January 24, 2024
Celebrating diaspora educators on International Day of Education

International Day of Education on 24 January marks the role of education for peace and development, promoting an inclusive, equitable education and lifelong opportunities for all. At EUDiF, we are celebrating how diaspora can actively contribute to transformative change in education, as demonstrated in recently-completed actions that harnessed diaspora expertise and networks for education, leading to improvements in quality, innovation, and global competitiveness in Ethiopia, Mexico, Moldova and the Philippines .

From 2022 to 2023, EUDiF had four interventions working with 12 diaspora professionals in the education sector. Despite the diverse geographic scope, spanning Ethiopia, Mexico, Moldova, and the Philippines, all these initiatives maximized diaspora involvement to enhance the education processes.

In autumn 2023, we officially closed these actions. Today, after some time for post-action reflection, Diana Hincu, EUDiF Capacity Development Specialist, who was closely involved in all these micro-projects and has a keen interest in innovative education, highlights some of the ways diaspora contribute to the education sector through knowledge exchange, sharing pedagogy skills, research connections, technology and more!

Knowledge exchange for quality education

Diaspora education experts bring valuable skills and knowledge gained from their experiences in various educational systems and institutions abroad. This knowledge holds the potential to substantially enhance the quality of education in the home country.  It may introduce new teaching methods, curriculum enhancements, or innovative approaches to pedagogy. In the actions with Ethiopia and Philippines, new curricula were developed by diaspora teams in priority sectors for the countries: agriculture and climate change respectively.

Under the action with Ethiopia, five diaspora professionals helped a local university to craft an interdisciplinary curriculum on agri-food business that is locally embedded, and taught using the capstone approach. The course was subsequently piloted at Wollo University with a cohort of 85 students; their capstone project assignment was a daily writing bootcamp that aimed at addressing the most relevant skills needed for the agri-food business sector.  It was designed to make the students fit for a job in this sector and give them essential knowledge to be entrepreneurs and job creators.

Professional development for teaching excellence

Diaspora members can provide training opportunities to upgrade the skills of teachers, administrators, and other education professionals. Such vocational learning helps an education sector stay abreast of global best practices. In all four actions, training was provided to academic staff and representatives, through workshops, seminars, and collaborative projects. These covered new thematic knowledge along with modern blended learning techniques. 

Under the action with Philippines, the diaspora team gave in-person training to the local universities and authorities in the Palawan council with a focus on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and modern pedagogical techniques. The fact that a Filipino diasporan was leading the action served as an important incentive for the teachers and practitioners, demonstrated by the large uptake in the activities – for example, over 800 teachers and students responded to the survey assessing learning needs.

Connections for enhanced research

In most cases, diaspora networks have strong ties with educational institutions, research centres, and platforms abroad. Leveraging these connections can lead to collaborations, new research initiatives and exchange programmes between institutions in the origin country and those abroad. Such collaborations can lead to advancements in research and educational technology. In all the respective actions, diaspora utilised their extended networks and contacts to expand academic cooperation. For instance, the actions with Moldova and RGMX UK offered tailored methodologies for knowledge transfer and research opportunities between academic diaspora and countries of origin. In the case of Moldova, diaspora in academia were targeted to innovate the higher education sector. In the case of Mexico, the Mexican Talent Network – UK (RGMX-UK)created a structured scheme of knowledge transfer in order to generate a toolkit for climate change and circular economy education.

As well as diaspora connections supporting a specific action, the involvement often goes far beyond. For example, we were delighted to learn that our collaborations with Ethiopia and the Philippines not only strengthened existing partnerships, but also initiated new collaborative projects for our beneficiaries, thanks to the influential advocacy and connections of the diaspora. Diaspora professional Professor Denise Margaret Matias helped initiate a new project between the Palawan State University and Mongolia on wildlife consumption and trading. The team of Ethiopian diaspora professionals catalysed the signing of a new memorandum of understanding the field of agri-food and informatics between the Wollo University in Ethiopia and a Bavarian university.

Brain gain

By motivating diaspora members to return and actively contribute to the education sector of their home country, we can foster a significant influx of intellectual capital, resulting in a valuable brain gain. This harnessing of the expertise that individuals have gained abroad, channels  valuable human capital into the country of heritage.

In the intervention with Moldova, three diaspora researchers helped the Bureau for Relations with Diaspora to develop a framework of engagement and pilot mobilisation mechanisms for highly skilled Moldovan diaspora. It resulted in the creation of an innovative model –  Diaspora Coworking Hub –  meant to modernise the higher education sector and advance research practices through collaboration with diaspora. The added value of this mechanism is to go beyond sporadic engagement to offer a pool of diaspora talent ready for assignments, as outlined in the action lessons learnt.

Tech pioneers

Diaspora members, especially those in fields like STEM, are well placed to promote the integration of technology in education. They may introduce modern teaching tools, e-learning platforms and digital resources that boost the learning experience and align education with the demands of the 21st century. The action with Ethiopia is a great example in this regard: The diaspora team opened a new door for Wollo University (WU), helping them to create and pilot its first digital curriculum. They also provided guidance on installing a new learning management system, including the training of the ICT staff on its use. The e-learning system and courses helped the university to advance its digital transformation. WU is one of the top three universities in the country in this regard and new projects to replicate the digital curriculum in agri-food business at other universities are in the pipeline. Moreover, the e-learning system was used to deliver model exit exam for all undergraduate students of the university. Subsequently, undergraduates had a great success rate (74%) for the national exit exam. In terms of sustainability, the diaspora experts also developed a roadmap with exit strategies to support the University to continue the digitalisation reform.

These initiatives demonstrate some of the different ways diaspora contribute to maximising the potential of education for sustainable development. Together, the examples underscore the effectiveness of small-scale projects driven by committed diaspora individuals and networks in the education sector. On the International Day of Education, we celebrate this enormous potential and look ahead to more creative and productive partnerships with inspiring diaspora educators.

There is an immense potential within the diaspora community to bolster education. We have to give diaspora educators recognition and space to exchange. The rest is merely a matter of logistics. – Diana Hincu

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