Towards educational revolution: two vital steps forward

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Along the mainstream directions in the world-wide educational reforms, two vital issues attracted our attention this March: the global recognition of universities’ certificates and the idea of “reinventing” higher education. The former –after about eight years of deliberation- culminated in the UN global convention; the second issue is about the role and place of education in modern transforming world.   

1. Recognition of university’s qualifications: global approach
A vital moment occurred in the world-wide education in March 2023: the first ever legally binding agreement entered into effect providing recognition of high education diplomas.
During last decade, scientists in education policies have been providing the necessary knowledge to governance’s bodies to take the course of actions needed to resilient and sustainable growth. These efforts produced some results: e.g. now, the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education has become the first legally binding United Nations instrument on higher education, fostering international mobility and opening up increased opportunities for students and qualification holders worldwide.
The global treaty also signifies a vital turning point in the process towards equitable higher education in the world with students easily moving around to pursue studies.
Initially, the idea was adopted at the UNESCO General Conference session in November 2019; in this way, the convention complements five UNESCO’s regional conventions on the recognition of higher education qualifications aimed at strengthening international cooperation in higher education and foster trust and confidence in the quality and reliability of qualifications. Five regional conventions are based on the same principles; hence, the Global Convention is enlarging to a global scale through regional cooperation.
The minimum required number of states ratifying the convention to be legally enforced is 20 states which already deposited their instruments of ratification, including some big states like France, Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Stefania Giannini, a senior UN official in education, former Italian minister for education, and UNESCO’s assistant director-general for education during last five years noted that the convention assists “quality assurance because it provides countries with the legal framework to establish their own national centre to manage the treaty’s implementation”. She also argued that there were about 20 states willing to ratify the convention; so, by the end of 2023 there would be about 40 countries.
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The Global Convention now puts the burden of proof on the diploma’s recognition to national authorities rather than students. And individuals have the right to appeal decisions that go against accepting their qualifications. This is important because it is about giving countries, governments, universities the responsibility to double check with transparency’s principles. It is also a very good tool to fight against fake certificates and fraudulent processes that are unfortunately still very much in place in the Global South but not exclusively there, acknowledged S. Giannini. So in the long term, the convention can really become a game-changer in terms of quality assurance and international mobility, which are the two vital pillars of a world-wide higher education system.
However, there are still numerous problems in higher education, if it is going to be “fit for future”, e.g. e.g. issues of recognition of degrees with micro-credentials and joint degrees studied at multiple institutions. Some solutions have been found in the EU with the European Universities Initiative where students took one part of a degree in one university and other parts in other institutions within the same alliance, by benefiting from different institutions’ specializations. The Global Convention is supposed to resolve these and other complicated processes of flexibility, as the convention will assist in recognizing digital credentials specifically and micro-credentials more broadly.

2. Understanding education
The idea of “reinventing” higher education (so-called RHE) has been supported by UNESCO with close cooperation with the Club of Rome and other network institutions around the world. Education is generally understood presently as: a) a holistic teaching and learning process integrated into modern sustainability’s concept, and b) providing sufficient practical knowledge to peoples’ needs in future profession; besides, education is “channeling” across generations the whole set of culture and values guided societies and individuals’ full potentials.
At the 13th “Reinventing Higher Education” conference (co-hosted by Madrid’s IE University and the University of Cape Town) on 6 March in South Africa, M. Ramphele underlined that “higher education in many ways was disconnected from the everyday lives of the majority of people in our world and was significantly captured by elites”. Mamphela Ramphele, a co-president of the Club of Rome, former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and former managing director at the World Bank.

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     Sadly, she argued, “the benefits of many innovations tend to be biased towards the promotion of the enrichment of a few at the expense of many. Inconvenient truths about ecological damage that threaten the very existence of Mother Earth continue to be ignored or marginalised in the pursuit of prosperity for the least number of people”.
She mentioned two world-wide RHE’s initiatives in search for complex systems change required today: a) the so-called BRIDGES (the Sustainability Science Coalition) aimed at “bridging” the chasms between disciplines, the arts, humanities and sciences, teaching and learning, knowledge and practice; and b) the IYBSSD (the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development) aimed at promoting global-multilateral approach to values of mobilizing all threads of knowledge, including indigenous science, to face modern socio-economic challenges.
Facing the issues of “reinventing higher education systems”, she suggested the following necessary transformative approaches:
• Creating global discussions among educational policies and institutions about “shared vision of the world” modern societies would like to live in. Such conversations would spark “the inner work” essential to awakening closer attention to core essence of human beings, as “self-liberation from traditional thinking” is essential to progressive evolution.
• Evaluating present understanding of learning: if it is understood as a process of approaching both knowledge and life, then it would encompass the acquisition and practice of new methodologies, new skills, new attitudes and new values necessary to live in a world of change.
• Redesigning higher education teaching and learning systems to promote interactive learning, research and teaching. Most current lecture halls are designed for a world of top-down teaching, not suitable for the needs of mutual learning for a changing world. Thus, “redesigning teaching and learning” would promote participatory learning to facilitate new possibilities “to enrich our world”.
• Vital “redesigning” component is also in the “regenerative education institutions” that thrive on anticipating and adapting to changes, as well as “shaping futures that promote the common good”. In this way higher education institutions would become truly “nourishing alma maters”, facilitating “the change-makers” towards perspective “human revolution”.
• Finally, an “open curricular approaches for a changing world”, including active mind, heart and hands approaches to learning that enable graduates to close the gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ in all aspects of their lives. It is vital to “stop teaching courses such as classical neoliberal economics and finances” that have become drivers of “extractive economics”.
Taking African continent as an example for substantial RHE’s design, she uses such notions and components as ‘New Human’, ‘New Society’ and ‘New Higher Education’ providing grounds for reducing gaps “between what we know and how we act in our personal, professional and political lives”.


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