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Keeping Abreast of Knowledge, Scientific Progress in Varsities
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Keeping Abreast of Knowledge, Scientific Progress in Varsities

The number of educated people functionally illiterate is increasing partly due to the great speed at which science and technology is advancing, says Esfandiar Chaharband, head of the Tehran Province Education Department, at the Ministry of Education.
“This is particularly true of university graduates who passed out 15 years ago or more. Therefore it is necessary for them to continuously update their knowledge and skills to match the fast changing world of technology,” he said on the sidelines of a MoU signing ceremony between the department and the Presidential Office of Biotechnology Development, IRNA reported.
Traditionally, functional illiteracy is defined as reading and writing skills that are inadequate “to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level.” However, today, with technology touching almost all spheres of our lives, functional illiteracy has taken on a different connotation.
Stating that the Education Ministry is making efforts to constantly update the school curriculum, he said the MoU has been signed with the aim of holding conferences and workshops to advance knowledge in biotechnological sciences, in particular among elementary and high school students.
Biotechnology which is a strategic and fast growing field in the country and across the world is technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use.
“Students as well as university graduates can be engaged in knowledge-based companies, in case they are interested in biotechnology,” said Dr Mostafa Qanei, secretary of the Presidential Office of Biotechnology Development. “Biotechnology science can help the country to gradually move the economy from oil to knowledge-based.”
Citing examples in this respect, he said import of 20 grams of a factor VII drug for hemophilic patients cost $16.2 million per year, but Iranian researchers have been successful in meeting the need by using biotechnology to produce the drug. Currently, Iran is the second biggest producer of factor VII drug.  Also, recombinant drug of factor VIII has been recently produced and marketed.

  Access to Knowledge
Chaharband further said the idea that schools and universities should provide graduates with all knowledge and skills needed at the work place, is incorrect. “The true function of a university or a school is providing access to knowledge.” Academia and social scientists, however, are divided on this key issue as many believe Iranian varsities should be doing a much better job in preparing the future workforce in the highly competitive labor market at home and overseas. Others maintain that school and university students should be inspired themselves to seek knowledge in new sciences.
The education official pointed to research centers, as links between students and the Presidential Office for Science and Technology, which can accelerate transfer of technology to school and university students.
Like students, teachers are also required to up-to-date their knowledge.
“Recently, educational courses for teachers were conducted to increase their cyberspace literacy to be able to better meet the needs of students, since in Tehran city alone, one million students are using cyberspace.”
Both teachers and students should use the Internet as it is an extremely useful tool to increase their knowledge of different scientific fields, he stressed.
Medical universities have also provided facilities for updating knowledge and skills of their students. An electronic system affiliated to the Health Ministry helps medical graduates to regularly update their knowledge. Medical graduates can enroll at the Continuous Medical Education website (www.ircme.ir) and find an up-to-date schedule of all educational events and register in different conferences and academic events of their interest.
Unfortunately, that there is no such system for graduates of non-medical programs, despite the fact that all non-medical state universities are under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology.

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