A. Fursenko. The future of the country depends on the education
A. Fursenko – Education and Science RF Minister.
Modern Russian Higher education is open to a large number of people. This “mass character” allows lots of young people get their education, which will open to them many possibilities. At the same time it is time to consider the quality of the education, both given and received. We have to remember that there should be a certain ratio between mass education and elite education. Providing for the accessibility of the higher education we should not forget about preparation of the intellectual elite of the country. Because this elite will provide fro the whole country prosperity.
The quality of the given education can be supported by extra finances as well as and mostly by the expansion of the freedom in the definition of the education program content. Just like the degree of the Soviet Phystech (University of Physics and Technology), whose diploma still rates worldwide. This university deviated from the standard programs and that let its graduates get education of better quality and elevate the level of their knowledge.
Definitely, the quality of the knowledge directly depends on the concrete directors, and school teachers, rectors, professors and scientific school managers. But students’ feelings play a substantial role as well. We have to set an ambitious aim to the present generation. Phystech saw such aim as the country security and victory in the cold war. Today the aim priority may lie in creating an innovative Russia. And innovations can not exist without human capital. And the other way round, preparation of the intellectual elite is tightly connected to the innovations, including the ones in the sphere of education.
Today we have to create such conditions when already existing universities and institutes can become “Phystechs”, or if you like, “super universities” judged by the level and quality of the knowledge. At the same time we have to realize that the process of the “super university” creation should be natural, that is the educational community itself start to from a hierarchy of the educational establishments. Every niche has to be involved into such a hierarchy. That will allow to strengthen the educational system and create a ground for the Russian society modernization.
When we speak about education we forget that it is the minority that has to be taught to create innovations. And the majority has to be taught how to apply them. To create a successful society we have to teach both. Today Russian industry faces the problem of the unreceptiveness of the scientific achievements. The problem is rooted in the Soviet system of education, which was preparing qualified creators but not consumers.
To neutralize this misbalance we have to keep this “self-value” of education on the one hand, as it gave us unique positions in the world knowledge market, where Russia is regarded as the country with the best fundamental education. But on the other hand our higher education as a system has to add pragmatic, application part, which will make it more competitive. Art for art, satisfaction of a personal curiosity at the state expense without attaining results required by the society, it is not effective, nor perspective strategy for today.
Educational establishment hierarchy already exists. Everyone knows that ex Pedagogical College which today has a proud name of University cannot be compared to Lomonosov Moscow State University. But the diploma is the same – the state one. Where is a reasonable way out of this situation? Some suggest quite radical changes – to refuse state diplomas, leaving juts University ones. I believe that this approach can ruin the whole system of education here, as we have to keep in mind the centuries of traditions.
The other variant seems more optimal and natural – make University ranking. High education establishments have different levels of reputation from the customers’ – employer – point of view as well as that of the educational community. Suggestions on the formulization of these estimations were spoken at different rectors’ meetings.
Education and science community appealed to rectors’ community as well as to employers with the request to present these ratings and try to work out the criteria that will objectively define the place of this or that high education establishment in this hierarchy. This system is wide spread and effective in many countries. For instance, in Japan there are 700 Universities, but only 70 of them are considered national. In the same way, we can form a hierarchy of Russian high education establishments. Meanwhile, the high rank Universities will have to understand that they are to prove this status in the future as the ranking will be reconsidered from time to time, some will get higher, others – lower.
At the same time will treat Universities giving shallow education with more demands, as they cannot fool the state as well as the students themselves. Our ministry has made the control over state recourses tougher. Some of the University affiliates, both private and state, are already closed, and we will continue the control over educational programs.
On the whole I can repeat that the quality question is very important. When selecting innovative educational establish the quality of their education should be judged by the business, expert and scientific community representatives. Other, non educational civil society institutions should influence the educational process more to increase the level of the education quality.
The already working tutorial, supervisory and management counsels (they are already hundred) have to prove their effectiveness, even in finding new finance sources. In the USA, for instance, every University has a fund, which is its belongings in money, property or land given to this establishment. At the same time the finances for the educational process are not taken from this fund but from its interests. But to attract non-budge finances to Universities and establishments, it is important to provide transparency for all of the education economy. It makes sense to create a developed system of public control over educational activities in the educational establishments.
Another important question is the number of Universities and its affiliates in the country. Now it exceeds the number of universities in the USSR by 5 times. Nonetheless, I do not think that we have to decrease this number applying administrative tools. But if the educational program does not correspond with the quality standards, then the establishment has to increase them or close down. We also have to create the conditions when the Universities are interested in uniting their efforts and maybe getting united.
One of the ways to solve the above mentioned problems in the science and economy maybe the introduction of the bachelor-master degree system, which allows to make specialists of special profile. Bachelor degree – is a full higher education, which means that a person leaves University with wide views and good knowledge and is ready to get a specialized knowledge. Or stop his education and start his work or business, having a necessary level of knowledge and preparation for the career start. Then it becomes evident that University satisfy a concrete social demand, increasing the number of citizens with a qualified higher education.
Education modernization through the bachelor-master degree system gives new possibilities to our citizens. It is always better and easier to continues one’s studies than to re-study. There are lots of people today who have graduated from a University, spent all their and state money and now face the need to get another education. I think it is crucial to create an effective system of additional, continuous education. If a man wants to be successful he has to continue his studies through the whole life time. The main task of the basic education is to teach people to study, so that they know how and where to get information they need.
Another topic that is often discussed is young specialist migration, after they got education in Russia free of charge. I believe it would be wrong to create tough administrative obstacles in this question. The application of such financial tools as state grants can hold a specialist by civilized means. He has to fulfill his duties towards the one who gave him money; in this case it is the State. The same holds true for the educational loans. But if students entered University on the budget base and then decide to go to work abroad, strict measures are harmful in this case. WE have to create attractive working places in Russia, developing innovative economy sector.
So there is a need in the employment system for graduates. The practice of assignment failed in many countries, including Russia. But there are market tools. As for the Education and Science Ministry, his role I see in the improvement of the informative system. And not only graduates but also entrants have to know what professions will be in need. We have to forecast the needs of the economy and the society in 5-10 years and give this information to young people so that they could choose their educational “line”.
Education financing is crucial as well. In the conditions when most young people cannot afford educational loans, the government should pay some expenses: either by paying the interest rate. Or give banks the guarantee, or take some expenses for those loans. Nonetheless, I think there two more mechanism that will improve the systems of education loans. First, it is a normative personal financing which is unlike State Source of Educational Financing should cover the education expenses. Second there is a need in state grants for those entrants that did not have enough points to get budget education but are willing to study and for those who are getting budget education but need grants for accommodation and living expenses during their studies. In this case a student gets money for education under the condition that he will pay them later or will work for some time according to his specialization in the place that they government will assign him to. In the same way, some purposeful places can be financed by business.
At the same time we are broadening the frames of such organizations that can offer additional education. These maybe not only state structures but also other structured licensed in different specialties. Their education quality monitoring should be carries out by public-professional structures, not the state ones. This deals with one of the main principles of education modernization – to open the education system for the external world. Today educational system is closed, which wrong as it is an economical and social institute which has to work for the public well-being.
Another important point is to eliminate artificial barriers between education and science, between the systems that are practically parts of one whole. So we suggest that scientific organizations allow to apply their property in the educational process and, on the other hand, to introduce the juridical term of the Basic Chair, Basic Laboratory, to create a possibility for studying not only in the educational organizations but also in the scientific one, for example, for a magistracy in NII (Scientific Research Institute).
To realize the above mentioned educational tasks we need to improve the normative-legal support. For instance, the introduction of the bill about additional profession regulation suggests that commercial organizations have a right to offer services of additional professional education, , they can carry out professional attestation, and accredit additional professional education. Adoption of this bill will allow improving the quality of the additional education programs, to attract non-budget finances into the sphere of additional education.
Education and Science Ministry has prepared another bill – employer rights expansion. According to this bill, the employers have a possibility to take part in the forecast and monitoring of the employment market, in the formulation of the range of required specialties, control the quality of education. Adoption of this bill will allow to open up the educational system, make it meet the economy and society demands, creating the mechanisms allowing employers participate in the educational program estimation and control.
The Federal law on the “Postgraduate Professional Education”, which is constantly renovated.