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62nd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 25-31, 1996

Libraries in the system of education - education as quality

Jadwiga Kolodziejska
Head of the Books and Readers Institute


All libraries, are functioning in two civilizational circle. The first one is meant by printed word, which gives thereafter the foundation for school education, and the whole social structure, including economy, politics, ecology, health care and dynamically growing services. The second one es formed by electronic devices: TV, video, computers, CD-ROMs, text, image plus sound. Electronics does no t replace writing / at least to some level extend / but converts it formally into a new structure, described as the intermedium. No matter what potential it gives for the social development, especially the communication and information, one cannot escape the phase of the alphabetization within educational system. In its universality one can still find a chance for European cultural and civilizati onal growth.

The characteristic of libraries in the system of education can constitute only a fragment of the broader phenomenon, i.e., the quantitative and qualitative level of education. This, which is presently observed in university library, results from broader processes that are present in elementary, middle and high school, and even maybe in kindergarten.

The system of education, especially the organizational structure of education, has its own entourage and motivations, among them the most important are:

  1. The type of economy / planned or market / its extensive or intensive character;

  2. aspirations of the individual or social groups, that through education wish to secure higher social and material status for themselves;

  3. school programs and effectiveness of education.

Schools in Economic Practices

During forty-five years the structure of Polish education was subordinated to planned, centralized economy. Its main feature was the development of narrowly specialized professional education, directed to meet the needs of heavy and mining industry. There were logical grounds for its existence during the first decade of the reconstruction and industrialization / 1945-1960 /, however, in the sixti es that was becoming less and less justified (1). New technologies / the computerization became widespread in the second part of the sixties / had been introduced in industry and services in Western countries and the USA, and in this connection one revised educational programs. In Poland the very educational structure remained unchanged as far as 1989. Its subordination to the needs of extensive economy would be as far-reaching if the significance of general education on medium level for the very economy was simultaneously appreciated. It is obvious now that one of the main barriers in the development of high technology industry and the whole infrastructure that conditioned that kind of the production, has been - to date - insufficient medium and higher lever education among groups of em ployees. Low level of services: businesses transport, banking, information, telecommunication, has here its sources, too. We have come to pay with civilization backwardness for ideological and material preferences of the physical work, with simultaneous underestimation of such professions that appreciated talents, intelligence, skills. As the result of such activities people have been improperly educated / they constitute the majority /, and they adapt with difficulties to changed market economy conditions.

The burden on inefficient educational system is mostly visible in the picture of the structure of adult population education over fifteen years of age /. In 1993 5.2 per cent of the population did not graduate elementary schools, 36.0 per cent had elementary education, 26.7 per cent graduated primary technical schools, 25.8 per cent graduated high schools, and 6.4 per cent of the population had h igher education academic. In order to change educational structure one has to change the organization of education reversing proportions in favour of medium level education. However, the revision is expensive . The foundation of larger number of general high schools requires relatively well-paid personnel and material equipment / multimedia, PCs, CD-ROMs, libraries with the proper reach of books and serials novelties /. The same does apply to academic education. The times, when during didactic process as the main tools lecturer's words, the blackboard and the chalk were used, are gone. Much to our regret, only in very few universities.

Low level of education is therefore represented now by two third of the whole population. Its social effects are obvious. One adapts - within this group - with great difficulties to free market conditions and one manifests the most severely the reluctant attitude towards economic reforms. Also the rules governing the functioning of democracy are not quite understood and the State is still treated as the main employer responsible for the future of all its citizens (2). It is true that this group has suffered the most from the effects caused by the change of the political system, and especially of the economic changes. Among unemployed people, the graduates of basic technical schools / 39.0 per cent /, of elementary and middle, and elementary schools / 32.0 per cent /, colleges and medium level technical schools / 20.0 per cent / break the records (3). Among people with higher education academic, only some 4.0-5.0 per cent are unemployed. Every third graduate of Silesian basic technical mining school register himself as unemployed the very next day after having graduated.

One can prove the thesis that education is a sort of the capital, worth investing, when observing within the economy the social rise of young people that are well-educated, professionals knowing foreign languages. Managers under thirty years of age are appearing in private firms, both Polish and with share of foreign capital. Active work, especially in newly founded firms, often leads to the shar e in their management and the self-dependence. Qualifications, skills, intelligence, and inventiveness are in value (4). Unfortunately, this cannot be related to public sector, which - as Janusz Czapinski has written - after six years of the transformation has not adopted marketing rule, meaning that it is the most profitable to invest in higher education. But also in this sphere some changes are taking place. They prove that the least profitable is basic technical education, which up till not long ago predominated universities. The most profitable nowadays seems to be education in some fields / economy, law, management, computer science /, the least-humanities and artistic, so those that educate teachers and librarians. Salaries in educational sector are not market-driven, they are exce ptionally low, which can lead to the decrease of interest in these studies, the escape from the profession and undoubt financial losses to be suffered in future by the whole population. One should therefore agree with Leszek Balcerowicz, that good education acts as exceptionally important kind of the production, where one appreciates good quality of education with the lowest costs. This is the ef fectiveness criterion that refers not only to food or clothes manufacturers, but also to medical, educational, information, and library services (5).

The library, from school to academic one, reflects as in the mirror our entire educational system, both the predomination of narrowly specialized education / in primary technical education there were 300 detailed specialties, compared with only 16 in Germany /, and the backwardness in general / medium level / education, as well as the anachronism of school curricula, didactic technologies, and - as the result - low effects. With backward educational system, which in the seventies and eighties had not met the requirements of the industrial production / massive purchases of technological licenses /, and the whole sphere of services. One copied opinions on the significance of scientific and technical information. Librarians accepted that with good will and participated in the foundation of the national system SINTO / System of Scientific and Technical Information / which had been copied from the parallel system in the Soviet Union, regulated by RWPG / COMECON. Not a single academic librarian had asked himself then, to what extend, or if whatever, the social economic system based on centralized planning, needed information. Stereotypes and slogans were copied, also doctoral disserta tions on the importance of scientific and technical information in various fields of social life were written. As late as the fall of the political and social system in 1989, the whole organizational anachronism of this information structure, under leadership of its central institutions, was uncovered. The reasons for that are as follows:

  1. it is impossible to isolate scientific-technical information from the political and ideological context, which can be characterized as totally not open to the world, and which conceals almost everything from the society,

  2. one cannot transfer the rules of market economy to the imperative-distributive system because they are diametrically opposed,

  3. one cannot neglect the whole civilization infrastructure,

  4. one cannot organize the flow of information without defining the addressee.

During forty five years of socialism one did a lot not to allow the growth of the middle class: small businesses and merchandises, service units owners. They did not fit the structure of planned economy. And these groups, and also hired employees: clerks, technicians, engineers, managers in State enterprises and businesses, are mainly addressees of scientific, technical and generally speaking, pr ofessional information. In the developed market economy this group constitutes from 30.0 to 40.0 per cent of all employees, and this is the group with the best education.

When we refer to the situation from not long ago, we do it because it has to be thoroughly examined. Without the exact knowledge of the changes in culture, educational processes, one cannot plan the future of academic libraries. One can only copy old mistakes or multiply new ones. It is naive to believe that as soon as one purchases electronic devices, gets an access to data bases, eg., over the INTERNET, installs electronic mail, one can this way jump over the civilization gap that separates us from the Western world. In order to come closer, practically both, the individual, and social groups have to change their attitude towards education and treat it as a value itself. One can notice its beginnings.

One of more important elements of changes taking place at the moment is the appearance of private schools, and those owned by social and religious organizations. According to statistical data this type of education is growing dynamically. And so, in 1991 / 1992 there were 165 private elementary and middle schools, and as many as 283 in 1993/1994; high schools, respectively - 158 and 264, universi ties - 20 and 58 (6). These are mostly fee-based schools, although the tuition is varied. They attract talented and innovative teachers that can get there better salaries. This also relates to private universities that hire part-time or full-time academic teachers. Private universities meet the needs of new professions. Among them are: Higher school of Insurance and Banking in Warsaw, Western Pom emerania Business School in Szczecin, Higher School of Management and Banking in Poznan (7).

More and more Poles are eager to invest in not only education of their own children, but also to get new skills and know-how themselves. In 1994 there were 2,000 of such extra-school educational institutions, among them various supplementary training, foreign languages courses that were attended by some 1,2 million people (8). Among those attending supplementary training predominate citizens of b ig cities, and those with unemployment threat. The costs of two or three-weeks language courses in Great Britain, that cost several dozen of millions of old zloty, are covered by the whole family, godmother inclusive in the top. They are treated as necessary and profitable investment in young generation education, especially those that graduate faculties of computer science, management, and law. Those times when the plummer was earning more than the professor at the university seem to become things of the past.

It is linked with more and more visible changes undergoing in the structure of the populations professions. Such unknown in our country professions like stockbroker, book-keeper auditor, economic consultant, manager, commercial agent, marketing and publicity specialist are present since not long ago. Representatives of these professions in addition to their specialized education have to manifest general knowledge, at least of the medium level, which practically means to speak Polish fluently, proficient reading and writing skills, general knowledge of the cultural past and the present of the country. And here we come to the most important issue, the effectiveness of the Polish educational system.

...At Polish university one generally reads not much-writes Henryk Hollender. And not only because the didactic holdings of libraries are poor. There exists silent agreement of all interested parties for the domination of notes - not necessarily own notes - as the source of information to pass an exam. The self-dependent browsing through reading lists by students is minimal, and as concerns lectu rers themselves, gently speaking, modest and often not revised for years (9). One should however add that this is the result of the departure from independent searches, from - contempted for years - theorizing and reasoning, doubting in existing truth in favour of adopting the contamination of various information with no chance to put it together in some logical entity. Studying has been replaced with learning. For the academic library this means low usage of the collection in favour of manuals, lecturer's runs and all kinds of basic reference materials, routinization of information services without broadening the use of both, national and foreign sources. H. Hollender's observations are by all means accurate, they also related to the whole sphere of academic education of librarians, sin ce a long time not keeping pace in curricula and essence with social, political and economic changes. This what is observed from the university library window has its much broader reference than just changes in the ways of academic studying. Improperly educated in elementary, middle and high schools young adults come to universities. The use of notes by them is the continuation of the habits from elementary, middle and high schools. According to Stanislaw Bortnowski the literary text - above all one included in the reading list - is superseded with crib abstracts, papers, video cassettes, and movies, mostly TV movies. This means in practice that "Krzyzacy" / Teutonic Knights / by Sienkiewicz has been replaced with "Krzyzacy" by Ford. In some surveyed school classes only single individual have read the text, the rest has seen the video movie. 45.0 per cent of pupils have treated "Krzyzacy" as a movie, not as a literary phenomenon, so this way the whole symbolic, linguistic, historic layers have remained beyond their interest (10). In no way it is different from Passing exams and tests basing exclusively in notes.

In this escape from reading lists, of considerable significance are growing difficulties in mastering reading skills. The effects are as follows: 30.0 per cent of elementary and middle school graduates have not read a single book in the sixth through eighth grade. Surveys conducted in 1986 revealed that 17.0 per cent of boys and girls that had graduated elementary and middle schools / eight years of schooling / did not understand the meaning of simple texts in the native language. They read and do not see what they have read, they put letters together only. And even more, some 40.0 per cent teenagers understand the text with difficulties (11). The results of the survey conducted by The International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievements / EIA / revealed that in Sweden in 1993 from among 3000 pupils in the age of eight through twelve, only three did not understand texts they had read. In comparison with Poland, schools in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland act in excellent environment: small groups of pupils in classes / up till fifteen persons /, good relations between the teacher and the pupil, fully qualified, innovative teachers, that read a lot the mselves, and therefore act as a model to be followed by pupils. Swedes do not criticize the fact that these educational successes have been decided by the policy of the government, assigning - in spite of economic recession - 7.0 per cent of the budgetary funds for educational purposes.

Educational system does not function in isolation. On the opposite, it undergoes various external influences, including cultural phenomena. Librarians - with not numerous exceptions - do not observe them with care, and are unable to draw the right conclusions, treating these problems as theoretical and therefore not useful for the creation of modern library workshops. Whereas the suppression of c ensorship / in 1990 /, the birth of free book market, import of electronic devices / cable TV, video, CD-ROM /, the origin of video cassettes market, and numerous loan centers of them, all these in revolutionary way have changed the traditional circulation of cultural substance. New phenomena have been originated, having impact on what is happening on all levels of education: a. high professional culture in relation to mass culture is losing its significance. This, that for many generations constituted the literary canon, belongs to the past. It has been replaced with new canons inspired by politics and mass media. Due to its fluctuation it cannot be sufficiently investigated, b. readership of books, serials, professionally high literature does not constitute nowadays the positive factor . For the majority of the population it does not provide the social promotion and does not describe the role within the given circles. Reading habits are individual preferences, and nothing else more, c. schools have evidently lost their impact on the creation of reading interests. Mass media are treated as the replacement of the traditional media. In 1990 10.5 per cent of respondents claimed tha t TV could have completely replaced the book for them, and 3.5 per cent claimed - in a part. For a newspaper this indicator was relatively as follows - 15.3 and 51.7 per cent, which meant that every second citizen of our country with a TV set at home could have done without the daily at all (12).

In 1985 every second student and pupil read some social-cultural and political weekly. In 1990, as few as every fifth. Information given by individual academic teachers on the lack of interest in reading among students can be treated as exaggerated or subjective, but according to GUS data, it turns out to be that 78.5 per cent of students and pupils do not read social-cultural and political weekl ies at all (13). It is no use to mention how monthlies are read. Qualitative changes, especially decreasing activity in the use of printed word in favour of the TV mono-culture, took place during last twenty years. Average time at watching TV by the viewer over sixteen years of age is ca. 3.5 hours a day, and during weekends, over 6 hours a day (14).

University libraries, and not exclusively, are functioning in two civilizational circles. The first one is meant by printed word, which gives thereafter the foundation for school education, and the whole social structure, including economy, politics, ecology, health care and dynamically growing services. The second one is formed by electronic devices: TV, video, computers, CD-ROMs / text, image p lus sound /. This division is conventional, as in fact printed word, spoken word and image are visibly alternated. Digital information on the computer screen needs to be read the most efficiently. Electronics does not replace writing / at least to some level extent / but converts it formally into a new structure, described as the intermedium. No matter what potentials it gives for the social deve lopment, especially the communication and information, one cannot escape the phase of the alphabetization within educational system. In its universality one can still find a chance for European cultural and civilizational growth. Learning of how to put together letters / characters / in the first grade of the elementary school gives a chance to understand the world, in which one happens to live.

  1. Kupisiewicz Czeslaw: Zarys koncepcji przebudowy systemu szkolnego w Polsce. Warszawa 1988, p.15 / Outline of the Conception of Restructuring Educational System in Poland /

  2. Czapinski Janusz: Pozytki z glowy. Polityka 1995 no 26 / Usefulness of Brain /

  3. Skipietrow Natalia: na wage pracy. Gazeta Wyorcza 1995 no 72 / For the Value of Job /

  4. Drabina bez konca. Wprost 1995 no 21 / The Ladder with No End /

  5. Balcerowicz Leszek: Szkola rynku i demokracji. Wprost 1995 no 23 / School of Market and Democracy /

  6. Rocznik Statystyczny 1994. Warszawa 1994 p.475 / Statistical Yearbook /

  7. Kastory Bozena, Michalak Janusz: Szare na zlote. Wprost 1995 no 23 / Grey for Golden /

  8. Godlewski Andrzej: Szkola bez pracy. Wprost 1995 no 15 / School without Job /

  9. Hollender Henryk: Uniwersytety, czyli bokiem do bibliotek. Notes Wydawniczy 1995 no 5 / Universities, i.e., Edgeways to Libraries /

  10. Bortnowski Stanislaw: Ocena skutecznosci szkol w przygotowaniu do uczestnictwa w kulturze literackiej. Kielce 1995 / in print / Evaluation of Efficiency of Schools in the Preparation of the Participation in Culture /

  11. Trening udawania. Z profesorem Zbigniewem Kwiecinskim - socjologiem wychowania z PAN w Toruniu - rozmawia Inga Kalthenberg. Tygodnik Powszechny 1988 no 20 / Trained How to Pretend. An Interview with Professor Zbigniew Kwiecinski - sociologist of education from the Polish Academy of Science in Torun -by Inga Kalthenberg /

  12. Podstawowe informacje z zakresu kultury w 1992 r. Warszawa: GUS 1993 / Basic Information on Culture in 1992 /

  13. Uczestnictwo w kulturze. Warszawa 1992 GUS / Participation in Culture /

  14. Braun-Galkowska Maria: Dzieci a telewizja. Warszawa Biuro Studiów i Analiz z Kancelarii Senatu. OT-139 Warszawa 1995 / Children and the TV /