September 1 and new academic year are coming soon, bringing forward educational issues among various ideas and concerns.
When you work in this sector, you always think about the future, which education itself targets and significantly conditions.
Nevertheless, from time to time you can return and explore the misty past, realizing that sometimes we are closer to the past centuries than we think.
Before the invention of book printing, education differed from formats we know today. Students of European universities studied only several sources: the Bible and a couple books by Aristotle. It was just impossible to get more, as hand-written books were expensive, while the large number of students did not always involve rich young people.
Students received the additional knowledge using two important tools: lectures and debates.
Most of the lecturers presented their own ideas, rather than facts and ready knowledge. Bible was considered to be one of the precise sources, used during the debates. Similar format was aimed at giving students the ability to argue confidently, develop sharp and flexible thinking, pass on their thoughts to audience.
The education prepared students for real life, where educated people were considered to have powerful and flexible thinking, persuasive speaking abilities, basic human skills and strong value system rather than rich factual knowledge. The factual knowledge came with experience and served to ongoing goals. There was no ready path, and educated people built their lives on their own.
Then the new industrial age came, completely changing the situation. The society needed professionals, which could easily replace each other in the industry. It demanded people with precise number of factual knowledge, acquired in advance. Small group of people was to create, while the others had just to copy everything.
This age created army-like school and university systems with multiple books of factual knowledge, lecturers reading and passing on the “material”. The education system succeeded and served the society well back then, providing rapid and unprecedented development in production and consequently economy, which thus led to unimaginable population growth.
But this development brought us to the new “fourth industrial age”, when people’s role is completely changing. We no longer need standard people, acquiring a lot of factual knowledge. The information is available at any moment, but it is changeable and rapidly outdating. The education is in crisis today, and trying to find a new direction, it returns to the roots, the experience of the middle ages.
Currently we attach more attention to basic skills and human qualities. Factual knowledge is becoming secondary, playing a serving role. The education prepares students for acquiring knowledge depending on the demand. The economy requires independent people without predetermined paths, as everything is indefinite and changing nowadays. We have rapidly developing technologies, so our situation and challenges are different from those of the past. Nevertheless, human beings have not much changed, and approaches of the past can be applied in modern world as well, bringing new life to education. Just like old Greek and Roman art and architecture created renaissance, medieval education system can become the base of modern educational philosophy today.
Modern educational institutions do not just pass on certain amount of standard knowledge. They create independent people with unique qualities and personal development path. They understand that if pupils and students receive the necessary skills and value system, they can reach current educational goals and long-term life success without any external support. The society, which will be able to create similar education system, will succeed and survive in this new age. The destiny of the rest is completely indefinite.
Aram Pakhchanyan is Principal of Ayb School and Vice-President of ABBYY. These views are his own.