A Conceptual Proposal for the Creation of the Global University for Central America (GUCA)
Central America has changed. In the brief span of time elapsed since the first Esquipulas agreements, the Central Americans have achieved a almost stop to the political violence that afflicted several countries of the region; democracies have been established and renovated; human rights respect have reached new heights and a new regional integration system has been defined.
This declaration emitted at the XV Ordinary Meeting of Central American Presidents projects the effort to change the Central American isthmus, within each of the constituent countries, and at regional level by means of the Central American Integration System acting as legal-political frame and that is complemented, since 1994, by an integral strategy for sustainable development in Central America, which marks a change in the schemes of our individual and collective attitudes, as well as of the policies and actions towards sustainability of the political, economical, social, cultural and environmental aspects of our societies.
Such initiative known as Central American Alliance for a Sustainable Development is a national and regional strategy, whereby we assume the responsibility for a better and more efficient use of the resources in our region.
Such resources, specially the human ones, are essential to reach the sustainable development goal of bettering and guaranteeing the quality of human life, a goal that requires important investments in human resources, access to education and forming of that technical and professional participation that contributes to an equitable economical growth which in turn leads to a successful war against poverty.
With this perspective in mind, we have given a high priority to basic education, formation and qualification with the conviction that "the development of human resources is simultaneously a basic condition to increase productivity as well as a vehicle for a fairer society."
However the latest natural disaters, mainly Mitch, has made an impact on Nicaragua, and Honduras, that have set them back in time. Human and finatial resources, initially meant to devlop industry and agriculture have now to be used in fixing up infrastructure damage. European countries have lend their efforts to help achieve such a goal, conditioned to make a definitive impact in some areas, by developing them in a order manner. City lay out, school and clinic locations will now be done in a planned way.
Countries like Costa Rica, which suffered much less, and which has shown a high educational level may now be a source for continuous educational programs broadcast to rural areas in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Common language, and similarity of problems in the region will make it easier to do so.
2. NATURE AND OBJECTIVES
The Global University for Central America is thought as a confederation of Central American universities and regional institutions, which will jointly develop university level, and adult education programs aimed at offering members of different communities in the region courses which will improve carrers offered by local universities, by using qualified human resources in the area. It will also seek to help improve medical care by improving nurse trainning, and eventually transmit actual medical data.
GUCA has these four main objectives:
It is expected that this approach will help turn down some of the ill perceptions that people of one country has of the other, basically that some groups are nourishing from the efforts of the others, without receiving anything back.
Eventually GUCA programs may reach academic status by means of the regional universities turning itself in a tool to promote free professional mobility in the region, contributing to the integration process.
In addition to satellite technology, whenever it sees fit, regular class schemes, as well as regular mail, courier, E-Mail, conferences, video conferences, etc. will be used. The final choice will depent on how affordable the education will be for the given population.
On the organization side, is view as made up of:
An Advisory Committee (Board of Trustees): constituted by well-known people, in and out of the region, related to the use of distributed information. It will be made up of nine members, representing the public, academic,and private sectors. Those from the academic sector will be chosen from the universities which has excelled in the region. Those from the private, and public sector will be chosen among academic personnel who have had strong contact with those sectors, in order to guarantee that the needs of those two sectors will be well represented.
Board of Directors: Will be made up by representatives of those universities. The will be in charge of setting up the policies. They will also determine the priorities of each of the programs to be carried out according to the financial resources available, and their possible impact on society. Will also act as a bridge between the General Coordinator and the institutions represented.
General Coordinator: Will be proposed to the Board of Directors. Will be in charge of seeking financial support for the proposed projects, set guidelines the distribution of available funds, check that GUCA does its job. Will have the faculty to contract, under the private licensee scheme, those works that are occasionally needed, such as the installation of new equipment. He will be helped by a small administrative staff, who will take care of information, statistics, as well as public information.
Academic Committee: Will establish the guidelines to select, analyze, recommend, and eventually approve the academic programs proposed to them by the specialized institutions, and seek that the accepted goals become a reality. With the idea of fulfilling the four goals declared above in the Nature and Objectives section, it is here proposed that small specialized Academic Councils be set up. It will be made up by representatives of the regional institutions that has explicitly established goals in agreement with those of GUCA. The second, due to its nature, will be made up exclusively by representatives of universities who will approved on the objectives of this project. The third one will be established with representatives of other regional institutions, without excluding other non-government organizations willing to help GUCA. Being this last objective quite a wide one, in a later stage of this project a guideline on how such representatives be chosen should be written in order to rule the participation of those groups which, share its goals of providing affordable and accesible education to everyone.
4. DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF COURSES AND PROGRAMS
GUCA will identify among the regional universities, regional institutions, and out of the region specialized universities, those courses and programs which will create the critical mass needed for the integral solution of some of the most pressing problems of the Central American region. GUCA will built up the technical capability to promote the course diffusion and the ample discussion of those themes and problems.
The regional institutions will lead, within the frame of their expertise, the different programs and courses, seeking whenever necessary complementary support from the rest of the regional as well as extra-regional research and higher education institutions.
Courses and programs offered by out of the area institutions which can be adopted to the needs of the region, such as those prepared for the Amazonian region, as well as those solutions to reach out to people developed anywhere in the world that could be adapted to the region will also be considered. Vice-versa GUCA may also offer Central American courses and programs to the rest of the world.
Programs to be developed.
In view of the above, and conscious that the application of this new technology requires time for the producers and users to adapt to it, it is proposed that the Project be initiated with the implementation of three or four projects actually in the going, to which a satellite component will be added. The choosing of these projects has to be done considering that the institutions in charge has shown a high degree of commitment with this project, and have shown in the past to be capable of developing successful projects. It has also being considered that they have already found some financial backing, a point that will help increase the chances of getting the extra push to add the satellite component.
Such projects may be:
5. DEGREE VALIDATION
Those programs that will enable the student to take courses from different geographically distributed institutions, inter-disciplinary programs, very likely inter-country, requires to foresee a mechanism by means of which both the courses as well as the program as a whole have to be validated, via the degree validation. A regional system such as CSUCA has lately embarked in designing a Central American Evaluation and Validation System, which could be a good instance to solve such a need.
6. INFRASTRUCTURE AND EQUIPMENT
Satellite: Given the fact that TELSTAR 401 footprint does not reach Central America, some other satellite has to be considered.
SOLIDARIDAD satellite has been used by other groups to broadcast compressed video, which turns it into a good candidate. INTELSAT 325, or PanAmSat 1 may also be considered.
The final selection should be done after very carefully considering aspects such as:
It can not be forgotten that due to lack of experience, it may be advisable to initially sign an agreement for a given number of hours, before considering a dedicated channel, considering that technology changes so fast that obsolescence is a factor to be considered.
The emphasis on satellite technology given to in this project, that due to cost considerations is a one-to-many emission, does not imply that we are leaving out other technologies that may help turn into interactive the relation between producers and users. The use of now traditional elements such as regular mail (paper, or cassettes recorded by the users), telephone, FAX, as well as Multimedia and INTERNET will be promoted wherever possible.
Satellite was chosen because it has proven to be a good mean to reach large number of people in a relatively short time. However the needs in the area are many and very diverse, so while systems such as INTERNET 2 could be implemented, other communication methods have also to be considered. Among those, installation of Internet Cottages in different communities to promote exchange of opinions amongst their different populations, to devlop democratic thinking, as well as the use of wireless units to reach out distant rural areas may also be considered.
The choice will be made taking into account the financial as well as human resources available every moment.
7. BUDGETARY CONSIDERATION
7.1. Reception equipment: After a re-confirmation with NTU officials, it is expected that every ROU (Reception only unit) will cost some $8.000, distributed as follows:
2.4 meter antenna
2 Video recorders
2 TV 29" monitors
here a single channel decoder has been considered. Such an option seeks to lower costs, foreseen that a single channel will be enough until satellite broadcast is adopted as a regular practice in every site. Estimating an initial need of 6 such ROU per country, we estimate
7.2 Broadcast Equipment: It is estimated that one broadcast unit per country will suffice, which implies some $275.000 each, distributed as follows:
Directional 4.5 meter antenna (Ku Band)
3 gate transmitter/receptor
300 watt amplifier
Stable phase converter
Reception Integrator (NSTC)
TOTAL FOR ONE UNIT
TOTAL FOR CENTRAL AMERICA
7.3 Operational costs: It is estimated that the General Coordinator office implies the following yearly expenses:
General Coordinator Salary
Bilingual Executive Secretary
Office set up 2 personal PC ($2.500 X 2)
7.4 Satellite bandwidth: It is expected that a single compressed digital video satellite channel will be required for up-linking, at a cost of $18.000 monthly, or $216.000 yearly.
7.5 Project stages
Stage 1: The first stage, with a duration of a year, will include office set up, up-link from one Central American country, and three reception only units (one for university, one for private , and one for public sector) per country, as well as training of the site operator.
Reception only units ($8.000 X 18)
Satellite space segment
Coordinator office -- Installation
TOTAL STAGE 1
7.6 Logistic consideration: It is here suggested that before buying the equipment it be study
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