Institutional Reforms In The Higher Education Sector Of Mozambique And Ethical Issues

The need to eradicate poverty through increased literacy

One of the central goals defined by the Government of Mozambique in its long-term development strategy is “poverty reduction through labour-intensive economic growth”. The highest priority is assigned to reduce poverty in rural areas, where 90 percent of poor Mozambicans live, and also in urban zones. The Government recognizes also that, for this development strategy on poverty eradication to succeed, expansion and improvement in the education system are critically important elements in both long-term and short-term perspectives.

In the long term, universal access to education of acceptable quality is essential for the development
of Mozambique´s human resources, and the economic growth will depend to a significant extend on the education and training of the labour force. It is very important to develop a critical mass of well trained and highly qualified workforce which in turn will improve the overall literacy, intellectual development, training capacity and technical skills in various areas of the country’s economic and industrial development.

In the short term, increased access and improved quality in basic education are powerful mechanisms for wealth redistribution and the promotion of social equity. This policy is consistent with the provisions of the new Constitution of Mozambique adopted on 16 November 2004, in its articles 113 and 114 which deal respectively with education and higher education. Around the year 1990, the Government of Mozambique decided to change its social, economic and political orientation system from the centrally-planned system inherited from the communist era and adopted a western-style of free market system. At the same time, it was also decided to adopt fundamental changes in the education programmes. Since drastic changes and wide ranging effects were resulting from the adoption of the new economic and political orientation, it was necessary to provide new guidelines and rules governing the management of institutions of higher education.

The struggle continues: “a luta continua” !

The economic and political changes were progressively introduced with success through legislative and regulatory reforms. However, it has not been very easy to evenly change rules of social and cultural behaviour. In particular, vulnerable younger generations are the most affected by the rapid changes in society, while the reference model and values they expect from elder people in the modern Mozambican society seem to be shifting very fast. And in some instances, there seem to be no model at all. The new wave of economic liberalism in Mozambique, better defined by the popular concept of “deixa andar”, literally meaning “laisser-faire”, was mistakenly adopted as the guiding principle in the areas of social, cultural and education development.

The “laisser-faire” principle is better understood by economists and entrepreneurs in a system of open market and free entrepreneurship, under which the Government’s intervention is reduced to exercising minimum regulatory agency. The recent considerable economic growth realized by the Government of Mozambique (10% of successive growth index over four years) is attributed mainly to this free market policy. This principle should be carefully differentiated from “laisser-aller” which, in French language, rather means lack of discipline in academic, economic, social and cultural environments.
Reforming higher education institutions represents a real challenge, both at the institutional and pedagogic levels, not only in Mozambique, but elsewhere and in particular in African countries faced with the problem of “acculturation”. The youth seeking knowledge opportunities in national universities, polytechnics and higher institutes, where students are somehow left on their own, having no longer any need to be under permanent supervision of their parents or teachers, are disoriented. Since reforms in higher education institutions take longer than in any other institutional environment, it is necessary indeed to adopt adequate transitional measures to respond to urgent need of the young generations.

This essay reviews current trends and the recent historical background of higher education institutions of Mozambique. It argues against the adoption of the classical model of higher education from European and other western systems. In its final analysis, it finds that there is need to include ethical and deontology (social, cultural and moral education) components as priority sectors within the curriculum in higher education institutions, with a view to instill in the students and lecturers positive African values in general, and in particular, national Mozambican models. It is rejecting the neo-liberal thinking, which proposes that students in higher education institutions should be allowed to enjoy unlimited academic, social and intellectual uncontrolled independence, in conformity with western classical education and cultural orientation. It advocates for critical thinking and brainstorming on key issues towards the development of positive cultural and ethical models in higher education institutions which could be used to promote knowledge development and poverty eradication in the country’s rural areas and urban zones affected by unemployment, pandemics and economic precariousness.

The colonial legacy and its cultural impact on higher education in Mozambique.

Many experts have described the Mozambican mother of higher education as an institution for colonialists and “assimilados” . The first institution of higher education in Mozambique was established by the Portuguese government in 1962, soon after the start of the African wars of independence. It was called the General University Studies of Mozambique (Estudos Gerais Universitários de Moçambique EGUM). In 1968, it was renamed Lourenço Marques University. The university catered for the sons and daughters of Portuguese colonialists. Although the Portuguese government preached non-racism and advocated the assimilation of its African subjects to the Portuguese way of life, the notorious deficiencies of the colonial education system established under the Portuguese rule ensured that very few Africans would ever succeed in reaching university level. However, many educated African were led to adopt the colonial lifestyle.

In spite of Portugal’s attempts to expand African educational opportunities in the late 1960s and early 1970s, only about 40 black Mozambican students – less than 2 per cent of the student body -had entered the University of Lourenço Marques by the time of independence in 1975. The state and the university continued to depend heavily on the Portuguese and their descendants. Even the academic curriculum was defined according to the needs and policies defined long ago by the colonial power.
Soon after Independence in June 1975, the Government of Mozambique, from the FRELIMO party, adopted a Marxist-Leninist orientation and a centrally planned economy. The educational system was nationalized, and the university was renamed after Dr. Eduardo Mondlane, the first president of FRELIMO.

Many cadres trained in Portugal and other European and American universities came also with their own educational and cultural background. Apart from the Eduardo Mondlane University, new public and private universities and institutes were established. These include the Pedagogic University, the ISRI, the Catholic University, ISPU, ISCTEM and ISUTC. Most of these institutions adopted a curriculum clearly modeled on the classical European model. There is still need to integrate African traditional values in the course profiles offered and research programmes developed by these institutions.

The traditional role of a university is to enlighten and serve as a reference within the society: “illuminatio et salus populi”. Today, Mozambique is one of the most culturally and racially diversified society of Africa. This diversity should be considered as a cultural treasure for the nation. It has become however apparent that it’s more a “Babel Tower case”, as no unified Mozambican values appear to develop from this wide variety. With the creation of new public and private universities and new faculties, it would become easier to increase a critical mass of university lecturers and academic professionals, who would in their turn, influence the society, creating and instilling national positive values and ethical principles of conduct in the younger generations. According to many lecturers and students contacted at UEM, Universidade Pedagogica UP and UDM, the impact of higher education on the development of positive academic, scientific, social and cultural values in Mozambique is yet to be felt.

It is however necessary to acknowledge the importance of newly introduced community-based education programmes in some institutions. For instance the emphasis on community and service has guided curriculum development at the Catholic University; its course in agronomy (Cuamba) concentrates on peasant and family farming systems and leans heavily on research and outreach within local farming communities. The CU course in medicine (developed in collaboration with the University of Maastricht) which concentrates on teaching medicine, was particularly deemed appropriate for the rural and urban poor populations of Mozambique, as it is more based on problem-solving and focuses much more on traditional issues.

New Reforms in higher education institutions with a more participative approach

Mozambique is one of few countries in Africa where a new generation of leadership has stepped forward to articulate a vision for their institutions, inspiring confidence among those involved in higher education development and the modernization of their universities. In a series of case studies sponsored and published by the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa , it was confirmed that African universities covered by the studies have widely varying contexts and traditions. They are engaged in broad reform, examining and revising their planning processes, introducing new techniques of financial management, adopting new technologies, reshaping course structures and pedagogy, and more important, reforming practices of governance based in particular on their own contexts and traditions.

Important institutional reforms concerning the strategic planning experiences of the Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) were initiated and implemented so far. Two strategic planning cycles were developed, the first in 1990 and the second one in 1996 / 97. The second one was meant to adapting to the impacts of newly adopted multi-party democracy, market competition, and globalization. Whereas the first reform cycle was the result of high level officials at the University, the second one was generated using a participatory methodology deemed to be more effective in involving the university staff in the process.

It is important to listen to everyone, and to be seen as listening. We are also convinced that various components of the population in Mozambique should be involved in the next phases of the process with a view to define what kind of education orientation the population would wish to have for their children.
There is important progress but yet limited academic impact on the development of the society
Considerable progress has been so far made in post-independence Mozambique. After the initial problems caused by the long years of civil war and then the long efforts necessitated by the adjustment to a market-driven economy and a multi-party democratic political order, Mozambique is now considered to have a higher education system that offers a wide variety of course options and extensive research opportunities. However, a major weakness highlighted by many observers is that all the institutions remain basically concentrated in the capital city of Maputo and its neighboring provinces. It is argued that they serve only a limited fraction of the Mozambican population, and are destined to train the elite of prominent people in government and in the professions, industry and commerce. It is also alleged that the majority of the students who succeed in entering public and private institutions of higher education are from relatively rich families.

It is finally emphasized that nearly 80 per cent of university students in Mozambique use Portuguese as their principal means of communication, thus strengthening the perception of establishing, reproducing and consolidating a hereditary elite, with model values copied on western societies. In response to this challenge, it was suggested that the government should encourage the emergence of new and non-traditional HEIs closer to the local communities, able to respond more rapidly and flexibly to the demands and expectations of the public and private sectors for a high quality trained workforce, while addressing both regional and socioeconomic imbalances in the country.

In our final analysis, we find that the impact of higher education institutions on the development and dissemination of traditional African social and cultural values would be very limited for a long period. As long as the access and feed-back from all levels of the society and regions will be left out of the core interaction with the highly educated elite and higher education institutions mainly concentrated in Maputo, the role of universities in promoting African positive values, a culture of academic ethics and deontology in the entire national society will be very limited.

The process of “Nation building” needs to rely on a strong academic support. One of the Government’s main constitutional commitments is to promote the development of the national culture and identity (article 115 of the 2004 Constitution). It is clear that many institutions, for instance the television, are actively promoting cultural diversity through various means. Institutions of higher education should be seen doing more, in particular starting with the students themselves and the academic community members, who are expected to be the light of the society. Such actions would include the integration of courses on ethics and deontology, and develop a wide-ranging variety of education models that reprove negative behavior and promote positive values. Our recommendation is that the Government should for example instruct public universities and other higher education institutions, to appoint “Ethics and Deontology Committees” at the level of their University Councils and within all autonomous faculties.

Open Source Software in Higher Education

The higher education sector is quite unlike other industries. It has its own processes and a different set of demands. Most commercial proprietary application vendors develop their applications focused on a wider domain spread across industries. This, academics complain, creates a distinct disconnect between software vendors and the end-users in academia.

To overcome these shortcomings, the education industry started looking to “open source” as an alternate model. Around a decade back, institutions started debating total cost of ownership in adopting an open source based community approach vis-à-vis proprietary applications, viability of open source based business models, sustainability and security issues.

The success of community developed open source software is quite well established. Linux and Apache are ample proof of its success. A similar trend, though not that widespread in its reach, can be traced to the development of community projects in education like the Moodle and Sakai.

Through the course of its formative years, the open source community based approach in education has developed several alternative models. Some of these models and schools of thought have thrived and been implemented successfully across a significant spectrum of the industry. Progress and success in open source projects like the Sakai, Moodle, Kuali, uPortal, Shibboleth, and many more are being closely watched by the industry.

Community Source Model

One school of thought believes that open source sharing is more a philosophical approach than a viable alternative. The adoption of open source in higher education seems to suggest otherwise. FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) communities are thriving well in learning environments too.

The FLOSS model has been extensively used in initiatives like the MIT OpenCourseWare and Open Source Biology. Project Gutenberg, the Wikipedia, The Open Dictionary project are prime examples of how open source has been successfully adapted to education initiatives.

In a community source project, multiple institutions come together to partner in the project. All partners contribute financially as well as in employing human resources for the effort. In the early stages, the partnering institutions provide all design and development efforts and only in subsequent stages is the project opened to the broader community. This way, the initial support is secured and the institutions have a substantial influence in deciding how the application is modeled and designed.

The initial focus of community source projects is on collaboration between institutions. The focus in the crucial first stages is therefore to form a common economic outlook and an appropriate administrative framework rather than forming a community around a shared code. Most community based open source projects slowly migrate to open source in the later stages.

The Sakai project, for example, started as a joint effort between four institutions (Michigan, Indiana, MIT and Stanford). The initial agenda was to set up a framework of common goals that would produce appropriate software based on an agreed list of objectives. The scope for participation was later increased by forming the Sakai Educational Partners Program (SEPP), whereby other institutions can join and participate in the community for a small fee.

The Current Landscape

An education enterprise like any organization has its own needs ranging from resource planning to budgeting. Additionally, they have typical requirements like the need to integrate with financial aid programs of the government, multiple payroll cycles, and student information systems (SIS) that handle admissions, grades, transcripts, student records as well as billing. All these call for robust ERP systems. Until recently, colleges and universities mostly rely on either custom-developed systems that are more than 15 years old, or have transitioned to commercial products from vendors like Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft or vendors like SunGard that are geared towards the higher education market.

Kuali Financials was borne due to the lack of open source solutions Enterprise applications in the higher education sector are comprised of a mix of some proprietary application vendors and some key open source community initiatives. PeopleSoft, Oracle, SunGard and Datatel are some key vendors that offer tightly integrated ERP packages for the education sector.

Recent consolidation in the industry, like the acquisition of PeopleSoft by Oracle and of WebCT, Angel, etc by Blackboard, has caused considerable unease in the education fraternity. The concern stems from the fear that the trend of consolidation would lead to the monopoly of a few key vendors. The plans of these vendors to offer tightly integrated systems heightens the fear that this will provide an unfair leverage to these vendors as it would extend the community’s dependence on them.

One area of concern about proprietary applications is a seeming disconnect between the industry and software application developers. Institutions also have strong reservations about the currently available administrative software and course management systems. The feeling is that applications provided by vendors such as SAP and PeopleSoft are adapted from other industries and does not work well for educational enterprises. Moreover, the proprietary nature of the applications implies that the source code is not available and customization efforts involve substantial costs.

In the context of such a wide breadth of requirements, open source can prove to be a viable alternative. In fact, these constraints provided the impetus for open source initiatives in higher education. Some of the success has helped provide a strong foundation to building an alternative support model for the education industry.

In the Sakai project, the participating institutions decided to integrate and synchronize their educational software into a pre-integrated collection of open source tools termed Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE). Sakai has active implementations running at multiple institutes including the University of Michigan and Indiana University.

In parallel, Sakai also established a set of activity based communities that have spawned an active cooperation between the industry and application vendors. The Sakai Educational Partners Program allows educational institutions to participate in the program for a small fee. Besides, there are the Sakai Commercial Affiliates, who offer fee-based services for installation, integration and support..

Kuali, on the other hand, mainly addresses aspects of educational administration. The Kuali Financial System (KFS) is the most prominent application. It handles administrative and operational tasks like general accounting, purchasing, salary and benefits, budgeting, asset management and grants. The system is designed around modules that enable it to be tweaked to work with existing commercial applications. For example, at Indiana University, Kuali applications work together with PeopleSoft’s HR and student system. The Kuali Foundation is a non-profit consortium of multiple universities and some hardware and software companies. The Kuali Commercial Affiliate program operates on similar lines like its Sakai counterpart. The community has been growing and now includes the University of California, Cornell, Michigan State University, San Joaquin Delta College (Calif.), and The University of Arizona.

Significantly, according to the 2008 Campus Computing Survey, around 13.8 percent of the survey participants have already identified an Open Source LMS – either Moodle or Sakai – as the campus standard LMS.

Besides these, several other projects offer SIS functionality. For example, openSIS manages student demographics, scheduling, attendance, grades, transcripts, and health records, and its parent company makes add-on modules to support additional features like disciplinary tracking, billing, food service, and bulk email/SMS messaging for emergency contact.

Other Key intiaitives are

JaSig community developing uPortal, and CAS (Central Authentication Services) two components serving as input to Kuali Rice.

Internet2 – A consortium led by universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies including products such as Shibboleth and Grouper

Open Source Curricula

As with any “open source” activity, open source curricula by its very definition is one that can be freely used, distributed and modified. A model like this would seemingly be antithetic to the concept of higher education as it strikes at the credibility of the education environment. Campus education is designed to operate as a structured learning methodology. The concept of community collaboration involving academics and students on the same platform brings a lot of unpredictability into the scenario

However, FLOSS communities (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) in education have proved to be quite successful. A key principle of this learning approach is its root in adapting it to the context of ones’ experience. With its stress on learners and their preferences, this learning approach focuses more on learning by collaboration, communication and sharing.

Significant initiatives include the Connexions Project at Rice University, the OpenCourseWare project at MIT and the social learning medium of Wikipedia.

The FLOSS approach in higher education has been operating in combination with traditional teacher centered approaches. The objectives of the FLOSS approach are not to replace traditional methods but to achieve synergies in combination and offer the learner an enhanced learning environment.

The ‘FLOSS-like education transfer report’ published in September 2008, as part of the FLOSSCOM project, notes that FLOSS communities can create effective learning environments. The study has also come up with three different approaches that could be combined effectively with traditional teaching approaches.

Economic Models of Open Source

One aspect that clearly marks the adoption of open source as a winner is the fact that in this scenario, the developers are most often also the users of the software. This removes the perceived disconnect between the developer community and the end-users unlike in the case of proprietary applications. However, this is less evident in the case of administrative applications like payroll or HR. In such cases, adoption of open source has to be a directed process.

Initiatives like the Kuali project have proved that open source can also build up sustainable models that provide adequate support mechanisms. In such models, there is active collaboration between the community that comprises not only developers and end-users, but also an extended support group comprising commercial vendors. These support groups are available to offer timely support to mission critical applications. The community approach also ensures that the code is not closed and that an active community of interest ensures that enhancements keep happening as necessitated.

Projects like uPortal have been developed with minimal resources but are deployed across hundreds of institutions. The community approach has proved sustainable as in the case of the Sakai project. In terms of funding, the Sakai project garnered an investment of $6.8 million over two years.

The viability of the open source, community based model stems not from the monetary or cost aspects but principally the adaptability that it offers. The debate over cost of ownership between commercially available proprietary software and open source applications is yet to be proved empirically. However, the fact that the code is open means it can be easily adapted to suit new requirements and does not involve significant investments in terms of customization or enhancements. This does make significant economic sense in the longer term.

The case for open source in higher education is nicely documented in a study by the Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness. In a 2005 study report titled, ‘Will Open Source Software Become an Important Institutional Strategy in Higher Education?’ Rob Abel notes how open source is a “great fit for higher education”. The study, based on an analysis of open source projects in education, opines that the community-based approach is an interesting model that also helps reduce the inherent risks in adopting an open source approach.

As for the cost model, the study notes that while open source has helped generate cost savings in the range of 20 to 30 percent for the commercial sector, the same may not be entirely true in education. The community-based approach, the writer notes, with its associated participation fees, may prove only marginally beneficial in terms of costs. Institutions that have their own infrastructure and resources may however, benefit from substantially reduced costs from their open source initiatives.

The Future

Open source has proved to be adaptable and a reliable platform for collaboration and learning. In their quest for ideal application software to handle administrative, operational and education platforms, most CIOs are looking at interoperability, reliability and scalability of applications. Applications like the Sakai and Kuali have proved beyond doubt that open source applications offer great configurability.

Development communities and the support of commercial vendors, as in the case of Kuali and Sakai, fuel a greater rate of innovation. Moreover, the advantage that is offered by collaboration also provides an impetus to continued improvement of the system. Support systems and enhancements for future requirements are ensured.

On the question of how to approach or adopt open source as a model, the answer would depend on the needs, the infrastructure and the means available to an institution. The community development model has shown that costs can be broadly distributed amongst participants. Experience shows that universities and colleges can collaborate to produce open source software that caters to their needs in a way that is superior to some commercial products. The collaborative model enables educational institutions to pool their financial and technical resources. Moreover, a larger community ensures that the applications are tested in a variety of testing environments, thus aiding in building robust solutions.

In term of core academics, learning systems will evolve to accommodate formative assessments and evaluation outside the classroom. Many higher education institutions have taken the lead of MIT and are offering online course materials that are accessible by anyone, free of cost. It has been adopted at Yale, Notre Dame, Tufts and Stanford School of Engineering, to name a few. The United Nations has launched an initiative that would leverage social media technologies and ideas to offer higher education opportunities to people who would otherwise not be able to afford the costs.

Commercially, open source projects have taken their first steps in the marketplace. The model is evolving aided by some significant commercial vendor backing. For the community-based open source approach to prosper, substantial financial backing is an absolute necessity to prevent it from faltering and to avoid the pitfalls that arise form source code being easily modifiable and rebranded by a different vendor. From the commercial perspective, projects like Sakai and the Kuali Foundation are likely to thrive as they have substantial stakeholders from both the academic and the corporate world.

What could derail further adoption? There are several potential risk areas:

Lack of understanding of entry points for adoption
Lack of support to adopt the applications
Minimal staff to support the applications
Lack of training / documentation to train staff
A “runaway” project that consumes much press and develops a negative bias toward the project

Many of these risks may be mitigated though co-operative initiatives between the foundations developing the open source solutions and commercial affiliates looking to support the solutions – and develop complementation solutions. Some examples:

Further publicity through conventional, non-education related channels such as Google and industry-based sites such as edu1world
Furrther innovation and cooperation – whether through ‘summer of code’ collaborations; or community collaborations that will transform the current listservs to more accessible forums
Commercial affiliates offering training and webinars
Commercial affiliates offering ease of use entry points, such as pre-installed servers or virtual images that can be downloaded and used out of the box

In conclusion, open source initiatives in higher education have a long way to go before they enter the commercial mainstream in a significant fashion. However, with industry and academic collaboration, it has a great potential to change the higher education landscape in the longer term.