Irina Khaleeva: All the SCO Countries are Our Old Partners
05.10.2009 14:09
“I am sure that it is vital to develop the educational space. We saw an interesting perspective in the SCO University project proposed by Russia, bold, having no parallel in the world. We began by taking part in competitive tenders for the selection of main higher education institutions to form a fundamental base of the SCO Network University. And we won the “regional studies” nomination (among other four Russian higher education institutions) in this difficult contest,” said Irina Khaleeva , Doctor of Science in Pedagogy, Rector of Moscow State Linguistics University, Academician of Russian Academy of Education. By InfoSCO’s request Irina Khaleeva answered questions of the correspondent Anna Zharkaya.

– It is known that in your University a great deal of attention is paid to learning languages and culture of the ex-Soviet area states. Please give a detailed account of it.

– A year ago within the framework of the University we created the CIS International Languages Institute. Its structure consists of post-Soviet area studies centers and chairs. Today there are Armenian, Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Kirghiz and Ukrainian language Centers in our University. The Moldavian and Tajik languages are studied too. We train not only linguists and translators, but also political scientists, journalists, specialists in regional studies.

In the structure of the CIS International Languages Institute Recreational Education Communities (REC) were created. This year two of them won the contest that was held as part of the federal special-purpose program “Scientific and educational research personnel”. Areas of these centers’ scientific work were approved by the ad hoc commission and independent experts.

One of the REC is called “Linguistics, cross-cultural communication and regional studies in the area of the SCO member states.” On its base regional studies programs will be worked out for the Network University of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Since next year we will introduce the Uzbek language course. Uzbekistan’s economy is now very dynamically developing. In this country there are a lot of world-known ancient centers of the Eastern culture. I think that both Uzbekistan and Russia are interested in more active cooperation, including the sphere of education.

– For how long has the University implemented the new sovereign neighboring states’ languages training program?

– We began to go into this question at the end of the 90s – life and the current reality led to it. Our initiative and activity in this direction were approved by the CIS Council of Heads of government. In 2000 we even obtained a status of base institution of the ex-Soviet states languages and culture study. The linguistic universities commonwealth formed in the post-Soviet area helps us very much. Though, it also helps the partner institutions, the academic community that have joined this work. We have succeeded in voting several legislative acts through the CIS Interstate Parliamentary Assembly. For example, linguistics and intercultural communication standards for higher education institutions in the CIS countries were approved, a number of other our initiatives got support.

After collapse of the USSR we did not break off relations between Moscow State Linguistic University and partner institutes and universities in the cities that found themselves outside Russia. In the 90th we organized a conference of the CIS linguistic universities Association “Linguaconcent”. Together we have come to the conclusion that independent development of the countries in economic, political and other directions (alas!) do not contribute to the intensification of the higher education system. On the contrary, liking for sovereignty, a wish to pull away from “fetters” of the Soviet system began to make the countries try to create their own standards, their educational programs, sometimes very specific.

We, rectors of linguistic institutes, got round the table and acknowledged that it is to nobody’s good. We have realized that in the future the CIS countries will inevitably develop their state languages in priority order; we understood that it is necessary to learn neighbors’ languages. The Russian language development in the post-Soviet area should be undoubtedly supported, but it is not enough to do it for full-fledged communication and mutual understanding. There were short-sighted bureaucrats, who said that the CIS countries languages study is a private matter of these countries. The situation was such when the studied by tradition Western and Eastern languages were in demand, while the CIS languages study was not found necessary.

Time confirmed the correctness of our words: the post-Soviet states’ languages skills are now asked-for. I think that not a few years will pass and the document turnover in all CIS countries will completely go to state languages, which in part is already taking place today. We set hopes that Russian will become, like English, a language “lingva franka” but it has not happened. Russian has not been of priority importance as it used to be, and it is both policy and economics that are behind it.

-Reality is such that the old and medium generations continue to use the Russian language, while young people speak it no longer. What can be done here?

- This situation causes serious social problems. Take migration questions, for example, which we always face in Russia, particularly, in Moscow. Officially hired workers come in our country with their families, children that do not understand Russian. If we want the Russian language to be learnt in neighbouring countries, we have to invest money in that, and a considerable amount of money. Other countries are acting just so, advancing, popularizing their languages and this is a deeply weighed and considered policy. Look what South Korea is doing to promote the Korean language in Russia! And China creates the Confucius Institutes nearly everywhere.

I have to regularly visit the CIS countries. It is absolutely obvious that youth stops to understand Russian, the number of Russian-language schools are being purposively reduced. Russia has to take care of the Russian language presence in the post-Soviet area, and I repeat, it is necessary to invest efforts and means in this urgent matter. Yes, there is a federal special-purpose program “The Russian language”, but in whole the system work seems to be insufficient. The teaching level can not be raised by only conferences.

– Do the Russian language teachers from the CIS countries improve their professional skills in Moscow State Linguistic University?

– Yes, but we do it exclusively at the expense of our own financial sources, so it is just a little streamlet. Say, under the agreement 5-10 teachers-Russianists come to us every year for monthly extension courses.

The Russian language as a direction of specialists training in CIS, certainly, will not fall to the ground. Neighboring states understand that it would be wrong to refuse joint educational experience, educational services must be exported.

– Now in Moscow State Linguistic University one began to pay special attention to the SCO direction. Is this apparently connected with the fact that your higher education institution is involved in the system of the SCO Network University?

– The matter is that we have maintained the closest relationship with all the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states for many decades. For example we have been intensively cooperating with China for almost 20 years. There are a lot of our partner universities: Two in Beijing, in Guangzhou, in Shanghai. Dalian Foreign Languages University is seeking to o conclude a treaty with us. The Chinese direction is one of the most intensively developing in our university. Among our graduating students there are also economists that Chinese business welcomes with open arms, various kinds of structures located in Moscow and other cities of Russia.

We also found it interesting to participate in the process aimed at creating the SCO common educational space, mobility and transparency when getting higher education. In mean the SCO Network University being created for the member, observer and partner states of the Organization. If one glances over all that, one can see a “Eurasian Bologna” with 3 billion people. “I am sure that it is vital to develop this educational space. We saw a perspective and decided to take part in this bold, having no parallel project. We began by taking part in the regional studies competitive tender for the selection of main higher education institutions to form a fundamental base of the SCO network. Four Russian higher education institutions won (besides us - the Institute of Asian and African Studies of Moscow State University, Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs (MGIMO) and Ural State University).

– Who is financing the project?

– National budget of the states taking part in the project. Since the University is network, it is supposed to create some sort of “common cash” of higher education institutions of the SCO member states, winners on their sites. Russia has already confirmed its readiness to co-finance this structure. Students’ active mobility is supposed, as well as their departures for study in different institutions participating in the SCO University system. All that requires considerable financing and efficient organization.

– How much time will it take to “open the door” of the SCO University?

– We plan in 2010 to make the first intake of masters. For more intensive work we have decided to create the SCO member states regional studies institute within the framework of Moscow State Linguistic University. We will begin with regional studies magistracy. The SCO University legal foundation is already created and approved. Today we are thoroughly coordinating all details; we have to arrange specific points. Say, for China the notion itself “regional studies” was new. At the level of Baccalaureate, I think, coordination will be much more complicated. But as they say in the East, slow and steady wins the race...