Strengthening the South-South perspective in water training

«Internationalizing the curricula through South-South Partnerships» workshop was organized by OBRAL Global ( an international association committed to South-South-North higher education partnerships. It was held on April 18 and 20 as a pre-conference activity for the 2022 conference of the Brazilian Association of International Education (FABUAI-

During the workshop, initiatives and case studies for the internationalization of curricula through South-South approaches and partnerships were presented, with special emphasis on Latin America and Africa, with speakers from both regions.

On the occasion Mario Schreider, Coordinator of LA-WETnet, together with Gerson Antonio Pallares, Director of the Higher Polytechnic Institute of Bié (ISPB – Angola), told about the South – South cooperation experience that the Faculty of Engineering and Water Sciences of the Universidad Nacional del Litoral (FICH – UNL) and the ISPB have been carrying out since 2013 with the purpose of developing a Comprehensive Plan for the training of professionals that contributes to the sustainable development of water resources and the strengthening of the institutions that manage water in Angola.

The activity was aimed at professionals involved in the management of internationalization, as well as academic teaching staff. In addition to the Argentina-Angola experience, other case studies were presented to address the why and how of cooperation, challenges and impacts.

The objective of the workshop was focused on enabling participants to:

– Re-evaluate the concept of internationalization of curricula, offering a distinctly «Southern» perspective and rationale.

– Analyze current opportunities for curriculum internationalization within South-South partnerships and be able to make the case for their relevance to local and regional development.

– Understand current institutional approaches and strategies for curriculum internationalization and the resources and staff training required.

– Cite concrete examples of South-South curriculum development and teacher cooperation, their strategic relevance, and lessons learned from these efforts

– Have ideas on how to grow and nurture South-South partnerships and integrate them into internationalization approaches.

Evolution of the concept of internationalization of higher education

For many years, the concept of internationalization of higher education was mainly based on the international academic mobility of students, faculty and staff of higher education institutions (HEIs). Therefore, one of the key factors influencing these actions is the economic factor, since international mobility generates expenses that the HEIs or those involved must face.

This situation has resulted in the consolidation of the primacy of countries with greater economic power in international mobility. Many of the world’s most developed regions and countries promote the investment of money for the creation of internationalization programs based largely on the exchange of people. Thus, international mobility has had and continues to have a marked north-south flow, with very few relations between HEIs in developing countries, with some exceptions.

At present, the paradigms of internationalization of higher education have suffered important modifications, as the incorporation of concepts and strategies of integral internationalization in general, and of the curriculum in particular, has accelerated. These processes have been accelerated due to the impact of the COVID19 pandemic, which caused universities to develop strategies to maintain academic activities within the framework of this exceptional situation, imposing the massive use of virtuality in both academic and administrative activities.

As a result, the internationalization actions developed by HEIs have also been deeply affected by the Pandemic, due to the impossibility of maintaining academic mobility programs. As a consequence, the actions of internationalization of the curriculum, which at the beginning of the Pandemic were basically at the stage of analysis and debate, but with little experience of action in the Latin American region, have been deepened. Two remarkable facts of the internationalization of the curriculum are, on the one hand, that it involves in the actions developed all students of a HEI, and not only those who can participate in international mobility programs. On the other hand, the economic investment required is substantially reduced, since it does not exclusively require the international mobility of individuals.

As a corollary of the above, the growing incorporation of internationalization actions of the curriculum in the institutions generates a historical opportunity to rethink the concepts of South-South cooperation relations, since it somehow makes the actions to be developed independent of the economic capacity of the participants. All that is needed are initiatives, organization and a strong vocation to promote South-South cooperation actions.

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