Continuity of Education was discussed at OPEN CITY Conference

16 October 2017

The discussion „Continuity of Education as a Driver of Profession Development“ was held as part of Moskomarchitektura’s OPEN CITY Project. Architects, lectures from specialized higher educational institutions and education experts talked about what is needed to ensure lifelong learning.

The idea of ​​lifelong education appeared not so long ago — in the middle of the 20th century. Back then it was perceived only as a way of employee training and, in fact, it was promoted by the owners and chiefs of any enterprise, as said by Julia Ardabyevskaya, the discussion moderator, architect, trainer at Yuri Grigoryan design studio at MArchI. But „lifelong learning“ as a term was introduced only in the late 1990s, following the report by Jacques de Laura at UNESCO. „In fact, the new term defined a new life and world paradigm which is unstable, changing, where a person should perceive himself as an asset that requires investment and can switch specialties and go into greater depth. But consideration should be given to the question of how continuity of education is interpreted in the architectural sphere,“ she said.

However, the participants of the discussion did not identify one common reason why people stop developing and what, on the contrary, encourages such development.

For example, Oscar Mamleev, Professor at MArhI and Visiting Professor at MARCH, believes that there is a flaw in the system of licensing and re-certification of specialists and also they do not want to learn and develop themselves.

„Usually, when a person gets recertified, he tells about his achievements, gets approval and continues his activity. Though, it seems to me that there are so many sources of continuous, very different information on various facets of life. Lots of universities have various educational facilities: advanced training faculties. However, in most cases, it is some kind of speculation to meet the reporting requirements and receive profit. The most important thing that people should have to develop professionally is self-motivation. If a person does not want to get knowledge, then nothing can make him do it. In the West, there is an efficient licensing system with no such “games”, and in our conditions, only if you yourself feel some kind of need, you will achieve some success,“ he said.

Nevertheless, according to Sergei Tchoban, the Managing Partner of SPEECH Architectural Bureau, the ways to motivate specialists to improve their qualifications exist.

„The main incentive for further education is competition, because in Russia its level is very low among architects. There are very few architectural offices in the professional market, compared to Western countries. And when the competition is weak, the customer can turn to a poorly qualified specialist. Architects are not motivated to upgrade their skills to be competitive. The major source of motivation is the awareness of responsibility associated with the quality of the final product. The level of service, when you are constantly in competition with others, plus the need to solve problems very quickly lead together to the desire to move on all the time; because new problems always arise and they need to be examined. And almost no one looks at your license — you have to submit it when you deliver the project to obtain a building permit. The main driver is still competition and constant need for lifelong learning. In practice, you have to catch up with the new concepts and understand what qualitative changes have taken place in some spheres. For example, such changes are happening now in the office sphere. This requires continuous learning, and additional tools may not even be needed. If the number of architects increases, more services will be delivered to the market; the more people work, the more competition we have. And people must be able to sustain this competition, so they will improve their skills to exist,“ he said.

At the same time, in the view of Elena Gonzalez, architectural critic, curator, and Director of Architectural Laboratory PN MARCH LAB, from a pedagogical point of view, a modern person loses interest in self-education when he starts the „adult life“ routine work.

„Life after graduation is divided into two areas: work and the rest of the time. As a student, you learn life lessons as well. It is interesting, because you start to develop in a different way. And your new knowledge is not limited to the professional field, but allows you to find out about the world in its most diverse facets. And after that, you immerse yourself into work, and that’s all. You are no longer a „person playing“. You stop playing, and become interested in other aspects of life. You have „work“ and „life“ areas. And it seems to me that it is a big problem, because people dry up inside. Yes, they have other interests, children, family, hobbies, etc. But we spend quite a lot of time at work, and it is very important to continue your self-development and keep on „playing“ in your professional life. And I can see young people are in great need of it. It may be not fully recognized, but what we do and what our philosophy is to help people to keep themselves motivated not only as professionals, but also as this kind of „people playing,“ she said.

After all, the system of architectural education requires quite strong changes as well. According to Oleg Alekseev, the Vice-rector of the Moscow State Pedagogical University for strategic development and international cooperation, first of all it is necessary to switch to project-oriented education and change the current philosophy of the process by focusing greater attention on practice rather than theory.

„Our system of higher education is based on the fact that students do not end up having a pattern of practical relation to what they are doing. They are just dealing with the logic in work. Firstly, the theory — though it is unclear why students have to study one or another subject. When they become third-year students, a lot of problems arise, because many of them start working; and they do not understand what to do, because their work and practice are not related to what they are taught at universities at all. This happens in the field of architectural education because, first of all, architecture itself, like any other craft have become humiliated and downgraded to the lowest stage of human values. While science with all its organizational patterns is at the top. It is the scientific approach that made theory superior to practice. In this sense, the point of view that we must learn some theoretical basis at first, and only then apply it, is a great delusion; as craft and architecture are built on the model of continuous improvement, the desire to strive for grace and beauty. All this requires a continuous, uninterrupted effort and, accordingly, training. Secondly, it is what we call project-oriented learning. One would think, if you deal with crafts — you must practice. If you practice, you implement the project approach. And there is a serious failure in the part where the student is connected with the future work. After all, in real life a portfolio is more important than a diploma. It represents our life and shows who we worked with, and whether they were people we could learn from,“ he said.

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