From 2021 with love: the most positive educational initiatives of the last year

The year 2021 was less crazy than the previous one but anyway it gave us a lot to think about including developments in international education. Now, in the spring of 2022, I want to look back and recall positive acts and initiatives of the past year.
For example, the Russian language will become compulsory for studying at universities in the Central African Republic! According to the statement of the President of the country, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, starting from the 2022/23 academic year, the universities of the CAR will have to include Russian in all educational programs as a compulsory subject, replacing Spanish. Students will study it throughout their undergraduate studies. This initiative is a continuation of the CAR's current policy of popularizing the Russian language among the population. So, back in 2019, it was included in the curriculum of secondary schools, and, over the past few months, the Minister of Education of the Central African Republic Simplice Sarandji has repeatedly stated his intention to complete the training of national specialists in the Russian language by the new academic year. I would like to believe that this initiative will strengthen friendship between our peoples and will bear fruit in the form of joint educational initiatives very soon.

There are also unique projects designed to help students, many of whom are still unable to switch to offline studying at their universities. Universities in Australia and New Zealand, where borders have remained closed since the beginning of the pandemic, set an excellent example. In order to retain and attract students in conditions of full online studying, universities began to create specialized training centers abroad. The task of such centers is to support students who are unable to study at their foreign universities by providing them with a physical space for communication. Given the high dependence of Australian and New Zealand universities on commercial foreign students, they were particularly interested in creating the most comfortable conditions for students during the forced online studying to reduce the percentage of transfers to other universities in countries with open borders. Similar centers are already operating in China, Vietnam and Indonesia, and centers in Malaysia and India will open their doors very soon.

How does it work? Let's look at the examples. In the spring, the Australian state of Victoria opened the "Study Melbourne" center in Shanghai to provide students with a common physical space for joint study, communication with fellow students or participation in student events. With the assistance of the Australian National University, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and local commercial organizations, similar centers were also opened in Beijing, Shenzhen and Chengdu. The University of Auckland (New Zealand) went even further: the administration agreed with partner universities of China that students studying on online programs can live in the campus of the partner university, use its infrastructure and participate in student life.

Despite plans to open borders in 2022, universities are not going to close their foreign centers overnight and believe in their potential as part of a large segment of international education.

In 2021, the educational union of Poland and Germany appeared with extensive plans for the future: in September, the German Academic E xchange Service DAAD and the Polish National Academic Exchange Agency NAWA signed an agreement providing scholarships for German and Polish students, postgraduates and scientists. According to representatives of DAAD and NAWA, despite the fact that the Erasmus program plays an important role in maintaining academic mobility, it is necessary to expand bilateral cooperation between universities and researchers of the two countries. The new agreement will expand the possibilities of cooperation, including the field of teaching Polish and German languages, as well as strengthen cooperation in the field of promoting higher education in Poland and Germany abroad.
This year, I would like to mention DAAD for at least one more positive contribution to the development of science and education: the organization allocates funding for 60 new projects within the framework of the International Virtual Academic Collaboration (IVAC) program. The program is designed to support the development of international cooperation schemes and academic mobility via digital technologies. The organization will allocate funding both to universities aimed at digitalizing education and developing innovative cooperation formats, and to individual teachers and students to support mobility and digital skills development.

What lies ahead of us? For now, we can only hope for the best. Let there be even more positive educational initiatives in the year 2022!
Larisa Dmitrievna Taradina is Director for the Development of International Education and Cooperation of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation. He has been working in the field of international education for over 15 years, including at the Higher School of Economics and the Competitiveness Improvement Project of Leading Russian Universities (Project 5-100). Author of advanced training programs for employees of international offices implemented within the framework of Project 5-100. He conducts research in the field of internationalization of higher education and is the editor-in-chief of the telegram channel @eduviewrus, dedicated to topical issues in international education.