International partnerships offer the possibility for direct relationships with educators in other countries, leading to the exchange of effective practices and the opportunity to learn about how other educational systems operate.
Bronx Community College has most recently worked with schools, colleges and universities in Senegal and South Africa. The College’s work in South Africa began with the election of the new democratic government, and this has enabled us to actively participate in the exciting changes that have taken place in this country over the past 15 years. Our initiatives have been funded primarily by the Ford Foundation and USAID (United States Agency for International Development). Our partnership work in Senegal goes back to 2004 and has focused on the Senegal-American Bilingual School and the University of Cheik Anta Diop, both in Dakar.
The College also works closely with the US Department of State and other organizations to welcome visitors to the US who are interested in learning more about the American community college system. Most recently, we have welcomed visitors from Jordan, China, and Macedonia.
Bronx Community College in South Africa
U.S.-South Africa Partnership for Skills Development: April 2009-February 2012
Bronx Community College is a key partner in a new international project aimed at increasing retention and expanding work-force development programs at a dozen Further Education and Training (FET) colleges in South Africa.
Known as the U.S.-South Africa Partnership for Skills Development, the initiative is a three-year, $6.7 million program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Southern Africa Mission. It will enable ACE (American Council on Education), AACC (American Association of Community Colleges), and their partners to strengthen institutional capacity for student services programs and faculty development efforts at South African Further Education and Training colleges. It will provide consultative support through partnerships with the private sector and exchange opportunities with U.S. institutions. BCC will provide support to the 12 selected colleges in three provinces—Limpopo, Northern Cape, and Mpumalanga.
This project is especially meaningful to us at BCC as it enables us to work within the FET sector to address the problem of the low skills levels of students at the outset. This pervasive problem of low skills and low graduation rates has made it extremely difficult for us to be more successful in facilitating articulation pathways between the colleges and the universities—which has been the primary goal of much of our previous work.
During the first six months of the project, nine BCC faculty and administrators participated in site visits to each of the 12 participating FET colleges to learn firsthand about the specific challenges facing the sector and to begin developing relationships with key people at each of the institutions. Following the visits, BCC in conjunction with another PSKD partner, YouthBuild International, prepared an in-depth report detailing institutional strengths and weaknesses at each college and a second report with recommendations for addressing common issues. The recommendations formed the foundation for a Skills Development Workshop that was offered to all FET colleges in the three provinces participating in the project.
The workshop took place in February 2010 at The Ranch in Polokwane, Limpopo, and was attended by about 100 people. BCC teams focused on academic and student support, approaches for improving English literacy, and strategies for improving math instruction and retention. The participating BCC faculty and staff continue to work closely with the FET colleges and in the coming year will plan more in-depth visits to four colleges—two in Limpopo and one each in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. These second visits, scheduled for July-August 2010, will enable the BCC team to help the colleges review their orientation process for incoming students. It will also provide support that will help colleges more effectively place students according to their skills levels and offer appropriate remediation.
Participating BCC faculty have commented that their work in South Africa has resulted in their review and improvement of their own practices here on campus.
New Linkages I: 2003-2006
Funded by the Ford Foundation
Bronx Community College (BCC) and the Centre for Education Policy and Development (CEPD) proposed to address two significant needs of the Further Education and Training (FET) sector: (1) to offer FET students increased academic opportunities beyond the technical college and (2) to foster greater cooperation between FET colleges, technikons, and universities. During this project, teams representing FET colleges, technikons and/or universities designed and implemented joint plans to encourage student movement from one institution to another and to promote inter-institutional cooperation.
We began our work in KwaZulu-Natal Province. The recent mergers, the broadened mandate for universities and technikons (now universities of technology) and curriculum revisions offered a timely opportunity to begin facilitating new institutional connections. To capture this momentum, the two organizations adapted a process that worked well in the States—bringing diverse educational institutions to plan and problem-solve together. At the outset, we met with key administrators to secure their interest in participating and supporting this project. We then convened KwaZulu-Natal institutions at a regional workshop, oversaw a limited grants competition for participating institutions, and worked with grantees to support and expand their work.
Based upon lessons learned thus far, we have developed initial recommendations about curriculum development and articulation that will guide future efforts to create and strengthen linkages between the educational sectors.
New Linkages II: 2005
Funded by the Ford Foundation
During New Linkages II, inter-institutional teams from KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape developed FET college-university partnerships charged with implementing pilot, curriculum-based initiatives to create student pathways from FET colleges to universities and/or universities of technology. The project’s more long-range strategic goal to build relationships between college and university faculty from similar disciplines will lead to a better understanding and acceptance of the FET college as an important access point for students to higher education. Prior to the New Linkages work, faculty from different sectors had little, and in most cases, no history of working together. The review of business and engineering curricula by faculty from both sectors to assess the compatibility between the content, level of instruction, and assessment criteria form the foundation for new curricular-pathway opportunities that will enable students to access higher education from the FET colleges. Clearly, broader policy changes are necessary if FET colleges will become a flexible access point for substantially increasing the numbers of low-income and first-generation college students who enter into higher education programs and degrees. The New Linkages work as it offers groundbreaking examples of possible articulation points. The need for greater integration with an improved student support services program at the college level is also important.
As in the first stage of the project, New Linkages II began with provincial meetings in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Eastern Cape (EC) that took place after the Centre for Education Policy Development (CEPD) and NCEA raised the possibility of developing articulation teams with FET college and higher education leadership in cities in both provinces. These meetings were followed by pilot grants that were offered to inter-sector teams. Over the past year teams have worked to implement the plans, and NCEA and CEPD have partnered to provide support when appropriate.
As a consequence of the participating institutions’ efforts, three partnerships brought faculty, staff, and administrators together in KwaZulu-Natal. The Umgungundlovu FET/UKZN team from Pietermaritzburg has signed inter-institutional working agreements in two areas—business and commerce, and in engineering. The Thekwini FET/Mangosuthu University of Technology/Durban University of Technology (DUT) team made progress establishing articulation agreements, producing a joint brochure and sharing information during New Linkages I, but personnel changes and some institutional resistance have slowed their work in New Linkages II. More recently, Thekwini and the DUT have been exploring a joint marine engineering curriculum. The Umfolozi FET/University of Zululand also focused on information sharing and producing a joint brochure among the institutions to prompt student interest in moving from one sector to another.
In New Linkages II, in addition to the ongoing work in KZN, partnerships have been encouraged in the Eastern Cape. A Port Elizabeth College/Eastcape Midlands College/Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University/Rhodes University team received a planning grant to undertake a survey of the aspirations of FET students interested in university-level work. But after meeting with the KZN teams in Johannesburg this past October, they redirected their work and have just submitted a proposal to focus their efforts on developing modules in mathematics, language and life skills to help bridge the gap in academic preparation between FET colleges and the university. Engineering faculty from both sectors have been meeting to review and identify specific skills needed by FET students to continue their studies at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
The steady progress of the New Linkages partnerships encourages leaders from each sector to support the importance of curricular pathways between colleges and higher education institutions. In particular, the collaborative work between business and engineering faculty from the participating institutions demonstrates the feasibility of inter-sector articulation and also that capable FET students with the proper support can be offered the opportunity to pursue a university education. Most importantly, New Linkages promotes the development and sharing of inter-sector, pilot articulation initiatives among the participating institutions as well as the Department of Education and the Matriculation Board at HESA (Higher Education South Africa).
The evolving status of the FET college curriculum created an unavoidable challenge, but also offers an opportunity for the articulation effort with the implementation of the National Curriculum Vocational (NCV) over stages. Since the partnerships began their articulation work based upon the NatEd curriculum, the agreements will have to be revisited, especially once the NCV is fully implemented. The expectation is, however, that the initial pilot projects will lay the groundwork for broader and more sustainable agreements. The introduction of Level 5 (L5) to the FET colleges offers new systemic opportunities for strengthening the FET college-HE pipeline.
We continue to encourage inter-sector partnerships. The current focus on a more flexible educational system by the new Department of Higher Education and Training in South Africa is facilitating broader engagement within the country in facing this challenge.
Kwazulu-Natal Learning for Employment Partnership
Funded by Higher Education for Development for USAID
Bronx Community College (BCC) coordinated the KwaZulu-Natal Learning for Employment Partnership (KLEP) from October 2002 through October 2005. KLEP was developed to assist Umgungundlovu Further Education and Training College (UFETC) to better prepare students for viable employment by introducing their engineering faculty to new approaches for upgrading students’ literacy, numeracy, and technological skills. In addition, KLEP worked to improve student preparation for the workplace by strengthening partnerships between UFETC with local employers. The College Collaboration Fund (CCF) of the National Business Initiative (NBI) joined the partnership to provide support in this area.
In 2002, during the early KLEP planning stages, South Africa’s Department of Education announced the mergers of 152 technical colleges into 50 multi-campus further education and training colleges. While the partnership was originally planned with Northdale Technical College, Northdale was to become one of the five campuses comprising the new Umgungundlovu FET College. The provincially appointed UFETC rector fully embraced the partnership as he was just beginning a new role at a recently consolidated institution. As a consequence of the multiple challenges following the mergers, the proposed 18-month project evolved into a 36-month initiative. During the three years of the partnership, the goals broadened to respond to the more immediate needs of the newly consolidated FET institution.
The consolidation of the technical colleges into larger FET colleges generated multiple challenges for our partnership and the country’s educational framework as a whole. Most importantly, the expansion of the FET colleges continues to offer important opportunities for enhancing student preparation for jobs requiring high level skills.
Over the past several years, Bronx Community College has worked with both the University of Cheik Anta Diop (UCAD) and the Senegalese Bilingual School (SABS) in Dakar, Senegal, through visits and exchange of ideas and support. We have created opportunities for BCC faculty and staff to meet with faculty and staff from both UCAD and SABS. We have brought American high school students and BCC students to Senegal. New faculty at the university and the SABS principal have expressed interest in reviving efforts around science activities in fall 2009 to engage our faculty and local environmental organizations. In addition to being a SABS teacher, the individual selected is also a member of the UCAD science faculty.
The partnership began in March 2004 when President Williams and a team of BCC staff met with the president of UCAD to discuss the possibility of future collaboration. As an outcome of these discussions, in October 2004, BCC invited two science faculty members form UCAD’s Institute of Research on Mathematics, Physics, and Technology to visit and learn more about our campus, to engage in dialogues with BCC faculty/staff, and to visit Bronx high schools.
In May 2005, SABS became a member of the BCC Collaborative Education Network, which consists of Bronx schools and community organizations. Through the network, SABS creates short-term projects with Bronx schools using the Internet to create student-to-student projects.
In November 2006, SABS sent a mathematics teacher to BCC to meet with faculty and learn about CUNY instructional strategies being used with our student population. In January 2006, BCC Collaborative Education Programs shared science and mathematics books and other instructional materials with the SABS high school. They also shared our instructional models for teaching English as a Second Language.
In June 2009, a BCC staff member, Mr. Eugene Adams, gave the SABS high school graduation commencement address at UCAD. Two BCC students also participated in the trip and volunteered at SABS during the eight-day trip.