News in brief

March 1, 2012

India

Higher lab bench benchmarks

A leading academic has urged India to strengthen science teaching in schools and universities to improve the country's research and attract overseas students. Baldev Raj, director of research at PSG Institutions in Coimbatore, said that stiff global competition in the technological sphere meant that science had to be taught in an international context and not restricted to national requirements. "For a growing economy like ours, it is essential to have well-educated people," Dr Raj told The Hindu newspaper. "The science taught in schools is not binding on children and hence they are not motivated enough to pursue it further. It is important to make it attractive so that India becomes a destination for science education, not only for Indian students but also for others."

Iraq

Going to America

Iraqi delegates called for more of their students to study in the US as the two countries announced plans for continued cooperation to rebuild Iraq's academy, USA Today reported. "No country can get out of suffering and backwardness without the development of higher education," Ali al-Adeeb, Iraq's minister for higher education, said. "If the occupation left some with a bad taste, then it is our cooperation that will help erase these ideas." After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country experienced a "brain drain" as its elite fled. Last year, Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, pledged to fund scholarships for 10,000 Iraqis to study in the US in the coming years. Ann Stock, assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs at the US State Department, noted there that were more than 600 Iraqis studying in the US at present.

Australia

Doctorate 'no' via Facebook

An Australian university has been criticised for awarding an honorary degree to the wife of the Malaysian prime minister. The decision by Curtin University to honour Rosmah Mansor, wife of Najib Razak, with a doctorate provoked a social media campaign denouncing the move. Malaysian critics claimed that the early education centres for the underprivileged that she established - the reason for Curtin's award - were "abusing taxpayers' money", The Sydney Morning Herald reported. More than 3,700 people have joined a Facebook group titled "Boycott Curtin University till Rosmah Mansor's Doctorate Revoked", The Australian reported. Curtin has been forced to close its own Facebook page and remove dozens of comments relating to the award that it said were potentially defamatory. Soon Yee Yap, one of the campaign's organisers, said the social media response was simply the beginning. She warned that there could be repercussions for the institution's image, even though the award is just an honorary one.

South Africa/Cuba

Comradely exchanges

South Africa has signed a higher education agreement with Cuba that will see the two countries setting up university exchange programmes. Blade Nzimande, the South African minister of higher education, signed the agreement with his Cuban counterpart Miguel Diáz-Canel Bermúdez to strengthen relations between the countries in the sector and encourage mutual understanding, Politicsweb reported. "We will build on the work that is already under way and actually take it to a higher level, which will include lecturer and student exchanges as well as research collaboration," Dr Nzimande said. He added that the arrangement will include university visits by academics and students, along with discussions about best practice in teaching.

Netherlands

Here's when you start repaying

The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has called on the government to reform postgraduate funding. Under the proposals, the state would replace graduate grants with long-term loans, The New York Times reported. Job Slok, a spokesman for the ministry, said students should contribute. "It is not unreasonable to ask a greater effort (from) the students, because their education is a good investment in their own future," he said. Currently, the Dutch state pays master's students a monthly cash stipend of up to €266 (£225) to cover living costs. The change would see the money repayable over 20 years post-graduation at a low rate of interest. If agreed, the scheme will be introduced in September.

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