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A Unique Opportunity for Students from Developing Countries

A Unique Opportunity for Students from Developing Countries

At the HSE Faculty of Economics  Professor Marek Dabrowski teaches a Master’s course in Macroeconomic Policy in Transition and Emerging Economies. Global trends are changing and everything from consumer goods to life insurance is available online. Should education follow the trend of immediate online access or is there a special path for it? In December 2014, Professor Dabrowski's course in Macroeconomic Policy in Transition and Emerging Economies was launched on Coursera. Could it help students from less developed countries achieve their career goals? Professor Dabrowski hopes so.

— Your Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) 'Economics of Transition and Emerging Markets' on Coursera examined the experience of market reforms in the Arab world and Asia as well as EU integration progress. Do developing countries depend on the global economy or does the global economy depend on emerging markets with new opportunities and consumers?

— This interdependence works both ways. Developing countries need a global economy to export their goods, services and labor force (labor migration and labor remittances have become an important source of GNP, balance-of-payments inflows and fiscal revenue in many developing economies), import contemporary machinery and equipment, energy, raw-materials, food and consumer goods, which are not produced in a given country, foreign investment and foreign financing of various sorts, technology and know-how, etc. On the other hand, their contribution to the global output and trade is systematically increasing, especially in the last 20 years.

— How does giving classes for Massive Open Online Course differ from teaching at university? What do you prefer?

— Both forms of teaching are important but MOOC gives access to the global audience, which is not feasible in the classical teaching process in any university. I believe the role of MOOC in university education will systematically increase although ‘classical’, i.e., life teaching process will not disappear completely (rather we will move towards a hybrid teaching process with partial use of online courses). MOOCs offer unique opportunities for students from less developed countries, who do not have the chance to listen to good professors and learn from contemporary curricula and textbooks.

— Education is believed to be a vital part of the democratization process. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 4 children do not attend school. According to the Economist, less than 1% of students aged 12-13 in ten Arab countries reached an advanced benchmark in science, compared with 32% in Singapore and 10% in the United States. Do you think that MOOC courses might improve education system and lead to the democratization of low-income countries?

— Several regions of the world (Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, partly – Latin America) suffer heavily from the continuous illiteracy of substantial parts of their population (especially female) and the low quality of education available. This limits seriously the development chances of those countries. Unfortunately, MOOCs, which are the instruments of tertiary education, cannot address the above-mentioned problems, which relate to availability and quality of primary and secondary education. One must be literate and possess basic education to be able to use internet sources of information and knowledge, including the MOOCs.

Unfortunately, I have not received information on the countries of origin of my MOOC students (the total number of those who signed up exceeded 11,000). From my observation on the Forum (which may not necessarily provide a representative sample), at least 30% of them represented the so-called emerging-market and developing countries.

— What kind of educational programmes might it be useful to implement in developing countries?

— I am not an education expert and I cannot offer competent advice on these issues. However, I believe that improving education standards in those countries must start from primary and then secondary education. The MOOCs (at least in their current form) can help only those people who are prepared to participate in the tertiary education process. They can also help universities in developing countries to upgrade and diversify their teaching curriculum.

Source: online student magazine Read Square. Editor-in-chief - Yulia Kazakova, Faculty of Social Sciences

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