Why we need internationalisation of higher education

Students in higher institutions of learning are heading back to school, at local and international universities.

I was, however, intrigued by the large number of students registered at South African universities.

Many questions idled in my mind. South Africa is said to be the hub of quality education in Africa, with some of the best universities and professors on the continent.

This, however, has been a hard earned achievement by the government of South Africa, with post-apartheid education that looked at boosting education as its primary priority if quality and sustainable development was to be realised.

With contemporary skills being discussed by policy makers around the world, it is odd that quality education is on the agenda, but the mechanism to get there is what is lacking.

Every year, World Council of Comparative Education Societies, organises academic conferences in South Africa, among other countries, and during these conferences, resolution and other academic goals are recognised. This has made a solid contribution to the quality of education, as well as influencing national policies, in South Africa.

This has been on-going in many developed countries around the world, starting with America in the post-independence struggle, by hiring  Greek philosophers to set precedence for quality education, which according to Americans, was the only weapon that would steer  the country to development.

Over the last 100 years, America has been at the helm in having a multicultural society, especially academicians from different disciplines. It is, therefore, important to note that this multicultural-group of experts have been at the centre of America’s skills, and social and economic development through human resource empowerment.

What is internationalisation of education?

Internationalisation of higher education in theory is “the process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education”.

It remains the main module through which knowledge can be bought, sold or even shared among universities from different countries across the world. It was formerly considered as an ambition through which quality education can be achieved, however, it changed and became the means through which the mantra of quality education and professional mobility can be effectively attained.   

Knowledge acquisition and transformation, resource mobilisation, talent mobilisation, especially regarding global research, as well as curriculum development with international content, are considered to be the primary benefits of internationalisation of higher education.

As much as internationalisation holds constructive meaning to the output of higher education, and eventually, boosts capable human resource development, there are significant challenges that are associated with this multifaceted and growing phenomenon, which include commercial profit, academic colonisation and difficulty in ensuring quality education.

The contemporary reviews, therefore, show that through higher education internationalisation, significant progress can be achieved since the international exposure can influence policies, which can bring about considerable change in the entire education system and education institutions across the world.

The Rwandan case

Over the last 24 years, Rwanda has registered considerable success in ensuring quality education by establishing strong education institutions. It’s clear that institutions alone may not define a well-grounded education system, rather, quality of graduates and their contribution to social and economic development is what defines the quality of a country’s education system.

Much as we acknowledge that Rwanda has made drastic improvements in education, the aspect of internationalisation of education is a farfetched notion in higher education. No wonder research in higher education institutions is not a priority.

University of Kigali seems to have seen the relevance of the matter, and now has an office responsible for this kind of partnership, and have managed to seal enterprise with many universities across the region and beyond the continent.

Rwanda is one country that has made it easy for foreign experts to settle; we can as well make use of that in the education sector. We just need to internationalise our education curriculum such that students and professionals from other countries blend in well.

The writer is a PhD student at Beijing Normal University
pontiankbr@outlook.com

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