SCO University: an Important Stage of Transition to the “Economy of Knowledge”
05.06.2009 19:27
Valery Badmaev, Alexander Starunsky, the SCO Business Council experts

With a view to creating a single socio-cultural and educational space of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states an important significance is attached to joint educational programs development, where the idea of the SCO University creating has a special place. For the first time this initiative was advanced by the SCO Business Council in 2007, having assigned educational projects as one of the priority lines of its activity. Later on the proposal of the Head of the SCO Business Council, Vice-Speaker of the RF Federation Council Dmitry Mezentsev on creation of a specialized Education Center of SCO has transformed into a concept of the network university and won widespread support of the SCO community. At the present time the SCO University curator is the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation that for a short period of time has succeeded to conduct all the necessary preparation and organizational work for such a large scale innovative project implementation.

Opening of the SCO University that represents a network of educational institutions of the five member states of the organization with the coordinated educational program, according to the decision of Ministers of Education of the member states issued at the meeting in Astana (October 23, 2008), is scheduled for 2009-2010. The central objective of the new educational institution will become highly skilled personnel training in priority directions of the economic, education and research, and cultural cooperation, assurance of academic and professional educational mobility.

What is making a decision on the SCO University creation conditioned by? Here, to our opinion, the following factors can be designated.

Firstly, knowledge, science, education, according to the world practice, are today the guidelines of the civilized community development. Statistics indicate: 90% of the total scope of mankind’s knowledge measured in physical terms has been gained for the last thirty years, just as 90% of scientists and engineers of the whole story of civilization are our contemporaries. They are obvious signs of transition of the economy based on the use of natural resources to the economy based on knowledge. The new “economy of knowledge” objectively suggests as a key resource of the social welfare economic growth in one country or another, its intelligent educational potential. UNESCO declared the “intelligent” 21st century (its own definition) an “Era of education”.

Secondly – the obvious process of education globalization. Under the influence of the cardinal political and economic changes in the world, evolution of value systems, as well as in the face of global challenges to the mankind the modern education and science grow into global and worldwide ones. This is connected, in the first place, with the fact that today knowledge acquires a new social dimension; it becomes the same resource as finance capital, natural resources. But unlike them knowledge has inexhaustible and even extensible potential, which assumes special importance and advances education and science among the global factors in social development.

Thirdly – education is today not only an institution of knowledge transfer; it acquires absolutely new features and functions. Under globalization education and science are becoming some sort of a central site, the point where advantages and antagonisms cross, generated by the modern age, by the areas formed by the world of the 21st century. They turn more and more into a sphere of international competition and with that into cooperation. For the education proper its new role has become a powerful incentive for internationalization and integration. That is why one can already speak about an actual objective phenomenon – “global education” – a sphere of mankind’s activity where external and internal conditions for the personal enhancement are formed and implemented in process of mastering of values of both national and world culture.

A moment of crucial importance, from our point of view, is that it is necessary to understand by the “society based on knowledge” term not only and not just the development of sciences and high technologies. This is a more general notion, reflecting conceptual development of one of the challenges all the civilized countries are facing. In the first place, the question is about socio-cultural foundations of this new society.

Fourthly, just as other social institutions, education and science under the influence of the comprehensive process of globalization of life become more open for the intercultural cooperation, being a way of cultural development, an instrument of communication ties. Under its influence dynamic modifications in the cultural activity occur, new cultural elements and forms appear, value guidelines, behavioral model, world view, life and identity styles are corrected.

What are peculiarities of the intercultural cooperation in the sphere of education and science? It seems that enhancement of the international constituent part of the development of separate elements of education and science (national, regional educational systems) does not mean at all that they have lost their originality. The question is that in process of intercultural cooperation formation of a new global educational and scientific milieu is taking place, where in the most efficient forms national interests of their participants could be realized and joint quest for solution of the problems of vital interest to the human civilization in whole could be carried out.

In this context the SCO University is one of the major components of the knowledge-based society creation that makes it possible to increase mobility, intensify international relations between scientists, students and teachers from the countries of the Eurasian space. There need to be understanding that consolidation of the world education and science potential, slow development of international integration in these fields, intercultural dialogue are only capable to ensure a real priority of knowledge as a leading resource of development. This problem definition will enable the Shanghai Organization to realize in practice revolutionary ideas of the innovative development of the region, laid in SCO’s conceptual documents.