Africa Center of Excellence ACE2


School-Industry Collaboration: Recent Case Studies from China

Prof Wang of Beijing University shared with the World Bank a few recent school-industry collaboration cases from China which the Africa Centers of Excellence could adopt. These include: flexible tri-semester design to balance practical and academic curriculum, formalized apprenticeship, industry-ordered training programs, human resource sharing (teachers and industrialists mingle) and joint patent.

Africa China World Bank Partnership Forum on Higher Education, Science, and Technology was a fruitful learning journey

From July 10-15, 2017, under the overall guidance of the Africa education management, the Africa region ACE and PASET teams organized the 1st Africa China World Bank Education Partnership Forum on Higher Education, Science and Technology.  About 80 delegates from 15 African countries and the 46 Centers of Excellence financed by the Bank’s ACE Projects visited Beijing and Shanghai to: (a) learn about the frontier of science and technology in agriculture, health, renewable energy, education and other sectors in China, (b) share lessons and practical approaches in teaching, learning, research, innovation and technology transfer and higher education management , and (c) form new and deepen existing partnerships between Africa and China.

Beijing Part, July 10-13, 2017

The forum was inaugurated by the President of Chinese Academy of Sciences Mr. Chunli Bai and officials from the Chinese Ministries of Finance, Agriculture, and Foreign Experts.  The University of Chinese Academy of Sciences model is an example of fusion of higher education and research, with students taking core courses during the first year and doing research and practice in the research centers in the next 3 years.  CAS’s immense architecture of more than 20 graduate schools, 110 or so research institutes, 500+ spin off companies including Lenovo, and access to the national key air, space, and other laboratories illustrated to us not only the importance of research in graduate education but also the importance of linking university research with national development priorities.  The delegation visited private companies including Lenovo, Sugon, and the Beijing Tidelion Rainwater Harvesting Technology that specializes in rain water conservation technology to produce green energy smart irrigation and other home heating and hot water systems.  These companies expressed interests to work with ACEs on skills development in their respective fields.


Thematic exchanges were held on agriculture, industry/energy, health, and education/ICT themes, during which the Chinese experts and African delegates shared their respective priorities and approaches and discussed collaboration.  Agriculture and climate change theme was the most active group with about 25 delegates, showing high demand and interest in agriculture collaboration.  The member of the Third World Academy of Science and the Co-Chair of IPCC and the academician of the CAS Dr Qin’s talk on climate change raised further the importance of climate change-smart agriculture.  The Deputy Director of IGDB Prof Hu presented the agriculture development in China, the overall strategy, four development stages and technologies introduced at each stage, as well as how the reform and development of agriculture has contributed to the poverty reduction in China.  The example of the Academy’s TA and partnership with Kenya in agriculture drew many delegates’ interest.  Prof Woreka of Haramaya University introduced the development and challenges of the agriculture sector in Africa and expressed the high relevance of the Chinese experience in effective disseminating new research and technologies and rising agriculture productivity for poverty reduction to Africa. The discussions then focused on concrete areas for collaboration, especially technology transfer in the proven areas such as fertilizing soil/crops and water conservation technology which have produced positive results in the Kenya case. 

CAS and UCAS are keen on international collaboration with Africa.  UCAS has concretely proposed to partner with ACEs on the Africa Ph.D. students’ re-entry into the ACEs and their host universities, in addition to various other bilateral agreements.  A signing ceremony took place whereby the UCAS signed draft agreement in principle to partner with ACEs and PASET.  Also in Beijing, Nanjing Agriculture University signed their bilateral MOU with the Egerton University Kenya to develop joint degree programs, faculty and student exchanges.  Southwest Jiaotong University developed concrete partnership action plan with the Addis Ababa University on railway program collaboration.  The tropical plants research institute from the Hainan Island of China and several ACEs also had exchange and established contacts for further discussion on future collaborations/partnerships.  The Fishery ACE in Malawi had exchange with the Freshwater Fisheries Research Institute (FFRI) in Shanghai and discussed their potential partnership, expecting to sign a MOU at the next ACE meeting in Ghana in November.

Shanghai Part, July 13-15, 2017

Shanghai Jiaotong University gave us an in-depth view of their approaches to engineering education and the intimate university industry partnership.  The global trends overview of engineering education helped us establish a conceptual framework and the motivation for the recent global engineering education reform. The delegation was delighted to learn that the Chinese engineering education are successfully infusing the so called 21st century skills such as problem solving, creativity and leadership into the traditional rather “nerdy” and “dry” engineering education.  The use of project-based learning, internationalization, innovation fair, Fab Lab and virtual reality classrooms have become an integral part of the engineering education.  Offering “entrepreneurship and business training” as minor degrees to accompany the engineering and science degrees seem to be another innovative feature that positively impacted on graduate employment and job creation. 

The cases of the joint institutes with Michigan and Paris Tech Elite Engineering Institute further provided good examples of international collaboration and fusion of Chinese engineering education with those of France and US to create world class engineering programs.   The university industry linkage, as they do it in SJTU, is truly win win for both universities and industries.  In the words of Prof. Njau, “I wish I could bring the professors from SJTU to NM-AIST. I would even drive them around in Serengeti National Park myself to see the wildebeests so I can learn from them”.  The policies allowing professors to share patents/benefits and participate in industry advising and even executive roles are rather recent but undoubtedly have had profound impact on the university especially those who are more technology and engineering inclined.  

Benchmarking of African Universities:   SJTU is also the university that had incubated the now prominent Shanghai Ranking Consulting which publishes annually the ARWU Rankings since 2009.  The Shanghai Ranking had provided technical assistance to PASET’s Benchmarking Initiative particularly in the development of the methodology, data collection and analysis. Thirty-one universities from sub-Saharan Africa had participated in the 2016 exercise, 19 of them hosting ACEs. Dr Mu of Shanghai Ranking provided highlights of the results and some of the challenges the exercise encountered in the areas of data quality and data availability. She also touched briefly on the performance of African universities at the global level as captured in global university rankings. Delegates showed strong interest in the benchmarking of African universities, though there were concerns raised about the legitimacy of global rankings with respect to African universities.  The World Bank team, leading the benchmarking efforts under PASET also briefly presented the next steps which would include an updated methodology, launch of the next round in February 2018, support to universities to provide quality data and inclusion of graduate tracer studies.

Shanghai Chongming Island Ecological Site Visit.  Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda agriculture ACEs visited the Chongming Island, a global eco-friendly hub in the Yangtze River outside of Shanghai. The team was introduced to the objectives of the Qianxiaoju Innovative Farm which includes researching and developing of innovative ways of growing and using oranges (beyond the traditional uses, for example in making soap, body lotions, tea) and serving as educational platform.  The Farm is a good example of a successful partnership between academia and local industry.  Delegates also visited the Dongtan National Nature Reserve and Education Center which serves as a “fueling” station or migratory birds and were provided useful information on the steps taken to ensure that both nationally and globally, the Reserve is recognized for its contribution to the global ecology.  The reserve’s Education Center’s activities include a cordgrass control demonstration area, dissemination of scientific knowledge on wetland conservation, migratory birds and habitat protection, preservation and display of specimens (mostly of the various migratory birds sighted at the reserve) and support to schools, universities and research institutes.  With Africa’s rich resources in agricultural lands and its many national parks and reserves, this visit provided good examples to the ACEs of some important interventions being done in China in these respects and their interactions with the local communities.

Partnership between ACE and SJTU: The visit to SJTU culminated in a Huangpu River Cruise, which allowed the participants to witness the vast development in the east side of Shanghai which was practically rice paddy two decades ago.  The delegation and SJTU proposed and discussed a number of partnership ideas, including summer institute for ACE faculty and students on engineering, scholarships from SJTU, collaboration between faculty of pharmacy with AAU to develop standards for indigenous drug development, possibly establishing an agriculture research and training center with agriculture ACEs.  The ACEs will think through these carefully, consult with their respective center and university management and follow up either directly with SJTU or through the RFU and WB on these partnership ideas. 

Visit to Shanghai Normal University on teacher and mathematics education

Though this is a forum on higher education science and technology, delegation fully acknowledged the critical importance of basic education and teacher education as foundation.  For the group that are interested in teacher education, the visit to Shanghai Normal University constituted the 3rd part of the Forum.   12 members of the African delegation including the Director General of Higher Education Senegal and Ghana higher education council executive director.  This was indeed another eye-opening experience.  In the words of Prof. Swai from NM-AIST Tanzania, the program keeps getting better!  After a brief introduction of Shanghai macro context and the university, the presentation centered on teacher education and mathematics education.  We learned about the Shanghai “secrets” of teacher education: continuous professional development, school based teaching and research group which provides integrated and school based induction of new teachers, mentoring coaching, classroom observations, action research, career ladder and other incentives for good teaching. 

The delegation learned about the Chinese math philosophy and the key pedagogical approaches of balancing memorization with understanding, balancing structure with student exploration, variation of pedagogy, taking small steps, a high expectation for every student, and explicit standards.  In the 2009 and 2012 PISA tests, Shanghai average 15 year-olds outperformed those of OECD by an equivalent of three years’ schooling. SNU is a champion in the Shanghai PISA and also now has been entrusted by the British Government to train the UK mathematics teachers in the last three years.  The Shanghai Math textbooks are being published in English to be widely used in UK as well.  Prof Yadav from the University of Rwanda Innovative Teaching of Math and Science Center shared the Rwanda experience as well as a few Africa regional approaches to math and sciences.  Prof. Yadav further proposed a few potential areas for collaboration with Shanghai Normal University.  The Rwanda Innovative Teaching of Math and Science Center and the Benin Math Teaching Center are the only 2 out of 46 ACEs that focus on mathematics and teacher education.  Collaboration with Shanghai Normal and other relevant Chinese teacher education institutes promises to expose the African teachers to Shanghai practices. 

Also relevant to the ACEs is the Shanghai Municipal wide policy to provide 6 month of pedagogical training for all new university faculty for the entire city.  SNU is one of the universities that provide such pedagogical training for new Shanghai university faculty.  The ACE delegation was very enthusiastic about this issue as they lamented on the lack of teaching experience among the new faculty and researchers of the universities.  The ACE representatives unanimously agreed on the critical importance of pedagogical training for university faculty and researchers and agree to take this up during the remainder of the ACEI implementation at the center or regional levels. 

In summary, it was a very fruitful learning journey for the African and the World Bank delegation.  Major media in both Africa and China reported on the forum.  The ACEs and the Chinese institutions will take partnership dialogue forward and formulate concrete actions plans, with continued support from the relevant Chinese ministries and the World Bank.  The Chinese government support to the One Belt One Road Initiative strongly incentivized the Chinese institutions and private sector to work with African countries, meaning that this is the time and opportunity for education partnership between Africa and China.  In the words of the Vice Chancellor of Uganda Martyrs University Prof. Maviiri: “We learnt a lot from the Chinese higher education vision and management.  We returned home with plenty of lessons and benchmarks to assist improving our own. We are also fascinated by the open invitation to partner with our Chinese counterparts. The long-term benefits of this trip are glaring and we will take advantage of this opportunity to internationalize our institutions.”  Vice Chancellor of Mbarara University of Science and Technology Prof. Celestino Obua said: “There have been moments of awe, wonder and at times incredulity of how our Chinese partners have changed their approach to technology and development in general. That we have learnt a lot cannot be overstated. We can only hope that the momentum that we have started this July 2017 will never slow down, and will see African Institutions rise to claim their rightful position amongst the giants of today.”    The Director of Higher Education Tanzania Ms. Sylvia Temu said: “The Forum was a very enriching opportunity to all of us.  The lessons drawn from over a decade of the Chinese government investment in higher education and research are vivid and with great tangible outcomes.  Consistency, focus on high level strategic issues of national priority as well as keeping abreast with international developments in higher education have proven to work in China.  For me, this is a wakeup call.”