Inspiring Caring Leaders Across Cultures  

Cool Curriculum For Classy, Connected And Cultured Citizens Rethinking Curriculum For Global Citizens


Published Date : Feb 23, 2018

Porntip Kanjananiyot
Executive Director
Chotima Chaitiamwong
Outreach Officer
Thailand-United States Educational Foundation
(TUSEF/Fulbright Thailand)

 

Abstract

Higher education institutions in this 21st Century are challenged not only to catch up with the ever changing trends but also to best prepare their graduates to fit in the no-one-knows-for-sure future. Despite the unpredictable outlook, globalization and technology advancement will persist as major factors for educational development.

Globalization, enhanced by international and regional groupings, calls for global citizens with global minds and competency, thus requiring global graduates. Technology advancement makes it necessary for individuals and businesses to adopt the most convenient technology for their survival in this digital world, thus emphasizing the use of technology in education as a tool, as a study subject, and as a friend.

In curriculum design and development, to ensure the making of global citizens, higher education institutions could simply make use of what they already have. In particular, academic and cultural exchange, which is one of the most effective mechanisms to promote global mind and competency, could yield greater benefits when technology is involved.

However, the present world has already seen unbelievably widened gaps from age, culture, and technology. Understanding these gaps will enable higher education institutions to design their curriculums that will better suit the future of today’s learners.

Senior leaders and faculty alike have to be sure that curriculums are based on their best knowledge about the needs and requirements of different learners they serve and their best prediction of what the future world would encompass. This will need closer connections personally, professionally, and digitally. Through mechanisms available, cross-culture and cross-generation exchanges must be an integral part of the curriculums from the designers to the learners.

 

Dancing with the World

As learning centers and as incubators for citizens of the future, all higher education institutions share common missions to catch up with the ever changing trends and to best prepare their graduates to fit in the no-one-knows-for-sure future. Bearing in mind their important responsibilities, higher education institutions are challenged to constantly develop themselves for quality education provision.

Such self development is neither an uprooting “reform” nor a result of desirous craving to be an education “hub.” It is simply the spirit of educators to stand up for self assessment and adjustment. It is an ongoing process to help higher education institutions move along with the world gracefully.

Like it or not, globalization and technology advancement will, for sure, persist as major factors for educational development. Globalization, enhanced by international and regional groupings, could unite the world and, at the same time, create overlapping clusters of markets. For effective interactions in this globalized world, a set of common standards, knowledge, and practices are developed. Those who are equipped with “global competency” will have great advantages both in their living and in the internationalized job market.

In parallel, technology advancement fuels the effect of globalization. Technology has been integrated into individual and business lives to the degree that we could find it difficult to survive without it. Indeed, technology becomes the foundation of almost everything and is the major course of the ever-changing society.1 Therefore, to fulfill the common mission of all higher education institutions in preparing globally competent graduates, administrators, faculty, and staff should embrace technology in their education provision, i.e. as a learning tool, a study subject, and a friend.

 

Self Assessment

Be calm! It is very crucial that leaders of higher education institutions step back a little in order to see the overall picture of their institutions: strengths and weaknesses/challenges relevant to their visions and missions. It is definitely not a good idea to adopt brilliant initiatives and best practices without considering our own context.

In curriculum design and development, we may ask ourselves what we are getting out of our curriculum. By carefully considering expected outputs, we will be able to analyze the effectiveness of our curriculums and ways to improve them. No matter what the disciplines, all curriculums of the 21st century aim at producing “global graduates” with “global competency” who are able to work effectively in international settings; are aware and adaptive to diverse cultures, perceptions, and approaches; are familiar with major global change and relevant issues; and are capable of communicating effectively across cultures.2

Do our curriculums reflect these dimensions clearly?

 

Value-added Curriculum

Without a doubt, standard knowledge and skill of the field is not enough to cultivate global graduates who, as Vivien Steward, Vice President of Education of the Asia Society had put it, “can remain competitive in a world that seems to be shrinking before our very eyes.”3 Besides the content, a curriculum should incorporate at least three major skills of the Millennium: language, technology, and cross-cultural management.

Learn a language to learn a people!
In the interconnected world, the more languages we are proficient in, the more benefit we can reap. It is perfectly true for all professionals. It is the reason that the Thai Government tries to enhance English learning in the country. Although the implementation is still far from success, the idea is there. English is undeniably the must-know language in real and virtual worlds for communication and for knowledge acquisition. The deeper knowledge is how to use it as a means to understand people from diverse cultures and backgrounds so we can all work harmoniously and creativity in our professions and lives.

Knowledge’s power is diluted in curriculums!
Technology literacy is requisite in our current and future world. Technology is a powerful learning tool that helps students access countless sources of knowledge. In this digitalized world in which information flows rather freely, the concept of knowledge is not limited to what we have in memories but also information we have accessed and what to do with it.4 Those who have ability to access more information have greater advantage than those who do not. Further, those who effectively use the acquired information/knowledge will benefit most. The subject matter that once dominated curriculums is overtaken by new requirements of real-life experiences and practical learning skills.

Cross-culture taking its positive position!
Another skill of the Millennium is cross-cultural management. Ironically, globalization which connects the world also divides it as people from different cultures interact and ideas clash. That explains why Jonathan Jones, Firmwide Campus Recruiting Director for Goldman Sachs, emphasized, “In the financial world, cultural awareness and cultural adeptness are far more important than undergraduate major or existing skill sets……These needs touch all industries, from banking to healthcare to engineering.”5 It might be too ambitious to wish that we all will understand and appreciate different cultures. Cross-cultural management skill will, at least, help us recognize and respect the differences in cultures and in thinking. It is the skill to forge peaceful co-existence and productive businesses.

Do our curriculums cultivate these skills and have we done enough?

 

Knowledge Delivery: Better than Ever

There has been continuous effort for education development and reform all over. The process of teaching has become more cognitive to promote critical thinking and problem solving skills. Along with it is the increasing role of technology in education provision. Faculty members nowadays make use of technology at different degrees to better their content delivery, improve presentation, engage students, and open up classroom to the world of knowledge.6 If we are to produce global graduates, we have to make sure that technology is used not merely to support traditional instruction but to forge an active and effective learning environment.

By appropriately integrating technology in the learning process, faculties could step further to promote learning through cooperation and interdisciplinary project-based work.7 Then, they not only benefit from the new advances and keep pace with the developments in their fields of teaching, but also drive students’ curiosity and creativity. Considering that learning is a life-long process even for faculties, technology does help transform classrooms to learning labs for faculties and students to exchange ‘googled knowledge’ and enter into more critical and intellectual discussions.

Do our curriculums fully benefit from the advanced and available technology?

How far has the faculty lagged behind?

 

The Hidden Assets

Each institution houses rich and resourceful individuals but many of them, faculty and students alike, have limited opportunities to fully contribute to their respective institutions. We are talking about those who have international experiences or the direct exposure to different cultures, particularly through the existing exchanges and international programs. Every year, higher education institutions have returned faculties and students from exchange programs abroad. There are also numbers of foreign visiting scholars and exchange students in addition to international students and faculties under the international programs offered by many institutions.

As Senator J. William Fulbright stressed, “for every university professor whose outlook has been broadened by study in another country, many thousands of students will gain some measure of intercultural perspective.”8 Experience and knowledge from international education across the campus, when combined and shared, can be a rich and powerful resource. Indeed, exchange programs need some kind of systematic mechanism to best multiply their effects.

The opportunities for direct international experience might be limited to a few but the assets within individuals exceed the boundaries. It is then the matter of how to effectively share them.

 

Mind the Gaps!

Evidently, the curriculums of the 21st Century should promote global competence skills with the use of technology and international experiences through existing exchange and international programs. It is not easy and there are various challenges including generation and technology gaps that we need to carefully tackle.

Generation and related cultural gaps happen particularly between students and senior members on the faculty, whose interests, values, perceptions, and lifestyles differ. These gaps become barriers. With different ‘language’ and perception, it is rather difficult to share common understanding. As each tends to live within their comfort zones, they could benefit much less from the richness of diversity others are able to offer.9 It is necessary that they learn to understand and respect the differences. Enhancing their two-way communication and sharing can help them be more connected.

What’s more! Starting from Faculty!
Technology gaps exists between generations. Unlike their students of the digital generation or the millennia who were born with technology, faculties from other generations (Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers) adopt technology at a different pace.10 Some even become technophobic. Considering that our existence is to best prepare citizens of the future, we have no choice but to update ourselves with the world’s movements and ‘strange’ tools in order to fulfill our university missions. Besides, faculties are supposed to be life-long learners themselves. Integrating technology in education, in fact, enables effective learning for both students and faculties, enabling the two to communicate effectively through both traditional and new ‘languages.’

 

From Dry to Cool Curriculum: For Connected and Cultured Citizens

Although faculty members are encouraged to make more use of IT advances in teaching and learning, they should not be left alone in an attempt to better the classes. It is also too demanding and too frustrating for faculty members to do everything themselves, being instructors and IT experts. Cooperation between faculties and IT staffs should be promoted to help select the right technology and to facilitate the use of it.

To create classroom environments for proactive and productive learning, modern curriculums should turn classroom lessons into cooperative projects by teams of faculties and students with support from IT staffs and with available resources shared across the entire institution. Therefore, these kinds of curriculums will promote a network of cooperation beyond the classroom wall and help unite the learning environment of the institution.

Combining some form of exchange programs as part of the curriculums could greatly heighten the value of learning in the digital era. One interesting example is an elective course offered by Khon Kaen University (the oldest northeast public university in Thailand). The course, open to all students in the university, offers an exchange opportunity to several countries. Only those who can successfully pass the interview will be eligible to register. With support from faculty members and the international office, as well as the university partners overseas, the curriculum has reflected significant features of the modern world as part of the exchange, i.e. cross-field/cultural communication, diversity, networking, and technology. The proper combination in the curriculum has and will benefit even those beyond the participating faculty members, staff, and students.

Changes in the roles of faculty and students to stimulate interest and learning will see faculty become more like advisors or mentors coaching their students on the learning projects. At the same time, students will be more proactive in class by taking on the role of researchers developing their knowledge at their own pace, based on their information acquisition and analysis. Living in the digital era, our younger ones and less experienced learners still need guidance to select the ‘right’ information, to appropriately and effectively analyze it, as well as to develop critical thinking based on it with suitable guidance from experienced faculty. Without proper direction, they can go wild and in vain.

Faculty members will gain from students in different ways, e.g. innovative ways of learning, dimensional and out-of-the-box perspectives, etc. In coaching, consulting, and learning together, faculty members and students will, therefore, get their messages across while staying closely connected in the ‘same worlds,’ old and new!

 

Conclusion

The future of the world is in our hands. It is our mutual responsibility to shape it for the best. Senior leaders and faculty alike have to be sure that curriculums are based on their best knowledge about the needs and requirements of students and on their best prediction of what the future would encompass. At its core, a curriculum of any discipline should promote learning of English, technology, and cross-cultural management as they are the common values of “global citizens.” Key components of the curriculums are modern capabilities of faculty members who perceive beyond ‘traditional knowledge’ to mind new widened gaps. With their own increased competence, they will be able to stay connected with their peers and students. Both faculty and students would need to be shaped through the integration of mechanisms and resources available through cross-generation, cross-program, and cross-culture cooperation.

 

Reference

Thacker, Charles. “Why Use Technology in Education?”, www.macinstruct.com/node/7, January 18, 2007 [retrieved September 2010]

Brustein, William I. “Path to Global Competence: Preparing American College Students to Met the World”, www.iienetwork.org/page/84657/ [retrieved September 2010]

Vivien Steward cited in Willard, Jed. “Global Competency”, Languagecorps.
www.nafsa.org/_/File/_/global_competency_2.pdf. [retrieved September 2010]

Thacker, Charles. “Why Use Technology in Education?”, www.macinstruct.com/node/7, January 18, 2007 [retrieved September 2010]

Jonathan Jones cited in Willard, Jed. “Global Competency”, Languagecorps.

www.nafsa.org/_/File/_/global_competency_2.pdf. [retrieved September 2010]

Thacker, Charles. “Why Use Technology in Education?”, www.macinstruct.com/node/7, January 18, 2007 [retrieved September 2010]

Ibid.

Fulbright, William J. (1989). The Price of Empire, Pantheon Books, New York

More discussion on generation gap and education in Kanjananiyot, Porntip and Chaitiamwong, Chotima (2010), “Gen Gappers in Communication: Getting Wider and Wilder”. Paper presented at the Second International Conference on Language and Communication. The National Institute of Development Administration, Bangkok.