On March 9-12, 2021, it’s the time of year in the project timeframe that the nine-member consortium of Curriculum Development in Agroecology (CDAE) of Erasmus+ funded project will physically travel to Europe, particularly in Mendel University situated in Brno, Czech Republic. Sadly, they are unable to visit considering the virus outbreak worldwide.
Fortunately, Mendel University, member of the consortium and the host of this tour has an alternative solution. They organized a four-day virtual study visit for the workshop on curriculum development while allowing the participants to experience and witness the century old institution. An indication that the pandemic is not a hindrance to accommodate the Asian partners from Vietnam, Philippines and Sri Lanka in their zeal to offer the Masters of Science in Agroecology in their own country.
Further, Mendel University is one out of numerous universities globally that offers Agroecology, an approach to sustainable agriculture. To record, they have been offering the program of both the Bachelors and Masters of Science in Agroecology in Europe.
Going back to the virtual tour, the itinerary of the consortium on the first day was focused on the informative video about Mendel University, its city sceneries, meeting the Czech students and people and after a brief introduction, the tour proceeds to the main tour which is the general discussions on the institutional structure and differences among institutions in partner countries.
Mendel University mentioned that Asia and Europe may have different perspectives in the concept of Agroecology; however, they also emphasized that both can learn from each other.
During the general discussion, the Asian partners presented their perspectives on Agroecology in their country, their existing equipment’s and the resources of both natural and human that are beneficial for the CDAE project.
On the second day was the introduction to the Faculty of Agriculture and its study program along with an informative practical teaching of Agroecology at Mendel University Farm and a glimpse of their facilities and equipment. Then, they went to the Arboretum University Forest and wandered to the 11 gardens, presenting the results of experimental research and artistic activities of specialized departments of their Faculty of Horticulture.
Moreover, a comparison to the curriculum standards of Europe were discussed on the third day agenda for the curriculum specifics for individual partner countries wherein Asian partners presented their viewpoints on the proposed curriculum and syllabus.
Milada Stastna, project coordinator of Mendel University, stated that it is important to read the guide for European credits to have a clarification to the Europe Credit Transfer and Accumulation System in order to have a harmonized curriculum to both Asian and Europe.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka partners suggested that there should be entry and exit points including alternatives for the enrollees in MSc in Agroecology program.
Manuela Abelho, project coordinator of Polytechnic of Coimbra, European partner, agreed to the suggestion of Sri Lanka partners since they have similar options in their university. Specifically, if the student completes the program, the student will be entitled to the postgraduate degree, however, if the student fails, s/he will be given eligibility based on the credits s/he earned.
After the discussion, Stastna expressed her gratitude to the partners for the productive discussion on the curriculum development. She noted that they will review the proposed curriculum of the Asian partners for the near finalization of the Work Package 2 (Curricula Development in Agroecology).
The last day of the tour highlighted the teaching of Agroecology in Mendel University. They presented examples of laboratories and how some equipment are utilized in specific areas such as water resource management, sandbox experimental hands for landscape management and fishery management.
“The possibility to witness Mendel University in this time of pandemic is online. This is the feasible way to do it due to travel restrictions,” said Do Thi Xuan Dung, over-all coordinator of the CDAE Project from Hue University, Vietnam.
She also stressed that despite all the technical difficulties she was thankful for everyone for bringing things together.
In this virtual study tour are the nine-member consortium from Asia and Europe. Specifically, Asian partners from Vietnam are Hue University (overall project coordinator) and Vietnam National University of Agriculture; from Sri Lanka are University of Peradeniya and Rajarata University of Sri Lanka; and from Philippines are Central Luzon State University and Benguet State University. The European partners are Mendel University, Polytechnic of Coimbra, and Novel Group Sarl