|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
The New York Times
/ January 7, 2001
Distance Learning: Russia Is Reaching Out
В настоящее время Россия охвачена системой дистанционного образования от Петрозаводска до Владивостока со всеми его проблемами и возможностями. Возможно, это один из путей образовательной реформы в России.
It takes nearly seven hours to drive snow-covered Siberian roads from the university town of Tomsk to Prokopyevsk, a down-at-the-heels mining town of ramshackle wooden houses and Stalin-era apartment buildings with no evident signs of the computer age.
But physics students at the Prokopyevsk Distance Learning Center of Tomsk State University, tucked away on the top floor of a local nursing school, can join chat sessions with their professors at Tomsk State, 250 miles away, with a click of a mouse.
From Petrozavodsk near Finland to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean and here in western Siberia, Russia is embracing modern distance learning, with all its potential for making education more accessible and with the attendant debates about quality and philosophical implications. It is not quite a revolution yet, but it is a big change, and one of the keys to educational reform in Russia. It is sometimes easier said than done, for it also requires a decent Internet connection, but on a recent chill winter evening with snowbanks lining Prokopyevsk's poorly lit streets, nearly 20 students filled the long, bright computer room. Even if the town's lone Internet provider is having a bad day, they can load CD-ROM's with interactive, multimedia electronic textbooks by Tomsk's leading physics professors - which also allows them to see their professors, even though meager megabytes have thwarted videoconferencing attempts.
They can also conduct independent electronic laboratory experiments. One includes a virtual particle accelerator, where they can see how electrical resistance works.
"I don't have a computer at home", said Ruslan Reshetnikov, an 18-year-old sophomore intently observing the resistance process on screen, "but I spend about three or four hours a day here. I'm in constant communication with my teachers. I can do computer experiments and see how things really work".
Several workstations up from Ruslan, Artyom Shuvayev, a freshman, also plans to be a physicist, but today he has spent several hours working with a multimedia textbook on Russian history. On his screen is a description of the mid-19th-century judicial reform carried out in czarist Russia.
Artyom was in Tomsk recently on a field trip with his classmates, meant to instill school spirit. After two years studying in Prokopyevsk, physics students transfer to the main campus in Tomsk, graduating after an additional three years.
"Here I will have time to grow up for two years", said the studious, strapping Artyom, who is already mapping out his future. "They say those who go to Tomsk from far away don't have time to study".
All of this is good news for Prokopyevsk, where unemployment is over 20 percent, and the population of nearly 300,000 has too few distractions and too many problems. Ten years ago the town was a hotbed of demonstrations that helped bring down Communism. Famous for the best coal in the Kuzbass, as the region is called, Prokopyevsk has made the news more in recent years for methane explosions at its failing mines and strikes by irate workers who have blockaded local junctions of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Dozens of teenage boys in the area have been disabled and even died from electric shocks after attempting to steal power lines or transformers to sell as scrap metal.
Like Ruslan and Artyom, most of the 530 students studying physics, law, history and economics at the Prokopyevsk program are the children of miners or blue-collar workers. It costs about $280 a year to study in Prokopyevsk, cheaper than going straight to Tomsk, the oldest classical university in Siberia, where scholarship spots are highly competitive and living and travel expenses add up. "They will mostly be first-generation intelligentsia", said Dmitry Voronin, the rector of the affiliate. Mr. Voronin, who keeps a samovar and a lemon tree in his office, is a great believer in computer technology in education, although he admits his knowledge does not extend much beyond e-mail. "There must still be live teaching, but the Internet broadens horizons infinitely", he said, adding that students, after showing initial interest in international marriage services on the Web, are now more likely to look up sites related to physics.
Aleksandr Tikhonov is a former minister of education who is charged with promoting distance learning and high technology in education. "There are 300,000 students studying by distance learning in Russia right now, by Internet and television", he said. "Five years ago there were no more than 10,000. In two or three years it will be close to one million".
"Distance learning is more important than for Belgium, say, or the U.S. because we have no roads" he added. "I had to get from Ufa to Yekaterinburg quickly. They are close, but it was winter. I had to fly through Novosibirsk", a detour of nearly 1,300 miles.
Today's technology-driven programs encompass everything from grade school to business school. Some curricula are home-grown, while others use courses produced jointly with universities like Stanford and Oxford. Last month, Teleshkola, the first full-scale distance learning channel for schoolchildren, made its debut on NTV+, a satellite channel. Hundreds of the best teachers in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod auditioned for the project, which is backed by the Education Ministry. While this is a pay channel, part of the concept is to help provide a high level of teaching to invalid children, refugees and children in rural areas where some schools may soon be shut for economic reasons. Technology is also helping restore academic ties to countries that were part of the former Soviet Union, especially to ethnic Russians living there. Tomsk State, which has a distance learning center in Kazakhstan, is also working with the Kazakh government to create a cross-border distance learning university. Tomsk State's Institute of Distance Learning is a beehive of activity, even on weekends. Electronic textbooks are created with the help of psychologists and Web designers. Lyudmila Borilo, a chemistry professor leading her first distance learning course, with students in Kazakhstan, spent five months writing the course in longhand, learning as she went along to adapt it to the electronic medium.
"Here I go from the general to the specific", she said. "When I read lectures it's not like this. I don't have an introduction. When I give a lecture, and I talk about radiation, I don't have time to diverge to ecology and other subjects".
But so many types of programs across Russia have been dubbed distance learning - even basic correspondence courses that existed in Soviet times - and so many terms are bandied about that the Ministry of Education is sponsoring a conference to define the concept and put together a glossary of terms.
Beyond confusion over what the terms mean, there are other problems to overcome. Teachers working for affiliates of Moscow-based institutes fall outside the bounds of labor laws. And while young men studying on campus at accredited institutions get an automatic draft deferment, 18-year-old male distance learning students are given deferments only if administrators fudge their status.
But progress is being made. The Education Ministry plans to invest more than $140 million next year to computerize schools, improve telecommunications and create electronic textbooks, double this year's budget. Money from the European Union, World Bank and various foundations has also helped.
Stanford has sponsored a course ininternational relations with two universities, Yaroslavl State northeast of Moscow and Southern Urals State in Chelyabinsk. A recent trancontinental chat session included discussions of fascism, NATO and Southeast Asian geopolitics.
Lectures are shown on videotape, and Stanford coordinators admit they were surprised by Russian technological prowess. Lectures were filmed at Stanford on Beta tapes that needed to be digitized. Stanford did not have the equipment to do that, but the Russian universities did.
"We thought we would be of assistance to them", said Aleksei Sitnikov, a coordinator at Stanford. "When we went through the regions, we understood that they are ready for partnership. They have technological capability we don't have".
ANOTHER notable Russian achievement is the Modern University for the Humanities, founded in 1992. It promotes distance learning by satellite television, which it believes has better prospects for Russia than the Internet. Inside its Moscow headquarters, an unimposing brick building that once housed a radio engineering school, television and editing studios on the top floor rival those of a television network. Professors tape lectures on everything from Greek philosophy to physics. The lectures are transmitted to the university's "teleport" and beamed from a rooftop satellite dish to students across Russia, former Soviet republics and Israel via eight rented channels on the American LMI 1 satellite. The university has applied for American accreditation.
Local tutors at the university's regional centers work with students on the spot. But even the 5,000 students on the Moscow campus - the university has a total of 110,000 - watch the lectures on screen.
Pyotr Karpenko, a former professor of adult education who is rector of the Modern University, speaks of education technology with the passion of a preacher.
"In the last 300 years, the technology of teaching hasn't changed", he said. "Now it is changing before our eyes. It is impossible to imagine the classroom method of teaching in 10 or 20 years. It will be an anachronism - like when printing came, it became an anachronism to write on parchment".
Even the Modern University, though, has its technical shortcomings. The Kemerovo branch, about a three-hour drive from Tomsk, on the way to Prokopyevsk, has not put up its teleport yet. Lectures are shown on video, but the center has only two televisions.
But the rector of the affiliate, Viktor Mandzilevsky, speaks of educational innovation and adapting it to society's needs with the same fire as Professor Karpenko. "Distance education is the first education structure which answers to the market", he said. "Russia needs this".
Professor Karpenko's ultimate dream is to make education completely portable. He loves the idea of satellite phones, which can go anywhere, anytime. Fyodor Konyukhov, an adventurer and a round-the-world sailboat racer, is enrolled in the university and communicates with it through the Internet.
Others worry about the loss of live human contact.
"Education is like theater", said Robin Matthews, a professor of business who runs the distance learning M.B.A. program of Kingston University, a British institution, with the Moscow Academy of National Economy. "There must be interaction. It can't be completely disembodied".
Like Tomsk State's program with Prokopyevsk, Kingston University combines live teaching with Internet chats and e-mail consultations. It also uses videoconferencing.
VLADIMIR Dyomkin, the director of Tomsk State's Institute of Distance Learning, can speak for hours about the possibilities of distance learning, but he ends with the tortured musings of a Russian intellectual.
"We never said education can be purely at a distance", he said. "There can be some teaching from a distance. Knowledge can be transferred this way, through the Internet. But what about the formation of the individual? There can't be development if they just sit in front of a television screen. Then there's no spiritual link. They can't just have indirect communications with their teachers. They have to see their mimicry, their gestures".
© Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company
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/ Issue 2068
Monday 22 January 2001
Russian lessons on school agenda
- By Liz Lightfoot, Education Correspondent
В государственных школах Великобритании будут изучать русский язык
RUSSIAN, Japanese and Mandarin will be taught in state schools as part of a Government initiative to persuade more people to take languages seriously.
Courses will be developed at the specialist language colleges that will provide lessons for pupils at other schools via the internet and video conference links. Nine more language colleges will also be announced today, bringing the total to 108 in England and Wales. The schools qualify for a 100,000 pounds government grant and receive an extra 123 pounds a year per pupil for four years.
The announcements by Estelle Morris, the school standards minister, comes three days before the Government is due to respond to a report which described Britain as "monolingual and dangerously complacent about it". The report, which was commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation, recommended that knowledge of a foreign language be made a university entry requirement.
It also called for extra money for the teaching of Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Portuguese and Russian, which were spoken by "huge numbers of people in countries of significant economic and political interest to the UK". The Government set up a committee to look into the report and will respond on Thursday.
It is understood to be recommending that language colleges must offer lessons for primary-age children. Ministers will also point out that the new, two-tier A-levels will increase the number of sixth-formers who have studied languages for a year.
On the same day Baroness Blackstone, the Higher Education minister, will join Sir Trevor McDonald, the ITN newsreader who is chairing the Nuffield inquiry, to announce events to mark the European Year of Languages.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2000
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The Associated Press
/ Wednesday January 10 4:10 PM ET
Russia Must Secure Nuclear Stockpile
Россия должна обезопасить свои ядерные запасы
- By H. Joseff Hebert, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON, (AP) -- The possibility of Russian nuclear materials being stolen or diverted is "the most urgent unmet national security threat" facing the United States, says a task force of former federal officials. The panel recommends a $30 billion program to help Russia secure its nuclear stockpile.
"We have no proof of a diversion of weapons or material from Russia, but there is so much of it and security is so meager ... it is a continuing threat", warned former Sen. Howard Baker, co-chairman of the bipartisan panel.
Baker, a Tennessee Republican, said that as a courtesy he has discussed the report briefly with Vice President-elect Dick Cheney (news - web sites) and Donald Rumsfeld, President-elect Bush's choice as defense secretary. He said he wanted to give the incoming administration "a heads up" on an issue it will face.
The report urged Bush and the new Congress to give the Russia nuclear proliferation concerns top priority. "If there is going to be attention paid (to this issue) there has to be a very strong presidential leadership", said former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., a panel member. Hamilton has been mentioned as a possible Bush choice for United Nations (news - web sites) ambassador.
Russia has an estimated 40,000 nuclear weapons and more than a 1,000 metric tons of nuclear material including highly enriched uranium and plutonium scattered at facilities across Russia, many of them with inadequate security.
The problem has been compounded by the thousands of Russian nuclear weapons scientists who are out of work or on meager incomes "and may be tempted to sell their expertise" to other nations or terrorist groups, the report says.
"The issues are immediate and the dangers are real", said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, who a year ago ordered the task force review of U.S. efforts to deal with nuclear proliferation in Russia.
U.S. spending on nuclear security in Russia now totals about $900 million annually, about a third of that in Energy Department programs to help Russia secure nuclear materials, safeguard nuclear facilities and retrain nuclear scientists facing hard economic times.
Some members of Congress have been reluctant to continue spending even that much because of concern that money may be misused and because of Russia's refusal to stop selling civilian nuclear technology and conventional arms to Iran.
Russia's dealings with Iran are "a major cloud on the horizon" that will make it more difficult to sell the $30 billion spending plan to Congress, acknowledged Lloyd Cutler, President Clinton (news - web sites)'s former White House counsel and the other task force co-chairman.
The panel urged the Energy Department's spending be increased to $3 billion a year over eight to 10 years. The $30 billion price tag "would constitute the highest return on investment in any current U.S. national security and defense program", said the report.
While U.S. nuclear assistance programs for Russia have made progress, their shortcomings "leave an unacceptable risk of failure and the potential for catastrophic consequences", the report says.
To give the issue a higher profile, the panel urged Bush to create a "nuclear nonproliferation czar" with access to the president, and that Congress create a joint House-Senate committee on the subject.
Others on the panel included former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., who for years has been active on nuclear nonproliferation issues; Graham Allison, a nonproliferation expert at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government; former Sen. David Boren, D-Okla., now president of the University of Oklahoma; former Rep. David Skaggs, D-Colo., now of the Aspen Institute; and Susan Eisenhower, president of the Eisenhower Institute.
© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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/ Monday January 8 5:12 PM ET
Turner Funds Effort Against Nuclear Arms
Медиа-магнат Тед Тернер, организатор CNN, собирается финансировать программу работ по ограничению ядерного, химического и биологического оружия. Эти деньги предполагаетя дать частным фирмам, которые могут взять на работу российских ученых-биологов. Соединенные Штаты заинтересованы в использовании в мирных целях знаний и опыта российских ученых в области физики, химиии и биологии.
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) -- Media mogul Ted Turner said on Monday he had launched a non-profit group that would distribute millions of dollars to fund efforts dedicated to curbing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. "We should not miss this opportunity to make the world a safer place for all of us", Turner said at a media conference to announce his Nuclear Threat Initiative.
Turner, who founded CNN and is now vice chairman of Time Warner Inc., pledged $250 million over five years for the effort. "Like everyone else, we thought that when the Cold War ended, we no longer had to worry about nuclear annihilation", Turner said.
"The progress that we made to reduce the threat in the last 10 years has been marginal at best, despite the fact that we are no longer enemies with the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China", he added.
The group includes Swedish diplomat Rolf Ekeus, who headed the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq from 1991 to1997, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and Republican senators Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Richard Lugar of Indiana. Also on the board is Andrei Kokoshin, a member of the Russian parliament and former first deputy defense minister in Russia. The co-chairman of the nonprofit group will be former senator Sam Nunn, once rumored to be a candidate for defense secretary in President-elect Bush's Cabinet until the Georgia Democrat said he was not interested in returning to government service.
Nunn said the nuclear initiative was a factor behind that consideration. The organization, which held its first board meeting on Monday, aims to fill niches and stimulate private sector funding for various efforts to curb weapons of mass destruction.
While the group intends to focus on the nuclear threat, it also planned to address biological and chemical weapons "which are in fact more likely to be used", Nunn said. An example of a possible project would be to provide venture capital for private firms willing to hire Russian biological scientists for commercial endeavors. The United States has been concerned that experts in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons from Russia and the former Soviet Union find peaceful venues to utilize their knowledge and skills.
Another potential project would be to fund the development of an early warning system for threats from biological agents due to "terrorism" or some type of outbreak, Nunn said. The World Health Organization (news - web sites), Centers for Disease Control, and other groups are working on this, he said. "They have a long way to go, we're going to take a keen interest, that will be one of the projects we look at right up front", Nunn said.
He said the aim of the new group was to stimulate progress through other organizations. "We're not going to run programs as such, we're going to basically try to contribute to and get other people to run them", Nunn said. The group, which will have a staff of 20 to 30, was not expected to engage in significant lobbying, but may fund non-governmental organizations, pilot programs and education efforts, Nunn said.
Turner once offered to donate $1 billion to erase the U.S. debt to the United Nations (news - web sites) but was not allowed to do that, so instead he made a gift in that amount to special U.N. humanitarian projects.
Last month he donated $34 million to help close a deal that cut U.S. payments to the United Nations.
© Copyright (c) 2001 Yahoo! Inc., and Reuters Limited.
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/ Volume 291, Number 5502, Issue of 12 Jan 2001, p. 243.
Eavesdropping on Doomed Sub
С помощью методики контроля ядерных испытаний сейсмологи из университета Аризоны определили, что сейсмический сигнал шел с места, где затонула атомная подлодка Курск.
A bit of "forensic seismology" has revealed details of a Russian tragedy that otherwise might have remained state secrets. Seismologists taking the pulse of the planet last summer picked up not only the shattering main explosion aboard the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk but also a smaller precursor event, suggesting that the fate of its 109 crew members may have already been sealed before the sub hit bottom.
On 12 August, the fatal day, an odd seismic signal was picked up at monitoring stations all around the southern Barents Sea, where the sub sank. Seismologist Terry C. Wallace of the University of Arizona in Tucson and his colleagues soon determined, using techniques for monitoring nuclear testing, that the signal came from the very spot where the Kursk went down. The hefty explosion was equivalent to between 3 and 7 tons of TNT--two or three times the size of the Oklahoma City truck bombing.
But 136 seconds earlier, Wallace says, there had been a much smaller explosion--of 50 to 100 kilograms, about the size of a torpedo detonation. (The Russians are believed to have been experimenting with an exotic new torpedo propellant.) That first explosion--which occurred when the sub was near the surface--may have been enough to sink it even before the more destructive blast, says Wallace. An analysis of the seismic signal from the resulting gas bubble indicates near-bottom pressures at the time of the main explosion. Wallace's analysis offers further evidence against the idea that the Kursk suffered an underwater collision.
More noises are still being picked up from the vicinity--apparently from depth charges the Russian Navy has reportedly been dropping to discourage rubberneckers.
© Copyright 2001 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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