|Popularization of Science and Technology - What Informal and Non-formal Education Can Do? (Faculty of Education,University of Hong Kong - UNESCO, 1989, 210 p.)|
|Papers presented at the Conference:|
During the last decade school system and adult education undergo very dynamic changes. The school reform was introduced on the secondary school level, in adult education and in higher education. As the feedback of this reform on upper levels, the primary school program was changed afterwards as well. It s difficult and almost impossible to describe great changes which were brought in after 1976 by Act of education. It was a megalomanic swift, the blow which changed the school curricula, (all programmes were made anew), many schools closed and many new opened. Names of the schools were completely changed and new terminology for educational area introduced. Man can easily ask, where all this energy and input comes from and what made people move so eagerly to confront the problems of education. The great need for new knowledge has pressed the politicians and public functioners, economists and developers. They realized the same what in other societies did, too; the school does not serve efficiently any more for the normal economic and social development. Worried were parrents, too, and fear of what would their children know the future was dominant. The teachers shared the general opinion that schools should be renewed and modernized, but they were too much in the matter itself and therefore had difficulties to see more concretely what changes should be made in the school system. The political party was the power which carried on the school reform under the premises that technical and scientific knowledge of the population would be improved. Into school curricula were introduced new subjects (polytechnical education, working practice, computer science) and the previous subjects were revised. Officially was prescribed the ratio between technical students and others (70 against 30 in favour of the students of technical schools) and all students were carefully streamed in so called new, reformed directed (so called) education.
From outside it seemed as the carefully planned and well elaborated trial to match the formal school education with today world needs. From the reform on the education was and is still the hot issue of public discussions and many conflicts arise from there. Still the right solution has not been found yet, one could say, while the effects of education are unsatisfactory.
From the school reform to new experiences
The school reform initiated many new studies, analyses and observations of status quo and the development after the introduction of the reform during the last decade. There some important conclusions and discoveries derive from. The boom of the knowledge, world wide intensive production of new knowledge, quick development of science and technology pressed our reformists to be engaged primarily with the quantitive dimensions of the educational reform.
The groups who were shaping the reform discussed primarily how to squeeze the great amount of knowledge which was recently produced in technology and science. The number of school hours, number of subjects and number of students became the central questions within the reformists discussions. But the needs for school hours were overwhelming and they were still not sufficient, when confronted with quick jump of technology and science. The school curricula dangerously expanded and in some schools the students had to stay in classrooms from early morning (7 a.m.) to late in the afternoon.
Some new space for new subjects in school curricula was made so that the previous subjects were reduced to minimum or some of them left out completely (classical languages, history, social sciences, art). This attempt swept away some subjects of general education, which gives the knowledge with the highest capacity of transfer from one field of application to another. At the same time general education develops personal characteristics of the students, for most their interests, horizon, understanding of the environment, outlook, and independence in personal decision making and planning depend on it. The reformists were not aware that cutting down the subjects of general education (they called them as unpractical, not directly applicable, historicistic burden) were looking primarily for practical benefits of schooling which can be seen directly and immediately in the practice. Such an accent on economic quick achievements and political goals made them blind for the losses and mistakes made. Instead of mathematics, physics, history of literature etc. were included the more applicable subjects like: electrotechnic, machinery, computer sciences.
By such changes the general knowledge which could fertilize the applicable more practical subjects was dangerously reduced, and the learned new knowledge remained static, paralized. The first generations of students who attended the reformed directed education were very unpractical in spite of their practical and applicable subjects in curricula. At most they were able to use their knowledge in the situation they were taught for, but the transfer and the flexibility of the knowledge was very low.
From these facts one could conclude that more important is to obtain the general wide education than the narrow (new) knowledge. Without it the students were not able to obtain new knowledge themselves or to create new knowledge. Their education made them static and predetermined. One could say that our reformists were cutting the branch on which they were seating.
After one decade of practical experiences it is also observed that the reform relied too much only on intentional education, on school curricula, and did not take into account the other nonformal and informal channels for obtaining knowledge. When it paid attention to other patterns of education (out of school education) the quantity, number of school hours etc. would be reduced easily and spontaneous learning in environment where the students live would make the school more pleasant and not so overloaded with subjects.
The reformists build reform only on one pattern of school education (which is most traditional and subordinated to clear planning), but loses its social and psychological roots, when treated so isolated.
As in many previous case in our school reform more attention was paid to planning, dissemination and input of formal education, and less attention was paid to the receivers, consumption of knowledge or output. Some analysis show that the results of such reform are relatively poor and not the right way to go today, when people have to consume so much new knowledge, the young ones and adults.
From our reform it can be learned that school cannot function properly without well developed adult education system. It is decisive for the school curricula, what will happen after the school. The patterns of adults learning are complementary to childrens previous formal and informal or nonformal learning.
Drop-outs from the schools and informal learning
The drop-outs from the schools after the reform quickly grow in number. Surprisingly was that among them were very capable students with high IQs and talented, but they had difficulties to adapt to the hard rythm of the overloaded school program. On average the drop-out grew up to 25-30% of generation which entered the secondary schools. These young people had to enter work in one or another way very early and they had to learn if not in schools then in other patterns of nonformal and informal education.
The drop - outs were quickly and directly exposed to the new technology which was being introduced in enterprises when economically it could not be avoided any more. The equipment of factories is usually more modern from the school labs, and the information flow is fresh and current mixed with all kinds of domestic and foreign resources. Among the drop-outs the education shifts from formal to informal, from intentional (school) to functional education. No time is lost in between for educational planning and programming. The selection of knowledge goes in parallel, and in the dependence with work and other social activities (entertainment, sports, health care, sociopolitical activities, cultural engagement, family life). So selected knowledge matches directly with the needs, because it is based upon the diagnoses and not the prognoses (upon which the school curricula relies upon).
The drop-outs followed in their job promotion show quick upward social Nobility. They are especially successful in working or developing themselves small businesses, services and in tertiary section of economy. They are well informed and struggle for new knowledge (handbooks, short courses, professional reviews, asking specialists, travelling abroad and visiting foreign companies, trades and associations etc.) in most imaginative way usually very individual ways and methods.
Drop-outs operate as freelanders, they have to find themselves their own way to the information they need. A lot of initiative and imagination is involved in their activities they report about in some analyses made in our country during the recent 4 years. Comparing to the graduates from regular schools, who were before in schooling successful and stayed in the school to the end, the drop-outs prove some special characteristics and patterns of life still and social behaviour. They are much more imaginative in finding the proper solutions, through their behaviour they demonstrate much higher level of social independence. They operate with higher level of self-initiative. All these to the great surprise and mistrust of the teachers, who still remember their failures in the school. Teachers who met them earlier in the school treat them and approach them with a lot of mistrust and disagreement. The teachers do not believe in any other way and method of learning besides formal school education.
Our Act of Education enables the evaluation of knowledge obtained via nonformal and informal way, and after the evaluations made, the law allows even formal degrees and diplomas, which the candidates could obtain afterwards. In practice it never developed and the schools did not even name the proper commissions for evaluation of nonformally obtained knowledge. The teachers mistrust in some patterns of learning had negative consequences in our practice.
The formal education and the patterns of informal and nonformal education remain separated instead of the systematical integration, which could bring success in learning new technology and scientific development. Teachers in schools rely extremely upon formal education, while the others, who learn via nonformal education are left upon spontaneous resources of knowledge and the lack of systematisation reduces their efficiency in learning.
In the described situation it is evident that the differentiation of labour in education did not take place yet. When this is obtained both formal and informal/nonformal education will obtain their own specific function, which should be complementary to each other.
Nonformal education of school children depends upon their possibilities for actual activities and when they are included in the real life to a greater extent, and they are not just observers of others (their parents, their teachers). Childrens own actions make them learn spontaneously and matched with real needs.
Adult Education and Learning of new Technology and Science
Several researches proved that adults depend on nonformal and informal education in the process, when they have to obtain new knowledge. Genotype programming of school curricula, the whole methodology how to shape them leads to the static education, which obviously cannot follow quick changes in technology and science. The complementary function to the school education developed in adult education activities or phenotype education, which is matched with individual situations, and it is flexible, changeable and dynamic enough to-guarantee the follow up with new technology and science.
In the researches made we structured adult education planning and programming into some categories according to the institutional (workers universities, factory educational centres, evening and correspondence schools for adults) and individual level of engagement:
Fully institutionally prepared program of continuing education, realization and evaluation remain within the adult education institution. Group work.
Semi institutional. Basic planning and programming done at the institution together with some in advance prepared educational means. Occasional group work. Over 70% individual learning. When and how decides the learner himself.
Individual learning with one basic (or sometimes two) educational mean (handbook which a person studies through). The educational means is popular, widely distributed, and used by learner as such. Learner does not search additional means. Main effort of learner is put into consuming the knowledge. The attempts to use new knowledge in practice appear in parallel with learning and immediately afterwards.
Learner makes combination of many educational means, uses various resources Reading talking to experts, observing the activity and equipment, experimental use of equipment for training purposes, writing, drawing, traveling, consultations and instructions). Learner is crossroad for several educational impulses. Conditions necessary are high motivation for education and ability for independent learning.
For the transfer of new technology and science among adults population is the initial animation, rise of aspirations for new equipment of methods and technology of work the unavoidable phase. It is necessary for all patterns of learning. It comes in waves in our social environment and it is at certain time common for most people. To illustrate this: it is possible to see in previous period that there was the time when people were interested in TV sets, it was followed with spread interest for dishwashers, later Hi-Fi, and later video technic, and recently DC music in parallel with computers. The least interests were animated in private life needs. In parallel the technology of work has changed and computerized production is coming into the country over night.
The motivation for learning about computerised production is more existential, but still it divides the population of employees into two parts:
- the workers who struggle to obtain the necessary knowledge, they consider that their previous knowledge and abilities enable them to obtain the necessary skills and information, and they are very acceptable for knowledge,
- the other half of the workers (calculations are about 50%) feel paralized by new technology. Most of them in this group are functionally illiterate. They were in schools, but their professional/occupational training is industrial very narrow education, which in new area does not lead anywhere. They feel dependent from the social help and play roles of dependents. One after another such groups are loosing the jobs and vis-a-vis new technology they remain unemployable.
In relation with the new technology and science people find themselves in the completely different situations. The industrial type of education had deformed many of them, because their education is too narrow and insufficient for efficient further learning. They stay where they are in spite of the public animation for new knowledge, because they need first the longer process of individual development before they can accept new knowledge necessary for great technological changes and science.
Among the patterns of new knowledge transfer the third and fourth are most efficient. Of course they are suitable for the people, who can learn independently. The first two patterns show slower results and they cover up to 8-10% of adults learning in our society. All other learning of adults depends upon their own search for knowledge. To find the way to the proper resource of knowledge takes approximately as much energy and time, as does the learning itself. At the same time it is necessary to have in mind, that not all attempts to get the needed knowledge are successful, many lead to dead end.
Observing these problems from an international perspective, the situation becomes even more complex. People have to continue their development (and their learning) from where they are. Not all nations are for the same distance away from the modern technology and science - their production of knowledge. The patterns of obtaining knowledge effectively develop only, when they are developed closely with the national culture and social development.
When the education which would bring new technology and science is discussed we touch the problem not only of knowledge (have more knowledge or have enough knowledge), but the development of new quality of man. Instead of objects man should be capable of producing ideas, innovations. He has to offer new solutions. The transition from previous stage (knowledge for serving machines in industry) to the new one (abilities for producing ideas and mastering the new technology and science giving the new face to the production and social relations) asks for deeper changes. According to the psychologists and neurologists, who are pointing out today, that men has practically no limitations for learning, when their brains are properly used. The obstacles and limitations come from the social and cultural development. Not rarely the political systems put limitations to human development and the potential natural abilities of people remain unused for ever.
The educational processes which bring about the transition from industrial stage of development to new technology, and spread out the great amount of new knowledge, can be efficient among the population only when political freedom is given for social processes, communications, and culture to burst and grow. Under the conditions of repression it is useless to expect, that the creativity, production of new ideas, innovations which accompany new technology and science, will appear.
The popularisation of new science and technology is closely related with the renaissance of spiritual values, quality of man and quality of life, the quality of production is the dissolution of todays world. But the expectation of new way of work and life brings to individuals and the whole relations great fears and insecurity feelings and unrest. They may for some time in the particular social environment prevent and restrict the normal development to the new quality of man. In such socio-political conditions the transfer of knowledge, contemporary technology and science is deminished and delayed, the development of man suppressed to minimum.
The transfer of knowledge goes hand in hand with the new development of man and both with the processes of democratisation which is not a luxury but necessity of economic and socio-cultural development. Complex interdependence of these processes can be discovered, when it is observed also among those societies who go in their repercussions and changes in the reverse direction, from what the development asks for.
There is also an additional factory which is to be taken into account: the discussed educational processes, new knowledge, more knowledge, and the new quality of work and life, transfer of new technology and science, cannot be any more limited to the intellectual elite, only to some individuals in each society, but it asks for mass education and mass changes. The mass approach can not be avoided in education or adult education, because of the nature of new technology, which must reach certain quality of an individual, but it is interrelated and interdependent in functuning in practice. The computerised production and all what accompanies it can make only masses of people properly developed.
As much as it depends on the quality of individual and his education and development, it depends also on education and development of total population. Knowledge can not be preserved only to privilleged, because when it happens, also the educated are parallized from using their knowledge. As much as the nations are dependent on each other today, so are the individuals in the society, their work and life.
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