The Training of Engineers: A Global Issue? (3rd and 4th April 2017)

23 May 2017 12:27 AM | Dhruti Dheda (Administrator)

The ISF-France (Ingénieurs sans frontiers, English: Engineers Without Borders) FormIC (Former l’ingénieur citoyen known as Training the citizen engineer) International event was hosted by Eduardo Palmieri and Colette Génevaux. This conference aimed to share the experiences and knowledge and views on the training of the engineers, confronting national and international levels. Additionally the outcome was to find courses of action for a future collaboration between participants on the subject of the training of engineers. The countries that took part were ISF-Argentina, ISF-Rome, EWB-UK, EWB- Switzerland (IngOG+), ISF-Israel and Brazil.

This two day conference opened with two interactive presentations:

1. Engineering ethics by Christelle Didier, and

2. Teaching Social Approach to Engineers by Natalia Zlachevsky.

Christelle is a lecturer of Educational Sciences and her research is focussed on engineering and science ethics, as well as social responsibility in engineering education. Her presentation gave thought provoking questions such as: Is technology neutral, How do engineers balance engineers and humanism, and what code of ethics do engineers follow and what are their social responsibilities? We found this thought provoking, and would like to suggest an ethical theme be introduced into the next EWB-SA leadership Summit.

Natalia, is a social anthropologist, a founding member of ISF-Argentina and a professor. Her presentation outlined that engineers are part of society, and that the current education in engineering degree courses are insufficient. She talked about teaching social approaches to engineers and that a new pedagogy is needed, whereby social sciences, sustainable development and a humanistic approach should be included in order to decolonize knowledge. This was interesting as decolonization is also a topic in South Africa as it is in Argentina. She also spoke about positioning and that we cannot be neutral when it comes to human rights, sustainability and gender. It introduced aspects of, how would one unify gender in the field when working on projects, when the community is used to seeing males in charge but the female is in charge of the projects.

Both talks stimulated conversations with the participants, and groups were formed to consolidate questions to ask the speakers. This was helpful as this allowed for an interactive and constructive Q&A session.

Thereafter, three thematic table discussions were formed where moderators were encouraging table discussions over the next two days specifically on:

1. Engineering’s Training Governance: This table was about how can engineering training can be more inclusive of social and political issues amongst technological factors.

2. Participative Methodologies: David sat at this table for the two days. They discussed top-down logic is either implemented by management companies, or within projects (where the communities are considers recipients and not participants). Thus how should decision processes in engineering be done?

3. Role of Engineering in Society: This is where Michelle took part in for the two days. Engineers have a responsibilities, and how should they approach developmental projects as well as in their workplace.

The following day, final conclusions were shared from the table discussions. From theme one, a key take-away point was to have this international partnership as well as for EWB-SA to host the next conference in two years! Theme two concluded that in order to be participatory, one would need to influence levels and take into account culture of participation. A draft manifesto was drawn up by theme three:

Figure 1 Thematic Table Discussion Thoughts at the end of day two, which includes theme three’s draft manifesto.

The day ended off with each organisation speaking about who they are. Here are some highlights

  • ISF-Argentina give courses focused on management strategies of social projects, as well as energy and sustainable development.
  • EWB-UK: started 14 years ago, an they have an education component which has a design challenge which us at EWB-SA would like to collaborate with.
  • ISF-Rome, have international (such as in Lebanon) and local (earthquake) projects. They want to develop via engineering techniques without colonizing the communities, and they are sensible to different aspects in the society.
  • Rede de Engenharia Popular Osvaldo Sevá (REPOS): they organize an annual national meeting which takes place in Brazil in order to sensibilize students to what they learn in lectures. Their upcoming event is on 17-20 October 2017. (
  • Engineers Without Borders Switzerland (IngOG+): are a young organization, volunteer based positions, and work with ISF-Argentina.
  • ISF-Israel and ISF-Nepal: Lived in the community for the community. Had a project which consisted of made a stove which was approved by the state, NGO’s and community. That stove took two years to make. Stage two consisted of installing sensors in the house.
  • ISF-France FormIC: is an incubator of ideas within ISF-France. They campaign and provide tools such as trainings, social and local surveys, and most recently international events such as this conference.
  • Mike Gardner was representing University World News (UWN), and was there to write about the past two days. He encourages us to read UWN as it has news on higher education. Here is the link:

It was a great opportunity to get to network with the different organizations. To meet the founders of ISF-Argentina, organizers of this event and the other chairpersons. It was good to exchange ideas, as well as to learn from how each of them approach events, tasks and fundraising. We also found it insightful to see how each country had a different way in which the engineering degree is presented to students in order to train them. On a side note, we must not forget to mention the picnic, where fantastic French snack goodies were shared amongst the participants by the River Seine at the boat houses. Thank you ISF-France FormIC committee for hosting this conference!

To learn more about the ISF-France FormIC, download their manifesto from:

In the next newsletter, we will talk about the last two days spent with ISF-France, that is the International Days of Exchanges Record which happened on the 5th and 6th April 2017.

Photo Credits: Nati

Written by David Ming and Michelle Low


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