Kjell Askeland Report


PART 5. TOWARDS THE FUTURE



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PART 5.

TOWARDS THE FUTURE.

The EUROFACULTY Project and the importance to CONTINUE THE process.

The first phase of the project has been done well. It has created an atmosphere of enthusiasm for attacking the most important issues in modern education.

Considering the next phase, which has to be performed in the years to come, the necessary thing is to have self-confidence and not to feel inferior, looking towards ‘the West’ in the erroneous belief that ‘they’ have solved the problems. They have, as I have said earlier, more or less ‘solved’ some of the problems with authority in education. At least, they seem to be some years ahead of Russia here, but they have not yet addressed the problem of giving adequate ‘reason’ for the most important didactical issues:


Active learning.

Learning in groups,

Lecturing,

The use of computer aided learning.

The use of books in modern education.

The use of media in teaching and learning.


In this report, I have tried to illuminate some of these challenges.
If I am right, in the long term Russia should feel confident both in their educational system and educational research and thus in their ability both to compete and to cooperate with other countries in these areas.

I say compete, because all countries (and regions!) have to compete in this global world.

I say cooperate, because the rest of Europe needs Russia, and we need a self-confident and competent Russia.

These last words are of course lyricism, but one should keep in mind that it is very likely that Russian competence can make very important contributions to meeting the tasks indicated above.

In this context one should not neglect ‘the Soviet perspective’. Everyone who has had the interest and the possibility to read modern history will know that the Second World War was not solely a question of arms. An important factor behind the Soviet defeat of Germany was the immense rise of its qualification level. This happened not only in the rank and file of the armed forces, but also in the whole population. There was an explosion in technical knowledge and creativity perhaps never seen before. Here one should also not forget that during the following cold war, these qualifications were further developed.

One may wonder what this has to do with the EUROFACULTY Project. The answer is, as one of the participants told me, that Russia has to take care of this vast educational achievement not for the purpose of producing arms but for technical development in general. One possible conclusion to be drawn may be that not only faculties of law and economics have to be rapidly developed. It may also be of great value if the EUROFACULTY ‘model’ is applied to the science and technology faculties as well. (I know that it is already decided to do so.)

From the perspective of the EUROFAN project, it has not been possible to get information about strategic planning and decisions for the selection of possible faculties for EuroFaculty activities. As already indicated, the priority given to the faculties of law and economy was, beyond any doubt, a very good and rational decision.


HOW CAN THE EUROFACULTY PROJECT AND THE EXPERIENCE GAINED FROM IT BE MADE USEFUL?

A remark about useful model theory.

Very often when we speak about a special university or an educational experiment, we tend to speak about a model. As a rule, this is misleading. The university in Roskilde is sometimes considered to be a specific model, which it is not. It was designed as a cluster of many different models. In short, it consisted of ’basic education’ (basisuddannelserne), ’project organised learning’ and ’the pedagogical building system’ (’hus’-systemet). This is extremely important, because if this is not recognised, one may believe that in order to use the experience from Roskilde, one must take all the included models in the cluster and more or less make a copy of it. Seeing Roskilde as a cluster of models, or a menu, one may use ’the project model’ without accepting the ’basis-education model’.

As for Kaliningrad, one should avoid the expression ’the Kaliningrad model’ as an expression for the Project plan. The EUROFACULTY Project was and should be treated as a cluster of models.

In discussions I have met with disagreement. My opponent held the opposite view, maintaining that the different objectives in the EUROFACULTY Project were bundled together by necessity, and that it would have been completely unthinkable to change the curriculum to bring it in accordance with ’Bologna’ if the project had not included the pedagogical changes. If this is correct, then the consequence must be that all academic institutions in Russia where adaptation to Bologna may be hoped for must obtain financial support for their own EUROFACULTY Projects. The costs would be immense.

My opinion is that analysing the experience gained from the EUROFACULTY Project one must see it as a cluster of models, establishing the possibility for options. What these models are, and how they were combined, are outside the scope of this analysis.

A proposal: produce a booklet on the EUROFACULTY Project.

Having worked with the EUROFACULTY Project, it would be a waste of resources if I did not come with some recommendations. I have tried to do that in this report. Before I close this fascinating chapter of my academic life, I would like to describe two proposals. There are two aspects to be considered in the proposals. The first aspect is to continue the process with the same sort of inspiration, as this was present in the EUROFACULTY Project.

The EUROFACULTY Project was only the beginning of a continuous never-ending pedagogical development work. Pedagogics is, as a normal science, never arriving at a point where it stops. New knowledge and sometimes completely new strategies are discovered.

Here, the Immanuel Kant State University of Russia in Kaliningrad has made a start that is influencing the ongoing pedagogical development and will continue to do so in the future.

The aspect and resulting proposal concerns the future pedagogical development work at the university. In my view it would be wise to form a plan and set up an organisation for its implementation. One cheap and useful strategy would be to produce a written description of the EUROFACULTY Project, including its background, fundamental ideas, results and the personal experience of the participants. My advice is: produce a book or a booklet along these lines. If this is done, both outsiders and the university itself will profit. The ’we-feeling’ within the university will develop, just as it does in companies and corporations where storytelling is used as a means to achieve this.

The size of Russia and its many institutions for higher education makes it impossible set up EuroFaculty Projects where this is needed. Therefore it is important to make the ideas, the spirit and experience from the EuroFaculty Project in Kaliningrad accessible for everyone to use.

That would contribute in a very cost effective way to institutions that did not get the same chance as IKSUR got. This would contribute to the possibility to make the EUROFACULTY Project a ’model’ for inspiration and a source of experience.

It would also be wise to establish an internal forum for the discussion of pedagogical matters.


Produce a book on modern pedagogics, and distribute it in Russia.

In the same way as pedagogical knowledge and inspiration are spread across the borders of the countries in Western Europe, it is important that Russia becomes a part of this process. During my work with the EUROFAN Project I found so much interest in pedagogics that I am sure that there is a huge potential for pedagogical innovation in Russia. This potential should be met with some resources. In my view the most cost effective way for meeting this need is to produce a textbook on modern pedagogics for distribution to teachers, planners and students in Russia

I discussed this with Ms Nelly Rozina, Deputy Director of the Russian Department of State Policy in Education and Science at a meeting in the Ministry of Education in Moscow on the 26 November 2008, and I feel assured that this possibility will be considered.

The task to produce a well-written textbook on modern pedagogics for distribution to Russian teachers is strongly supported by my experience in the EUROFAN Project. I feel sure that it would be possible to find competent writers both in Russia and abroad who can and will contribute to this. It would be wise to take ’the EUROFACULTY Project’ as a point of departure and use the experience from it along some lines that are important for the development of education in Russia. This could demonstrate that modernisation of the Russian pedagogics does not mean ’import from West’, but cooperation based upon significant contribution from Russian educationalists.

In order to illustrate this proposal, some possible topics can be mentioned, such as:

Modern learning theories on activity learning, based upon Vygotskij.

On lectures and lecturing.

Problem-organised and project-organised learning.

Learning in groups. On individual learning processes in groups.

Computer aided learning.

Students’ responsibility for their own learning.

Media and learning. Media and teaching.

How to learn from reading.

Curriculum construction and pedagogics, not as rules, but as menus.

The importance of subject-based pedagogics. (Fachdidaktik)

How to teach the teachers.

How to organise educational development work.

Distance education as a means for improving teaching and learning in Russia.

There is so much useful knowledge in pedagogics, and so many competent people, that it should be considered to be a good investment to call upon this science and these people. We have to find a balance between interpreting the world and to improve it.

I live in the hope that I have made a small contribution in this direction.



FINAL WORDS FROM KANT AND KALININ


My final words at the end of this report may be expressed in a combination of - whom else? – Kant and Kalinin.
Kant:

A proposal for a theory of education is a beautiful ideal, and it does no harm if we are not able to make it out immediately. One should not consider the idea to be a chimera and throw it away as a beautiful dream if we encounter difficulties in making it real.

An idea is nothing else as the concept of a perfection that does not yet exist in experience.
If our dreams and aspirations for future, and the future of Immanuel Kant State University in Kaliningrad, shall have any change of coming through, we cannot describe these dreams in dry, academic words. Our words must aim at inspiration:
Kalinin

Do you know what it means, to present ready phrases? This means that your brains do not work, only your tongue.... You are afraid that if you use your own words, they will not sound so beautiful. You are wrong. Your speeches will be more understandable.


The task of this report has not been to present educational science in a traditional academic way, but to inspire people who are working with the development of education in Russia.

I have sought both to analyse the experience from the EUROFACULTY Project in Kaliningrad and to give some recommendations for future development.


I have tried to the best of my ability.
Best wishes!

Kjell Askeland

Stockholm 2009


1The university was renamed in 2005. Before that, its name was Kaliningrad State University. For the sake of simplicity, I use the present name throughout the text.

2 The word ’pressure’ should not be overemphasised. The CBSS or the donor countries had neither the right nor the wish to exert any pressure upon the sovereign Russian authorities. The expression should be read and understood in the following context: Both the CBSS and the different people in the different administrations or committees who had raised the funds and support for the EUROFACULTY Project were under pressure to report that the project was starting up according to plan. This pressure was of course understood by the representatives of the Russian counterpart, with the knowledge that if the project could not be reported to be ’en route’, this could lead to withdrawal of the funds.

3 Since the proposals for a new educational approach or a change in an established one always are made by human beings, there is a risk that these people present the proposals as ’needs in society’ even when the real reason may be one of personal benefit or gain.

4 In this report the expression ’Bologna’ and the ’Bologna process’ are abbreviations for describing the European project that aims at coordination and standardisation of higher education. The name ’Bologna’ is used because the declaration of this program was made in Bologna in 1999. In the Bologna declaration, 6 different objectives are indicated, as the curriculum-reform aiming at introducing the Bachelor and the Master degrees as standards. Besides, an international credit system for the workload in studies is developed, together with objectives for mobility, evaluation of quality, establishments of standards et cetera. The work with this process was continued in a conference in Prague (2001), Berlin (2003) and in Bergen (2005).



5 This may of course be disputed until educational research has had its say. At least one investigation from the German HIS (Hochschul-Informations-System) reports a decrease in learning output. The German Union of University Teachers (Deutscher Hochschulverband, DHV) considers the Bologna process to be problematic, leading to many problems in the educational system.


6 Educational research says that sometimes the belief in success is enough. (Hawthorne and Pygmalion effects may be seen as ’educational placebo’)

7 As we shall see later it is nonsense to consider projects and lectures as alternatives.

8 A Procustian bed is an arbitrary standard to which exact conformity is forced.

9 Interview, 
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA,
www.aip.org/history/ohilist/LINK

Interview with Fritz Reiche 
by Thomas S. Kuhn and George E. Uhlenbeck at the Rockefeller Institute, New York, NY
30 March, 1962




10 ’Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.” From Goethes ’Faust’.


11 In traditional pedagogics, we do not ’place the students’, we more or less command them to learn a specific thing. In a project curriculum, we guide the student through a project where he or she discovers that something has to be learned in order to proceed. In ‘project didactic’ the theme ‘guidance’ is of crucial importance.

12 As an example of unacceptable ’project propaganda’, one should have a look at ’http://www.edutopia.org/project-learning-introduction-video’ where Seymour Papert is invited to say that in ’project pedagogics’ students are so enthusiastic that there is no need for a curriculum.


13 GDSI, Galway Development Services International, is an economic consulting company, established in 1991, that has its origins in the Centre of Development Studies in the National University of Ireland, Galway.

14 The reasons for this development can be explained as a pure measure for survival. It can be argued that the Soviet society never had the ’luxury’ of developing a rational planned economy. Throughout its whole history, the problem was one of survival. One should bear in mind that Germany could have won the war. It did not, partly because the Soviet leadership threw all considerations of a scientific or democratic planning process overboard. ’Everything to the front!’ was the cry for survival. There were no other considerations.

Having discussed with Soviet citizen the armaments race as part of the cold war, I was impressed to learn that that their hopes for a real planned economy after the World war was crushed by the demands for new, more and better weapons for defence.



15 The reader should be informed that the writer of this report had a role in the designing of Roskilde University Centre, together with Per-Ivar Maudal, now director at the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim. The writer must take some responsibility for Roskilde University Centre being ’different’ from all other universities, but he does not claim any credit for it being ’better’.

16 This, as everything else, may have a price. Some students may run the risk of losing their individuality if they are subject to strong group pressure.

17 For different reasons I prefer the expression ’we-feeling’ instead of ’local ownership’.




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