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A Lot Of Food For Thought For Our Universities

She asks: “What does that mean? That we’re doing substandard research? Do we care enough to do proper research? Are we committed to being an institution that is going to be competing with other universities?”
25 Jun 2019 14:48
A Lot Of Food For Thought For Our Universities
Permanent Secretary for Education, Heritage and Arts Alison Burchell

Editorial: 

The Permanent Secretary for Education, Alison Burchell, has given our universities a wake-up call and a reality check.

The question is: Are they training their students for the future?” She highlights the importance of research and that training should be more on practical than theory.

She makes these comments at a meeting sponsored by the Fiji National University — the Pasifika Best Practice Health Professions Education Symposium.

She says many of our universities are not producing enough publications, and they’re not going onto certain lists that they should be going onto.

She asks: “What does that mean? That we’re doing substandard research? Do we care enough to do proper research? Are we committed to being an institution that is going to be competing with other universities?”

The lifeblood of any university is research. It helps keep universities abreast with modern ideas and technological changes.

Any university that fails to do this is in danger of becoming irrelevant and out of touch with what’s going on.

The future presents a lot of possibilities that can be turned into realities if our universities keep innovating.

Ms Burchell says if any of the universities in the Pacific wants to break into the top 100 universities of the world, research will be key.

It means the universities must put research at the top of the priority list.

Because of financial constraints universities could only do so much. They need to prioritise with special emphasis on the practical.

She asked whether we were moving with the times.

We may need to change the way and the content of programmes we teach our students to prepare them for the future.

Ms Burchell uses an example of this. She says it’s no longer acceptable for teachers to simply write something on a whiteboard or put up a projection and tell students to copy it down.

She believes teachers must act more as facilitators in order to adapt to how the younger generation learns.

Courses and programmes should be carefully prepared to meet the local labour and market demands, not only for now but for the future.

In the field of medicine there are a number of specialist areas that must be looked at. At the moment there are no programmes here. Students have to go overseas to study and qualify.

Ms Burchell has made some very important suggestions. Let’s hope the universities take them on board and do something about them.

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