International relations course for developing-world higher education

The Institute of International Education, or IIE, has announced the launch of a new training course for ministry officials and university representatives in developing and transitioning countries on how to create and manage an effective international relations office.

To be piloted in Myanmar over the next few months, the course “Connecting to the World: International relations for higher education institutions” is expected to meet a vital need identified during an IIE-led higher education delegation visit to the country earlier this year.

It will also allow universities in Myanmar to link up with institutions in America and other countries so that they can increase institutional capacity and help prepare students to meet workforce needs and support rapid economic development, the IIE said in a statement.

On a visit to Myanmar in February this year by a delegation of 10 universities, led by IIE CEO Allan Goodman, the country’s universities highlighted their need to develop existing internal processes and procedures to coordinate international relations and enter into productive partnerships as Myanmar reopens to the world.

The IIE said that while the course was intended to address an immediate need in Myanmar, it would “shape similar initiatives that can be used in a number of other transitioning countries in the future”.

The new course, to be run over five months, uses an innovative hybrid system – a combination of face-to-face instruction and interactive digital technologies – to tackle issues like hosting international delegations, facilitating faculty and student exchange, cross-cultural communications, and developing international partnerships.

The IIE is working with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Northern Arizona University, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and Knowledge Platform – a next generation learning solutions platform company – to develop and deliver the course.

The initiative is funded in part by a grant to the IIE from the Henry Luce Foundation.

After an initial in-person training workshop, participants will complete a series of asynchronous lessons using Knowledge Platform’s interactive platform, which supports various digital delivery methods, such as pre-recorded lectures, video clips, readings, chat rooms and discussion boards.

IIE will provide participants with accompanying print materials and DVD recordings, and expert mentors from different countries will provide participants with ongoing feedback and assessment.

Those who successfully complete the course might also be eligible to do an educational study tour of the US or another country.

Before and during British rule, Myanmar, or Burma as it was known, was one of Asia’s most literate states. However, after half a century of military rule, education – and particularly higher education – almost ground to a halt.

Since 2010, there has been a groundswell of economic and physical regeneration in the country, with colleges, academies and universities blossoming.

The IIE hopes that the course will help Myanmar take yet another vital step forward in its quest to carve out a new educational path for the country.