Discussing education problems would be a good start
RIA Novosti, Mar 20
MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti political commentator Yury Filippov) -
Education is one of the top three issues suggested by Russia for the 2006 G8 summit in St. Petersburg. This is logical, as creating a system of quality education is among Russia's national projects prioritized for funding and attention.
The issue will be interesting for Europeans, as well as Americans and the Japanese, if only because this year France has been shaken by student riots again, reminding the older generation about the 1968 youth revolution. This time, nobody was fired from the French government, but the first labor contract law, which had provoked unrest, was revised to give first-time job seekers additional social guarantees.
This will not solve all the problems of integrating newly educated young people into society, not even in France, where far from everyone is satisfied with the new wording of the law. The social situation is even more complicated in other European countries with high youth unemployment and major problems on the labor market created by African and Asian immigrants.
Another complicating element is the internal migration in the European Union, where people from dozens of new members are moving from East to West. Therefore, the social aspects of education and the problems of young people will remain at the top of the global agenda for a long time.
The United States, which has a powerful education network, imports tens and even hundreds of thousands of skilled specialists from Asia a year. American high technologies could have major development problems if U.S. science is not regularly reinforced with an influx of foreign specialists.
This does not look bad at first glance since America has always attracted the most talented scientists from other countries and plans to carry on this policy. However, the inflow of foreigners, who were brought up in a different culture and with a different mentality, is eroding the foundations of American identity and could eventually provoke mass conflicts.
In his recent article on the main issues suggested for Russia's G8 presidency, President Vladimir Putin said, "Education is the medium that can ensure the mutual social adjustment of different cultural, ethnic and religious groups." This idea should be scrutinized and not only in regard to America. Labor migration is a common issue across the world.
However, there is no education system in the world that could ensure the comprehensive "mutual social adjustment" of cultural groups. Moreover, this task is seldom set at all, which means that education systems in developed and developing countries should be overhauled, Putin said.
Russia wants to make the St. Petersburg summit the starting point in this difficult undertaking. We may not be approaching the solution of education and related problems, but we can at least start discussing them at the international level. The UN, UNESCO and other UN and international non-governmental organizations are doing much in this respect. But they need the contribution of governments, whose resources are of critical importance.
Paradoxically, the current generation is the best educated in the history of humankind, but education problems have never been as complicated and acute as today. In our age of globalization, they are becoming global. The notion of higher (tertiary) education as a guaranteed pass into adult life with a high income and social status has become obsolete surprisingly quickly. There are millions of skilled specialists unable to find well-paid jobs in their professions in Russia. Worse still, there are well-educated terrorists and ideologists and organizers of terrorism. Knowledge and information, as well as new opportunities offered by communications, are nearly as vital to extremists as to universities and high-tech sectors of the national economies.
This does not cancel systemic reasons for the proliferation of international terrorism, such as poverty, backwardness and civilizational isolation of whole countries and regions. It is a fact that terrorists seek the pockets of mass illiteracy because this greatly simplifies their subversive operation.
According to the UN, 113 million children on the planet did not attend primary school in 2000. They will become a new illiterate generation in the era of the Internet and distance learning (e-learning), mostly because their countries cannot ensure accessible education to them.
The heads of the world's leading nations who will convene in St. Petersburg should think about what their countries can do to solve this problem.