Tuesday, 24 February 2015

CILL gets AAUN funding

CILL secures AAUN (Australia-Africa Universities Network) funding (AUD 10000) through competitive application process, for the project titled "21st Century Skills for Education Practitioners : Rapid e-Learning Tools to develop Interactive Learning Materials". The project is about the development of an online Postgraduate Certificate in Rapid e-Learning Methodology aimed at the professional development of educators. The aim is to equip educators with the relevant 21st Century Skills where ICT integration in Education practices is a main driver of change, innovation and reforms in educational practices. 
The rapid e-learning methodology has been used at the University of Mauritius to develop its online courses, and has been used in capacity building initiatives for educators with the support of Microsoft. In Uganda with the Makerere University, and in India under the COL Lifelong Learning Programme for Farmers in Agriculture. It is now proposed to scale up from short duration capacity-building initiatives to an online professional postgraduate programme. The idea is to decentralise, and empower education practitioners to develop their own interactive materials for dissemination and sharing. It further aims to build local and regional capacity in the field of multimedia-based open (and distance) learning. The educational philosophy behind this project is inspired from Moon’s position in the 2010 issue of the COL Connections magazine. Moon argues that it is time to implement new technologies in teacher training courses so as to focus on the continuous professional development of educators. Adopting a very critical view of the so-called brick-and-mortar institutions for teacher training, Moon highlights “there is absolutely no way the bricks-and-mortar institutions of teacher training created in the last century will be adequate for the 21st century needs”.

The aim is to develop and digitize the four self-instructional modules that will make up the programme of studies. The key challenge will be for the team to propose a specific e-learning framework or model on which the pedagogical conception of the course will be based. The outcome of the work will be a complete programme of studies ready to be delivered online to participants coming from the different regions of the world with a main focus on Africa. The awarding body will be the University of Mauritius and the partners from Makerere University and Curtin University will contribute in the content development and the elaboration of the global pedagogical strategy for the conception and delivery part. The online learning platform that will host the programme will be based initially in Mauritius and delivered through the iLearn Platform of the University of Mauritius.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Higher Education Act for Mauritius?

The Honorable Minister of Education has recently announced the forthcoming Higher Education Act for a better control and regulation of the tertiary education sector in Mauritius.

From a recent discussion in 2014 with a former (retired) Vice-Chancellor of the University, he was of the view that such an act is inevitable in the 21st Century where Mauritius holds the ambition of becoming a knowledge hub and to internationalize its higher education system. 

Indeed the idea and the need of such a higher education act does not date of yesterday. It was already on the table back in 2011, when the then Minister Jeetah, in charge of tertiary education sector, seemed to have already worked on draft bill. At that time, Prof Konrad Morgan was the Vice-Chancellor of the University.

As a member of management of the University, I have had the chance to look at the draft bill when Konrad Morgan the then Vice-Chancellor circulated it via email,. The idea behind the need of such an act was unclear at that time, and it raised high concerns (at least in my mind and clearly also in Konrad’s) when we realized that with the coming in force of such an act in its current state, would mean the repealing of the UoM Act which guarantees the fundamental autonomy and academic/intellectual freedom at the institution. Under that bill in its current form the UoM would have lost all its autonomy and would have been the last and final institution to come under the full legal grasp of the Minister (by virtue of the Act)

In Mauritius there are 4 public universities, and save the University of Mauritius, all the other 3 universities basically have political nominees or at least nominees as their Director-General while the University has the freedom of an independent and democratic selection of a vice-chancellor (against a well-established profile). We have seen how the then Government had appointed a secondary school manager/educator Director General of the UTM in the past. This inherently means that the Minister is in full control of these institutions, and the claim can reasonably be extended to institutions like TEC.

It might be that it is now imperative to have such an act to better regulate the tertiary sector in Mauritius. But there are some fundamental questions that need to be asked with respect to the Act itself with respect to public institutions:

Who would be those persons to be involved in drafting the Act? Would they only take the draft bill of 2011, make some cosmetic amendments and present the same bill again? 

From my perspective, all stakeholders, especially those with independent thought and political neutrality, should be part and parcel in the elaboration of the new Act.

What are the ‘garde-fous’ of the Act that will ensure autonomy and independence of public institutions and at the same time, do away with the current ways of appointing the Director-General of the three public Universities? A similar model should be applied to prospective private bodies of higher education with respect to the person to be in charge of such institutions. 

To what extent would the Act give powers to the Minister (whoever be in office) in terms of control over the regulatory functions of such an Act?  If such an Act would be an overarching one covering regulatory bodies like the TEC and MQA, do we still need a TEC Act and a MQA Act?

As I mentioned in a previous post, TEC cannot be the funding agency of institutions, the regulator of private institutions, the distance education leader, the body to give recognition and equivalence of foreign qualifications (their methodology and knowledge in this area is awful) and admittedly the competent legal authority over higher education, when the institution itself has suffered from lack of credibility, lack of competent people with intensive knowledge of higher education and a clear lack of independence of operation as well as internal intestinal fights.