Monday, February 2, 2009

Thoughts on the 'Iraqi Education Initiative'

I’m pleased to announce that my colleague Louis Berends from the Illinois Institute of Technology is the third guest blogger here at IHEC Blog. His blog post on the ‘Iraqi Education Initiative’ follows:

Earlier last month, a colleague of mine visited Iraq in conjunction with the "Iraqi Education Initiative". Representatives from various U.S. higher education institutions took part in the visit, whereby they had the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri Kamel al-Maliki. Several countries, in addition to the U.S., were involved in the "Symposium on International Education" including, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Fellow international educators may remember first hearing about the Initiative at last years NAFSA: Association of International Educators Annual Conference, held in Washington, D.C. The main purpose of the Initiative is to enhance the capacity for scientific knowledge of a nation decimated by the ongoing conflict and subsequent displacement of many of its citizens and scholars. The Initiative will offer 10,000 scholarships over a period of five years to students studying in the science, technology, and engineering fields (among others). To be sure, the democratization process has created a "vacuum" in Iraq's higher education institutions, which presents many challenges for the Minister of Education, Khundayr al-Khuzai. The challenges are many, but there are viable solutions. In short, Iraq's ongoing "transition" to a democracy cannot do so successfully without the help of the international community, and more importantly, higher education initiatives. Similarly, UNESCO's International University Network for Iraq (IUNI) highlights the importance of educational borrowing and transfer through the collaboration of higher education institutions and non-government organizations. In doing so, knowledge production increases by facilitating the exchange of ideas and persons throughout the world to and from Iraq. Building an educational foundation in Iraq (that lasts) rests on the educational cooperation of many nations. However, the ultimate responsibility, or dare I say duty, rests on the conscientious and decisive action of U.S. higher education institutions to pursue the many avenues of rebuilding a nation-state in an increasingly inter-dependent world.

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