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Serious changes in the educational system are waiting for us (Essay on the new function of education)

| On 07, Apr 2004

What to teach?
From the very beginning the main function of education was to reproduce the society’s culture and to hand down the culture to the next generation. Culture is the total of the stereotypes of behaviour, accepted in the society, main scientific and everyday life notions and paradigms, stationary technologies and method of solving problems. The habit of washing everyday, the criminal code, cheese-making technology, Viet theorem about the roots of a square equation – all of them are elements of culture.

The main contradiction of modern education connected with that function is the contradiction between the high rate of storing knowledge of the humanity and the low rate of storing knowledge of a certain person.

The total volume of the humanity’s total knowledge is growing geometrically, at least. And the technology of teaching a certain person remains practically unchanged and don’t provide proper growth of knowledge mastering. What to do? Until now the growth of education was reached mainly in an extensive way: by increasing the time of studying. Modern education knows also a series of the methods of intensifying the educational process, but they don’t solve the whole problem.

There is also a strong (but not developed technologically) idea: to teach firstly not the concrete knowledge but the methods of the fast and efficient mastering of the knowledge (skill of studying). To develop this idea technologically is one of the problems of modern education. And a lot of educational inventions must be made on that way.

But the content of the 21st century education will be determined by one more function that grew ripe in the informational boom of the 20th century. What one? Let us make it clear. A known physicist Leo Szillard suggested a simple image: let us depict all the humanity’s knowledge as a globe. Then all the space outside the globe is the field of the unknown. The surface of the globe symbolizes the border with the unknown. But the more the knowledge volume is, the more is the area of the touch with the unknown. And every point of that area is a new problem.


The number of the problems, which the people have to collide with, has grown sharply. And the responsibility for solving new problems has grown, too. A good solution of the problem means new possibilities. A bad one means new troubles, right up to ecological catastrophes. For the first time in the humanity’s history there arose a need in the purposeful and mass (!) training of Solvers.

Let us say: the profession of a Solver is needed. Not simply physicist or engineer, chemist or biologist, psychologist or sociologist, but just Solver. Because the present more and more often knocks us together with complicated problems with many factors, and those problems are much wider then any concrete specialty. Somebody must bind the ends into a single knot; somebody must understand the language and interests of the representatives of different specialties. And if the creation itself may be studied and has its laws, somebody must be able to use them.

Now let us make a digression. Let us imagine that the time machine has already been invented. Let a usual boy of 13 from a secondary school take this machine and go to Pisa University in the 13th century, where the best European mathematicians got together in order to compete in dividing the great numbers. It’s a hard job, it needs great experience and intuition, because the numbers are written in the Roman tradition (Arabic figures have come to Europe much later), and the methods of division simply don’t exist – the answer is guessed and checked by the reverse operation… The competition ends with a knockout won by our boy. Is he a genius? No, but he has got a simple method – division ‘in column’.

Maybe, it is a prompt for resolving the contradiction? We can’t make everybody a genius, but we can equip many people with strong methods of solving complicated problems. Can we? In any case, let us fix the conclusion: to prepare for meeting new problems that have not been met earlier is the second main function of education; that function has arisen as a result of the scientific and technical revolution. And that function becomes a chief one. There remains an intricate question: how to build the educational course, the purpose of which will be the training of strong Solvers. Let us mark the main directions of such a course.

Teaching of a Solver
The purpose is the forming of the temper and thinking of a Solver ready to meet the new problems. The reaching of the purpose supposes working out the educational system we call now TRIZ-education. Contents of TRIZ-education will be determined to a great extent with such directions:


1. Developing the creative intuition
It’s said, that a famous designer of planes A. Tupolev needed only a glance at a draft of a plane in order to draw a conclusion whether it would fly. Bringing up a Solver Developing the creative intuition Teaching the methods of solving creative problems Teaching how to organize the creative labour Developed intuition is the result of a great number of solved problems. The developing of the solver’s creative intuition supposes that there must be a wide base of the creative training problems1 in the educational course.

2. Teaching the methods of solving creative problems Naturally, TRIZ-education is based upon the methods developed in the inventive problems solving theory: operators of taking away the stereotypes, methods of resolving the contradictions, algorithms of solving the creative problems and other solving mechanisms of TRIZ. At the same time TRIZ-education doesn’t neglect other methods2, using them as auxiliary ones.
The experience of teaching various age groups (from children of pre-school age to grownup specialists) the methods of solving creative problems (naturally, on the adequate examples and problems). The effective mastering of the special methods of inventing activity is based on the strong thinking. Its main properties are such skills:
· find and mark the regularities in a heap of facts;
· see the features of objects and phenomena that are not given explicitly and the hidden resources for solving the problem;
· build the cause-and-effect resources including the branching ones with a necessary extent of details, master the apparatus of formal logic in the condition of insufficient knowledge;
· mark the main ideas and ask the questions that discover the essence of the matter (to people or to nature – when an experiment is conducted);
· make (generate consciously) hypotheses and build the system of checking experiments;
· operate with contradictions;
3. Teaching how to organize the creative labour One may be a very gifted person but have no time for doing anything in his life. There will be no musician- virtuoso without hard work on the etudes. Fruitful work of a Solver mayn’t be imagined without the skill of organizing the labour. The labour organization includes3:
· planning the scientific work;
· skill of working with data bases and organizing one’s own data bases;
· making abstracts;
· mastering the rapid summarizing, skill of ‘reducing’ the information into the laconic ‘supporting signals’ (images);
· skills of rapid reading;
· planning the working time;
· …
The skills necessary for organizing the collective intellectual work seem to be as well important:
· skill of conducting the scientific discussion and exact argumentation;
· skill of making the report about one’s achievements orally and in written form;
· skill of editing, reviewing and adding the colleague’s (other student’s) work;