Olga Chetverikova: “Distance learning is a profanation of education”

“It's all going to the position: 'How can your child not have a mobile phone? Doesn't your child have a gadget? You're an irresponsible parent!” What we used to describe as a terrible picture is already being realised today," says Olga Chetverikova, Candidate of Historical Sciences, member of the Russian Writers' Union, director of the Centre for Geopolitics at the Institute of Fundamental and Applied Research at the Moscow State University, in the interview with Realnoe Vremya. The principled opponent of distance learning about who benefits from big data for our children, how German Gref and the company are preparing caste education for the country, why the coronavirus pandemic has become only a cover for the implementation of a strategic project, and why distance learning is so harmful for the younger generation.

“Our law does not allow distance learning”

Today in Moscow, it is planned to hold a meeting of the parent community with deputies to discuss the problems of distance education. They also announce your participation as “a well-known public figure, political expert, and ardent opponent of distance education.

No, I'm not an ardent opponent — this is a very emotional definition. I am rather a categorical opponent of distance learning. This is my principled position.

What is this position based on?

I have been working on the problem of Digital School for quite a long time — this project was developed a long time ago. Nothing was known about it for a very long time, until it was implemented in Moscow in 2016 under the guise of the Moscow Electronic School, and then it turned out that there was a Russian Electronic School. Then it became clear that the Digital School project involves creating a digital educational environment that includes distance learning.

Why, in your opinion, should distance learning be unacceptable in secondary education?

First of all, distance learning is a profanation of education. A child can't get knowledge remotely — and that says it all.

Computer training does not give the child knowledge because the learning process is very complex. It includes certain content; pedagogy, teaching methods that can only be given by a teacher who knows how to teach a child; and the assessment of learning. All these three processes can only be face-to-face. Everything else is profanation, no matter what beautiful form it may take.

Today, distance learning has been implemented across the country. Moreover, I would like to emphasise that distance learning is an illegal concept, unlawfull. So when they started using it, it was a violation of the law. Our law does not allow distance learning, it is not written anywhere. When distance learning was introduced, it, first, became a violation of the law “On education” and, second, all parents had the opportunity to verify that this is pure profanation. Because distance learning has not produced positive results anywhere. But it had negative consequences. Now we have all the facts to confirm this on hand.

“Distance learning has harmed the mental and physical health of children”

What are the main negative results of distance learning you can highlight?

Distance learning has harmed the mental and physical health of children. We are talking about virtually all aspects. These are depression, asthenia, headaches, blurred vision, hearing impairment, irritability, aggression. The results of the relevant research, the results of the survey are in the documents of the Research Institute of Hygiene and Child Health. These studies were conducted after the end of distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic. We have these results in the response that we received from the research institute in response to the request of the deputy from Vladimir Oblast.

What data has impressed you the most?

There were no surprises for us. Because we have been studying digital education for a very long time. The first experience of creating a digital school was started in Europe. And in all the schools in those countries where it was started, the results began to deteriorate sharply. It is no coincidence that in 2012-2015 the BISA organisation of the Council of Europe was engaged in research on the results of distance education.

Graphs were compiled that show that the introduction of digital learning dramatically reduces the ability of children to understand what is written, the level of mathematical knowledge, and so on. There were no positive results anywhere — on the contrary, only negative ones. And it was concluded that in those schools where the traditional form of education is preserved, the results are better than in schools where they switch to digital format.

There is not yet a single study analysing the implementation of a digital school that has shown a positive result. But this gives a very large profit for IT companies that can implement their technologies. It is no coincidence that many well-known foreign researchers openly call digital education a factory for the production of morons. This shows that all digital educational technologies are promoted exclusively by IT companies, and the information that this harms the health of children is hushed up, because all this blockade is paid for by IT companies.

“IT companies seek to get big data on our children”

Is their lobby so strong?

Not just a lobby. They have a lot of money. Today, the main trend in technology promotion is formed by banks, IT and pharmaceutical companies. IT companies in conjunction with large banks and funds carry out a digital project, because for them it is actually an opportunity to create a market for themselves.

Digital technology is a big data business. That's why they want to get big data on our children. They sell this data. It is no coincidence that Mishustin (Prime Minister of the Russian Federation — editor's note) and other figures of Russia who promote this topic openly say that data today is oil, platinum and even more expensive.

Sobyanin (Mayor of Moscow — editor's note), who introduced the Moscow e-school, also said that, first of all, it is big data for children, and we need to think about what to do with them. That is, they are not trying to conceal the fact that they just need all the data on our children.

And Digital School and distance learning as part of this process is an opportunity to actually get all the information about your child. Because when a child switches to distance learning, you can see absolutely everything — how they learn, what their grades are, all this is recorded in the digital profile of the student, that is, absolutely everything about this child becomes known. And then it should form part of the general digital profile of a citizen of the Russian Federation, which will then include a digital medical card, digital employment record, and electronic diploma. This is an integral project.

Therefore, when remote control was introduced, many like Gref (head of Sberbank of Russia — editor's note) began to assure that this is not a temporary measure, but a permanent element of our life, like the mask regime. Because they understand that this is part of a holistic project of the digital educational environment.

And all this is laid down in the foresight project Education-2030. In particular, it states that the last stage of the education reform will take place from 2022 to 2030, and digital schools with distance learning are to replace the education system as such. All these documents are available and you can study them. Moreover, we can see how this is already being implemented in practice.

“Gref and Co. are preparing caste training”

Judging by your words, according to the foresight project Education 2030, after 2030, Russian schools should switch to distance learning?

They should not, but according to the plans of the drafters from 2022 to 2030, such processes are prescribed. We are witnessing that they have accelerated this dramatically. Distance learning is only part of the Digital School project, because for some they want to introduce distance learning, for others they want to leave full-time education. But it will also be digitised because the Russian e-school includes electronic textbooks, electronic diaries, electronic journals, electronic interactive whiteboards, electronic library, and the electronic form of knowledge assessment. Moreover, a personalized digital learning trajectory is being introduced, which is also assigned to Gref.

In accordance with this direction, each child is given its own trajectory, depending on the abilities. In other words, the child is given this electronic corridor, and there will no longer be any collective training, there will not be the necessary minimum of knowledge that is mandatory for everyone, there will be no educational space. They just prepare a caste society, caste training. For some — one thing, for others — another. And in fact, this is how they divide our society.

And in these conditions, it is very important for them to identify talented, gifted children who they can bring to the export, commodity level, so that they can offer them to large companies in the future. They will promote such children. According to their calculations, these children are only about 10 per cent. That is, the level of general education is reduced to the lowest level. In fact, education is deliberately destroyed — this is not a random process, not mistakes or shortcomings, this is a strategic project.

“Parents who did not know that they had the full right to refuse distance learning were forced to obey”

You hold meetings with the parent community. What steps do you think should be taken now to stop the transition to distance education?

Now the most terrible thing is distance learning, so it is important to stop these processes and prevent the universal introduction of distance learning. This is an illegal provision, and the order on the digital educational environment is illegal, because it violates many laws related to educational technologies, it was developed in violation of the Sanitary/Hygienic Norms and Regulations.

Given that distance learning has shown its harm, parents have every right and opportunity to simply prevent this project. Moreover, when we followed the decision to introduce distance learning, there was a blatant violation of the provisions of the law. Not only did they introduce such a concept as distance learning, which is out of the law, they developed recommendations that were sent to school principals through the governors. Due to that there is no compulsory introduction of distance learning, they instructed school principals to do this. And the principals ordered this to be done in their schools. Parents who did not know that they had the full right to refuse distance learning were forced to obey, register their children on digital platforms, and then it is unknown how this data was or will be used further.

We are well aware that this project is illegal and cannot be implemented, so we must continue to demand the restoration of normal education. During the distance learning, parents saw how their children learn, what the educational process itself is. All the shortcomings that are the result of the so-called reform, and as a result — the destruction of our educational system, have become obvious.

This process began in the 1990's, and everything went gradually — the introduction of educational standards, the unified state exam, the Bologna system in universities, the commercialisation of educational services, etc. As soon as it all becomes a business, there can be no talk about a normal education.

They benefit from the introduction of a digital school, because it is very economical. To maintain a regular school and pay teachers' salaries, you need a lot of money — for premises, equipment, textbooks, notebooks, and salaries. These funds are not available, and the budget is being sharply cut. In addition, there are now more children and fewer schools. It means they need to remove this normal education and introduce a very convenient and cheap remote education instead. They put one person, he gives a lecture, and hundreds of children listen to it, and you don't need a room, or textbooks, or manuals. It's very cheap.

But if the money allocated from the budget went to people and to the training process, now the same amount will go to a very narrow group of it specialists, not only domestic, but also foreign ones.

“How can your child not have a mobile phone? You're an irresponsible parent”

Your book “Digital Totalitarianism. How it is done in Russia” came out before the pandemic. Even then, you wrote that learning with a tablet leads a child to mental degradation. Will these processes get worse now?

It didn't start with us. There is already experience in Europe to conclude that digital learning is extremely harmful. One of the best experts in this field is Manfred Spitzer, who wrote that using computers for training is the same as using a bicycle in the pool. There will be no benefit from this, but only harm. In his book, he lists all the consequences, including digital autism (atrophy of certain parts of the brain), gadget addiction (and many narcologists believe that dependence on gadgets is stronger than on chemicals).

Through gadgets, children get used to the Internet, immerse themselves in networks and are under the control of completely unknown forces and structures that can attract them to any community. As a result, children actually cease to belong to themselves.

Previously, a parent could decide whether to give their children a gadget or not. Many parents were well aware that the mobile phone is harmful, given the electromagnetic radiation from it. There are also Russian recommendations not to give children mobile phones before the age of 16, because the impact on the brain of mobile phone radiation is so dangerous that it is fraught with brain cancer. That is, if earlier parents decided whether to give their children a gadget or not, now the school itself, the government itself obliges children to dive into the Internet and work with gadgets. And they oblige parents to do this.

It turns out that if you don't do this, then you are an outcast. Anyone who is not in this network will be considered a potentially dangerous element. Those parents who do not want to act within this digital environment, do not want to obey digital standards, will fall under the formula: “How can your child not have a mobile phone? Doesn't your child have a gadget? You're an irresponsible parent!” This is where everything is going, and we are already seeing it. What we used to describe as a scary image is now being realised. Parents should be well aware that it is up to them whether they will protect their children or not.

It depends on parents whether we will have a revival of education or not. Everything is in the hands of parents. Everything about distance learning is an experiment. Sometimes even digitalists let it slip that it was an experiment. It is even more criminal to conduct an experiment on children. It is a crime. This is how we now define the digital educational environment. Therefore, now parents need to take the problem into their own hands, organise themselves and demand to resume normal education for our children.

By Kristina Ivanova