Authors: Karina Monteros and Jorge Luis Jaramillo from Universidad Tecnica Particular de Loja, Ecuador. Editor Ramiro Jordan from ISTEC Inc. and University of New Mexico
Ecuador’s economy has an unequal exchange with international markets. Exported raw materials suffer from price fluctuations and substitutions, while imported goods and services experience sustained growth in price. Transforming the economic model of the country requires transforming the production matrix.
Product diversification, value added from the incorporation of technology and knowledge, selective import substitution, and export promotion of new products – these require human resources that are trained and have potential for innovation and entrepreneurship. A “production revolution through knowledge and talent,” arises (SENPLADES, 2012) from implementing “support mechanisms for nurturing talent in priority areas” (SENESCYT, 2012), like the transformation of the education system (http://www.educacionsuperior.gob.ec/).
The regulation of higher education, built around the LOES1, seeks the inclusion of the Ecuadorian university in the regional and global academic and scientific community. In order to fill the lack of trained Fourth Level specialists (graduate level, MS and PhD), several initiatives have been established, such as providing doctorate and PhD scholarships for university teachers; open calls for Level Four (graduate level, MS and PhD) training in universities and centers of excellence in higher education abroad; and GAR2 scholarships for students with high ENES3 scores. With nearly 9000 Fellows abroad, Ecuador ranks first in Latin America and third in the world (SENESCYT, 2014) for scholarships per capita. Moreover, the PROMETHEUS (student and faculty international mobility program) program for foreign researchers and Ecuadorians living abroad, has recruited nearly 500 experts from fifty nations.
Higher education has also promoted university assessments, evaluation, accreditation of educational programs, and the creation of flagship universities. In 2013, as a result of evaluations, 14 universities closed for “not meeting the minimum quality requirements”, and 44 extensions were suspended for the same reason (CEAACES, 2013). In the last quarter of 2014, universities are evaluating and accrediting the first set of programs, including medicine and education; and by 2015, it is expected that universities will have implemented the harmonization of qualifications and the redesign of academic offerings according to RRA4’s model of curriculum management . In 2013, 4 new universities were created: a University for the Arts in Guayaquil, a University of Education in Azogues, the Ikiam5 University of biodiversity in Tena, and and Yachay6 University for applied engineering in Urcuquí. Yachay aims to develop and manage a knowledge city under international standards, integrating scientific, academic and economic activity,encouraging research,transferring and breaking down technology and innovation (YACHAY, 2014). Private and public companies will operate in Urcuquí, such asthe recently reorganized 11 public research institutes, which have been grouped into four clusters: life sciences, earth sciences, energy and transport, and land and culture.
Another important aspect is the transformation of primary and secondary education, as articulated in LOEI7. This process is supported by initiatives such as the specialization of teachers at the Fourth Level (graduate level, MS and PhD), the specialization of English language teachers, programs for student meals, processing and delivery of textbooks, and the construction of schools and colleges of the millennium.
The required changes are not possible without adequate training in engineering, which involves transforming the spectrum of current academic offerings. According to the Ministry of Education8 and SENPLADES, 34% of undergraduate degrees are issued in careers in administration, commerce or law, while only 23 per 1,300,000 Ecuadorians achieves a postgraduate degree. As part of the strategy to remedy the situation, the RRA4 commissioned engineering as “the application of basic science and the use of methodological tools for solving specific problems”; open calls for scholarships abroad prioritize technical training related to strategic sectors; and an ambitious program of megaconstructions10 and dissemination of results is being carried out.
 LOES, Ley Orgánica de Educación Superior, que entró en vigencia en octubre de 2010. (Higher Education Reform Law)
2 GAR, Grupo de Alto Rendimiento. (High Performace Group)
3 ENES, Examen Nacional de Educación Superior. (National Examination for Higher Education)
4 RRA, Reglamento de Régimen Académico, emitido por el Consejo de Educación Superior, y vigente desde noviembre de 2013. (Policies and Procedures for Academia, developed by the Council of Higher Education)
5 Ikiam es una palabra shuar que significa selva. (Ikiam in the shuar language translaes to jungle/forest)
6 Yachay es una palabra kichwa que significa conocimiento. (Yachay in the kichwa language translates to knowledge)
7 LOEI, Ley Orgánica de Educación Intercultural, vigente desde marzo de 2011. (Law for Intercultural Education)
8 MinEduc, Ministerio de Educación. (Ministry of Education)
9 En el nivel de educación superior de grado o tercer nivel, se incluyen las licenciaturas y afines, ingenierías y arquitectura; y medicina humana, odontología y ciencias veterinarias. (In higher education at the third level, all undergraduate areas are included such as engineering, architecture; medicine, dentistry, and veterinary)
10 En el grupo de megaconstrucciones se incluyen proyectos de saneamiento (agua potable y alcantarillado), electrificación y telecomunicaciones, hidrocarburos, vialidad, etc. (In the group of megaprojects the areas of water, power grid, telecomunications, oil and gas, and highways are included)