Asked 29th Nov, 2013
What is the degradation scale in the higher education worldwide?
In my previous question I suggested using the Research Gate platform to launch large-scale spatio temporal comparative researches.
The following is the description of one of the problems of pressing importance for humanitarian and educational sectors.
For the last several decades there has been a gradual loss in quality of education on all its levels . We can observe that our universities are progressively turning into entertaining institutions, where students parties, musical and sport activities are valued higher than studying in a library or working on painstaking calculations.
In 1998 Vladimir Arnold (1937 – 2010), one of the greatest mathematicians of our times, in his article “Mathematical Innumeracy Scarier Than Inquisition Fires” (newspaper “Izvestia”, Moscow) stated that the power players didn’t need all the people to be able to think and analyze, only “cogs in machines,” serving their interests and business processes. He also wrote that American students didn’t know how to sum up simple fractions. Most of them sum up numerator and denominators of one simple fraction with the ones of the other, i.e. as they did it, 1/2+ 1/3 according to their understand is equal to 2/5 . Vladimir Arnold pointed out that with this kind of education, students can’t think, prove and reason – they are easy to turn into a crowd, to be easily manipulated by cunning politicians because they don’t usually understand causes and effects of political acts. I would add, for myself, that this process is quite understandable and expected because computers, internet and consumer society lifestyle (with its continuous rush for more and newer commodities we are induced to regard as a healthy behavior) have wiped off young people’s skills in elementary logic and eagerness to study hard. And this is exactly what the consumer economics and its bosses, the owners of international businesses and local magnates, need.
I recall a funny incident that happened in Kharkov (Ukraine). One Biology student was asked what “two squared” was. He answered that it was the number 2 inscribed into a square.
The level and the scale of education and intellectual decline described can be easily measured with the help of the Research Gate platform. It could be appropriate to test students’ logic abilities, instead of guess-the-answer tests which have taken over all the universities within the framework of Bologna Process which victorious march on the territories of former Soviet states. Many people can remember the fact that Soviet education system was one of the best in the world. I have therefore suggested the following tests:
1. In a Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky (1868-1945) painting “Oral accounting at Rachinsky's People's school”(1895) one could see boys in a village school at a mental arithmetic lesson. Their teacher, Sergei Rachinsky (1833-1902), the school headmaster and also a professor at the Moscow University in the 1860s, offered the children the following exercise to do a mental calculation (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BogdanovBelsky_UstnySchet.jpg?uselang=ru):
(10 х 10 + 11 х 11 + 12 х 12 + 13 х 13 + 14 х 14) / 365 = ?
(there is no provision here on Research Gate to write square of the numbers,thats why I have writen through multiplication of the numbers )
19th century peasant children with basted shoes (“lapti”) were able to solve such task mentally. This year, in September, this very exercise was given to the senior high school pupils and the first year students of a university with major in Physics and Technology in Kyiv (the capital of Ukraine) and no one could solve it.
2. Exercise of a famous mathematician Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855): to calculate mentally the sum of the first one hundred positive integers:
1+2+3+4+…+100 = ?
3. Albrecht Dürer’s (1471-1528) magic square (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_square)
The German Renaissance painter was amazed by the mathematical properties of the magic square, which were described in Europe firstly in Spanish (the 1280s) and Italian (14th century) manuscripts. He used the image of the square as a detail for in his Melancholia I painting , which was drawn in 1514, and included the numbers 15 and 14 in his magic square:
16 3 2 13
5 10 11 8
9 6 7 12
4 15 14 1
Ask your students to find regularities in this magic square. In case this exercise seems hard, you can offer them Lo Shu (2200 BC) square, a simpler variant of magic square of the third order (minimal non-trivial case):
4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6
4. Summing up of simple fractions.
According to Vladimir Arnold’s popular articles, in the era of computers and Internet, this test becomes an absolute obstacle for more and more students all over the world. Any exercises of the following type will be appropriate at this part:
3/7 + 7/3 = ? and 5/6 + 7/15=?
I think these four tests will be enough. All of them are for logical skills, unlike the tests created under Bologna Process.
Dear colleagues, professors and teachers,
You can offer these tasks to the students at your colleges and universities and share the results here, at the Research Gate platform, so that we all can see the landscape of the wretchedness and misery resulted from neoliberal economics and globalization.
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Dear Vladimir M Moskovkin . See the following useful link(page 8-end): https://www.jica.go.jp/jica-ri/IFIC_and_JBICI-Studies/english/publications/reports/study/topical/approaches/pdf/higher_02.pdf
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All Answers (17)
Dear Dr. V. M Moskovkin, Its good you are raising an issue "What is the degradation scale in the higher education worldwide"? In your text, you wrote "We can observe that our universities are progressively turning into entertaining institutions, where students parties, musical and sport activities are valued higher than studying in a library or ..". We can argue and put sound reasons for those activities. Yes I agree with you that those activities should not go beyond or sacrificing the overall objectivity of "Knowledge and Education".
Some time I think and feel guilty that I the pursuit of knowledge for my own sake. In my knowledge where is the place for real issues like poverty, right to education, ..What is my contribution after acquiring higher education.
I agree that "For the last several decades there has been a gradual loss in quality of education on all its levels". I think that this decadence is a characteristic fruit of the "moral relativism" that dominates without limits in the university and in most of the modern society. The lack of respect for the absolute values, produces in many a lack of interest in any other knowledge quest. Many are living behind "bread and circus" and so are very prone to irresponsible consumism and hedonism. This has been denounced many times by Popes of the twentieth century and by many other brilliant minds (e.g. Solzhenitsyn, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Jean Daniélou, Warren H. Carroll, Carlos A. Sacheri, Julio Menvielle, Leonardo Castellani, Alfredo Sáenz and Tatiana Goricheva) but the Media ridicule or ignores their advises.
This is a great question and topic for discussion. I see students with the need for instant gratification, limited attention spans, and a lack of accountability for their actions. I see that you are more focused on the mathematical equation in the quality of education but I believe your statement that "...there has been a gradual loss in quality of education on all its levels" encompasses all subjects within education. We need constructivist educators that are able to or be allowed to tweak their teaching methods so that all students can learn. One size does not fit all when it comes to learning. My thought is that we as educators need to adapt to a technological society in order to engage students in active participation. Students need to have consequences for their academic actions (this is assuming there are no learning or intellectual disabilities). If student x studies hard than that student will get a higher score/grade. If student y doesn't study or do homework and fails the test, then that student will get a low score/grade. Unfortunately, the educational system is becoming increasingly powerless to enforce the second scenario. Educational administrators are afraid of lawsuits from parents saying that student y now has low self-esteem and depression because of the low score they received. I see an increase in the number of school systems/districts that allow students to repeat a test as many times as they want until they receive the score they want. I see school systems/districts that have banned a score under 60% so that the student doesn't feel like they are "failing". I see a curricular structure that emphasizes specialties and sub-specialties, creating that educational silo where the student is so focused on their field of interest that they don't worry about other fields.
This seems to be a common perception across the globe however it needs objective evaluation to ascertain the reality of the matter. For that purpose we may even need to develop new tools for measuring the change. Besides this it might be the case that the standards against which the two situations are compared are not compatible as they say it might be the case of comparing apples with oranges. I am saying this the skills required for success in the 19th, 20th or 21st centuries are not the same.
First of all, I want to thank you for your actual question.
I want to quote two phrases of Vladimir Arnold in Russian.
The first phrase is about "about teaching today's children", and the second phrase is about "what it is need to do". You can translate these phrases into English (or any other language) using http://translate.google.com/
1. Нужна ли в школе математика? http://scepsis.net/library/id_649.html
"... Французского школьника, мальчика лет восьми, спросили, сколько будет 2 + 3. Он был отличник по математике, но считать не умел, потому что там так учат математике. Он не знал, что это будет пять, но он ответил, как отличник, так, чтобы ему поставили пятерку: «2 + 3 будет 3 + 2, потому что сложение коммутативно» "
2. Академик В.И. Арнольд: Путешествие в хаосе
"... Американские ученые - в основном эмигранты из Европы, а аспиранты сегодня - это китайцы и японцы ...
- Но тем не менее успехи американской науки вы не можете отрицать?
- Я не делаю сейчас обзор о состоянии науки в США или американского «образа жизни». Я говорю о состоянии преподавания математики в школах США, и здесь ситуация плачевная. Я обсуждал эту проблему с выдающимися математиками Америки, многие из них - мои друзья, достижениями их я горжусь, но тем не менее я задавал им такой вопрос: «Как вам удалось при столь низком школьном образовании достичь столь высокого уровня в науке?». И один из них мне ответил так: «Дело в том, что я рано научился «двойному мышлению», то есть у меня было одно понимание предмета для себя, а другое - для начальства в школе. Мой учитель требовал, чтобы я ему отвечал, что дважды три - восемь, но сам-то я знал, что это шесть... Я твердо знал, что надо отвечать на уроках и что есть на самом деле... Я много занимался в библиотеках, благо, есть прекрасные книги». "
Thank you Mr. Gennady Fedulov from Georgia for the given statements by Vladimir Arnold.
To make it easier for the readers, I have done an English translation below. By the way, many Americans consider Georgia to be one of their states .Some actually don’t know that there is a country with the same name ,a Caucasian country with a rich and unique history , which together with Ukraine for nearly 70 years until 1991 was part of the USSR (in the ” tsar's “ times both countries were part of the Russian Empire ).As in regard with Ukraine (a country of which I am a citizen), country from the very beginning has a mental split into two parts , one part is oriented to the west and the other part is oriented to the east (Russia) and which many people know as the result of the two Orange revolutions in 2004 and 2013 .
On the eve of the Vilnius summit, I wrote a joke, which I will tell you in brief, taking into consideration the essence of the discussion, I have noted that, it describes a situation that could arise in the imagination of many people:
On the eve of the Vilnius summit, one European official asked his colleague: “ In one of the economic reviews, I read the word UKRNAFTA , have Americans really signed a Free Trade agreement with Ukraine ?”. His colleague answered: “It’s improbable but it seems so”…..
In order to avoid such discussions, it’s necessary to know and compare two terms:
1) NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement;
2) UKRNAFTA - Ukrainian State Oil Company, the word “nafta” in translation from Ukrainian into English means "oil".
In the conditions of building a modern informational society and knowledge economy, generates a considerable amount of knowledge and information, but in the minds of many, there is a lack of demand and skills for it’s structuring, reasoning and analysis. The reasons for this are described by the same mathematician Vladimir Arnold.
As I promised earlier, I have given below the translations of the two statements that were addressed to Mr. Gennady Fedulov in Russian:
1) Is it really necessary to have mathematics in primary schools? http://scepsis.net/library/id_649.html
A French primary school pupil, aged 8 was asked what the sum of 2+3 could be. He was very good in mathematics ,but he didn’t know how to count because that’s how the y teach them mathematics. He didn’t know that the answer could be 5, but he answered as an excellent pupil so that they would give him an excellent mark (2+3 is equal to 3+2 because addition is commutative);
2) Academician V.I Arnold “Trip to Chaos “ http://www.nkj.ru/archive/articles/5174/
American scientists generally are emigrants from Europe , but post graduate student are mostly Chinese and Japanese .
- Nevertheless, you can't deny achievements of the American science?
- I am not doing a review of the condition of American science or the American way of living .Am talking about the teaching methods that are deployed in primary schools of the US, the situation there is disgraceful. I have discussed this issue with the outstanding mathematicians of America; most of them are my friends. I am proud of their achievements, however, I asked them this question; How did you manage to have these achievements in science with such poor primary schools? One of them answered:” I earlier learned “double thinking “ that is , I had one understanding of a subject itself, and another - for the administration at school. My teacher demanded that I answered him that 2 multiply by 3 equals 8 , but I knew that it is 6…… I knew well that it is necessary to answer at lessons and that’s how it is actually... I worked a lot in libraries, it’s good that were excellent books”.
Dear prof. Vladimir Moskovkin,
I thank you for your kind comment and in particular for your high-quality translation of Vladimir Arnolds'phrases. I am very grateful to you for it. I used these phrases to emphasize the great importance of your topic today. I want to use this opportunity to pay your attention to the other important topic. This topic was raised in a discussion "Is modern research becoming more and more “publication oriented?" on the link
https://www.researchgate.net/post/Is_modern_research_becoming_more_and_more_publication_oriented . I want to know your opinion in particular about a paper "Excellence by Nonsense: The Competition for Publications in Modern Science" on the link http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-00026-8_3/fulltext.html . In my opinion, just it is tragedy. I want to connect these two topics and ask a question: What is the degradation scale for the Publications in Modern Science worldwide? I think that this question could be closely linked to your question.
In my opinion, there is in general a serious degradation of high education scale worldwide. However, not all countries and universities have the same situation. In some countries, it is true that you can find a dangerous degradation in the high education scale of many universities, but not in all universities of the country and vice versa, in some countries you can find some universities with a high education scale but in others no. This situation depends also on the education policy adopted by the government and the stage of development of the country, among other factors.
Thank you Vladimir, and others for the interesting question and the follow on discussions...
Well, I believe we have different variables and factors that play a role depending on which country or part of the world you are coming from:
(1) If you are in the developed Western world where the financial crisis has hit the governments pockets - higher education was the victim and funding was cut - which led universities to enhance their 'CUSTOMER or CLIENT' status of the student... as it is the case with 'CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT' the 'STUDENT IS ALWAYS RIGHT'.
(2) In the developed world the students seem busy with things other than studying and these students have to be:
entertained in the class
given the least work to do at home
sleep in the class - without any participation
never participate in the online discussions, blogs, or reflective writing
not engage in the class...
And at the end - if they fail they will submit their appeal which will be considered by the university... as they have the right to appeal - and responses will be given...
(3) The university's main goal is to enhance NEW KNOWLEDGE - and this means research - however, some universities while concentrating on enhancing their research they forgot that their other goal is TEACHING and LEARNING - they do not give teaching and learning the same level of importance as research - and always seems to be the poorer cousin of research - which would really limit the level of good caliber of academics teaching and getting involved in learning.
(4) General knowledge is a NO NO for the new generation - why would they need to know what is going on in the news - and if one asks at the beginning of the class what was in the news that reminded you of the material that was taught in the class last week... you would notice blank faces - of course with the exception of some who are there to learn!
But, what is the solution - is it with more funding - NO - it is a combination of
(1) The university needs to understand that they are responsible on character building not only filling that empty well with theory.
(2) More funding - that would be directed equally to research as well as teaching and learning
(3) Academics to be given the right to act in the class when they witness such lack of responses...
(4) It is not only the MARK that will pass the student, but the way such a student deals with those higher them him/her in rank and others in the community - their character should have a value.
And the list goes on.... would welcome any additions.
In October 2013 I tested 17 fifth-year students in environmental studies in Kharkov National University named after V.N. Karazin and 16 fourth-year students in world economy in Belgorod State University.
As a result, few students coped with the first three tests, 50-60 per cent of Russian and Ukrainian students coped with the last test. It is pleasant to realize that in our schools students are still taught to bring fractions to common denominator. I would also like to mention that the Russian students showed better results than the Ukrainian students. However, the size of the samples was too small to consider this conclusion absolutely reliable.
To end this discussion I have decided to inform you that comparative spatial study of the intellectual level of the youth can be conducted on the basis of multinational university communities within one city. Therefore I have decided to do this kind of research in Belgorod where there are five big State Universities. Our University alone (Belgorod State University) has more than 20 thousand students from 76 countries of the world. Thank you all for participation in this discussion.
There are universities with special agendas, very well hidden, and that makes it close to impossible to identify the real quality of their programs. There are universities with constantly very good results, and those should be analyzed and followed.
https://news.mail.ru/society/37572369/ (in Russian)
Professor of the University teacher believes that in schools and clinics work "sucks"
MOSCOW, Jun 8 - RIA News. Yevgeny Zharinov, a professor at the Moscow Pedagogical University, commented on the statement of the Vice-Rector of RANEPA Ivan Fedotov to the radio station "Moscow Says", calling the teachers "losers".
In his opinion, the quality of training teachers leaves much to be desired, because the entire education system is lame. Zharinov noted that he himself sees how freshmen “grow stupid” every year. "The cause of evil," the professor called the Unified State Exam.
“New teachers are victims of the USE. They believe that it is better to train than to teach thinking, ”he said.
Vice Rector of RANEPA called school teachers "disgusting losers"
“The best of them go to graduate school, the worst do not go to school, the worst go there. Who are the doctors working in the clinic? Yes, the most sucks! The specialist will not go there”, said Zharinov.
Earlier in the media there was information that the Vice-Rector of the RANEPA Ivan Fedotov called the teachers "a gray mass of notorious losers". In his opinion, for each school there are no more than five talented teachers, and the rest are not capable of developing and giving knowledge to children.
Dear Vladimir M Moskovkin . See the following useful link(page 8-end): https://www.jica.go.jp/jica-ri/IFIC_and_JBICI-Studies/english/publications/reports/study/topical/approaches/pdf/higher_02.pdf
Kindly see also the following useful RG links: https://www.oecd.org/education/skills-beyond-school/AHELOFSReportVolume1.pdf
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