27 September 2020, Sunday, 19:17
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

IT Bunnies

IT Bunnies
Hanna Seviarynets

Why does Prakapenia’s offer reminds a joke about a doctor?

It may seem - what’s wrong about it? Among the twenty points, that went viral in the Belarusian media, there is not much controversy at the first glance: eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic structures in the management of education, conduct an independent audit of the workflow, raise teachers' salaries, and allow sponsorship of schools according to a simplified scheme. This had to be done the day before yesterday.

Some of the points, of course, appear bewildering: like hiring foreign authors to design Belarusian textbooks, organizing distance learning and some secret software and certificates that schools should take from sponsors without additional questions (maybe better with money, rather than software and certificates, gentlemen?).

Two points really made me laugh: about the publication of bonuses to educators, and early profilisation. The point related to preferential loans for IT-education seemed a real crime. Everything came as usual - you accept certain things, and decline the other. Everything was in the scope of common sense and critical taking of somebody else’s ideas, but in general it is all gloomy and hopeless.

All these offers, as well as many other current reforming ideas, remind of an anecdotic situation in a doctor’s office: when you come to see a doctor, and complain about heartache, he says, hmm, heartache… I see your hair looks bad because of this, here, take Vitamin D, rub it into your scalp.

In terms of conceptuality, all these offers are a Vitamin D, prescribed by a person who has good knowledge about hair, but knows nothing about the mitral valve of the human heart. These offers come from a businessman, moreover, an IT businessman. Yes, they will simplify the path of talented children to the HR services of IT companies. Yes, they will simplify the process of early selection and high-quality training of new IT specialists for the High Tech Park. In passing, they will solve some problems of education in general, such as the double subordination of schools and salaries in the field. But they have nothing to do with what our education is sick with.

“The problem of our children is that they no longer can perceive text”

Moreover. An attempt to reform education to meet the needs of business and the patterns of business (any business, not just the IT one) is a mortally dangerous thing for education.

We have already “killed” a higher school in this way when they subordinated academic education to the needs of industry.

At present, Belarus does not have a strong, modernized, modern philosophy, sociology, methodology, humanities - because, according to our reformers, they have nothing to do with industry. The simple idea that any industry and science for it begins with philosophy, methodology, sociology and generally humanitarian studies does not occur to our reformers.

The narrowly conscious practical orientation of our science, the lack of fundamental theoretical searches, the broken links between departments and institutes, each of which does not work for science as a whole, but for a specific narrow practical task - all this killed the science of higher achievements. Now it will finish school too.

The problem of our children is not that they do not have access to IT knowledge and textbooks written by foreign experts. The problem of our children is not that schools are subordinate to executive committees. The problem of our children is not that they are not able to orient themselves professionally in the fifth grade.

The problem of our children is that they have forgotten how to perceive texts, to single out the main and secondary, to analyze and synthesize, to understand the difference between the expressed thought and their perception of this thought, to critically absorb knowledge and build a system of their own priorities.

A long, methodical rejection of impractical, cheap, business-unsuccessful humanitarian knowledge from Belarusian education today is bearing fruit. Children who have forgotten how to perceive texts (of any kind: artistic, scientific, and technical) gave birth to their children and brought them to schools for one purpose: teach us IT, as IT makes a lot of money.

But it doesn't work like that. You can teach a bunny how to code, especially if you give him a preferential loan and software with certificates as sponsorship. And build an IT country of IT bunnies. But is this what we really want from education?

School education should give a person a certain set of fundamental, basic skills. First of all: understand what is written, analyze it, generalize, realizing through practice the theoretical laws of the existence of various systems, perceive through own experience, and use it to solve practical problems of various kinds. These are exclusively humanitarian skills. Before profiling, a person has the right to learn to think high-quality. This is where all the efforts of reformers should go. The children will do the rest themselves. Neither the school nor the university can and should not be successful business projects: thinking training is a process too long, energy-consuming, and financially expensive.

Forcing schools to make money, orienting education toward money, introducing early profiling for future high salaries, and generally motivating people to learn with money is a dead end. A person who goes into adulthood to make money will make money. A person who goes into adulthood to think and create will think and create. Money is always only one of the results, but not the goal, at least in education.

Our society - and, accordingly, the school - is sick with lack of humanitarian knowledge and skills. Therefore, we can’t decide who we are, with whom we are, whom we plan to teach, what documents we plan to fill out, who we should be and for what we live. No, we can all join the ranks of IT as regular slaves of the next major companies, but this, again, is the road to nowhere.

“The main thing in reforming education is to argue properly”

If they asked me about my points of reforming education, the first ones there would be points about a sharp increase in the humanitarian component in the curricula of primary and secondary schools: language, literature, history of Belarus and world history, social science, psychology. The reorientation of funding in higher education in favor of fundamental, theoretical science and the cooperation of schools and universities - and not through the design of school scientific papers according to the rules of dissertations, but through the general search and use of common groundwork, student enthusiasm, and adult wisdom.

Major projects in the field of humanities. Late profiling on the fundamental foundation of a general deep humanitarian training of a student, if they have the skills to master any sciences - after all, chemistry, physics and biology can be studied much faster and much more thoroughly if you take them in the ninth grade, but you will have common learning skills. And already here, in high school, having a normal humanitarian level, you can at least forever throw out of your schedules both literature and history, and social science for the sake of your IT. You will not lose your knowledge and skills.

I foresee that such suggestions of mine will cause someone anxiety and sadness. Let it be so. When reforming education, it is extremely important to argue properly, discuss and develop different visions. And then take a decision. Preferably - together.

Hanna Seviarynets, Radio Svaboda