LOOKING BEYOND

Mozambique 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Prof. Doctor João Leopoldo da Costa, Rector of Instituto Superior de Ciências e Tecnologia de Moçambique (ISCTEM), on the perils of the internet on education and the quality of its high school.

Prof. Doctor João Leopoldo da Costa
BIOGRAPHY
João Leopoldo da Costa studied medicine at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane. He holds a master’s degree in public health from London University and a PhD from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He has been the rector of ISCTEM since July 2004. Previously he was vice-dean for research and extension at the faculty of medicine at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane. He is member of the European Club of Rectors and has previously served as public health consultant at a number of international organizations. He served as a doctor for more than 25 years and spent seven years in rural areas. He was also provincial director of health in Niassa and Maputo.

What are your strategies to further increase cooperation with other universities around the world?

The term university imparts the concept of openness and no boundaries. At ISCTEM, it is important to bring teachers in from abroad. Visiting academics increase the prestige of the institution and bring the added experience that makes our teaching quality stronger. We are now running a master's program in quality control for the teaching process. This program is specifically addressed to our teachers. The coordinator is a professor from the Philippines who holds a PhD in this area, and she heads the program with assistance from teachers from Mozambique and overseas. We have an academic from Brazil to run the master's program in petroleum and gas, again with assistance from local teachers. For our pharmacy program, we have teachers from Portugal working alongside local teachers. For our master's in public health we have teachers from Spain and Ecuador. In our medical program we have a retired professor from the public health sector in Argentina who is here full time at the moment. We also want to launch a master's program in food security. We already have a professor who will be in charge of this new program in conjunction with professors from the University of Barcelona. The program will start in 2016.

What is ISCTEM's relationship with the private sector like, and how can private companies support higher education in Mozambique?

In the private sector it is much easier to receive assistance from companies. The private sector helps us identify gaps in graduates' skills and performance. This provides us with many ideas we can use to improve the content of our programs. As a result, the programs we offer are dynamic. We have the basics that are standard like any other university running the same program, but there are some specifics I can introduce based on the suggestions and criticisms from the market, which is valuable.

How do you think new technologies and social media have changed the way we look at education and learning?

First and foremost, institutions have to be aware of biased information coming from these sources. It is important to have strong critical faculties, as you cannot just trust everything you read and see. We usually recommend the main authors and scientists that our students should be researching on the internet to find materials, because today anyone can write anything and post it on the internet. Having said that, new technological facilities are important for distance learning. We have not started yet, but are planning to have distance learning within our public health master's program, as well as other similar courses. We are discussing internally how we can develop that program. We may be in a position to start by 2016.

Can you tell us about ISCTEM's high school?

We have had a high school since 2004 with two pre-university levels—primary and senior classes. We are proud of our success rate, with students from the high school doing university entrance exams, and have maintained a failure rate of less than 5%. Often students do not fail in all the disciplines, but perhaps just one or two subjects. That is why we are authorized to offer exams here. The quality of our instruction and our standards have been recognized by the Ministry of Education. Some of the teachers at our high school have master's degrees, and some have more than 15-20 years of teaching experience. We also have laboratories that many public primary schools do not have. Apart from the official program approved by the ministry, we have extra programs covering disciplines not covered by the national education curriculum, such as project design. We also published a book of our students' poems. We have initiatives that other secondary schools do not have, and these make all the difference.