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Buenos Aires, Argentina

November 13-21, 1981













Education within the Cultural, Social

and Economic Context of the XXI Century











Dr. George K. Kostopoulos

Professor and Head

Department of Computer Engineering






Boumerdes, Algeria

The engineering education needs of the Developing World are as different as those of the Industrialized Worlds, as are the two environments.


There has been an impression that development, or modernization, can be transplanted.  Such a thought cannot be further from reality, because a developed country is the mirror image of its society, it is the social summation of developed individuals.


Recently, the availability of vast exploitable resources has enabled many countries to approach the dream of modernization.  However, modernization has been viewed only from the angle of material progress – the acquisition of Technology and of sophisticated equipment – has given the illusion of “arrival” to the desired stage of development.


It is true that engineering, or technology, or technology to be more specific, is the vehicle on which Society rides along the road of material progress.


But such progress is only one third of the overall Progress we aspire to realize, with the other two being cultural and social progress, two undoubtedly equally important aspects of a balanced life.


An advancement in these three areas – materials, cultural and social – no matter how small it is, will be permanent, if it is uniform.  This is because acceptance of progress in one area requires a comparable level of development in the other two.


Modernization in the Developing World can be viewed as the elevation of a platform resting on three pillars of increasing height.  The rate of increase of each pillar must be the same, or almost the same, as that of the other two; otherwise, the platform will tip over.


I dare say that in most oil rich countries the platform on which Society rests is dangerously tilted due to the stagnation of the cultural and social pillars.


In the case of Iran, the platform has overturned because the pillar of material progress by far exceeded in the height the other two.


For the realization of this, so desirable, balanced progress, the engineer, as a critical component of the modernization process, needs to receive himself a similarly balanced education.


He should be taught that his role is not that of a walking computer, but that of a Social Leader, who will identify and fulfill the needs of his environment, and furthermore establish new goals for it.  Goals that enhance the quality of life without rejecting the Society’s origin or past.


The engineer is enhanced, or rather intoxicated by the advancements in Science and Technology, which he deeply understands and appreciates, and he wants to pass this joy to each and every member of his Society.

He wants everybody to have a personal computer and a home video system, but he fails to see that most are barefooted and illiterate.


Before introducing advanced foreign technologies the engineer must first satisfy the fundamental needs of his Society.


While such technologies may be impressive, acquisition will give a false impression of success: soon, however, the existing technological and cultural gap will become even more evident, raising questions as to the need for such exotic technologies.


The engineer believes in machines and tends to ignore that there is a human operator behind each machine.


He orders large factories from the Industrialized World to built in his country.  He considers it a wise investment and his Head of State congratulates him as he cuts the opening ribbon.


But, as soon as the foreign advisors leave, he scratches his head when the factory productivity offers negative profits.


Now, the obvious questions is raised:  Where did he go wrong?


The answer is simple:  Nowhere!


Everything he wished and did was “right”, but out of time and possibly out of place.


His real problem is that his education has been monolithic for too long.  His educational system aspired to make him a “very good engineer”, a scientific instrument, and succeeded in just that.


His educational system failed to develop him as a human being and as a Social Component, and this is where attention is needed.


The undergraduate education in the Developing World must abandon the traditional high specialization, leaving it to the graduate programs and to Continuing Education, and be tri-faceted like the foundations of the Society.


The engineer must learn not only the science of his discipline, but also the economies of industry and the psychology of management as applied to his country.


He must be taught that big is not always practical, and that multidirectional industrialization is not the formula to success, modernization or independence.  But it is a sure way to stagnation, where the successful industries along with foreign loans will float the unsuccessful ones in the name of employment and non-existence self-sufficiency.


The engineer must be also taught that the potential results of every investment must be examined from the cold economic viewpoint, and if they pass, then the socio-cultural benefits should be considered.


This volume of knowledge cannot be obtained in an undergraduate program alone, the education must be continuous and open to all ages.


This is emphasized because in many parts of the Developing World it is believed that higher education can be assimilated only between the ages of 18 and 22.


The engineer of the next century, especially the ones of the Developing World, must be a total professional, and since we are educating him today, we might as well start now and enrich his curriculum, bringing it to a balance.


A sample curriculum may be:


50%  Engineering Discipline

20%  Industrial Economies

20%  Social Science

10%  Humanities


thus making 100% of an Engineer – Social Component.


To be more specific, the engineer must have courses in:


Engineering Management                  Social Priorities

Industrial Relations                        Engineering Economies

Productivity and Automation           A Foreign Language

Industrial Psychology                      Human Factors


to name a few.


Let’s not look at the engineering student as if he is a computer memory that must be filled with Mathematics, Physics and Engineering, but let’s look at him as the Leader of Tomorrow.


Only this way the Engineering Schools will be accepted as a Consultant to the State and offer their valuable expertise for a balanced industrial social cultural development.


Working for a country’s better tomorrow, there will always be differences regarding the ordering of priorities, often aggravated by existing economies system.  Nevertheless, and under all circumstances, in this decision process the engineer, and ideally the engineer-economist, should be a central figure identifying the cost effectiveness and the resulting social benefit of the various proposed projects.


To summarize, the engineering education in the Developing World should not be a carbon copy of that of the Industrialized World, but much broader, overlapping the disciplines of economies and sociology.


And, let’s place the emphasis on the value of uniform and step by step omnidirectional social development with realistic goals that are strictly based on the available material and human resources.


Dr. George K. Kostopoulos