Universities must create a flexible environment that combines the interests of the state and each student

14 January 2022
Universities must create a flexible environment that combines the interests of the state and each student

A transition from the product-centered approach to a human-centered one is happening in all spheres across industry and society. This trend is reflected in the individualization of education and its transformation into a continuous process spanning all stages of a person's professional life. Experts participating in the session on Vocational Education in the 21st Century: Priorities and Challenges, held as part of the 2022 Gaidar Forum, discussed ways to combine the human perspective in professional education with the need to meet the economy’s demand for specific professionals, and considered the challenges that the new school-leavers will face.

The panelists included RANEPA Rector Vladimir Mau, Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education Dmitry Afanasyev, and Skyeng Managing Partner Alexander Laryanovsky.

According to Dr. Mau, education has seen dramatic changes in the 21st century. “The key trend in professional education – just like in other sectors relevant to the development of human capital – is a transition from the product-centered approach to a human-centered one. The teaching and learning process should focus on the person, not boil down to implementing a specific function – the same as in healthcare, where doctors need to treat a specific person, not an abstract disease. The effectiveness of training always varies depending on personal qualities, as well as the student’s motivation and interests they had developed by that point, but one’s interests and motives can change throughout their life, and this must also be taken into account,” Vladimir Mau said.

In turn, Dmitry Afanasyev emphasized that historically, the choice of the education provider, the program and the professor was made by the particular student. “The human-centered approach is a growing trend, but I would like to outline several choice points here. First, there is the substance perspective, because education involves more than learning a profession – it is about developing personal qualities. At the same time, the modern economy does require a set of professional skills at the core. The second choice refers to technology: if we are saying that each student is following their own trajectory, it will be difficult to route this process using the old methods. Third, psychologically, an individual trajectory involves personal choice, confidence, and goals. These three points make it difficult to personalize the educational process and society’s expectations from education,” the Deputy Minister explained.

According to Alexander Laryanovsky, education has reached a point where people’s need for self-fulfillment is at its highest in the history of mankind, but no one knows how to meet it. “A person needs someone to understand them, so they could fulfill their ambitions and potential. The main problem is most teaching methods only work with a motivated audience, which is only a few percent. This means we do not know how to work with 95% of the audience of adults who have given  up on their interest in learning,” the managing partner of Skyeng said.

According to the RANEPA rector, in order to change the approach to adult education, different incentives are needed. But his main concern is how to make mass education more individualized. Alexander Laryanovsky believes new role models should increase motivation. “Teleworking has created opportunities to stay home and make money. So new role models should increasingly emerge across the country, in all regions – people who have enhanced their incomes due to education. The more such examples, the more motivation others will have,” the expert explained.

The speakers agreed that private and public education should not compete with each other but could cooperate to improve the entire educational system in the future. “The higher education landscape is diverse. Theoretically, a potential student has a large choice in the state education system, but cooperation options can be quite effective if state universities act as partners of programs at private schools,” Dmitry Afanasyev said.

Summing up the discussion, the Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education said that a university’s mission is to create an environment where there is room for fundamental knowledge, as well as for choice. “A university must create the right conditions for the student to choose, to combine a rigid core and liberty of choice, to achieve a correlation of the interests of the state and each student,” he explained.

The Gaidar Forum is taking place on January 13-14 at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). The forum is organized by RANEPA, the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy and the Association of Innovative Regions of Russia, and supported by the Government of the Russian Federation.

To watch the video of the session, click here.

Photo by Sergey Fadeichev, TASS photo host agency

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