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High Demand for Education in BRIC Countries is Built on a Lack of Respect for Trades

Book: Mass higher education – BRIC triumph?
Book: Mass higher education – BRIC triumph?

A HSE Institute of Education seminar on September 16, saw the launch of the Russian-language book Mass higher education – BRIC triumph? by HSE publishing house (the English original, University Expansion in a Changing Global Economy, Triumph of the BRICs? was published last year by Stanford University Press). Attendees discussed development trends in higher education.

The book’s authors include Academic Supervisor in the International Laboratory for Education Policy Analysis at the HSE Graduate School of Education Martin Carnoy, Leading Research Fellow in the International Laboratory for Education Policy Analysis Prashant Loyalka, Academic Supervisor at the Institute of Education Isak Froumin, and Director for Online Media Maria Dobryakova.

The book examines the changes that have taken place in higher education in Brazil, Russia, India and China over the past two decades. The popularity of higher education in these countries is at an all-time high. How does this impact the economy and politics? Some say that the United States and Western Europe will soon cease to be the main generator of global human resources, as already 30 percent of those enrolling in engineering courses across the world are citizens of India and China, Isak Froumin noted.

There are some common features, across the BRICs, regarding the growing popularity of higher education, despite the many differences that exist between the countries, Martin Carnoy stressed. The proportion of families ready to fully or partially pay for university services, and the proportion of fee-paying students, have increased across the board. Higher educational institutions across the BRIC countries are easily divided into the 'elite' and 'the rest'. The elite segment occupies about 12 to 16 percent of the whole higher education market, and is essentially not growing – while the number of institutions and courses of dubious quality is growing.  Thus the higher education system continues to mirror existing social and economic inequalities.

 Those who want some kind of higher education fundamentally predisposed against having to arrive at work by a set time and complete set functions to strict timeframes.

Those who are desperate to achieve at least some kind of higher education dismiss the option of working somewhere they have to 'clock in' at the same time each day and carry out the same functions within a strict timeframe.

But each country has its own peculiarities. In Russia and China, there has been barely any increase in the number of private higher education institutions, and private education overall plays a less significant role, as fee-paying students mainly study in state institutions. Conversely, in India and Brazil there is a proliferation of private higher educational institutions that train engineers and programmers. If demographic predictions hold, Russia will see demand for higher education fall, while it is set to grow in India and China. The state’s has to influence the situation with higher education also differs across the BRIC countries. In India and Brazil, education policy depends on public opinion, while China is freer to impose unpopular measures. In Russia, Martin Carnoy argues, the situation is somewhere in between those two extremes.

Overall, the fact that higher education is becoming more of a mass phenomenon in BRIC countries is a long-standing and sustained process related to the development of the knowledge economy and changes in the global labor market. Every state responds to these changes based on its economic condition, its history and particular culture.

HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov took part in the seminar, and suggested that high demand for university education in BRIC countries is linked to a traditional lack of respect for manual labor. In Western Europe, where trades and crafts are respected, demand for higher education is growing more slowly. Students at higher educational institutions in BRIC countries want to find work that does not involve physical labor, where they are part of a team comprising individuals who have higher education, where a different approach to work discipline is taken. This final point is particularly important: those who want some kind of higher education fundamentally predisposed against having to arrive at work by a set time and complete set functions to strict timeframes. All this clearly has serious implications for BRIC countries' economies, including for Russia's.

So, given this, what should higher education policy look like?

Yaroslav Kuzminov believes that universities have high standards and simply exclude low achievers should be government funded, while education in institutions that are not considered ‘elite’, should not be completely free of charge. Students study there more for socialization than to be trained in a particular discipline, and want to put less effort in to their studies – a phenomenon particularly characteristic of Russia. If education involves a fee, even a partial one, then, perhaps, they will take a more responsible attitude to it. Nonetheless, the issue as to what extent payment for education can guarantee it is taken seriously requires further examination and research, the HSE Rector stressed.

Ekaterina Rylko, for HSE News Service

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