RANEPA Rector Vladimir Mau: our task is to teach students to learn, not just feed them knowledge and skills
Rector of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) discusses the export of education, career choices, brain drain and the new online Digital Economy master’s degree program in an interview with Interfax.
Question: Dr. Mau, the Presidential Academy is included in the Russian Government’s priority project for the export of education. What steps are being taken?
Vladimir Mau: RANEPA is a member of the consortium of exporters of higher education from Russia and is working in several areas, primarily to upgrade the skills or retrain staff of universities’ international services. For this purpose, we have established the Competence Center for training, retraining and advanced training of employees of international services of Russian educational institutions.
The Competence Center has already trained more than 200 employees of international services in two programs: Models Targets and Recruiting Foreign Students. By the end of the year, at least 900 employees in Moscow and the regions are to upgrade their professional qualifications. The refresher program is likely to be extended to a wider audience. Since it involves working with foreign students, their training and support in a new environment, the program embraces nearly all departments of universities.
We need a lot of analytical work to do on education export. It is important to know and understand who our main competitors are, how they operate, and what attracts the different groups of students to Russia.
We are analyzing the export potential of our universities. It is essential to figure out where and how it could be improved. We are also doing educational market research in different countries to estimate the potential student inflow we could get from a particular country, and what our schools need to do to achieve this.
By the end of the year, marketing research will be conducted on 23 priority countries out of the 40 included in the project. We are starting to explore the possibilities of exporting education, tailoring our products to regional specifics.
We are also analyzing the possibilities of attracting foreign schoolchildren to summer schools in Russia to build our export potential for the future. These children will get to know our country with its higher education system, and this could later motivate them to come to Russia to study. A striking example of this is the recent RANEPA Summer Campus in Innopolis, which was attended by more than 100 foreign students from 35 countries: all the lectures and project work were conducted in English.
Because the Academy delivers professional refresher programs for employees of different universities, we integrate their achievements and generalize the accumulated experience. This gives the participants a comprehensive view of the priority project and its results.
Question: How many foreigners are studying at RANEPA now? Which programs are most popular with them?
Vladimir Mau: The Academy trains about 3,000 foreign students, more than half of them – at non-Moscow branches. The most popular programs are public and municipal administration, regional studies, project management, international management and international relations, MBA programs, global governance and leadership. The Academy delivers 28 educational programs (seven of them in non-Moscow branches) that are partially or fully taught in English. Accordingly, they are in demand among non-Russian-speaking foreign students. Along with that, RANEPA is expanding international cooperation: more than 50 leading universities in the world cooperate with the Academy in educational and research projects.
Question: RANEPA provides a practice-oriented education in line with the country's development goals. How is the educational process organized?
Vladimir Mau: The Presidential Academy is the largest educational institution in Russia and Europe, operating through 55 branches across the country. RANEPA is a national school of public administration, an international university, the founder of business education in Russia and the country's leading business school. It is also a research and expert analysis center, a think tank and consultant of the government, and a major center for international cooperation.
Every year, the Academy trains around 160,000 students throughout the country. We have developed unique training programs for civil servants for federal and regional authorities and for top-level managers for Russian firms and companies. The Academy is one of the initiators of incorporating the MPA (Master of Public Administration) programs into the Russian education system, to supply qualified staff to the state authorities.
RANEPA is an ideologist and developer of continuous education projects in Russia. The Academy independently establishes educational standards for the higher education programs it implements. More than 250 educational programs are delivered at the Moscow campus of RANEPA.
Question: In the digitalization era, one needs to be a lifelong learner. What qualifications or skills do you think will be in demand 10-15 years from now?
Vladimir Mau: First of all, one needs to understand which occupations and professions will leave the market. This trend will mainly concern jobs involving routine work that can be done by robots. On the other hand, there are routine occupations that have to do with human needs: for example, nurses – their work is largely routine, but their patients need company, so a new type of nurse will appear. The same holds true for high-level managers – no robots will be able to replace them in the foreseeable future.
Economists and medical doctors will remain, although a part of their routine work will be done by robots (they already make good diagnoses based on Big Data). The change will require a lot of IT specialists. Yet, for all the digital education talk, professional teachers will remain, albeit fundamentally different teachers. They will rather act as moderators or experts in designing individual educational trajectories, etc.
At the same time, new professions will emerge, which now sound quite exotic, for example, a robot manager (someone who looks after robots, repairs and updates them). The internet will also provide a huge field of activity. A few years ago, being a ‘blogger’ evoked a smile, but now there are bloggers who are considered outstanding professionals. Soon we will be training bloggers or refreshing their qualifications. Architects, urban development specialists and designers – all creative professions will remain in demand.
Question: This year, the Federal Institute of Educational Development (FIRO) has been reorganized as a structural division of RANEPA. What are its goals?
Vladimir Mau: FIRO is the key institution in the field of education research in Russia. Until recently, it mainly focused on preschool, general and secondary vocational education. I would say it should begin dealing with more comprehensive projects – research at all levels of education. That is, its focus should be continuous education in the fullest sense of the word. In my opinion, such aspects as modern standards and individualization of educational trajectories are of particular importance.
Today, given the high level of uncertainty, complexity and diversity of the rapidly changing world, the mission of education is drastically changing. The task of teaching students to learn comes to the forefront, rather than just feeding them knowledge and skills. This is precisely the responsibility of FIRO. I am confident that the institute will play a key role in researching the problems of education in our country, thanks to the leadership of Alexander Asmolov.
Question: What does Russia need to do to reduce the brain drain and loss of human capital?
Vladimir Mau: To prevent the brain drain, we need to promote economic development and create jobs that are attractive for young people. This is business, first of all. Accordingly, the government should create the conditions for economic development, and improve the investment climate and the image of our country. By the way, the FIFA World Cup has played a very positive role here.
Question: What do you think our school education is lacking today?
Vladimir Mau: We have a very good general education system. Our research shows that 84% of parents are satisfied with the school where their child goes. Russia ranked first in PIRLS in 2016, was among the top ten in the TIMSS study, which evaluates mathematical literacy, and fourth in financial literacy in the PISA study. So we are more or less in good shape.
We mainly need to develop extracurricular education for children and include digital technology in the educational process. It is also important to improve the qualifications of schoolteachers, especially those working with 10-11 year students, because teenagers are quicker to learn modern information technology than their teachers.
New tasks are facing universities as well. It is very important to ensure the fundamental nature of education – this is not just a clever word, but something that would enable university graduates to quickly and effectively adapt to the rapidly changing technological, economic and social challenges. It is very important to pay attention to the entire university network, and to support the diversity of universities.
Question: The strengths and weaknesses of the Unified State Examination are still being debated, and opinions differ. Do you think we need to abandon this system or possibly modernize it somehow?
Vladimir Mau: The USE effectively eliminated corruption in admission to universities and consequently expanded the opportunities of gifted children from poor provincial families to get into prestigious universities. Yes, new problems arose concerning the quality of passing the USE and the preparation of schoolchildren. But these issues are being successfully dealt with by Rosobrnadzor.
I would say the main problem is the practice of “stuffing” for the exam. How to limit this and enhance intellectual development in high school is an important question, and we are working on it. It is essential that the Unified State Examination should support the student's motivation and interest in learning, not lead to endless drills. However, it would be wrong to cancel the USE because it reduces the opportunities for biased evaluation at the final exams and admission to universities.
Question: This year’s admission campaign is coming to an end. What would you advise the applicants enrolling at RANEPA?
Vladimir Mau: It is important first of all to determine the choice of the university and program. It helps to come and talk to the representatives of various RANEPA divisions in special areas of the admission commission. Several RANEPA faculties may be offering programs in similar areas of training; however, these are different programs with their own specifics. Therefore, one needs to find out about these features. And I would advise applicants to risk enrolling with the Academy despite the high competition. You just have to really want to get there.
Question: The new economy prompts new areas of training. Could you tell us about the joint Digital Economy program between the Presidential Academy and MIPT?
Vladimir Mau: On July 12, RANEPA and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology signed an agreement on a joint online master's program, Digital Economy. Admission is opem through August 24. It is a completely new program that will provide students with the full amount of knowledge in two areas – economics and mathematics.
After completing the course, they will be awarded Master’s degrees from the Presidential Academy and MIPT. RANEPA professors from the Institute of Economics, Mathematics and Information Technologies (EMIT) will teach economic disciplines and soft skills; MIPT professors will take care about the exact sciences (mathematical analysis, machine learning, the basics of statistics and combinatorics).