The world is presently going through a period of rapid changes among which the increasing globalization, the high pace of knowledge creation and the use of new information technologies are the most apparent ones. This offers great opportunities, but may also result in an increasing gap between developed and developing countries, unless capacity building at all levels and access to the global knowledge are successfully addressed. Higher education and the teachers/researchers involved are facing great challenges that require vision and initiative, and also support at governmental and institutional levels.
Role of higher education in developing countries highlighted in World Bank report
Higher Education, including research, has fundamental importance for capacity building and development, not least in developing countries. A report, `Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise' was published in 2000 by the World Bank. The report highlights the role of higher education in supporting and enhancing the process of economic and social development. Higher education promotes income growth and poverty alleviation; it contributes to labour productivity and entrepreneurial energy; it strengthens civil society, and it promotes democratic governance. Increasing globalization, information revolution and rapid expansion of new knowledge further emphasize the importance of effective higher education.
The World Bank report emphasizes that, in spite of their role, the higher education institutions in many developing countries are chronically under-funded, and must still meet the needs of increasing numbers of students. Faculty may lack motivation as they are usually poorly rewarded. Absence of a vision about the nature and magnitude of the potential of higher education to development is one major obstacle. Other obstacles are lack of political and financial commitment, as well as low critical mass of teachers and scholars, and losses of highly demanded faculty and scholars to rich countries.
Recommendations to overcome the obstacles in developing countries focus on the needs both for increased resources in higher education and for more effective use of existing resources, such as physical and human capital. It is urgent to:
- satisfy the need for good quality higher education
- improve management of higher education
- improve educational infrastructure, including access to new information technologies
- implement new curricula and academic programmes, and improve the teaching methods
- recruit, retain, motivate and offer long-term development of well trained faculty
- conduct more and better science education and research, both basic and applied.
Animal genetic resources often given too little emphasis
Conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources in developing countries is an example of an area where teaching and research is given too little emphasis worldwide, or is even neglected. This results in low awareness of the needs to develop animal breeding programmes for various conditions and environments in order to reduce losses of animal genetic diversity. Furthermore, the necessity to improve production per animal to meet the increasing demands for food from livestock and poultry is not stressed enough. Animal genetics, with special emphasis on breeding programmes and animal genetic resources, needs to be given increased attention in university curricula and in research. Moreover, the teaching methods need attention; animal genetics is a topic that students quite often experience as theoretical and difficult to understand. It is a challenging task to find the best approaches to facilitate students' understanding of the topic.