The fourth year of the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research (DZS) Awards has its 2021 winners. Among others, projects by the Palacký University Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Education and Faculty of Science funded by the DZS were been awarded.
Nominees were eligible to win the DZS awards in seven categories. Projects by three UP faculties made it to the final selection. According to the DZS director, Michal Uhl, the selected projects are a showcase of the best that has happened in international education during the past year.
“I am very happy that so many excellent projects come together every year. It is proof that we have countless organisations, institutions, and individuals who have the desire and will to actively improve education,” said Uhl.
The UP project European history, politics, culture and memory was among the most successful activities in international education. It is a university network (CEEPUS Programme) led by Radmila Švaříčková Slabáková from the Department of History at the UP Faculty of Arts and is focused on European history, culture, and politics; recently on the politics of memory and the “memory wars” in the region. The network consists of nine partner departments from eight universities in eight countries with the aim to provide regular mobilities of students and teachers. It has long been working towards joint degree programmes – currently being involved in two such programmes.
The CEEPUS network CIII-CZ-0029 is one of the oldest CEEPUS networks, having been in existence for 18 years. As a result, the curricula of the partner institutions have been continuously extended with lectures, seminars, and courses which are not normally included in them. The network is also committed to improving the quality of Central European education and research via joint workshops and summer schools where partners share their latest knowledge. For 18 years, the CEEPUS project has contributed to the internationalisation of the UP Faculty of Arts, as hundreds of UP students have been able to study abroad thanks to the programme. And the Department of History has been crucial in this.
"The award came as a very pleasant surprise. I am glad that the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research decided to grant these awards and that the CEEPUS programme was nominated, as it has been somewhat overshadowed by the ERASMUS programme at Palacký University. I wish we could increase awareness of the CEEPUS programme, as it offers research and study stays and contributes to internationalisation and overcoming provincialism. I’d love to encourage UP students to use this opportunity and go abroad with us. Our network is open not only to students and teachers of history, but also to other disciplines falling under the network’s themes: political science, sociology, culture, memory studies, and others. The deadline for the winter semester of the academic year 2022/2023 is 15 June; applications are available at the web ceepus.info,” said Svaříčková Slabáková.
Palacký University also succeeded in the Digitisation category. The award went to the project called Development of Computational Thinking (CEEPUS Programme) led by Tomáš Dragon from the Department of Technical Education and Information Technology at the UP Faculty of Education. “Winning the award is a great success for us. It is not only an appreciation of our work but also a kind of signal from our circles that we are set on the right path and should continue working on the project,” said the expert from the UP Faculty of Education. In collaboration with seven other universities in five countries, his project team focuses on the development of computational thinking.
“We try to contribute to its comprehensive development – not only with students but also teachers. One of our goals is to implement international intensive courses on selected topics such as programming, robotics, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, e-learning, virtualisation, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things. As part of the project, an online platform has been created at ceepus.upol.cz to provide potential participants of our international stays with relevant information in English and their native languages. The network also strives to increase the interest of students and academics in virtual mobilities abroad. In collaboration with the network’s silent partner DRAGON Solutions s.r.o., a comprehensive platform E-zdroje.cz has been created; it allows digital educational resources to be shared, reviewed, and commented on. The platform also offers an e-learning system including a video conferencing module. All the portals created in the project are constantly evolving,” added Dragon on behalf of his team.
The UP Faculty of Science was successfully represented by the project Making knowledge together – addressing climate change through innovative place-based education and blended learning – EduChange, for short. It is being implemented by universities from Malta, Utrecht, Trondheim – and Olomouc. The project won the Sustainability category.
"The aim of our project is to use a field course to innovate the way we teach about climate change from a local and global perspective. As teaching and learning in the field tends to be traditional and authoritative, our goal is to make this learning environment innovative and creative. We believe that fostering innovation and creativity can be easily achieved through international partnerships and interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches," said Jiří Pánek from the Department of Development and Environmental Studies, who is the main investigator of the award-winning project.
The successful projects were nominated by DZS representatives. Out of the 61 nominated projects, 33 made it to the final round, where the winners in each category were selected by an expert committee. The awards were presented to the winners by the Czech Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Petr Gazdík.
“It is great to see how many schools and other organisations try to contribute to the internationalisation of education in the Czech Republic, to follow trends, and apply new methods. I believe that international education programmes are one of the indispensable tools to achieve the goals of the Strategy 2030+. Therefore, I thank all those who are advancing Czech education,” said Minister Gazdík.
All shortlisted projects are presented in the DZS 2021 Awards publication.