past centuries, for example, Germany remained such a scientific center of the world for a long time. But look, where is the birthplace of the university tradition today? Somewhere in the bottom third of the world ranking!
The world university is more of a virtual concept, referring to a world center “that is present everywhere. Through this virtual network, you have access to all the best programs and the most talented teachers in the world. Imagine for a moment that you will be taught math by a luminary from Moscow State University, law from Cambridge, cybernetics from MIT, economics from Harvard, etc. A repository of the best content will open before you. If I want to study space, there are two schools – the American and the Russian ones – that dominate. Other subjects I will take at other centers. And pay attention – I take, I choose, not I am given!
We need a worldwide distribution of knowledge. We need a “natural selection” of courses, programs, and teachers. In any case, one thing is clear – the classroom-taskwork system is dead, not many people are able to cross entire continents to get into “their” institute, and counting on a personal conversation with a course author is an increasingly inaccessible luxury.
Yet every day millions and millions of people with a hunger for knowledge become more and more desperate to obtain it “firsthand” and of the best quality. I and my associates work tirelessly 365 days a year to fulfill this demand.
In cooperation with the Research Institute of Space Systems and Russian Academy of Cosmonautics and following the conversion doctrine of military production the CIS Interstate Committee on Knowledge Dissemination and Adult Education and International Association “Znanie” put forward and realize together with the English company “Sat EduNet” the idea of establishing the World Distance Learning University to provide global coverage for mutual exchange and export/import of knowledge among the leading world universities.
Only modern space telecommunications and distance learning and retraining technologies will catch up with the accelerating flow of knowledge renewal and bring the needs of Sustainable Development into harmony with human resources. The role of education in the sustainable development of mankind has not been sufficiently appreciated and has not been reconsidered for decades. It is based on the old classroom-lesson approach and formula: “Education for life,” which was enough when knowledge was renewed every 30 years.
Life today demands a different formula: “Education Through Life,” i.e., lifelong learning.
This should become a priority of state policy, an integral part of laws and constitutions, and then a mental attitude of human civilization. It is necessary to introduce this formula in all the efforts of states to confront the existing problems.