RESULT OF PRESIDENT REAGAN/USSR PRESIDENT GORBACHEV EDUCATION AND CULTURAL AGREEMENTS SIGNED IN 1985 and 1989
THE EFFECTIVE SCHOOL REPORT’S FEBRUARY 1992 ISSUE CARRIED AN ARTICLE ENTITLED “Free Education in a Free Society” by Nick Zienau of England’s Educational Consultancy. It reads in part:
This article describes a project which began at a conference organized in September 1991 to discuss possibilities for projects between East and West which might assist the process of educational reform in Russia and the other republics formerly of the USSR… An important part of becoming convinced that this was worthwhile was to discover that there was a common set of values and ideas about the changes facing education systems whether in Russia, the U.S. or Europe.… A key theme for us was, therefore, that those ideas which hitherto have been seen as progressive alternatives and often dangerously radical in educational theory and practice will increasingly become part of mainstream education practice and thinking.
A second key principle was the idea that increasingly education will cease to be a state monopoly and must have a relationship with the free market. This seems related to the idea of individual enterprise and choice. Our belief is that it is helpful to educational reform and therefore to this project to form collaborative relationships between the state and organizations acting in the free market. This will help to allow individual autonomy, enterprise, etc., to flourish and allow relationships between those involved in reform not to be based on fixed budgets and supply side economics. It will require us to have clear contracts between participants. If we have ideas about how to go about training teachers, we will learn these best from each other by doing it together and that only in this way can the project be effective as an educational intervention between nations, between innovators or between individuals.
We believe in an exchange of learning and in the idea that there is likely to be as much that the West can learn from eastern partners as the other way around. We believe that a key to what this learning might be about is that the West’s knowledge of how to do things in education, how to make changes for instance in the technology, is matched by pedagogic systems and theories which have been highly developed in Russia. We believe that these theories and practices can form the basis of radical curriculum innovation and organizational reform.
Finally, we believe in a project that has an organic structure. It will have two nodes, one in the east and one in the west, and it will span three continents. It will have a core structure which must have a small financial base and it will have participating organizations and individuals. However, the form of the organization must be one in which projects can be developed from the center core and not controlled by it. Participants should be free to create these without relying on central funding or permission as long as they can fit into this set of agreed values which the project will develop.
First among these is the theme of teacher education (both pre- and in-service). We see this as the key way of changing and influencing education.
Thirdly, we hope to gain the active involvement of industry and commerce. It will be the concern of the project to encourage such collaboration on both sides, both in the Eastern consortium and in the Western consortium. We understand it as an important way of ensuring that education is relevant to society, understood and cared about, and seen as connected to sources of wealth creation in society. Certainly in the East and also, we would venture, increasingly in the West, active involvement of industry and commerce is essential in order to obtain the funds and commitment necessary for educational reform to succeed. This means that in practice we will take every available opportunity to involve actively avantgarde leaders of industry and commerce both in funding, supporting and implementing the project. The important criteria for collaboration must be that there is sufficient congruence of ethics and values about the goals and methods of the project.
Fourthly, in order to “practice what we preach,” we believe that our meetings and projects events do actively demonstrate and work with the pedagogic systems, that the learning should be managed in a conscious way. We therefore will make it a feature of the project that we focus on the skills and strategies of managing learning in an international context whether it be in the seminars, conferences, exchange trips or consultations. Fifth, it will be important to formulate structures and models of organization that encourage independence and autonomy through small groups… The education reform process will be built on the work of many small groups making their own decisions. We will need to build into our project structure of contract making, interdependence with autonomy and hold it within a regulated and boundaried field of action. These kinds of structures and models are new forms of organization for both East and West and represent a move away from hierarchy and role-dominated cultures.
The Consortium activity has the official support of the Minister of Education for the Russian Republic, Dr. Edouard Dneprov, and a close liaison has been established with the Ministry. On the Western side, the consortium at present includes consultants, trainers, and researchers from the UK, Netherlands and the USA who aim in the first place to act as a bridge into the various educational networks in the West. These will include higher education initiatives, networks of alternative schools, organizations involved in innovative teacher training, consulting organizations, industrial and commercial organizations concerned with pedagogical innovation. They are also currently working to obtain funding and support among possible private and public sector sponsors.
Signed, Nick Zienau
[Ed. Note: Considerable space has been devoted to quotes from The Effective School Report due to their obvious close relationship to activities in American education restructuring; i.e., choice, charter schools, school-business partnerships, school-to-work legislation, The New American Schools Development Corporation, site-based management, merger of public and private sectors, and the Skinnerian workforce training methodology. This important article justifies the validity of concerns expressed by Americans opposed to the U.S.-Soviet and Carnegie-Soviet education agreements signed in 1985 by President Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Carnegie Corporation and the then-Soviet Academy of Sciences, respectively.]