The Austrian expert named the condition of improving the quality of education in Russia and worldwide
One of the most serious problems of the coming decade, many experts call the decline in the quality of higher education due to partial or complete transition to online education because of coronavirus. At the same time, the rapid development of technology, on the contrary, requires from young people coming to modern production, whatever branch of the economy it belongs to, a much greater amount of knowledge and skills than before.
Already today, not only Russia, but also post-industrial powers to varying degrees lack qualified engineers, teachers, doctors, agronomists and representatives of many other professions that are cornerstone of society. And what next? One of the most popular anecdotes on the web now is a saying: "If you think that 2020 is a disaster, think about 2050, when the world will be ruled by people trained at home in a ‘distance-learning mode’."
Will they be able to create a future in which humanity addresses climate change while at the same time providing itself with the resources needed to develop national economies? Will they be able to integrate digital technology and artificial intelligence into our daily lives in such a way that its quality becomes higher? Will it be possible to eliminate hunger and poverty? Conquer cancer and other diseases? Preserve biodiversity? Provide the world, including developing countries in Africa and Asia, with affordable and clean energy? So far the answers to these questions remain open...
Rector of the Leoben Mining University (Austria) Wilfried Eichelseder believes that to improve the level of technical education is possible only if the scientific and educational community joins forces. And the creation of a coherent unified international system of competencies for engineers with clear threshold requirements. The Forpost asked Mr. Eichelceder to tell about the feasibility of such a large-scale project and its national counterparts existing in the EU.
- Our engineering education is divided into two levels. The first level is the so-called technical colleges, where guys study from the age of 14. There young people get their first degree in engineering, after which they can continue their education after entering university. There are only three technical universities in Austria, particularly in Vienna and here in Leoben. But mining is taught only by us.
Students study for five years. It should be understood that a diploma of higher education in itself is not considered a guarantee of its holder's high qualification. That is, our graduate immediately after graduation can not be allowed to work with complex equipment or hold management positions. For this purpose, he or she must have worked for at least three years in a company, which is regulated by current legislation. There are no additional examinations that would have to be taken after three years to prove their qualifications.
The system in Germany is arranged in a similar way. It is not uniform for the Federal Republic of Germany, the regulation is at the level of the Federal Provinces, but the approach to the definition of competencies is approximately the same there. Our states mutually recognize each other's higher education diplomas. This means that when a specialist moves from one country to another, he does not need to undergo additional certification and prove his level of competence.
Austria also has applications for external certification. There is a quality management system, according to which it is necessary to pass it once in 7 years. This applies to all research, to all scientific work. Our university, for example, is accredited by a Swiss company. There is also a system of recognition of qualifications within the European community, the so-called certification of qualified engineers. It is conducted not by universities, but by an external body.
Unified international system
- In many countries and institutions, the quality of education and infrastructure is not sufficient to guarantee high levels of graduates. Therefore, of course, we need a unified system of international certification, which will define the minimum threshold requirements for all universities and monitor their implementation. This will allow the management of a conditional mining or oil and gas company to understand the level of young specialists applying for this or that position.
But there are several questions. What exactly should be subject to certification? How to organize this process? And, most importantly, who will coordinate it? In my opinion, it is necessary to certify educational programs and qualification of teachers. And this work should be entrusted to the International Center of Competences in Mining Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO. This structure was established two years ago in St. Petersburg, on the basis of Mining University, its experts are representatives of business, scientific organizations and higher education institutions from around the world. In particular, we have become a reference university of the UNESCO Center in Austria.
Uniform standards should be based on the best of existing qualification requirements, so the task of UNESCO in the first stage will include their generalization and unification. This will be the analogue of quality management audit. The main thing is that the competence of the experts themselves, those who audit candidates, is beyond any doubts. Therefore, this role should be confirmed only by authoritative specialists, whose status is confirmed by the professional community.
The advantage of the emergence of a unified international system is, for example, that graduates from different countries of the world, who have passed certification, will be more competitive. They will be able, for example, to get a job in international corporations. They will not need to prove that the education they received in their country is high enough to qualify for certain positions.
Why is it important to improve the quality of personnel
- Now we are talking about the fact that it is extremely important to prevent climate change, but at the same time to ensure uninterrupted supply of resources necessary for further socio-economic development of our states. For this purpose, it is necessary to learn to involve more and more raw materials in recycling. In other words, it is necessary to create a circular economy, which implies maximum waste-free production. It is necessary to learn to save energy and work with increasingly complex technologies.
In this regard, the quality of human capital becomes even more important, as does integration. And not only the integration of higher education institutions or national economies, but also the integration of disciplines. It is necessary for scientific research to become more relevant and in demand from business, to find practical applications and help us achieve our sustainable development goals.
The UNESCO Center can create conditions for a more successful collaboration of scientific teams, interdisciplinary research, and the development of an integrated approach to solving certain tasks that scientists are facing today. This is the only way we can provide an adequate response to the most pressing challenges of our time.