The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Microsoft Corp. announced a joint task force to help higher education institutions worldwide meet the growing challenge of supporting economic stimulus efforts and work-force development strategies. The UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher Education and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) will create a strategic plan of action to identify how ICT can be used by governments as a catalyst for change. The announcement was made at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE), which opened today and is being attended by close to 100 ministers of education, senior education officials and policy advisors.
The UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher Education and ICT will analyse the findings and recommendations of the WCHE, in addition to feedback from global higher education experts and stakeholders, to identify key initiatives that will promote more effective use of ICT in post-secondary teaching, learning and research.
“Higher education is increasingly strategic for building up skilled work forces in countries. Our focus has been on ensuring that tertiary institutions address the key long-term requirements of our increasingly knowledge-based societies and that students today are best equipped to drive and support economic growth and to address major development challenges from education to health to the environment,” said Nicholas Burnett, UNESCO assistant director-general for education. “Through the creation of the UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher Education and ICT we will help mobilise critical strategic resources to better assist ministries of education worldwide.”
The current economic downturn combined with rising demand for higher education places governments under enormous pressure to fund enhancements in higher education and support programs needed to train the next generation of work forces with the new skills necessary for economic recovery. Under the umbrella of the UNESCO-Microsoft Task Force on Higher Education and ICT and through the Microsoft Education Alliance, Microsoft will provide a tailored package of resources for short-term higher education enhancements, including curriculum, training and affordable access to collaboration and development software.