Yevgeny Vadimovich Shirokov, Associate Professor at the Physics Faculty of Moscow State University (Department of General Nuclear Physics) agreed to comment on the situation in the Russian education and science system for the Eurasia portal in connection with the anti-Lebanese campaign announced by the Eurasian Youth Union.
The conversation was about the current state of fundamental science in Russia, problems and prospects of school and university education. The scientist believes that the situation in the Russian educational system is close to catastrophic. This is especially true of school education, as well as peripheral universities, which have completely lost their potential. The teacher of the Faculty of Physics believes that the cause of the collapse of national education is not only and not so much poor funding, as the lack of government interest and the well thought-out policy in the field of national education and science that follows from it.
- What is the current state of school education? What are the prospects for a Russian high school?
- The biggest problem of modern school education is the lack of a unified system. If school education of a bygone era can be compared to a large island, now we see the sea, where many small islands are scattered, each of which survives in its own way. I repeat, this is not about providing knowledge, but about banal survival. Everyone thinks: “And in order for us to do something more innovative, in order to get additional financing?”
There are no prospects for such a formulation of the question in schools. At the same time, the main problem for parents is that education is not paid. In my opinion, the main problem is not this. The main problem is that in such a situation a question for a child “Who do you want to be?” Loses all meaning. The child ceases to understand, being in the school education system, and who he needs to be. The best answer that now walks on the Internet is “happy.” Often by this is meant some kind of abstract happiness, which can be expressed in lying on a sofa, watching television and eating food. That is, plant life. But this is not self-realization.
I must say that the school is partly to blame for such an imbalance. The teacher is simply not able to answer the question, why is all this necessary - all this study. The child is aware that the person may be completely uneducated, but in the material sense, life is beautiful. If the teacher has the only motive - salary, then he will never learn anything. Where money begins, education ends there. Often, graduates of prestigious paid schools have less knowledge than graduates of general education institutions. We need to return to a certain system in which we would answer the question of who you are, what you will do and why.
- What can you say about the state of Russian fundamental science, its problems and prospects?
- If we talk about the state of fundamental science, then here, first of all, it is customary to talk about the cessation of funding in 90. Indeed, at the end of 80, we had a number of large projects with accelerators. For example, the PM-100 split microtron should have become a unique installation that has no analogues in the world. Unfortunately, the termination of funding was due to the fact that this project was buried, like many others. A number of projects were closed in the Moscow region research institutes, such as Dubna, Protvino. Dubna survived due to the fact that it is a large international center where foreign countries, in particular Germany, contributed money.
In 90, a certain paralysis of fundamental science began. However, not least, he was associated with the same reasons that I mentioned when I spoke about the school. This is the elimination of the system of state interest in science. A scientist, like a school teacher, could not answer the question why he does it.
But a holy place is never empty, and in 90, many have received invitations to foreign research centers, ranging from well-known scientists to young professionals. The so-called “brain drain” began. You can, of course, discuss whether it was necessary to try to reanimate science here or to leave for free bread in the States and Europe. But the lack of goal-setting within the state led to the fact that it was very difficult to explain to a person why he needed to stay here, in an empty institution with unfinished non-working installations. It was even more difficult to explain why to attract some young people: it was implied that if a person goes to science, then he will not live a normal life.
At the same time there were people who remained to work here. They did not allow to destroy the system to the end. Now we can state that we have a scientific school. We can hope that tomorrow will be better. In this case, we have a base on which we will build anew. Part of the directions of particle physics were completely lost. In a number of positions, we are very far behind what is being done, for example, in the West.
The prospects for science will depend on the state goal setting. If we hear that global, state-supported projects are not “inflating blue elephants” in the Moscow suburbs, but specific tasks related to advanced directions in basic science, then we have something to work with and with the help of whom to work. It should be noted that now seniors and students have an interest in science and, which is especially nice to see, to work in Russia.
- Do we need the Academy of Sciences?
- In this regard, naturally, the question arises, on the basis of which to carry out the rise of fundamental science. In 80 - 90 was fashionable to focus on foreign experience. If we start from foreign experience, then the structure of fundamental science in Russia is significantly different from the structure, say in the USA. In the States, the bulk of science is concentrated in universities. There is such a term as the “US Academy of Sciences”, and such a structure exists, but it does not have that weight, as in our country, the Russian Academy of Sciences, because it’s just a club of scientists where they can gather and discuss things of interest. In the States, there are other research centers, such as the Manhattan Laboratory, originally associated with nuclear research, and other national laboratories, but this is a smaller part of science compared to universities.
In Russia, the situation is diametrically opposite. The main part of fundamental science in the Russian Federation is concentrated in the Academy of Sciences. There are, of course, federal centers, such as Sarov (they are, as a rule, of a defensive nature) and university centers, the largest of which is Moscow State University. Therefore, the statements of Livanov, that our Academy of Sciences is ineffective, and something must be done with it, are tantamount to the statement “Is there anything left? Not all finished off? Let's finish it to the end! ”To say that we can switch to the American system, and only science and technology can transfer the whole science to it. The RAS institutes still conduct a significant part of research, both national and international. Therefore, to this day, the need for the Academy of Sciences is beyond doubt, despite the fact that, of course, you can criticize it for something, everywhere there are disadvantages.
- How do you see the strategy of secondary and higher education in Russia? What principles should guide the development of educational methods?
- Actually, I have already formulated the basic principles from which to proceed when forming an educational strategy. We need a balanced state policy in this area. It should be determined not by some private shops there, and not by short-term economic interest, and not by “effective management”, and not by finding out where you can save money, but by a completely clear idea that we have our own system that needs to be developed.
I would like to note one more thing. When they talk about modern fundamental science, it is usually postulated that it is international, and examples of effectively functioning international centers, such as CERN, are given. Indeed, this is a unique center, a huge scientific complex, where interesting research is conducted, but international science is the result of the efforts of national sciences. If there is no strong national science, there will be no international science. And Russia is not some small country that can flow into some kind of common pot and contribute there. It should also be remembered that research related to the country's defense capability is not a prerogative of the internationalization of science. In addition, the potential of our country is such that we can close at least one third of international science. Therefore, our specialists were so willingly accepted in the West. Of course, now this can not be said - the average score of modern Russian specialists is significantly lower than twenty-five years ago. The USE system has hit hard, first of all, on regional universities, but also on large universities. If earlier in our science, along with large centers, peripheral centers existed (not in terms of geography, but in terms of potential), now the periphery has been completely destroyed. Significantly decreased the level of training of students. Do not think that MSU is not afraid, MSU will still take the best: the "best" will simply be nowhere to take.
The system should be realistic, but let this realism be built on the basis of the traditional value system. Then the person will feel full.
Do not forget that now we have a strong competitor. This is China. A huge number of Chinese students study both in the West and in Russia. Yes, they have problems with the language, but they are amazingly assiduous and workable, and this helps them get a good education. Therefore, now the gradient of the Chinese fundamental science, despite the fact that its initial base is inferior to the Russian one, is significantly higher than ours, and we should not forget about this.
- Is the educational system connected with the political regime in the state, and if so, how?
- Probably, the situation with China is the answer to this question. Definitely connected. Because the situation that has developed in our educational system over the past two decades is observed now (despite the fact that some positive changes are taking place), which leads to the absence of the goal-setting already mentioned. Liberal ideology is aimed at an individual whose meaning of life is reduced to a plant existence. The apologists of this system, of course, say that an uneducated person, he will die of hunger, but this is ambiguous. We have already heard these conversations about this “wonderful market”, which will put everyone in its place, but in reality it does not arrange anybody. And the situation we got is just deplorable.
The state should not be guided by the ideology of "do what you want." It should tell a person that he is a citizen of a given state, a part of it, and besides the rights that the state provides (in particular, the rights to the same education), there are internal obligations (not something that made him) , understanding that it is implemented by itself, but within the framework of this system. Moreover, without this and no self-realization can not be. Of course, the system should not be utopian. We read the slogans “our goal is communism,” and then told jokes. The system should be realistic, but let this realism be built on the basis of the traditional value system. Then the person will feel full. A person will see that everything around him is built into a certain completeness, and then he will understand his place in the system, and will strive to develop the good that is in it, to improve his strengths.
- How do you assess the identity of the new Minister of Education? The educational community is demanding his resignation. Who would you like to see in his place?
- Indeed, in recent days and weeks there is a talk about the policy of the current Minister of Education, Mr. Livanov. And indeed, more and more people, and even politicians, believe that this person cannot be at his post. My view of him is very simple: all his actions, which he managed to accomplish in less than a year, show that this gentleman is indeed an “effective” manager, only the word “effective” I would, of course, put in quotes.
He is not a scientist or a teacher. I do not know what Livanov was doing while studying at the Institute of Steel and Alloys. In his biography there are “victorious” pages, perhaps, he really studied well, but now it is clear that he puts his most effective task at this very “effective management”. That is, conventionally, they gave me a thousand rubles, and I saved a hundred rubles. Well done I? And due to what I saved them, and whether it was necessary to save them, or maybe another five hundred rubles had to be asked - I don’t put these questions before me. He realized that there is a system in the state, and a lot of money is allocated for it, but it is necessary that less be allocated. Make it so that it stands out less. Everything. No more problems were solved.
Therefore, a completely healthy idea that there are too many universities in Russia (and this problem did not arise in 90, but earlier), has been reduced to the need to reduce state universities. For what? To reduce costs. Therefore, no one touched private shops that issue fake papers, called “diplomas”, weaken and discredit the state educational system. It can be concluded that the minister sees neither education, nor science, he does some other things, how correctly and effectively, this is a different conversation, but this has nothing to do with education or science. Therefore, the desire to see in this post another person really close to the problems of the educational and scientific system in Russia is completely natural.
- Do we need to focus on foreign models in developing our own model of education? And do we need our own model? Maybe enough "world experience"?
- In connection with the discussion of the prospects of our education, there is a lot of talk about various models. All such models are based on two principles. It went from the very beginning of perestroika. Or these models are simply copied from the West. For example, attempts to make of our school a kind of American. Primary education from a three-year-old was made a four-year-old, stretched the program, and significantly reduced the requirements. Unthinkable textbooks appeared where, instead of reasonable classical works, they began to offer completely incomprehensible poems and prose of modern “writers” and so on. The textbooks that destroy the educational system were aimed at making the school fun.
It is known that elementary school in the United States - it is irregular classes, no desks, something like an advanced kindergarten.
And the second part is innovative schools where some rash techniques were offered. For example, in 90-ies, techniques were actively promoted, suggested not by teachers, but by people who came from the street, they took and wrote books. He has four children, he worked with them, and he "thought" that it was necessary.
We have our own models of education, so do not reinvent the wheel. It is necessary to build a new school, naturally, on the basis of the principle that one river is not included twice. Therefore, if we have any technical means, for example, interactive whiteboards, projectors, computers, of course, does not mean that they should be thrown out and written in chalk on the blackboard. But writing with chalk on the blackboard is also necessary. It is known that what is written on the board is best fixed. The highest appreciation of the students of those lectures, where the lecturer is required to write part of the material with chalk. In order to interest a person in a popular lecture, you can show a slideshow. But classical methods can and should be used.
As for the experience of other countries, I hope that we have already run over, seen enough and ate, and will not faint after seeing the pavement, washed with shampoo, or some kind of showcase. This should be treated as a part of our big world, which you can try to use, but with the utmost care.
- At present, at various levels they are talking about a crisis in Russian education. What should be done to correct the situation?
- Nowadays, in general, they talk a lot about various crises, in particular, about the crisis of education and science. I can say the following: I would divide the two sides of the case. Firstly, there is a negative trend in world science in general. I heard such an expression as "the collapse of science." There is an opinion that a certain stagnation occurs in science, and almost its folding. I think that at present science is in a certain border point, when the problems in front of it are much greater than the ways to solve them. But this is not specifically our problem, but worldwide. If at Moscow University they cannot tell about the structure of the world, then it is not necessary to think that if we go to the California Institute of Technology, they will quickly tell us about it.
The peculiarity of our situation is that, in addition to this world situation, we ourselves are at the point where we have to make a choice. We will follow the path of effective management and copying Western models in order to merge into some kind of ephemeral international science or we will develop our own system, which will become part of world science. Of course, international contacts have always existed, and in the era of the Cold War, and will continue to exist, and this is normal. We need to decide on further goals, so as not to look sadly at a student, when he asks us a question what to do, but to say: “What, do you not see?”