Universities in Southeast Asia tackle Fourth Industrial Revolution

Los Baños, Laguna—Universities in six Southeast Asian countries have converged in a faculty forum at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture and the University of the Philippines Los Baños to discuss the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez Jr. said there were at least 66 participants from UPLB; Institut Pertanian Bogor, Universitas Gadjah Mada, and University of Brawijaya, all in Indonesia; Universiti Putra Malaysia; Kasetsart University in Thailand; Tokyo University of Agriculture in Japan; and National Taiwan University.

These institutions are members of the Searca-initiated Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Dr. Sanchez said the faculty forum with an inaugural run last July 23-24 was jointly organized by Searca and UPLB.

"The Fourth Industrial Revolution has been fast evolving and that higher education institution [HEIs] should keep up with it," he said.

Dr. Sanchez explained that there is a need to shift emphasis away from growth learning, knowledge consumption, and conformity, and build the huge capacities for innovation, creativity, and collaboration to enable younger generations to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

During the forum, Dr. Richard Abendan, chief of party of the United States Agency for International Development-Science, Technology, Research, and Innovation for Development (USAID-STRIDE) Program, underscored the value of innovation-industry collaboration in empowering HEIs.

"Industries define their problem and the university research is there to work with them in co-creating research projects to solve these problems," Dr. Abendan explained.

Also during the forum, there were 43 papers presented in parallel sessions focused on food security, climate change, rural transformation, and graduate education in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The participants also discussed key areas of strategic collaboration among their universities in two roundtable sessions.

Cross visits, co-supervision of thesis, co-authorship of papers, and research collaboration on topics that transcend boundaries such as on studies involving the Mekong River or the South China Sea were proposed.

Dr. Maria Cristeta N. Cuaresma, Searca Program Head for Graduate Education and Institutional Development, said another proposal was the extension of the current University Consortium project on the Joint Master of Science in Food Security and Climate Change (MS FSCC) to a Doctor of Science in Food Security and Climate Change program.

Dr. Cuaresma said the MS FSCC currently has 81 students from Europe and Asia, including 14 Filipinos, whose scholarships are managed by Searca.

At least three panelists suggested that the University Consortium should use its influence to be an advocacy group for policies that would prioritize the agriculture sector or benefit the smallholder farmers in Southeast Asia.