We are living in a time when formal education is accessible to more individuals than ever before. It is considered a key to personal and social development, and prosperity. However, education is also facing significant challenges brought by the digital era. Therefore we have decided to devote this Aspen Review issue to the topic of education.
In an interview with Maciej Nowicki, French historian and philosopher Marcel Gauchet expresses his disillusion with the current understanding of education and knowledge. He explains that educational institutions have lost much of their former great privileges which were based on access to information and books. Today, the teaching of knowledge has been devalued and schools and teachers have lost their once influential position in society. Gauchet therefore calls for the rethinking of the concept of education and for a return to some of the values, expectations, and behaviors of the past.
According to sociologist Frank Furedi, education in Europe is regarded instrumentally as a tool for producing skilled citizens who will fit the demands of the labor market. However, in its own right, education is entirely underappreciated. Needless to say, passing of knowledge is crucial for a society in order to produce a young generation that has cultural and intellectual resources to deal with current and future challenges.
In the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the educational systems are facing struggles of their own. As Michael Žantovský points out, the last 25 years in the Czech Republic have consisted of a conflict between efforts to reform the educational system and between those insisting that the system we had inherited from the previous era was not corrupted, and thus there was no need for reparation. Michael mentions that we still lag behind not only the traditional countries with a long history of academic excellence, but also the Asian tigers that have recently made significant progress.
The spotlight on education will also apply to our events. In September, the Aspen Institute Prague will host a panel discussion at the Forum 2000 conference devoted to the impacts of technological innovation on education and the ability of schools to adapt to the requirements currently imposed on the youngest generation. Among the speakers will be Táňa le Moigne, CEO of Google Czech Republic, Ondřej Šteffl, CEO of SCIO, and Josef Šlerka, Head of New Media Studies at Charles University. You can find more information about the event on our website and social media.
Digitization affects not only education, but virtually all other spheres of life. In Aspen Institute Prague we understand the importance of discussing digital issues. Therefore, we have set digital agenda as one of our focuses and have hosted a number of related events and contributed to several papers and studies. In July, we organized a conference on Digital Competitiveness of the European Union—the first AIP event that took place in Brussels. The success of the conference—attended by the Commissioner Věra Jourová and many other European policy makers, entrepreneurs, and leading digital experts—motivates us to further explore the topic.
In other program areas, we tackle arts and culture and their role in social and urban development. We have organized two debates about creative placemaking at open-air music festivals—Pohoda in Trenčín, Slovakia, and Colours of Ostrava—and we are also preparing the second edition of the Open Up! Creative Placemaking Festival. Within the Art and Business program, we have launched Art Match—a brand new series of debates about cultural philanthropy in the Czech Republic and Central Europe. The aim of these regular meetings is to develop a dialogue between patrons and collectors supporting the arts.
We are also busy preparing the Aspen Annual Conference. This year it will focus on the Czech Republic and its performance in three key areas: economy, security, and the quality of life. We will bring you studies by renowned experts assessing the progress and identifying room for further improvement in the selected areas.
For more information about our upcoming activities you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. I am looking forward to meeting you at some of this fall’s Aspen events and I wish you an inspiring reading.
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