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23 June 2020, 14:39

Belarus, IBRD sign €100m loan agreement to upgrade higher education

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MINSK, 23 June (BelTA) – Belarus and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) have signed a €100-million loan agreement to implement the project to upgrade Belarus' higher education, BelTA has learned.

The loan agreement was signed by Belarus Education Minister Igor Karpenko and Alex Kremer, World Bank Acting Country Manager for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine (the region of Europe and Central Asia), head of the World Bank's Country Office in Belarus.

In line with the agreement, Belarus will receive a €100-million loan in 2020-2025. The funds will be used to create a modern educational environment in higher education institutions, introduce innovative approaches and technologies in teaching, stimulate the transformation process in administration, and ensure high-quality education.

Plans are in place to set up an interdisciplinary research center at Belarusian State University featuring 37 training laboratories and nine collective use centers. The project also provides for upgrading more than 60 training research laboratories, overhauling some university buildings, creating the necessary infrastructure for the new laboratories, and improving energy efficiency.

Igor Karpenko noted that this is not the first Belarus-IBRD agreement. “The first project was aimed at upgrading the secondary education system. We implemented two tranches of the agreement. It provided not only for overhaul and renovation of secondary education institutions, but also for purchase of equipment for chemistry, biology, physics classrooms and ensuring high quality of secondary education. We are currently carrying out the second project which is aimed at upgrading the higher education system. Eighteen higher education institutions (including in ten regional ones) affiliated with the Education Ministry, the Transport and Communications Ministry, the Agriculture and Food Ministry, and the Healthcare Ministry will be involved in the project. This does not mean, however, that other universities will be unable to join the project, as it provides for creating innovative educational and research infrastructure, laboratories and collective use centers. Thanks to online services, these facilities will be available for students from other universities, including regional ones,” he said.

The implementation of the project will help create an integrated and innovative educational environment in Belarusian universities that will enable to train skilled specialists and offer new promising majors (bioengineering, nanochemistry, synthetic and systems biology, pharmacology, bioinformatics, biomechanics, phenomics, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and so on),” the press center of the Education Ministry noted. Belarus also expects to step up cooperation between educational institutions and increase educational services export. The new infrastructure will support the introduction of the University 3.0 model, work out and commercialize new interdisciplinary knowledge-based solutions, set up innovative companies at universities and register them with technoparks. Belarus will also establish a national agency for ensuring high quality of education at all levels.

“In the near future, a professional expert society for maintaining the high quality of education will be set up in Belarus. At present, accreditation and performance assessment of educational institutions is carried out mainly by specialists from other universities. There is a need to establish a professional society that will be responsible for accreditation and performance assessment and will take part in international projects. This agency will need to obtain international recognition. We will study best practices of our neighbors to improve our education,” Igor Karpenko said.

He pointed out that, thanks to all these steps, the education system will move forward, take with account of the modern realities, and promote itself internationally, including with the aim to increase educational services export. “There are around 28,000 foreign students in Belarus that are getting higher, secondary special, or vocational education, but our country still has untapped potential in this area. We constantly boost export of educational services and amend out educational standards, plans and programs to meet the needs of the economy and consumers of educational services from abroad,” Igor Karpenko stressed.

The minister added that Belarus has entered into negotiations with the IBRD about the third project. “It will provide for upgrading the system of vocational education. This system performs well. Belarus joined the movement WorldSkills International, which helps us analyze relevant modern technologies. We would also like to work with the IBRD in this field, in order to upgrade resource centers and educational institutions that train specialists for the national economy. This work has just started. We will fist perform a brief analysis and then put forward concrete proposals. We will carefully work on this matter for the rest of the year,” Igor Karpenko said.

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