University of the Philippines Los Baños
Tuesday, 06 December 2016 00:00

Int’l conference tackles internationalization of grad educ in agri devt

Representatives from higher education institutions (HEI) in Asia and France tackled the internationalization of graduate education in agriculture and rural development in a conference at the Philippine International Convention Center on Nov. 22-23.

Spearheaded by the UPLB Graduate School , the Conference on the Internationalization of Graduate Education for Agricultural and Rural Development (IGEARD) aimed to discuss and draw insights from initiatives and strategies that HEIs and education systems have pursued in internationalizing graduate education in agriculture and related disciplines.

In his welcoming remarks during the Conference’s opening program, UPLB Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez Jr., said that graduate education is uniquely suited to internationalization, with graduate students greatly benefiting from collaborating with their counterparts from all over the world. “UP, like many universities around the world have recognized this value, and have mobilized programs that further encourage internationalization,” Chancellor Sanchez added.

He cited reinforced international student recruitments, international faculty and student exchange programs, and joint research studies as examples of these programs. He said that he hopes that the event will serve as a venue wherein UPLB and universities across Asia can forge ties with one another for future partnerships and collaborative work in the spirit of internationalization.

Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr., director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), who also gave a welcome message, said that SEARCA is supportive of programs and activities that complement their efforts to achieve inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development. Dr. Saguiguit said that the IGEARD conference aligns with SEARCA’s objective of developing high quality human resources who will champion and push forward the objectives of inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development.

In his keynote address, UP President Alfredo E. Pascual commended UPLB for its dynamism, vision and commitment to internationalization. He cited the decline in the number of students pursuing graduate degrees in agriculture,  the lack of communication and leadership skills among agriculture graduate degree-holders, and how pedagogical methods have not kept up with the global and technological demands, hence the variation in the quality of agriculture and forestry education in the ASEAN.

With this in the picture, President Pascual stressed the dire need for competitive postgrad degree-holders in agriculture, forestry and natural resources management, as well as related fields. He urged graduate schools in agriculture and related fields to prioritize the training of post graduate students to enable them to solve pressing problems in agriculture, food security and rural development, climate change, whether it be through the conduct of research and development, through teaching and education, especially of workers and students in the agriculture sector, or through informing and advocating policy change at the national and international levels.  “In order for us to fully leverage our thrust toward the internationalization of graduate education, we must not only go beyond, but must also go deep, most especially for agricultural graduate schools in less-developed countries,” President Pascual said. He emphasized this in the light of what he said was the declining interest in agriculture as a course amidst the reality of climate change and food security.

Day 2 of IGEARD featured panel discussions and breakout sessions on the internationalization of graduate education towards inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development. Also on the roster of speakers on the second day were Dr. J. Prospero E. De Vera III, commissioner for Higher Education (CHED); Dr. Josette T. Biyo, director of the Science Education Institute of the Department of Science and Technology; Dr. Bujang Bin Kim Huat, dean of the School of Graduate Studies in University Putra Malaysia (UPM); and Dr. Shuji Hisano, professor at the Graduate School of Economics of Kyoto University in Japan.IGEARD 2016 was attended by more than 170 participants on the first day and more than 200 participants on the second day. The attendees were international delegates, guests, friends from media, and faculty members and graduate students of different state universities and colleges.

Also present were Dr. Jose V. Camacho, Jr., Dr. Felino Lansigan, Dr. Arnold R. Elepaño, Dr. Isabelita R. Pabuayon, and Dr. Eduardo B. Torres, deans of the UPLB Graduate School and Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology, Economics and Management, and Veterinary Medicine; Dr. Cecilio R. Arboleda, former dean of the College of Agriculture; Dr. Simplicio R. Medina, director of the UPLB Office of International Linkages; and Dr. Didier Pillot, vice president of the Agrinatura - European Alliance of Agricultural Knowledge for Development  and Director of Montpellier SupAgro (National Institute for Higher Education in Agricultural Sciences) in France.