Scientific Works of the International Union of Economists, volume 7, Moscow, 2000. Article “The Commonwealth of Independent States on the Threshold of the XXI Century. New Instruments of World Social Development: Adult Education as a Major Factor”.



E.M. Malitikov,
Chairman of the Interstate Committee of the CIS on Knowledge and Adult Education, President of the International Association “Znanie”, Academician of the New York Academy of Sciences, Academician of the International Academy of Information Technology, Academician of the International Energy Academy, Doctor of Economics, Professor.

There is one tool of the non-productive sphere, without which, according to the UN, the sustainable development of humanity in the XXI century is impossible. I am talking about the system of education, vocational training and retraining, advanced training for the constantly changing requirements of world civilization. At the same time I mean a fundamentally different, non-traditional concept of planetary education – “education never ends”, the concept of adult education, with experience, learning and peace behind them. Adults are mediators between the past, the present, and the future. As they pass away, they carry with them an entire library of acquired knowledge, having failed to find common ground with the younger generation because of different starting points in education.

880 million totally illiterate people and 4.5 billion hopelessly behind in modern knowledge is the path to planetary tragedy. Literacy and competence must be integrated into all efforts of nations to confront the problems. From the experience of rebuilding societies devastated by conflict, the UN has learned that peace requires much more than the absence of war. The roots of conflict lie in inadequate understanding and capacity. The seeds of war mature from uneven and unequal development. Preventing hatred is in education and knowledge.

The first ingredient of political stability is an informed citizenry. The first ingredient of economic progress is a skilled worker. The first ingredient of political justice is an enlightened society. Education is peace-building. It is also the most effective form of protection. Investing in education yields far greater returns than any other. A global family of educated and learning adults will not make strategic, momentous mistakes.

Today the world is ruled by the unconscious ignorance of people, their incompetence, so the traditional formula of society “Education for life” needs to be replaced by the formula “Education through life”. And in the face of the coming third millennium, it is necessary to revolutionize the traditional view of education, rooted among the dogmas of the expiring century. We will not have a future by the methods of the expiring century. The planet has become weaker than the contradictions that tear it apart; the world speaks more firmly of the unsustainable development of life on Earth. The younger generation makes its future not on the shoulders but on the belly of its creator, and no longer guarantees its descendants the proper resource of habitat.

Unsustainable human development is a disease of civilization whose incubation period is not yet known. The UN adopted Agenda 21 and recommended looking for new ways to implement the basic principles of sustainable development. Today, when knowledge on the planet is updated by 15% per year, that is, every six years, the traditional basic education does not keep up with the changes of the world. Many people, having acquired a high social position, immediately become intellectually bankrupt.

A new social problem has arisen – the underutilization by each successive generation of its resource, experience, energies, creation, and the need to make room and, as a consequence, a complex of natural fading of a whole generation. And as long as the system and technology of education will lag behind the rate of renewal of knowledge, the effective time of each new generation will be: all the time decreasing. Therefore, adult education, along with the economy and nation-building, is today the most important factor and one of the main arguments and tools of social development. On the historical stage in the future there will be only those countries and those peoples who will be able to provide a higher level of organization and skill in all its manifestations and will be able to transfer the economic competition of states in the sphere of science, new technologies and education. Changes on the geopolitical map have already begun.

The first U.S. response to the outstanding achievements of the Soviet Union in space was not an increase in NATO allocations, but a multiple increase in allocations to education and the adoption of the National Defense Education Act back in 1958. It was based on the principle of the priority of adult education and its exclusive role in ensuring the leading position of the U.S. in the world. From Eisenhower to Clinton adult education was one of the first priorities in their national security policy. In a decade, spending on education in the United States, in favor of continuing, has increased by 2.5 times, and now amounts to more than 500 billion dollars, twice the amount spent on defense. And the proportion of adults already educated and continuing education has tripled in the last 20 years.

The world has calculated and realized that it is necessary to invest in adult education about 6% of gross national product, considering the cost of adult education as an investment in the production of each enterprise. Without a competitive adult education system there can be no competitive workforce, and without it there can be no competitive economy.

The standard methods of assessing a state’s economic development tell us nothing about the state of the nation. And the conclusions of the World Bank are that in the national wealth of any country, regardless of whether it is a superpower or a small island, the production component is just over 16%. The rest, as Cypriot leaders have said here, is human resources.

Adult education today is not an integral part of basic education, it should be the main continuous activity of the entire adult population, combined with science, production and services throughout life. And by alternating lifelong education and work, we will become effective, durable and happy, necessary for each other, previous and future generations and the country, return the planet slipping into the abyss to a sustainable development option.

Since crucial decisions in the development of society are the exclusive prerogative of the adult population of the country and even the planet, adult education becomes a separate independent super-industry in the life of human society. This most promising industry on the planet has the power to change today’s dangerous trends on the geopolitical map of the world. The main task is the formation in the public consciousness of the settings for lifelong learning. It is necessary to constitutionally support the equality of all types of education before the law and the right to education at any age. Two-week refresher courses are not education for adults, but a bureaucratic, ignorant eyewash. The UN in its declaration recommended to the governments of all states to consider adult education as one of the priorities of state policy. And a major step in creating such a system in the Commonwealth was the “Agreement on Cooperation in the Sphere of Dissemination of Knowledge and Adult Education”, signed by the Heads of Government of the CIS in January 1997. To implement this Agreement the Interstate Committee of the CIS on the dissemination of knowledge and adult education was formed, whose main tasks are: – creation of national structures for adult education; – coordination of preparation of laws in the field of adult education in the CIS countries and constitutional changes in it; – transformation of enlightenment and educational activities; – creation of data banks for the distance form of adult education, integration of the business information space, ensuring the sustainable development of the planet. The task of the Committee today is to change the constitutions and laws of the CIS countries to be able to sustainably credit the continuing education of adults. Solving these issues, we will change the very paradigm that futurologists in ancient times predicted about the possible coming of the end of the world.

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