By Peter Tase
On February 16, 2017, Dr. Jose Carlos Quadrado, president of the Latin American and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institutions was honored with the Peter I Medal Award by the Association for Engineering Education of Russia (AEER). This award was presented to Dr. Jose Carlos by the AEER President, Dr. Yury P. Pokholkov and distinguished members of the AEER General Assembly. In continuation is an excerpt of the speech presented by Dr. Jose Carlos Quadrado in this special award ceremony.
Dear Mr. President of AEER
Esteemed AEER members from all Russian Federation
It is a great honor to receive the award of Peter the first medal as a recognition for the global development of the engineering education.
The honor is even greater in receiving this award from Russia because, being a great nation, while you call him simply Peter the first, in Europe we refer to him formally as PETER the GREAT, TSAR RUSSIAN EMPEROR. By being distinguish today with a medal bearing his name, I’m fully aware of the responsibility attached to it. Peter the great did not only introduce the medal art in Russia, but he also introduced it as part of his campaign of political and economic reforms to integrate Russia into the geopolitical fabric of early eighteenth-century Europe. It was an instrument for him to overhaul the old Russian monetary system as part of his social reforms. In fact, he managed to follow through with those changes and to create, precisely here, in St. Petersburg, the first mint of Russia. Medals thus, became instrumental in the propaganda efforts of Peter the Great in military and ideological battles with his opponents at home and abroad.
Peter the great was a forward thinking person, always searching for new knowledge and experience in all the practical sciences (military, navigation, shipbuilding, mathematics, and geography). If at that time the professional title existed, I have no doubt that he would have been a genuine engineer.
Fortunately, I can testify that this kind of visionary people still exist in Russia, and you do not need to look further than the AEER President to have a great example.
Yuri Petrovich Pokolkov, (although as far as I know, does not belong to the Romanov dynasty), has displayed for many decades the same forward thinking in the engineering education that makes Russia a leading country in this field. Also, his travels around the world, (although not using as alias, Pyotr Mikhailov, as Peter the Great did), led him to open new paths for Russian collaborations with the rest of the world in the field of engineering and engineering education (although he was not accompanied in those journeys by 250 emissaries like Peter the Great did).
By accepting this medal, one of the most prestigious you can be awarded in the world of Engineering and Engineering Education, I’m bound to try to follow the steps of these great men.
I’ve dedicated my professional life to the engineering and engineering education and in the last two decades to the global initiatives to promote the necessary changes in the engineering education, however I think our community is not yet realizing that small percentage of what it could be done in this field.
Allegedly, once Albert Einstein said: “…if you judge a fish for its ability to climb a tree, it will live all his life…thinking it is stupid.” The global engineering education nowadays is mostly still pursuing a path where most of our students are programed as robots, making many potential students identifying themselves with that fish, trying to climb trees in their academic programs, never realizing their potential as creative engineers. Thinking they are stupid and not useful for a society longing for engineers.
So, if I can use this award today for something, let it be to, ask you to join me on the fight against a system who is killing the creativity and the individuality of many potential engineers around the world. The old abusive methodology to create engineers for the new world needs, is required to change. We should stop preparing engineers for the past, and instead we should be preparing engineers for the future. We no longer need to prepare students to be standardized, packed in rows for 8 hours a day, with breaks to have the meals, mimicking the XIX century manufacturing plants. We must fight the system that rewards more the competition than the cooperation in education, as a preparation for a creative, innovative, critical and independent behavior in the profession.
We know that there are no students alike, however many universities around the world still try to educate them in a process of “one size fits all.” This malpractice is probably more impactful in the world, it is desperate for engineers that fuel progress, than any other profession. We need to promote the customization of the engineer education. If we can do it to most of the modern needs, why can’t we do it to the engineering education? Many times, we take the easy way and we simply blame the educators.
But, if you look to the engineering educators the situation is even worse, we, the educators, have probably the most important and challenging job in the planet, however we are globally under paid and tendentiously lured, with incentives, away from the best possible education, to concentrate in research or management tasks.
I’m currently proudly serving as the Vice President of ISEP (Superior Engineering Institute of Porto), based in Portugal, the President of LACCEI (Latin American and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institutions), based in the USA, a member of the Administrative Council of SEFI (European Society of Engineering Education), based in Brussels, and a member of the Executive Board of ASIBEI, based in Colombia. And although I’m a Portuguese, a citizen of a nation that has a long time maritime tradition, my main goal is to help create a world where the “fishes” of engineering education are no longer forced to climb trees.
Thank you again for this recognition. You honor me with this award.
Saint Petersburg, 16th February 2017
José Carlos Quadrado, Ph. D.