Increasing Equitable Access in Higher Education:
Admissions and Distance Learning
August 24, 2011 - 11:30 a.m.
||Yarema Bachynsky, American Councils for International Education, USETI Legacy Alliance
Carol Fimmen, Alamo Colleges
||Roy Zimmermann, Higher Education for Development
Luba Fajfer, USAID Bureau for Europe and Eurasia
This session discussed obstacles to accessing higher education institutions in relationship to Goal 2 of the USAID Education Strategy. This session shared two examples of different types of efforts that aim to strengthen and create sustainable and equitable systems and policies that promote equitable access to higher education: standardized entrance tests in Ukraine and distance learning in Mexico.
Yarema Bachynsky discussed efforts by the Ukrainian Standardized External Testing Initiative (USETI), begun in 2006, to (1) provide assistance with developing and implementing testing and to (2) institutionalize a corruption-free testing system for all students wishing to study in Ukrainian higher education institutions. USETI’s expected outcomes include: a testing center that could develop and implement secure tests that meet international standards; public legislative support for testing; partnerships between businesses, higher education, and policy makers; and a high-quality test-preparation industry. According to polls, public support has grown as students have experienced increasingly equitable access to higher education. Best practices include efficient and transparent admissions through public monitoring, adopting effective testing practices used in other countries, and strengthening the legal and regulatory base for testing. Difficulty achieving durable political consensus in Ukraine further increased the importance of alliance building. Partnerships created by the USCETI Alliance with higher education institutions and the private sector have protected the investments made in testing.
Carol Finmen discussed the Partnership to Improve Workforce Productivity of Maquiladora Workers along the Texas/Mexico NAFTA Corridor, through which U.S. and Mexican community and technical colleges located on the U.S.-Mexico border collaborated with the goal of providing Mexican youth the skills necessary to attract maquiladoras back to the region. Since the year 2000, over 500 maquiladoras have closed. Efforts to increase productivity through more sophisticated production processes left many workers without employment. Those most affected were in low-skill, low-wage positions.
Through this joint venture, U.S partners intended to build the knowledge and teaching capacity of those who would train students, in addition to providing direct training to maquiladora workers in skills necessary to operate the enhanced technology. Since the effort began in 2010, ongoing and unpredictable violence led to a sustained ban on travel by U.S.-based university staff to the Mexican side of the border. It was therefore difficult to transmit the courses to six Mexican institutions and find the most effective technology. Owing to their persistence and flexibility, faculty members, lab technicians, and factory workers have participated in online training via NEFSIS web and video conferencing, BlackBoard and existing ESL software packages.
Key take away points show that when entry points to tertiary and workforce development training are eliminated by corrupt behavior or violence, the capacity of a country to develop its workforce is decreased. In conflict and crisis situations, flexibility and ingenuity are necessary to meet objectives. Admissions testing is very complex—it takes time to make sure that you can (1) test what you want to test, (2) have a relevant item bank, (3) ensure that students can train and learn how to take the test, and (4) ensure the test’s security from development to transmission to those administering the tests countrywide and that no one can corrupt the results.