December 2021. The Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences (GCHERA) and the Mexican Committee for Accreditation of Agronomic Education (COMEAA) established a cooperation alliance to promote accreditations of agricultural careers in Mexico and Central America.
For the Transforming Higher Education project, the inclusion of COMEAA in its network of allies is extremely important, as it contributes to the efforts of incorporation and visibility of the five elements of success to the syllabus of these careers.
Carlos Maycotte, president of COMEAA, gave us an interview in which we could learn more about the institution’s approach and its aspirations for superior education in the region.
- How did COMEAA met GCHERA?
Our first approach was through EARTH University. I was the director of an institute that EARTH signed an academic agreement with, and at the time and we had the opportunity to send some of our students and teachers to Costa Rica for a while.
Later, I left that institute and joined COMEAA working on quality assessment processes for educational programs in agricultural sciences. Currently, COMEAA is looking for strategic partners at an international level to strengthen the quality processes of educational programs, so I spoke with Jose Zaglul as president of GCHERA and mentioned our interest in being part of the network. Then I made a formal application, which was approved in the GCHERA General Assembly meeting December, 2020.
- Why did you decide to be part of the associate member network?
One of the characteristics of COMEAA is that we’re always seeking and encouraging agricultural science programs to go further. We want to foster change through various frameworks based on impact assessment.
In this sense, we have seen that the Transforming Higher Education project is not isolated, but that there are many organizations wanting to promote the change of agronomic careers, so that educational programs leave their comfort zone. GCHERA coincidentally has this same vision, so the most logical thing is to join forces and create a synergy where everyone wins and resources are optimized.
- Why is it important to modify current educational models?
The educational model that we currently have was made 200 years ago, with a lot of other social and political conditions that are not the same today. This means that we have lived through three social contracts for education.
1. The acquisition of basic skills such as mathematics, language, history.
2. Technical competences: associated with the performance of a profession, which were obtained through the study of a career.
3. Acquisition of key generic competencies in the 21st century, such as soft skills.
A big part of higher transformation is understanding that students are the center of education. Not the professor, not the academic axis. And that the idea is that both learn by doing synergy, because both are useful for the other.
If the previous model privileged teaching through memory and masterfulness, now it is requested through the Project that the classes be innovative and help to detonate the student to discover her talents by themselves.
- What are the benefits of educational models based on the five elements of success?
Today, young people learn more from videos online than from their teachers. This reflects that what they need to do is see and then go out and learn by doing. We need to leave behind the fear of being wrong that the old school instilled in us, because in the real world this is not the case. Experiential learning allows us to be right or wrong and bear the consequences of both scenarios.
By interacting with the community, the identity of the institution in the localities is strengthened, the employability index increases, you generate activities that meet the need of the productive sector of the area, you generate synergies that allow identify realistically whether the institution’s efforts in productive matters work or not, to make the necessary adjustments.
On the other hand, entrepreneurship. Not all students will work for the government. This encourages the student to understand their potential and decide for themselves if they’re capable of forming their own business.
Finally, when we talk about ethics and values, they go hand in hand with the new society, which requires the acquisition of skills (the desire to keep learning, curiosity, personnel management, emotion management, respect, anti-corruption, love for the environment, among others), which encourage the development of attitudes to cope with changes in the world of work.
- What is the deadline established for the alliance between GCHERA and COMEAA?
Our alliance does not have an established deadline because the education and the Project are continuous over time. The elements of success are being implemented in agricultural careers, but we have a scope that encompasses any degree.
We do it for our convenience and to continue with the Sustainable Development Goals and because the best way to face the challenges of feeding the world, of protecting the planet, and can only be understood if they’re addressed in ways that are not conventional for the traditional model. The Transformation is permanent.