Students become proactive participants of the city life

The transformation of the national education system is a priority of two national projects. The national project “Education” is responsible for the development of schools, colleges and technical schools while the national project “Science and Universities” is dedicated to universities. However, if there are no professional mentors to support school and university students, it will not be possible to elevate Russian education to higher levels, no matter how many new schools are built and how many well-equipped laboratories are opened at universities.

The editors of the “National projects” web-portal discussed with the MCU’s Rector Igor Remorenko the aspects of training pre-service teachers, the qualities that a modern teacher must have, and innovations in education.

What is a teacher of the future from your point of view?

Today it is widely discussed that a certain legitimate system of competencies should be developed. Of course, it is possible to identify such a group of competencies and apply them. At the defense of the master’s thesis, one of our students pointed out the famous 4C system of key competencies: communication, cooperation, creativity, critical thinking. And then she said: “Actually, nobody canceled them.” Frankly speaking, no one has made them required for everyone. This is just a recommendation of the Davos Forum, a relative reference point. One of the postulates in the Philosophy of Education reads: “Real knowledge is knowledge that lives and develops”. If knowledge is given as a dogma, it is no longer knowledge. It is just a piece of information to remember. Therefore, to my mind, a set of competencies that a modern teacher needs is a matter of fashion, not a predetermined toolkit. An up-to-date set of competencies is being developed here and now. It depends on the type of projects that will be launched, the type of teaching and learning resources that will be developed.

What are the current trends in education?

One of the trends is the teacher’s ability to effectively use the learning content that is not written in the basic curriculum textbooks and study guides.

For example, when a teacher of social studies explains financial literacy to students, should they focus on the current situation with the crediting and banking system? They should. A teacher of social studies must make use of various information that is circulating around, for example, how people take loans and what mistakes they make, how can they use a more beneficial approach when applying for a loan, etc.

Or, for example, take a history teacher who compares historical events, and draws parallels with the present. Should or shouldn’t they draw these parallels? I think they should. Teachers also must be able to apply knowledge intuitively. Otherwise, they will be only able to teach students to remember some historical events disregarding the ability to correlate these events with the current agenda.

In addition, it is important to be a team member, a team player. The competition “Teacher of the Future” soaked it up since it includes team competitions. If we compare the “Teacher of the Future” competition with the “Teacher of the Year” competition the second one is more about featuring an individual story. It is important to show the teacher as a forward, a breakthrough leader, a creative personality.

In modern schools children are forced to learn different academic subjects and programs. They need to grasp the content, make an interdisciplinary project or compare knowledge from different subjects. In this situation, complementarity and mutual assistance among teachers become extremely important.

Is there a difference between obtaining teacher education in a teacher training college or a teacher training university?

All the efforts to assess competencies in various formats, which we have seen in recent years in the “I am a Professional” Olympiad, Worldskills competitions, are evidence that the research competence in the field of education becomes more developed. Why do similar methods work for some teachers, but not for others? How can we reconstruct the learning content? There are a lot of questions that make us consider teacher training as an intellectually intense field.

When I became MCU Rector, I thought that probably the most effective thing that could be done for our students is to ask our alumni what skills and competencies they need from a young professional’s point of view.

In general, the university graduates were able to consciously identify and classify these deficits. I remember someone saying: “Today more and more tasks related to specific practical life situations are being demanded of us, and we don’t really understand how to find such tasks in our field. How to design them unaidedly? How do we, for example, design tests?”

The graduates of secondary vocational education, in turn, said the following: “You know, we can do all that is needed, and we are quite successful. We have mastered a lot of techniques; we have been taught a lot of things to put into practice. But the trouble is that we work with silly children!” Or “the deputy principal is a fool.” Or “the teacher colleagues do not understand me.” In fact, they thought that the cause of their problems was not their own shortcomings, but in the circumstances, spontaneous or accidental influence of the external environment.

In my opinion, this is the essential difference between the traditional vocational training and university training. As for university training, it is focused on self-reflection, a student masters skills to analyze a situation, draw conclusions and adapt their activities accordingly.

Speaking about secondary vocational education, it has traditionally been based on the principle of interaction with something inanimate, with some object, as a “machine-tool”. In a teacher training college ten years ago, many students had notebooks filled from cover to cover with different methods of how to conduct any lesson on any topic. But all these methods, all carefully developed lessons do not take into account the fact that a teacher with their specific textbooks and methods must adapt to the circumstances of a specific class and school.

Each class is alive and constantly changing group of people. Сhildren will ask questions. Someone will say something that is not written in a textbook. Some students grasp everything in a single flash, while others need time to understand. What is the best decision for a heterogeneous class with different interests, needs, views, attitudes?

I think that in the recent years the emphasis on critically meaningful practical training has brought teacher training colleges and schools closer together, because future teachers start exploring the reality of school, doing as the Romans do when in Rome.

What is your attitude to the national project “Education”? Is it necessary, in your opinion, to revise or transform it?

It seems to me that national projects are a working tool that brings change. The state allocates certain priorities, where it wants to invest and in which areas to make a breakthrough. Having agreed on these priorities, the authorities are trying to affect the entire educational system as much as possible to achieve a systematic result: “to develop one element to improve the whole system.” I think that national projects will always be transforming. They first appeared in 2005. If we recall the first national projects, they were very targeted.

For example, one of the projects said: “Establishing two business schools.” One of these schools was the “Skolkovo” Business School, which has been successfully built and now works effectively. The other is the St. Petersburg University Business School, which is also working at full capacity now. By the way, each of these schools trains a lot of management teams for secondary schools.

There was another initiative to pay each classroom teacher 1000 rubles. It seemed to be nonsense. But at that time it somehow emphasized that education is not only teaching lessons, it is a more all-in-one system that includes training, upbringing, scheduled and extracurricular activities. As a result, there were rules introduced in the remuneration system that regulate teachers’ salaries based on the types of teacher activities.

MCU is among the universities that will participate in the “Priority 2030” program. What is the university project about and how will you use the basic grant of 100 million rubles?

Our project features a model of a city university functioning in a modern digital reality. Many metropolises already have their own city universities, but in Russia it is not yet widespread.

In recent years universities have been promoting cooperation of scientific research, education and the actual economic sector, that is, in fact, cooperation of education, science and a specially organized project-based work to apply the new knowledge (the innovation sector).

There are specific innovations related to the urban reality. There are quite a lot of socio-cultural city projects that need to be intellectually supported: research, cross-case studies, brainstorming for their improvement: for example, renovation of city parks, playgrounds, citizens’ participation in decision-making (the project “Active Citizen”), unified information system of school education (“The Moscow Electronic School”), lifelong learning for pensioners (“Silver University”) and so on.

On the other hand, city universities develop a different culture within the student community. Students start to think differently, cease to be passive consumers of the things that happen around, and start offering improvements. They aim to implement city projects that diversify the urban environment, allow self-actualization.

It is another type of education, where the environment is considered a living organism that is changing due to many factors, and not at the behest of officials or businessmen. It is usually city universities that are set up for this, functioning all over the world. This is exactly our project – creating a city university of this kind.

We are going to invest our grant in research and engage new specialists. We have a list of priorities to be developed. We suppose that in the “Priority 2030” project we will invite some prominent experts who have already worked in the city university model and have been engaged in urban studies or some related fields. We will invite those who are aimed at improving the urban environment within different areas: education to begin with, and also culture, health, social welfare.