Sunday, October 16, 2011

US - INDIA joint statement on Higher Education & exploring models for 21 cy institutions

The joint statement issued at the conclusion of  the US-India higher education summit held in Washington on 13th October 2011 lists proposals for many forward-looking initiatives, which the two countries endorsed to take up, based on the resolve of the stakeholders  from academia, government, and industry.

Two things in the statement that attracted me the most are:

  1. the the proposal to support “Exploration of models for ‘educational institutions for the 21st Century’ (such as ‘meta’ universities)”, and
  2. the proposal to set up an India-U.S. higher education platform

I hope this will open up tremendous opportunities to explore the possibilities based on the experience of innovative initiatives like VUSSC and OERu. Research and discussions on innovative models for educational institutions  are very important because:

  • current educational environment, in response to the existing socio-economic and labour market trends, demands hassle free movement of students across the globe and related transfer of academic credits.
  • Moreover the world population is predicted to touch 10 billion mark in the current century itself.

What are the means before the world to ensure education for all?


(See the full text of the statement at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/10/175482.htm )

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

THOUGHTS ON THE EVE OF INDO-US HIGHER EDUCATION SUMMIT

As US and India are getting ready for the Higher Education Summit on October 13, 2011, two important things come to my mind are:

Possibility of collaborative efforts to develop OER

Availability of effective systems to make use of existing OERs and the ability to further build on it would be crucial factors in leading future higher education systems to success. Perhaps, India and US can work out ways for collaboration in this sector.

Already there are some major initiatives in this respect in both the countries. For example, the National Knowledge Commission (India) on 2nd November 2007, had made many progressive recommendations on Open Educational Resources (see http://www.knowledgecommission.gov.in/recommendations/oer.asp ). Similarly in USA their Labour and Education Departments have decided to promote the development of OER through their Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program ( see http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-labor-and-education-departments-encourage-applications-trade-adjustment-assis ). 

Apart from the above government initiatives, there are many successful institutional initiatives for OER in both the countries.

Need for discussions on a Transnational Qualifications Framework

See another crucial -perhaps the most important- area : various reports say, more than 100000 Indian students study in US. This indicates, it’s high time the two nations thought about a Transnational Qualifications Framework for better mobility of students and hassle free cross-border acceptance of qualifications by respective national assessment and accreditation authorities and labour markets.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

VUSSC; the start of a revolution in transborder education

The Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC), through its Transnational Qualifications Framework,  has marked the start of a revolution in transborder education. Now it is the turn of Open Educational Resource university (OERu) !
The Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth  (VUSSC) is a mechanism for the small countries to collaboratively develop courses in post-secondary education sector. The materials produced are non-proprietary and therefore trouble free contextualisation of the materials for the requirements of specific countries are possible. Courses are developed in skill related areas such as tourism, entrepreneurship, disaster management, life skills, use of information and communication technologies, and small fisheries management.

The idea for VUSSC was conceived during the triennial conference of the thirty-two Ministers of Education of the small Commonwealth states in Halifax, Canada, in 2000. Following the Halifax meeting, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) chaired a technical advisory committee and facilitated drafting of a proposal for the VUSSC. A small group of Ministers met in the Seychelles in March 2003, reviewed the proposal and recommended it to the Edinburgh Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in October 2003.

In the orientation and planning meeting organized jointly by COL and the Government of Singapore in 2005, the representatives of the Ministers of Education from 22 small states of Commonwealth agreed to work together to develop free courses that could be implemented widely in Commonwealth countries and that will be recognised by participating institutions. Another meeting held in April 2006 has approved the priority areas as we have discussed in the beginning of this article. Subsequently, a workshop to collaboratively develop materials was organized in Mauritius in August, 2006.

As per the business strategy for VUSSC 2007 - 2013, VUSSC has been proposed as a solution to overcome the shortage of skilled and well trained manpower in crucial sectors caused by:

  1. Small territory - that limits the natural resources both in quantity and variety 
  2. Small population - that make it difficult to have skilled and trained people in all crucial sectors that modern economies demand 
  3. Environmental challenges - the effect of environmental issues and natural calamities will be more intense on small populations

It is also true that small counties cannot set up all the infrastructure required to exploit the benefits of modern technologies to the maximum extent. Therefore the small states in the Commonwealth thought that they required collaborative efforts and joint systems to overcome the challenges.

Though the whole idea of VUSSC is innovative and a matter of special interest to any educationalist, the factor that attracted me the most is the idea of a Transnational Qualifications Framework.

A Qualification Framework is primarily an official document that clearly defines each and every qualification brought under it. It may also provide a hierarchy of qualifications. In system view it is a meta-data model, that is, an all encompassing framework to integrate the qualifications issued by different academic bodies into a common structure. It consists of a set of common reference points, referring to learning outcomes, supported by a range of tools and techniques, regardless of the system where a particular qualification was acquired.

Concrete steps towards the concept of  a qualifications framework to facilitate transborder education can be traced back to the Lisbon Recognition Convention (1997). In 1997 the Council of Europe developed, together with UNESCO, the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region, called Lisbon Recognition Convention (as it was adopted in Lisbon in 1997). The Convention is the key legal instrument for recognition of qualifications across Europe.

However, it is the VUSSC project that has proposed a robust concept of Transnational Qualifications Framework with the support of South African Qualifications Authority and under the leadership of Commonwealth of Learning. Finally the Transnational Qualifications Framework (TQF) for the Virtual University for the Small States of the Commonwealth was launched in April 2010.

Though it is called as TQF for VUSSC, I would say, it marks the start of a revolution in transborder education throughout the world and the outcome will be a truly Transnational Qualifications Framework for the whole world!

When population explosion, environmental issues and resultant economic troubles limit natural resources in quality, quantity and variety ...when bigger issues like global warming make natural calamities intense for larger countries and populations, we see that the crucial issues that led to the formation of VUSSC exists in the world outside SSC as well - in different forms and in wider canvas. Perhaps, now it might be the turn of Open Educational Resource university (OERu)!