Obozrevatel Magazine No. 2 (145), February 2002 Article “Education Throughout Life”



The problems of adult education in the CIS

Article by the Chairman of the Interstate Committee of the CIS on spreading knowledge and adult education, academician E. M. Malitikov published in the “Observer” magazine (№2 (145), February 2002).

By the 10th anniversary of the CIS many democratic values, which were dreamed of by a pleiad of our enlighteners, are gradually becoming in demand.

Doesn’t this mean that we have rid ourselves forever of internal and external real and potential dangers threatening our countries?

Does it mean that we have eliminated all contradictions on the path of their spiritual rapprochement? For now, these questions remain open.

Suffice it to recall that within the CIS, more than 1,000 documents declaring common interests and values were adopted over ten years. But in fact, centrifugal tendencies prevailed. And that was because each country was only just beginning to form and realize its sovereign interests. And the very interests of integration became hostages of internal problems.

There is an old eastern parable, in which a wise man gives advice to his neighbor: do not make far-reaching plans, it is better to correct yesterday’s mistakes. And we made so many mistakes yesterday that we do not know how to get out of this swamp. It is only clear that we must, like Baron Munchausen, pull ourselves out by our own hair. That’s why all of us in the CIS need each other so much.

Is it possible to overcome mistakes, to eliminate and overcome conflicts and contradictions? By what means? Is there a “golden key” that will open all the doors to solving the complicated problems in the CIS countries and in the Commonwealth as a whole?

Yes, there is. One of these supranational factors to overcome conflicts at all levels is the education of adults. Due to the flexibility, efficiency and relatively low cost adult education is precisely the area of educational practice, which can effectively contribute to the successful resolution of political, socio-economic and cultural problems.

There is no country in the world, which in the past as well as in the present has not owed its progress. In various countries adult education is assigned an extremely important role in ensuring sustainable and coordinated progress of individuals and society. It is adult education can be one of the most important priorities, a key that will open up opportunities to solve existing and future challenges of the twenty-first century. Of course, the complex contradictions in various spheres of interstate relations, aggressive nationalism and armed conflicts and terrorism arising on this basis are characteristic not only for the CIS.

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington serve as a new confirmation of the serious illness of the world community.

The global tendency to revise the philosophy and tools of social progress was the basis of the important UN decision “Sustainable Development of Mankind – Program for the XXI Century”. It puts a special emphasis on adult education.

This was also confirmed by the leaders of the G8 in 1999 in Germany and in 2000 in Japan and at the UN General Assembly – “the Millennium Summit”. Heads of state and government agreed on the need for state and political support for lifelong learning of adults.

A few years ago the World Bank, as a result of serious scientific research, came to the conclusion that the production component in the national wealth of any country, whether it be a superpower or a small state, is equally small value – only 16%. The rest is human resources!

The world still tolerates that there are 880 million totally illiterate people on earth and 4.5 billion people without any modern knowledge. And this is nothing less than a path to planetary catastrophe.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that today in one year 15% of knowledge on the planet, including the CIS, is updated, which means that a system of lifelong continuing education of people is needed to prevent unsustainable development on Earth as a result of intellectual bankruptcy.

There is a growing understanding in the world that the formula “lifelong education” should be replaced by a new mental attitude: “education through life.

The concept of education in the CIS has undergone significant changes over the past 10 years. Previously, education was strictly tied to the possibilities of the state budget, on the basis of which the constitutional responsibility of the state to its people was formed. During the last century the renewal of knowledge took place every 20-30 years, and the society did not feel so sharply the imperfection of modern knowledge, maintaining a conservative system of education. Today, as a result of the rapid acceleration of scientific and technological progress and the rapid updating of knowledge, the traditional basic education, due to its inertia, seriously lags behind the ongoing updating of knowledge in the CIS countries.

It should be recognized that the new modern system of adult education in the CIS countries is still in its infancy. An important step in this direction was the “Agreement on cooperation in the field of dissemination of knowledge and adult education”, signed in January 1997 by the heads of governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian Federation and Tajikistan. To implement it the Interstate Committee for the dissemination of knowledge and adult education was formed, at the last meeting of which it was decided to create the Contemporary University of Continuing Adult Education, which on the basis of the latest distance and telecommunication technologies could become a serious base for adult education. The decision of the CIS Council of Heads of Government to create a special Interstate Committee, whose members are representatives from eight CIS countries in the rank of deputy ministers and heads of departments, said that the CIS officially recognized the new industry – adult education …

Already in the next decade in the historical foreground will be those countries, those people who are able to provide a higher level of education, the ability to search, educated and skilled in all its manifestations.

It is obvious that the economic competition of states will move from the sphere of production to the sphere of science, new technologies and education.

The condition and level of development of this sphere will determine the competitiveness of countries, their position in world markets, in the world economic community and, ultimately, their national security, including, first of all, economic and defense. Economic development in the coming decades, according to experts, will be determined by resources consisting of “black gold and gray matter.

Many economically developed and rapidly developing countries, working out national doctrines, concepts and programs of sustainable and safe development, include the development of principally new approaches to national systems of education as one of their strategic directions.

There is a growing worldwide understanding that it is necessary to invest in adult education about 6% of GNP, allocating in each branch of the economy (industry, agriculture, health, etc.) shares of its budget and considering the cost of adult education as an investment in production in each enterprise.

The Advisory Committee on Industrial Research and Development of the European Commission, based on the analysis of the qualification level of the European workforce in its report in the late 80s, came to the conclusion that without a competitive adult education system there can be no competitive workforce, and without the latter, there can be no competitive economy. The availability of such a workforce is a necessary prerequisite for survival in the fierce competition for export markets.

Only by interspersing and alternating throughout life equipment, work and, within these processes and periods, free time for our hobbies, for family, for social activities, will we become effective, durable and happy, useful to each other, to previous and future generations and to the country, and steer the planet slipping into the abyss toward sustainable development.

Adult education – the only sector, whose supranational status is not causing irritation and struggle in the Commonwealth of Independent States. The development of this sector, which has the power to change today’s dangerous trends on the geopolitical map of the world, as well as in the CIS, provided the integration and cooperation of government agencies and non-governmental organizations.

It is very important that adult education at its core uses minimal or no consumption of funds from the state budget. In adult education in the world the turnover of finances is 2.5 times higher than the total public expenditure on basic education.

The main task is to create the conditions, prerequisites, regulations to ensure the continuing education of adults:
– as a factor in increasing the duration of an active life of an individual;
– as a factor in the maximum and effective use of human experience and intelligence throughout life;
– as a factor in eliminating the “sunset” philosophy of the older generation.

It is necessary to ensure the formation in the public consciousness of the attitude to the continuity of lifelong education, and for this it is necessary to recognize:

Equality of all types of education before the law;

the right to education at any age.

The developing network of state and non-state educational institutions and structures that generate extra-budgetary funds to finance educational activities should be encouraged.

Only continuous improvement of general and specialized knowledge, an established service of professional orientation and retraining, and the availability of evening and correspondence forms of education for everyone will allow people to change their profession and place of work at the lowest cost in case of adverse circumstances.

This also makes it possible for each person to more fully realize the talents and inclinations inherent in his or her nature.

The time has come to do away with the idea that investments are only needed in the economy.

Investments in people and improvement of their education are more important and are a decisive condition for a prosperous economy in the CIS countries and for a stable, sustainable development of the whole Commonwealth.

Adults are mediators between the past, present and future. Today, adult education in the CIS is the most valuable resource in the face of present and future challenges.

We must all understand a new truth: the roots of conflicts in the CIS and around the world are in the inadequate understanding of what is happening and the capacity of leaders to eliminate conflicts;
– the seeds of hatred and armed conflict mature from the unequal and unequal development of society;
– The prevention of hatred lies in education and knowledge.

Competence and education must be integrated into all leadership actions and state policies in order to confront conflict, to eliminate contradictions at all levels. The conclusions we must draw are as follows:
the first component 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 way of protecting it; investing in education yields a far greater return than any other.

Today, unknowing ignorance and incompetence rule the world. At the same time in the struggle for a place “under the sun” it is not customary to admit lack of knowledge.

That is why we fool each other and society, replacing deep, objective, modern, retrospective knowledge with subjective experience, intuition and emotions. And these, as you know, are only accompanying tools.

The traditional system of education creates an attitude of sufficiency of secondary or even higher education for the young generation, which is doomed to wither away as soon as it grows up.

It is the neglect of deep, modern, constantly renewed knowledge that makes our planet weak, torn by contradictions. The lack of education, and therefore of qualifications, professionalism and competence, multiplies decisions and projects that cause irreparable damage to the economy, politics, education, culture, and the entire material and spiritual life of the nation. In the absence of spirituality, ignorance begins to flourish and rule, and in an ignorant society, none of the laws of progressive development works. We know much about little, try to stay “afloat” and end up ignominiously each in his own country with his imperfect knowledge.

What is needed is a reassessment of values, not at the local or even intra-state level, but in the CIS as a whole, moreover, at the planetary level as well.

We are people of the Earth, not just our own ambitious regional level. And everyone on the planet should finally realize this.

E.M. Malitikov, Academician, Professor Chairman of the CIS Interstate Committee on Knowledge Dissemination and Adult Education.

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