“Improvement of master-level education in the field of physical sciences in Belorussian universities”, Acronym “Physics” is a collaborative European Project awarded under “Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices” of Erasmus plus. The research project forms a collaborative initiative among four Belarusian academic institutions, Belarusian State University, Belarusian State Technological University, Francisk Skorina Gomel State University and Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno, and three European academic institutions, Riga Technical University, the University of Cyprus, and KU Leuven University, as well as the Ministry of Education in the Republic of Belarus, and two industrial partners, Belarusian Physical Society and Republic Nanoindustry Association. The research project aims to reform the master-level educational system in Belorussian universities in the field of Applied Physics and more precisely in the fields of functional nanomaterials production and nanotechnology, including photonics. Riga Technical University, the Institute of Industrial Electronics and Electrical Engineering, is the coordinator of the project, which has been started in October 2015 and will last three years.
Photonics is perceived to be a global force for technological innovation, economic growth, sociocultural and political change, and energy, health, and communication revolution. Increasingly, the European Commission has been promoting strategic partnerships, curricula development, and collaborations to enhance industrial competitiveness and skill development in the field. Building on such critical EU initiatives and adhering to the Bologna system principles, the current reform movement will gradually transition from the current “5 plus 1” educational system to the “4 plus 2” educational system. This transition is also promoted by the Ministry of Education of Belarus. The project aims to strengthen the collaboration among faculty members, researchers, academic institutions, and industrial partners in order to develop new study programs, curricula, courses, and pedagogical materials for training master-level students in applied physics. One of the pillars, upon which this endeavor for curricula reform will be enacted, is the use of Communication and Information Technologies (ICT). A virtual environment will be created in order to share instructional materials, organize virtual lectures, and construct a new electronic library. Instead of relying on traditionally-promoted academic curricula in the field, the project will invite educators, researchers, and other interested stakeholders to identify topics of common interest and design new pedagogical materials, virtual lectures, and learning activities that can be shared among students and faculty in different academic institutions in Belarus. A virtual laboratory will also be developed in order to enhance collaboration and exchange of good practices, and promote more immersive digitally-driven learning experiences.
More importantly, such institutionally-driven initiatives will contribute to the Education and Training 2020 strategy (ET2020) promoted by the European Commission in a strategic attempt to improve education, skill development, and training and boost economic grown. The new educational and training programs will also be promoted, tested, and accredited in order to train high-level professionals in the field that can compete in a highly demanding and skilled workforce and promote innovation, economic growth, and social change.
At the 1st workshop held in Minsk in March of this year, the project partners have been acquainted with the first results of the research, aiming to clarify the needs and the attitude of the industry representatives and academic staff of Belorussian universities to the proposed master-level education programs and courses. The completed results of the research will be used as the input for development the courses and programs for training master-level students in applied physics.
Along with the students training, the project aims to develop new innovative materials for new courses in the field of Applied Physics. In accordance with the scientific field of the Belorussian Universities, textbooks are required for the following courses: Applied Physics, Applied Informatics, Photonics, Functional Nanomaterials, Research Towards Master Thesis. Researchers and faculty members from Riga Technical University have undertaken an initiative to develop three new books in three different areas: Applied Physics, Applied Informatics, and Research Towards Master thesis. RTU is responsible for the materials in “Applied Informatics” courses. The language of the materials is English. This material will useful for training Latvian students, as well as the students from abroad, in these fields of science.