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Does Belarus need 90% of population with university diplomas?

From problems of economic sphere, let’s look at the other sphere. We won’t be arguing about what was first matter or consciousness, not to be divide on materialists and idealists. Everything is interconnected. First, because art, ideology and education develop due to the state budget.

The guest of the program Picture of the World is Igor Marzalyuk, a history professor and now head of the permanent commission of the House of Representatives on education, culture and science. Mr Marzalyuk, welcome to the program.

Igor Marzalyuk, chairman of the standing committee on education, culture and science of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus:
Good afternoon.

This is your television premiere in a new role. You've never given a TV interview as the chairman of the parliamentary commission, have you?

Igor Marzalyuk:
No. Never.

Let's talk about education with you as Professor and Doctor of Sciences.

Igor Marzalyuk:
Let's talk about both education and science.

The President, when addressing both chambers of the Parliament, touched upon several topics that relate to education. Maybe we should return the oral exam in addition to the centralized testing. Testing is a lottery, in my opinion. A clever person can make mistakes just because he or she is worried very much and this mistake can cost people a university place. How do you feel about that?

Igor Marzalyuk:
I'll be very honest. When the testing was introduced I was against that. Today I have a slightly different view on this issue. I believe that we need to keep centralized testing in physics, mathematics. Chemistry. But there is a disciplines where the test cannot determine the level of knowledge. Moreover, I believe that if we want to get a literate generation, we must make sure they can write essays regardless of who they are going to be. Because the level of general literacy of students after we threw away essays is terrifying.

Now mainly write only SMS, what essays are you talking about?

Igor Marzalyuk:
I understand. Or take foreign languages - how can a test be passed without listening and speaking? This says nothing about a student.

How do you feel about the fact that school students with gold medals have the same university entry conditions as other students?

Igor Marzalyuk:
I myself a medalist. I had a gold medal at school. I want to say that medalists are hard workers. Children who graduate from school with honors and go to university, they usually continue to study great there. They study better than others. I think this is great injustice.

Belarus is entering the Bologna Process. What should we take from the west in the field of education?

Igor Marzalyuk:
Bologna process is a very ambiguous phenomenon. We will surely talk about this right now. I will only say that Western Europe has a clear system of preferences. The same in the USA. Depending on your average score in your diplomas you have better or worse chances of getting a highly paid job. With regard to the Bologna Process. On the one hand it is good that we are entering the European educational field. On the other hand, we have to go through this field very carefully. There could be brain drains and other things... I am not suggesting to close the borders or anything along these lines. But what happened in Poland? When training and work in English, French, American universities is required, there is a common thing: the best young specialists, especially in information technology tend not to return to Poland. What should be done? We must at least write in contracts with students that they must pay the state for their education if they don't return.

Is this the only danger? The brain drain?

Igor Marzalyuk:
Not only. The Bologna process has several approaches. There are those that I absolutely do not accept, the Finnish one, for instance. This is a bet on universal, mass higher education.

Does Belarus need so many people with higher education diplomas?

Igor Marzalyuk:
I believe that we absolutely do not need this.

At our Zhdanovichi market, every other seller is with a university diploma!

Igor Marzalyuk:
There are installers with master's degrees! This is not a joke. This is budget funding, this way we just spend money on nothing. Thank God, I welcome what the Ministry of Education did when they returned professional education system. In Germany, 25% enter universities, while in Belarus this figure is 90%. As a result, Germans have a high-quality specialist, capable of creating breakthrough technologies. Those professionals undergo high competition. But what do we have? There must be a certain condition. After basic school, you do not go to specialized education but choose specialized secondary education. And if a person wants to improve their skills, then, after a college, they can get higher education, but again, according to their profile.

You want to somehow change it?

Igor Marzalyuk:
Yes, I do. I yesterday talked to the Minister of Education. There is another big problem. These are private universities and branches of non-Belarusian universities, exotic universities. We must have a clearly thought-out list of top universities and research institutions that meet the high standards of higher education. Everything else should not be regarded as higher education diplomas and such documents should only be a mere moral satisfaction for those who received them.

You mentioned gymnasiums and schools. Let us descend to that level of education. The President, in the Oval Hall, was outraged by how students are loaded. Parents are outraged. There is so much homework that kids have to sit till midnight!

Igor Marzalyuk:
I will explain what the problem is. Firstly, we must answer the basic, fundamental question: who are school programs for? Are they for wunderkinds? Are they for the average kid? The average does not mean bad. This is all done because the main factor of a school's success is the number of pupils who receive medals or bonuses in their district, region or the republic.

And very often we simply ignore the anatomy and physiology of the child. The maturation of brains is a complicated thing. In every age there is a time when people can learn successfully and time when information cannot be learned with ease.

Let's talk about science now. In Belarus, there have been lots of disputes about what kind of science to develop or maintain: fundamental or applied. It is understood that applied research means business projects aimed at a specific result, while fundamental science... A person can wait whole life until an apple falls on his or her head and then discover a law.

Igor Marzalyuk:
The fact is that applied science, which gives business profits, does not exist without fundamental science. When the Internet was invented, a chief laughed and said it was some stupid toy, a distraction from life that no one will ever need. We see that everything is different now.

What should be done in the field of science?

Igor Marzalyuk:
I think the first thing we need to do is bring back the prestige of scientific knowledge.

What do you mean? Salary?

Igor Marzalyuk:
Prestige is everything. This is remuneration and priority funding. As Russians now do. Huge grants.

They have different money.

Igor Marzalyuk:
They do. But please understand that even in the Soviet Union under Stalin, after 1945, when the entire European part of the country laid in ruins, science was still a priority area of funding, because people knew that without it rockets would not fly and production would become impossible.

There are two ways: either we buy foreign technologies, not the freshest ones, or we create them ourselves.

We have an enormous intellectual potential. Our most important task is to make sure that our young forward-looking scientist stays in Belarus, works here. He can visit Western Europe for conferences and other events. But we need to know that it is more profitable for him to work here.

You are talking about it so emotionally and with such deep knowledge! Let's hope you will be able to make some contribution, improve legislation so that these processes look more modern.

Igor Marzalyuk:
Thank you.

Thank you.

Igor Marzalyuk about centralized testing, Bologna process and scientific development in Belarus