Openness in Education (Part I)

Some time ago, we celebrated the 138th anniversary of Tomsk State University. Birthday is always a good time to think not only about results of work but about prospects as well. 2015 became a year of innovations for us. It can be proven with certain facts, for example, last year TSU sold abroad a patent on production of detectors with increased radiation hardening. So far, this is the largest deal in the sphere of intellectual property that has ever been made by Russian universities.
2016 is turning into a year of education. This is where we are expecting a breakthrough. To make it, we have to change not only the content and the forms of bachelor’s, master’s, and post-graduate education programmes. It is important to get the sense of global trends in the sphere. And the major trend is that education is becoming OPEN. The same way as business and the whole public life are becoming open. Openness in this context means exchange of information, technologies, and knowledge with external audiences. 
I must admit, that the importance of openness in school and university systems has been declared for decades. However, reality has hardly met any expectations. David Price, British researcher,  believes that educational institutions in particular use obsolete models of communication and social interaction.  They do it more often than any other structures. There is an anecdote: if a person from the 19th century were transferred into the 21st century, they would be surprised by everything. However, there would be two places for them to feel like home: school and classical university.
Large business initially has to adapt new models of operating and management in order to maintain and succeed in a highly competitive environment. So it was the first in line to risk everything and become open. Certain examples, like that scandal with  WikiLeaks, taught us that in the network society any private information may become open at any moment. Therefore, relying on privacy leads to losing the game. It does not matter whether an organization sells upscale services, products, and technologies or asserts patent rights for intellectual property.   
Many large industrial and IT companies, such as Tesla Motors, Procter & Gamble, IBM, and Google, turned to openness because the pace of innovation development necessary for successful competitiveness on the global market requires establishing cooperation with the external environment in the formats of outsourcing and crowdsourcing. Advantages provided by interaction with large number of external innovators significantly outweigh any downsides. Labor market is becoming global. Only companies that open their resources and give access to their data networks will win the fight for young talented people.
There is another reason for openness to become one of the major trends nowadays. It is very attractive for people. Even the sphere of finance, which used to be very private, could not resist the trend. Many international banks are turning to keeping their data bases in public (!) virtual warehouses or clouds. They do it because they benefit from it. Clouds are free. Amount of data and its exponential growth would force banks to build expensive data centres for their archives.
Herman Gref, CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board of Sberbank, talked about in March when he was sharing his impressions on visiting Silicon Valley.
So, today we are witnessing how openness as a new type of organization of social life, business, and knowledge is destroying the last bulwarks, which are systems of global school, university, and corporate education. It had to happen eventually because there is no way people could be forced to obey standards that did not meet their expectations. Such controversy was presented by Suli Breaks, English spoken word poet, in his famous video Why I Hate School But Love Education. It was posted in 2012 and broke the Internet.

Posters with Breaks’ texts were also placed on the walls of popular universities and made him a star for young people all over the world. He did not urge to drop schools or universities. He claimed that people should have a choice of how to study and make this choice consciously. Education must be open for everybody: rich and poor, healthy and challenged. The names of his poetic presentations speak for themselves: Your Mind Is Your Campus, I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate, and some others.

Such point of view could be taken for an intemperate youth speaking, if the results of multiple surveys did not prove such an opinion. For example, they showed that most employees of large companies try to avoid participating in traditional corporate education trainings. On the other hand, they regularly and willingly participate in open social net discussions with colleagues from other realms of the world. Business and state institutions cannot ignore these challenges and spend huge amounts of money on something inefficient.   They must change their education strategies. Initially, corporate education was oriented towards privacy and defense from external audiences. Today the most powerful corporate education institutions  share and exchange knowledge with partners and even with competitors. The very existence of unique knowledge and lack of fear to share it prove that an organization has strong competitive advantages.


At present, many large corporate universities support the principle of openness and establish partnership with private and state universities. Relationships between Tomsk State University and Sberbank Corporate University is a very good example of such open education policy. Such partnership is beneficial for both parties. It leads to information and knowledge exchange and increases potential of both of them