Sergei Ablameyko, rector of Belarusian State University: Fewer students want to leave Belarus now

Sergei Ablameyko, rector of Belarusian State University: Fewer students want to leave Belarus now

This week's guest of the TV program Prostye Voprosy (Simple Questions) with Egor Khrustalev is Sergey Ablameyko, rector of the Belarusian State University, Doctor of Technical Sciences and Academician of the National Academy of Sciences.

If you compare the amount of knowledge that my generation had to learn, it is quite different from the amount that today's young people have to soak up. What is the reason: has the total amount of knowledge increased or has information become more accessible?

Sergei Ablameyko:
When we were growing up in school, it was all clearly formalized: physics, mathematics and clear volumes. Books and encyclopedias in my time were not so available in the district.
Now students must master the Internet and mobile devices and many other spheres.
Pupils live in a difficult time. When our teachers at the University complain that freshmen know math worse than we did twenty or thirty years ago, it is logical. Because a lot of things related to information technology appeared and kids have to learn them too. Today, they are given more computer science lessons. And they master many things themselves.
And teachers don't have it easy. Everything is changing rapidly, it is not easy to monitor this.

You were born and raised in a small town of the Grodno region. At school age, all your professors said that you have a very special mathematical talent. But you did not have any prerequisites for it. After all, in theory you could engage in agriculture. Where do young men get this "spark"?

Sergei Ablameyko:
This is a difficult question. It is very difficult here.  Looking at myself and young colleagues I understand that there are no clear rule saying that if you know mathematics well, you will be a great mathematician. This rarely happens. Therefore it is very important in school years that parents and educators see those talents.
My math teacher saw it and we had additional lessons. He helped me very much. Well, the father subscribed me to the magazine "Quantum". I took correspondence courses in Moscow.     
A huge role of the teacher in this process is indisputable. People are talking much about it now: it is necessary to raise the status of the teacher. This is a very correct and important. Because they can open students' talents more than parents.

You lead the Presidential Fund supporting gifted youth and students.  You see a lot of kids who have special talents. But how to see these talents? Is there something special that always distinguishes these guys?

Sergei Ablameyko:
These are really such smart and talented guys who start to show their talents in high school and university. Our Foundation receives the results of these guys: the winners of various Olympiads, World Championships etc. And we see that they have already achieved a lot of things. After winning the International Olympics it is very difficult. You can say that work of the teacher stands behind these results. But the teacher must be experienced in order to prepare such students who then win international Olympiads. This is painstaking and hard work. You can be gifted but without hard labor nothing will happen. It's important to give children a boost and discover all their talents at this early stage. We see these children, many are from rural areas. I think many people whose talents remain hidden live with it but choose something different and their life goes another way.

 It is clear that students are always progressive and radical. They ask their professors sharp and smart questions.  For example, questions about the feeling of patriotism is often asked with certain criticism. How do you build a conversation? What do you tell them about homeland? How do you explain that despite the enormous number of offers you chose your path?

Sergei Ablameyko:
I find it easier to talk to them since I traveled much around the world, not as a tourist but as a worker. I saw and know how people live in different countries. When you start talking about Belarus, the pros and cons of our system (every country has pros and cons), and when you compare these countries based on concrete facts, then you immediately understand that the model of our society is one of the best in the world. On the one hand - it has enough market elements but on the other hand we have social protection. When I tell them all this, they do not argue that much. At the beginning of my principalship, 6-7 years ago, it was a little harder since everyone wanted to go to Europe or something else. Over the last 3-5 years, we have seen that the world is becoming more complex, more wars, more problems. In recent years, young people's mood has changed dramatically towards a good patriotic side. In 2010, before those elections, when I met with youth they argued much and told me that if we had changed this and this we would have lived better. They argued strongly. Now everyone is much more aware that we have a good country and we must not leave but instead change something here. People understand that the world is fragile and restless.

What are the most significant changes that are waiting for students from the beginning of the academic year?
We have a good education system. I argued it 100 times and spoke about it. Our actions are aimed at improving, new specialties, and new courses. There are a lot of opportunities at the BSU: educational, scientific, sporting, cultural (pop music, theater, the other public works). Academic mobility and freedom is in place too: you can study and train and then go to other countries for scientific conferences. 
It all depends on the youth. Today you come equal, and after 4-5 years, you will all be different. Someone will use this time to get an average degree, while others will have a lot of travels, a lot of experience, a lot of publications and earned money. The strong come will come out to the labor market.