Challenges and Challenges of Higher Education in Costa Rica

The years 2020 and 2021 will be part of our history due to the health crisis caused by COVID 19 worldwide and these two years will be remembered mainly for the effects and repercussions on all the activities of our lives.

In Higher Education, this stage will be remembered as the birth for the majority and the consolidation for others of virtual education, a stage where suddenly the future was ahead of us, the plans that had been conceived for the next 5 and 10 years in the field of virtuality we had them face to face with almost no time or planning to implement them, most of the universities were not prepared from an institutional perspective, suddenly moving the face-to-face courses to a non-face-to-face format required a great deal of everyone’s effort, mainly from teachers who were forced in real time to give an emergency response without space to develop redesigns of the courses that from their conception were designed to be taught in person, in the same way there was not much time to train teachers that in a majority they had been trained in the previous century without much knowledge in the use of technological means , in digital competences and in methodologies of the teaching-learning process for the virtual modality, urgent and immediate action did not allow at that time the necessary analyzes to guarantee the quality of teaching.

Today, finding a way to integrate the face-to-face and the virtual without losing the quality and the essence in the transmission of knowledge is one of the great challenges that Universities face.

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The quality of teaching: the great challenge

Without a doubt, quality is an indisputable element in teaching, whether virtual or face-to-face, and it is the processes of accreditation of the careers that allow measuring and identifying the strength of the same, once this health emergency has been overcome it is necessary to rethink and place quality as the fundamental axis of Higher Education.

Currently in Costa Rica there are five Public Universities and fifty-four private Universities authorized by the National Council for Higher Education (CONESUP). The five public Universities are members of the National System of Accreditation of Higher Education (SINAES) since they have accredited careers in terms of their quality, however, in the field of Private Universities only 11 Universities of the fifty-four authorized have with courses accredited by the SINAES.

A report prepared by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the process of accession of our country to that organization highlights the following in relation to university education and its role in a growing economy:

“The rapid expansion of university education in recent decades reflects its vital role for the competitiveness of Costa Rica in a global economy determined by knowledge. The gross enrollment rate doubled to 51% and more than 50 new universities were created amid weak regulation and licensing. This has raised the need for a comprehensive reform of the sector that takes into account this new reality and responds to the aspirations of the country. Currently, the government does not have mechanisms to increase STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates in English (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), collect data on student enrollment, or crack down on UK universities. poor quality. The reform should lead to a more solid administration of the sector, to a more equitable and strategic financing; and to greater transparency and quality assurance. Bring the system to the highest levels of performance. Addressing these changes will require a more strategic and systematic approach to the governance of education and funding. With 8% of GDP, which is more than any Latin American and OECD country spends on education, the country can show more in terms of student learning and school completion. If education is to continue to be an engine for development, a significant change is needed in the design, financing and execution of policies ”

Quality assurance will be one of the primary aspects that will make a difference in teaching at Universities, in addition to other challenges that were also recently pointed out by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in its report on the future of Higher Education called: Thinking Beyond Boundaries: Perspectives on the Future of Higher Education for 2050, which highlights four key messages for higher education for 2050:

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”1. Assume an active responsibility in the development of the potential of humanity

2.Promote well-being and sustainability, oriented towards justice, solidarity and human rights

3. Nurture themselves of epistemic interculturality and diversity, respecting cultures and identities, and creating spaces for dialogue

4. Finally, create and maintain interconnectedness, forging collaborations between local and global communities, and linking higher education with other levels of education, including non-formal and informal learning. ”

These challenges and key messages imply for Universities to take advantage of the experiences and learning derived from this pandemic period, optimize the use of technologies, promote equity in access to Education, understand the importance of promoting technical and scientific areas, strengthen Innovation and research and ensuring quality as a primary axis through constant measurement processes, promoting evaluation and accreditation in teaching processes, will be key and the great challenge in Universities to achieve a greater impact on national productive development.

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