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 Seneca 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 co-operation 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 in 2017, and Tekeli, Kazakhstan beginning in 2019.
The College has issued a media release about the ongoing partnership.