The 10th Meeting of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) Ministers of Education commenced with a welcome gala dinner at the Skukuza Safari Lodge. The esteemed gathering, held under the theme “Responsive and Relevant Education and Training in the Current Global Context,” marks the first face-to-face meeting of BRICS Ministers of Education since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, hosted by the Department of Higher Education and Training, aims to build upon the successes of the previous nine meetings, addressing critical issues such as climate change, entrepreneurship development, and skills for the changing world.
The meeting assumes even greater significance in light of the prevailing geopolitical challenges, specifically the Russia-Ukraine conflict. As the global community emerges from the devastating effects of the pandemic, South Africa takes pride in hosting this meeting as a testament to its commitment to foster international collaboration and cooperation.
Scheduled to take place from August 22 to 24, 2023, in Johannesburg, the 15th BRICS Summit is expected to extensively discuss the expansion agenda of BRICS. Aligning with the summit’s theme of “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism,” the Department of Higher Education and Training has invited Namibia as a guest to the 10th Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Education. This gesture underscores South Africa’s belief that prosperity cannot be achieved in isolation, and the continent’s progress must be advanced collectively, with a particular focus on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
The Department of Higher Education and Training has outlined eight thematic areas for discussion during this year’s meeting:
Skills for the Changing World
Mutual Recognition of Qualifications
Labour Market Intelligence
Early Childhood Development
University Global Ranking
Minister Dr Blade Nzimande emphasized the importance of tangible proposals to address these themes effectively. The topic of mutual recognition of qualifications, for instance, warrants closer attention. Since the adoption of the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education, BRICS member states should discuss possible cooperation to accelerate ratification and prompt implementation. Efforts to encourage student and academic mobility should be reinforced, with South Africa leading the way in fulfilling the necessary constitutional obligations to accede to the Global Convention.
Furthermore, Minister Nzimande stressed the significance of research conducted by BRICS academics on various topics, including the implications of a proposed BRICS currency and the role of the New Development Bank. These studies will play a vital role in further understanding and elaborating on these critical matters.
The theme of “Skills for the Changing World” holds particular importance for sustaining BRICS’ economic growth. With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) presenting new opportunities for trade with Africa, BRICS member states must explore avenues for collaboration in skills development. The AfCFTA is poised to revolutionize trade between BRICS and the African continent, and proactive measures should be taken to harness its potential.
Ministers convened after a constructive dialogue at the 15th BRICS Academic Forum, which took place in Cape Town earlier this year. The forum’s discussions, including the proposed establishment of the BRICS Academy, will serve as a foundation for further deliberations during the ministers’ meeting. Additionally, updates on the BRICS Network University Seminar and the International Governing Board, held at North-West University in Potchefstroom from July 5-6, will be shared with attendees. The University of Mpumalanga, situated in the province hosting the event, is expected to join the network of universities collaborating within the BRICS framework.
Simultaneously, the BRICS TVET Cooperation Alliance Seminar and Institution President Forum are taking place in Boksburg, Gauteng province. Acknowledging the People’s Republic of China’s role in operationalizing the alliance, Minister Nzimande expressed hope that the next BRICS chair would contribute to its strengthening. Technical and vocational education and training colleges are instrumental in expanding post-school education and training opportunities.
Recognizing the vital role education plays in sustainable economic growth and addressing unemployment, poverty, and inequality, Minister Nzimande urged ministers to consolidate the resolutions of the sectoral engagements. These resolutions will be presented to the BRICS Heads of States during the upcoming August 2023 summit.
Minister Nzimande concluded his address by inviting ministers and delegates to explore the beauty of Mpumalanga, famously known as “the place of the rising sun.” In addition to the productive discussions, participants will have the opportunity to embark on a game drive to appreciate the region’s wildlife, with hopes of spotting the iconic Big Five animals.
The 10th Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Education signifies the commitment of member states to collaborate on fostering responsive and relevant education, tackling global challenges, and driving sustainable development. As the summit approaches, anticipation mounts regarding the strategic discussions and outcomes that will shape the future of education in the BRICS nations.