Seneca College and University of Central Asia Build on Commitment to High Quality, Affordable Higher Education

OTTAWA, April 14, 2016 /CNW/ - Canada's Seneca College has reaffirmed a commitment to improving education in Central Asia through an innovative partnership with the University of Central Asia (UCA).

Seneca President David Agnew and Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, UCA's Executive Chairman of the Board Executive Committee and Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in the Kyrgyz Republic, commemorated the partnership at a signing ceremony in Ottawa today.

"We are delighted to deepen our existing collaboration with the University of Central Asia as it prepares to welcome its first cohort of undergraduates this fall. Seneca and UCA share a common belief that a world class education is one that offers a global perspective while empowering students to create social change both locally and internationally. We look forward to supporting UCA's efforts in Central Asia," Agnew said.

The partnership between UCA and Seneca is made possible by the financial support of Global Affairs Canada and Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC).

Mahmoud Eboo, the AKDN Representative in Canada and Khalil Z. Shariff, Chief Executive Officer of AKFC, spoke about Canada's support to a broad range of AKDN initiatives in Central Asia and the role of education in improving quality of life in the developing world.

In 2015, UCA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Toronto-based Seneca to develop the English, mathematics and science curriculum for UCA's Preparatory Programme. The Programme will be offered to the first cohort of undergraduates at the UCA campus in Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic starting in September 2016.

Under the agreement, Seneca assessed the needs of Central Asian students for additional academic preparation to succeed at the university level. The resulting one-year curriculum encourages students to develop new ways of thinking and working through assignments with logical reasoning, critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Seneca also designed and delivered a professional development program for UCA faculty, including training in Central Asia and Canada, and will provide in-class assessments and longer-term online resources and video conferencing support.

"The University of Central Asia is strengthened by our dynamic partnership with Seneca College, a global institution in every sense. Our partnership with Seneca and support from the Government of Canada is rooted in a shared belief that a university should provide the highest calibre of education to all qualified students, regardless of their background. With Seneca's support, our inaugural class of students will receive a rigorous academic programme that will prepare them for a truly international standard of education," Kassim-Lakha said.

Thursday's ceremony was held as part of the Smart Global Development conference in Ottawa, bringing together international experts to explore higher education's potential to contribute to sustainable development goals.

President Agnew also announced Seneca's support of 12 scholarships for talented students from Central Asia. Seneca will award Entrance Scholarships to four incumbent students, and will award four additional Merit Scholarships annually following a student's first year based on Grade Point Average (GPA) and demonstrated community service. Four Post-Graduate Tuition Scholarships will also be awarded to UCA alumni to pursue a one-year post-graduate certificate at Seneca in Canada.

Canada supports several UCA research and teaching initiatives in Central Asia and Afghanistan through Global Affairs Canada and the International Development Research Centre, including support to establish the University's Institute of Public Policy and Administration (IPPA). Global Affairs Canada has also supported UCA partnerships with the University of British Columbia, Carleton University and the University of Alberta.

UCA is building three residential campuses of the same stature, facility and standards. The Naryn campus will enrol its first students in September 2016, offering Communications and Media and Computer Science. The second campus opening in Khorog, Tajikistan in September 2017 will offer Economics as well as Earth and Environmental Sciences. The third campus, at Tekeli, Kazakhstan is anticipated in 2019 and will offer Engineering Sciences and Business and Management.

Seneca College, Canada
One of Canada's leading postsecondary institutions, Seneca offers a comprehensive range of programmes across all disciplines to nearly 100,000 full- and part-time students in campuses across the Greater Toronto Area. Seneca's graduate certificates, degrees, diplomas and certificates attract more than 5,500 students from 140 countries around the world and students from across Canada. With an emphasis on work-integrated learning, interdisciplinary study and flexible learning opportunities, Seneca is the pre-eminent institution in Ontario, Canada for transfer options to and from universities and colleges

Aga Khan Foundation Canada
Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) is a nonprofit international development agency, working in Asia and Africa to find sustainable solutions to the complex problems causing global poverty. AKFC concentrates on a small number of specific development challenges in health, education, rural development and civil society. In Canada, AKFC raises funds, builds partnerships with Canadian institutions, and promotes discussion and learning on international development issues. Established in 1980, AKFC is a registered Canadian charity and an agency of the worldwide Aga Khan Development Network.

The University of Central Asia
The University of Central Asia (UCA) was founded in 2000. The Presidents of Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Kazakhstan, and His Highness the Aga Khan signed the International Treaty and Charter establishing this secular and private University; ratified by the respective parliaments, and registered with the United Nations. The Presidents are the Patrons of UCA and His Highness is the Chancellor. UCA's mission is to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain societies by offering an internationally recognized standard of higher education, and help the different peoples of the region to preserve and draw upon their rich cultural traditions and heritages as assets for the future. UCA brings with it the commitment and partnership of the Aga Khan Development Network. For more information on UCA, please visit: www.ucentralasia.org.

Sidebar Story

Canadian and Central Asian Educators Put University of Central Asia-Seneca Partnership into Practice

As the University of Central Asia (UCA) prepares to welcome its first class of undergraduates, the results of an innovative, ongoing partnership between UCA and Canada's Seneca College is at the core of the students' first year of study.

Dr. Valerie Lopes, Professor and Director of Teaching and Learning at Seneca, is spearheading the curriculum development efforts.

"The goal of the preparatory year is to help students develop cognitive, academic and linguistic proficiency as they prepare for full-time university study. Courses are focused on developing the specific ways of thinking and doing required to be successful university students and citizens," Dr Lopes explained.

Courses are designed within a framework of "constructive alignment" – an approach that encourages students to construct meaning from learning activities relevant to their own lives in Central Asia, while also developing a global awareness and perspective.

"The partnership with Seneca has resulted in a rich, highly integrated math, science and English curriculum that is responsive to the needs of our Central Asian students. The curriculum integration in these subjects is the hallmark of upgrading at UCA. This is challenging to implement, but by all accounts will ensure UCA students have a truly robust upgrading experience," said Dr Ariff Kachra, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, UCA.

Bunyod Tusmatov, mathematics lecturer at UCA noted that Seneca's approach addresses deficiencies in the ways that Central Asian students currently learn essential subjects like mathematics.

"The traditional approach to teaching mathematics in Central Asia is through basic math skills and memorization. But society and the modern labour market require students to think quantitatively and use creativity in their problem solving. The progressive mathematics curriculum designed by Seneca integrates group activities, games, puzzles and individual projects requiring students to move beyond memorization and towards applied thinking and learning," Tusmatov explained.

A key component of UCA's cooperation with Seneca is the professional development of UCA staff. Tusmatov and colleague Dr. Roza Kazakbaeva, English lecturer at UCA, travelled to Toronto for more than three weeks of training with the Seneca team. The UCA faculty members learned to create effective class assessments and rubrics, integrate technology into the classroom, and employ the latest teaching strategies to improve learning outcomes. Kazakbaeva and Tusmatov also audited math and English courses delivered at Seneca that mirror those developed for the UCA Preparatory Programme.

"We often hear young people saying that they hate math or that math is boring," Tusmatov said. "I am really looking forward to seeing students changing their attitude towards mathematics after their prep-year math courses."

UCA's Preparatory Programme will be offered to the first cohort of undergraduates at the UCA campus in Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic from September 2016, and replicated for the first year of undergraduate programming at UCA campuses in Khorog, Tajikistan campus in 2017, and Tekeli Kazakhstan campus beginning in 2019.

SOURCE Seneca College

Image with caption: "David Agnew, Seneca President and Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Executive Chairman of the University of Central Asia (UCA) Board Executive Committee and Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in the Kyrgyz Republic, reaffirm commitment to improving education in Central Asia. (CNW Group/Seneca College)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160414_C3474_PHOTO_EN_666218.jpg



For further information: David Brazeau, Associate Director, Communications, Seneca College, Canada, 416-705-9558, Email: David.Brazeau@senecacollege.ca; Nisar Keshvani, Director of Communications and Marketing, University of Central Asia, Mobile: +996 (0) 770 822 851, Email: nisar.keshvani@ucentralasia.org

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