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Education for all

Five bloggers, five countries, one dialogue

On the importance of teaching oneself

The Internet offers a wealth of ways to continue your education

Many people in Russia used to believe that it’s enough to get your university degree – then you can start working and forget about education (until your children go to kindergarten, at least). They’d say you’ve developed your skills, so you ought to find a job and get on with your life. Many still think this way. Sometimes I discuss this topic with friends, and it’s great that our generation seems to have a more modern way of thinking: We believe that it’s natural to have a “second” higher education, to attend courses even as a grown-up or to change jobs several times before retiring.

That means we need something other than the traditional educational model of going from kindergarten to elementary and high school, then on to a university or college and, finally, to graduate school. This has been the model for a long time, and is promoted by the government (Also see my second and third entries for some of the problems I see with that model).

So what’s an alternative? The answer is simple – we shouldn’t forget self-education! There are so many possibilities out there!  You can get the skills necessary for a job – a process most associate with university education – by teaching yourself.

Libraries used to be quite popular for self-learners, but the Internet is changing that. Life is getting more dynamic while the majority of Russian libraries haven’t changed their basic model at all. They don’t offer Internet access to find certain types of information quickly, and they don’t get very many specialized magazines in foreign languages. So people treat libraries not as a source of enlightenment but as a place to get a book to spend several days with.

Online resources can be wonderful if you know a foreign language beyond the basic level. And in fields like medicine or economics, you’ll likely need specialized language skills in English. Clearly you also need Internet access to use such resources – although for Russians in rural areas, a fast Internet connection is often impossible to get. But once these requirements are met, you have the whole world at your fingertips.

Russian libraries have some catching up to do

Some well-known foreign universities offer online courses or lectures for free. That’s a contrast with many universities in my country, which do not promote their websites as independent sources of knowledge. As I see it, there is also a lack of such programs for teenagers before they get to college, at least in Russia.

Clubs or associations formed within schools or by external groups are good ways to learn, too. Here you’re only limited by your interests! For example, my friends own a bookshop that organizes regular lectures devoted to literature. They invite poets or professors, and the series has grown popular with families – not just with young people.

One thing I believe firmly is that you do not get educated FOR your life, you get educated THROUGHOUT your life – no matter how old you are or what step on the social ladder you occupy.


May 21, 2012 | 2:23 pm