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    Serhii Khrychikov
    :   2003-05-27 15:25:20

    I am happy to see that my response has triggered some discussion and I would like to engage with the arguments of Ludmila, to whom I wish first to express my gratitude for interesting comments.

    First, I have to admit that Ortega y Gasset did not explicitly write about the "modernisation" of the system of higher education, nor did he use the word "modernisation" in his text. However, the very argument for a complex reform and a paradigm shift implicitly suggests that the educational system in its current form cannot adequately perform the functions it is supposed to and serve the needs of contemporary societies. I prefer to call such a reform a "modernisation", because it implies the transformation and upgrade of the system that exists rather than the replacement of the old system with a completely new one. In other words, the reform "modernises" the system that is lagging behind and helps it achieve the level of development required by the society in which it exists. But if the term "modernisation" is deemed inappropriate to describe this reform and a better term can be offered, I will not insist on using my term. I, however, will stand by my argument that the educational system should primarily serve the needs of society and should not develop independently of that society.

    Moreover, I would disagree that such educational reform cannot be motivated by the "needs" of society. It is precisely the "needs" that drive reform forward. What is the point to reform a system if this reform is not going to bring about any benefits for a society? The purpose of the system is to generate knowledge and produce experts that are in demand in society and may help sustain the perpetual development of this society. If the system is capable of doing so, if it effectively addresses the problems of the society, if it is sufficiently flexible to adjust to changes in society, why should it undergo any reform? But if the demand for knowledge and experts is not met by the educational system and if the intellectual input of the education system is unable to stimulate the development of the society, then we have a problem and a radical reform (or "modernisation") is indeed needed.

    As far as the second remark to my comments is concerned, I wish to stress that I never said that people should sit back and relax, while the system will be miraculously changed by some kind of "messiah". I absolutely agree that there are committed and dedicated people, who are trying to introduce radical changes to the system just because they believe that this is the right thing to do. I truly admire those people and wish there were more of them in the Ukrainian higher education. Nevertheless, I do believe we should appreciate the limits to individual initiative and the fact that human action is constrained by the institutional environment. To appreciate this is important, first of all, in order to understand what changes are necessary to undertake, what kind of system is needed to encourage people to be active. To deny the constraining effect of the system on individual actions is even damaging to the prospects of system reform, because it shifts attention from the necessary systemic changes to individual initiative. Why on earth should we aim to implement a systemic reform, if it is still up to individuals to set limits to their actions regardless of what system they work in?

    Also, I stress once again, it is unrealistic to expect everyone to defy the system. Some people may do this without any serious consequences, while for others the result will be the expulsion from the system with very dramatic economic effect. For a relatively known person, who combines his/her work at a university with active publishing or consulting activities, it is relatively safe to challenge the system. At the same time, a single mother working at a provincial university is in an entirely different position to openly confront the same system. I think it is irresponsible to say to her: "Challenge the system! Nevermind you may be fired and remain unemployed with several kids to support in a small provincial town with depressed economy!"

    However, what I do agree is that the initiative of those "people in the system" is imperative for the success of any reform. To make the system reform possible (and this should be first of all understood by "People with Vision" who "create the system"), it is insufficient to rely on those few who dare to defy the conventions and established rules. It is also necessary to create conditions, which will make active positions, creative thinking, individual initiative, self-reflection rewarding (intellectually and materially) for people within the system. The system reform is their business as much as it is the business of "People with Vision" (although I personally do not like the distinction between the "people with vision" and "people in the system"; I thinks it is too elitist).

    Thus, I argue that although the systemic change in education will never be successful without the initiative of lay individuals "in the system", this initiative is not going to be forthcoming unless incentives for their actions are in place. And this is exactly the task of "People with Vision" to introduce a model, which will motivate the people to be active and personally interested in the success of reform. In order to do this, I repeat my argument from the initial comment, those who are not afraid to confront the system and who are willing to show initiative in reforming this system should merge their efforts. Disconcerted individual actions are extremely unlikely to have an effect we all wish to see.

    Many thanks once again to Ludmila for her remarks and I will be happy to continue this discussion if she or someone else wishes to respond.


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