Globalization and Its Challenges to Education

Last of Three Parts

Globalization and Its Challenges to Education

by Lourdes J. Custodio, Ph. D.

Response of Higher Education to the Challenges of the XXIst Century

Higher Education, which includes Colleges in the tertiary level and more particularly Universities, are considered the cradle of future decision-makers and change agents for society, since they have the age-old responsibility in training leaders for society. They are uniquely able to provide the breadth of training to equip them for a world in which interrelations among the economic, technological, ethical and social issues are of extreme importance.

Universities be centers for research. Their research activities can be a source of accurate and relevant information and dispassionate thinking about society’s problems. To do this, the universities could establish linkages between academic research and industrial research, where the latter can produce wealth and give assistance to the needy as well.

One of the concerns of university instruction must be to communicate to future researchers a sense of responsibility to society. Universities are deciding to a great extent the future of the nation where they are located, specifically because they have the highest intellectual reserves in their respective countries, which supply the ever-growing knowledge and trained manpower. No other institution of the intellect is better equipped to cope with the aim of contributing to a sustainable development based on scientific rigor than the universities.

The quality and extension of the university’s impact upon society impose upon it moral duties and an enormous responsibility in the developing countries confronted by rapid changes resulting from the overwhelming influence of science and technology. Considering hunger, disease, illiteracy still so prevalent in many countries, the powers-that-be need sound advice to redirect the use of science and technology for the benefit of the less privileged in society and that they be pursued in line with environmental concerns.

No matter how important applied research may be, if a strong financial assistance is available the highest priority should still be given to basic research, for this is the most enduring contribution of universities to society, one they are uniquely fitted to make.

One of the important challenges that information and communication technologies pose to higher education is the fact that it will no longer be the main source of information and knowledge. We are living in an age of unprecedented dissemination of knowledge. When students will be familiarized with the use of these technologies, access to information will no longer need the presence of teachers, although the teacher’s action remains to be an indispensable source of knowledge and understanding. The teacher’s role will be changed as well as the form and character of higher education. The consequent new role of university mentors will be that of “a knowledge broker, a cognitive expert and an evaluator working in a team.” (Delacote, 1996).

One of the new approaches to higher education in this 21st century is the “Virtual University” or the “Virtual Classroom.” This new development allows students’ access to learning experiences with richness in content and simulation that has not been achieved perhaps by the conventional classrooms. The World Wide Web is customized to become an educational environment that can support collaborative learning and knowledge construction, which provide special tools for both learners and educators. There is a further development of this new type of education in our knowledge-based society better known as E-Learning.

Politicians require high quality advice in matters and areas such as education, public welfare, health, new technologies, energy and many others. Scientists and experts can bring into the political scene a wealth of experience and wisdom, independence of thought, critical views, disinterestedness, and broadness of outlook that would be for humanity’s welfare.

The universities of our times are called upon to interpret new cultures in a lucid and critical manner. This should be at the core of their social function and their role as social critics. Teaching, learning and pursuing research must be enriched with new cultural perceptions. Universities must become credible and competent partners in the on-going dialogue about emerging cultures, both at the national and international level, for their authority in this respect is not only intellectual but moral as well.

The university should be the staunchest bastion for the synthesis of knowledge and of human culture sustained by two pillars: the humanities and science. The rapid development of informatics, genetic engineering and all pervasive instant communication put into the students’ hands keys to dominate nature and an enormous recourse to power. In the era of globalization it is important to educate not only in the sciences and technology, even if they are of critical importance. These disciplines correspond solely to the homo faber, the first level of human enterprise enabling people to adjust to their changing material environment in order to survive but there is a danger of just transforming people into “globally competitive workers.” The more profoundly human activity of searching for the truth, the quest for meaning, the creation of beauty would require the arts, literature, the humanities and social sciences.

The university is called upon to offer solid human formation. The university forms professionals and specialists, but above all, it should develop men and women into integral persons. They are human beings before they are professionals. Thus university education must first of all be humanistic. There is a birth of a new humanism with a strong ethical component accentuating the centrality of the human person and a genuine respect for the spiritual values of the different cultures. In this regard, there is a call upon Institutes of higher learning specializing in Information Technology to give the humanistic formation of their students its utmost importance as well (Pope John Paul II, Address on the occasion of the Jubilee of the University with the theme: “The University for a New Humanism,” 2000).

The university is called upon to share actively in promoting a civilization of peace. In this era of increasing globalization, an education for peace also requires an education for the dialogue of cultures. This type of education tries to bring about changes in content, in the methods and in the social context of education in order to better prepare students for citizenship in a global age.

Universities are also called upon to reconcile mass higher education while maintaining the highest standards in scholarship and research. In the re-engineering of education, critical balances need to be maintained: growth vs. equity; internationalism vs. relevance; technological modernity vs. cultural preservation; individual development vs. cohesion. (Delors, 1998)

In a world where so much poverty prevails especially in the developing countries, the university must take an option of social service to society, which may be rendered through its community outreach programs in marginalized areas. Aside from contributing to development, the students’ involvement in these programs would greatly help in their acquiring a keen social awareness.

In the Philippine setting, for instance, the demands of the new millennium would require the growth of higher education through partnership of the university, government and industry. This however is possible only if these sectors agree on a common purpose: to be of service to the community they serve. The challenge to higher education then is to be able to produce renaissance men and women, morally upright and balanced persons, comfortable with the different cultures and sensitive to international standards. There is a need to form men and women ready to face both the positive and negative aspects of globalization. The leaders, managers and agents of change must be equipped with the right knowledge, skills and be knowledgeable workers able to function in the information age (Tamerlane R. Lana, O.P., Thoughts and Messages, Just from the Heart, 2002).

Responsibilities of Catholic Higher Education

The aforementioned formidable tasks can be assumed seriously and systematically from the vantage point of Catholic Higher Education, particularly of Catholic Universities. A Catholic University, by the very fact that it is a university is called upon to assume the aforesaid responsibilities.

The Catholic University has the duty as well as the honor to offer confidently its service to the search for truth. It is as duty-bound to the human, as human, as it is to God and in this sense, also to the Church. The Catholic University has a unique and irreplaceable role to play precisely because it is a beacon of trust in the power of reason and in the compatibility and harmony between the two avenues to truth: faith and reason, in the midst of a skeptical and pragmatically oriented world (Cardinal Daneels, Catholic University, 2001).

At the dawn of the third millennium, a Catholic University is called upon to serve the Church and society to which it belongs. It must pursue its objectives through its formation of an authentic human community animated by the spirit of Christ. The university community composed of professors, students, administrators and non-academic staff, have their respective roles oriented towards maintaining and strengthening the Catholic character of the institution. The source of unity of the university community “springs from a common dedication to truth, a common vision of the dignity of the human person and, ultimately, the person and message of Christ which gives the institution its distinctive character.” (ECE, 21).

University professors are expected to continuously improve their competence and endeavor to set the content, objectives, methods, and results of research in an individual discipline within the framework of a coherent world vision. Christian professors are to be witnesses and educators of authentic Christian life, which is the result of integration between faith and life, between professional competence and Christian wisdom. They should be men and women of faith and of prayer as well. The students are challenged to combine excellence in humanistic and cultural development in their educational undertaking. Most especially, they must continue the search for truth and for meaning throughout their lives, in as much as “the human spirit must be cultivated in such a way that there results growth in its ability to wonder, to understand, to contemplate, to make personal judgments, and to develop a religious, moral and social sense.” (GS, 59).

Responsibility of Catholic Universities Towards Evangelization

Catholic Universities, in as much as they belong to the Church, participate in the evangelizing mission of the Church. They must contribute to the new evangelization as well, in the fundamental activities of university life—teaching, research and community service. They should influence through the power of the Gospel criteria, judgment about scale of values, thought patterns and styles of life for people in a specific time. Their activities must be re-invigorated by greater openness to the Gospel as it comes to us through the Church. Likewise, Catholic doctrine, ethics, spirituality are to be “vitally present and operative” in all university pursuits. (ECE, 13).

The Catholic Universities in Asia, in particular, need to integrate Interreligious dialogue in its task of evangelization. The disharmonies in the Asian world today can be challenged by a spirituality of harmony that is found propitious in preparing for an interreligious dialogue, which is “a part of the Church’s evangelizing mission.” “Dialogue is based on hope and love and will bear fruit in the Spirit.” (RM, 55;56).

Authentic evangelization must move from a dialogue of service to a deeper dialogue of life and heart. (Ecclesia in Asia, 31) Only Christians who are well prepared and deeply immersed in the mystery of Christ and who are happy in their faith community can without undue risk and with hope of positive fruit engage in interreligious dialogue based on doctrine.

In this age of globalization, fruit of the great strides made in information and communication technology whose primary engine is the Internet, Catholic Universities, in sharing in the Church’s evangelizing mission, take into account that the Church sees the Internet as a new forum for proclaiming the Gospel today. In the words of the Holy Father: “The new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message.” Though he cautioned the use of the Internet with “understanding and wisdom, fruit of a contemplative eye upon the world.” He spoke of using it “in favor of the globalization of human development and solidarity, objectives closely linked to the Church’s evangelizing mission.” (Message of the Holy Father for the 36th World Communications Day, 2002).

Responsibility of Schools, Colleges and Universities Towards Development

The need for an all out support for development in the present world has been a recurrent call by the Church. Pope Paul VI, in his Encyclical Populorum Progressio stated: “The social question has become worldwide… today the peoples in hunger are making a dramatic appeal to the peoples blessed with abundance.” (PP, 3). Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, recalling the 20th anniversary of Populorum Progressio noted: “The hopes for development, at that time so lively, today appear very far from being realized.” (SRS, 12) And in the Encyclical Centesimus Annus, commemorating the first centennial of Rerum Novarum, there is again a call for a concerted worldwide effort to promote development. (CA, 58)

Globalization must be put to advantage by making the process enhance respect for the dignity of every individual person. It must foster the unity of the human family. Catholic Colleges and Universities alone cannot be expected to erect structures of worldwide morality, but they can do serious research and promote dialogue among policy makers regarding the global realities we face. Research and policy analysis can provide the foundation for developing a political economy that allows the poor to share in economic development.

As part of its conscious response to the environmental and cultural issues created by globalization, the Church in its educational agenda for the new millennium has called for efforts at the university level within the different regions for regional concerns to have serious intellectual engagement: “In its service to society, a Catholic University will relate especially to the academic, cultural and scientific world of the region in which it is located. Original forms of dialogue and collaboration are to be encouraged between the Catholic Universities and other Universities of the nation on behalf of development, of understanding between cultures and of the defense of nature in accordance with an awareness of the international ecological situation.” (ECE, 37)

Globalization must be put to advantage by making the process enhance respect for the dignity of every individual person. It must foster the unity of the human family. Globalization can generate opportunities for creativity and initiative in Catholic Colleges and Schools.

Catholic Schools and Colleges can help form their students to be well-rounded persons providing them with the knowledge and skills to make a difference in society, with the moral and ethical courage to make difficult decisions and a faith commitment to fashion a more humane global community.

There is a need for training young leaders as stakeholders within the globalization process. As it intensifies, globalization makes young people increasingly dependent upon public and collective practices of those generations that precede them. For this reason, it is now absolutely crucial for the young people, especially young leaders to ask if they are becoming more the victims or the beneficiaries of the globalization process.

We cannot just teach about globalization as if it were a simple uncontroversial matter, as if the answers to the thorny question it throws up were cut and dried. For young people to engage with a subject matter like this, they need to be involved in value judgments and decisions for themselves about how the world, their world, should be run.

In the case of Catholic colleges and universities, we should now be confronted with the question: To what purposes are the sciences and the arts that they teach going to serve? What sensitivity to social justice, dedication to the common good is being instilled upon the students? Catholic Higher Education, in particular, produce specialists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, teachers, nurses and theologians. There is a need to ask if they have been formed as persons who are deeply concerned about progress for the disadvantaged. The student’s formation in the Social Teachings of the Church and their active participation in the various community outreach programs organized by the university are expected to create a social sensitivity in them. We can then justly anticipate that the men and women formed this way will have a service mentality and “love of preference for the poor.”

For the world of the new century, it is no longer enough to make education a personal, individual quest. We have to understand how our lives are vitally linked to Earth and all who live in it. The idea of community is expanded from purely human to total life community. Since our decisions resonate through this single moral ecology, we must understand ourselves as citizens of a global community whose decisions shape the world for better or for worse.

This calls for a commitment to solidarity within new emerging global realities. Solidarity is the virtue, the habit of the heart, which binds us emotionally and practically to the world. Solidarity combines a sense of justice with active compassion. It makes us aware that the quality of our lives is intrinsically linked with the quality of the lives of others, especially those who are most threatened or left out. Solidarity combines rigorous intellectual inquiry with personal contact and commitment. This means that educating the whole person necessarily includes educating for justice, because none of us can truly flourish while others are being shattered or excluded. I cannot be whole if most of the world is broken. To deliver economic prosperity and human rights, governments are accountable for ensuring the common good. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, articulated this well: “If globalization is to succeed, it must succeed for poor and rich alike. It must deliver rights no less than riches. It must provide social justice and equity no less than economic prosperity and enhanced communication.” (Paul I. Locatelli, S.J., Education for Globalization, 2002).

With regard to the global market systems, it is important to note that the assumption made that all human behavior is motivated by economic enlightened self-interest is not really correct. In a free market system the person can become merely a consuming and producing entity, not a full human being. Educators must address the complexities of human motivation and the ambiguities of markets. We must ask how it is possible to advance the benefits of globalization while eradicating the deep contradictions in the distribution of resources, wealth and power. (Locatelli, 2002).

In the UNESCO Report, we read that at the dawn of this 21st century, 1.3 billion people live in absolute poverty. Some experts even estimate that 2.5 billion survive with $2 per day. Over 800 million persons are suffering from hunger and malnutrition and over a billion have no access to health services or basic education; 1.4 billion are deprived of drinking water; 1.2 billion are not even connected to electricity networks and more than 4.5 billion do not have basic telecommunication. Thus they have no means of access to the new technologies, the very keys to tomorrow’s economy and the possibility of distance education. (Jerome Binde, A New Humanism for the Third Millenium, 1999).

There is a call for measures to bridge the “digital divide”, which separates the rich and the poor on the basis of access to the new information and communication technologies. There is however a caution pointed out in making information and communication technology available to as many people as possible. All the measures to be adopted must respect three basic principles, namely, “the importance of truth, the dignity of the human person and the promotion of the common good.” In this connection, another “divide”, which operates to the disadvantage of women, needs to be closed as well. The extension of basic communication service to the entire population of developing countries is a matter of justice. The information and communication technologies propel and sustain the process of globalization, leading to a situation where commerce and communication are freed from the restraints of national frontiers. Although the motive of this is to create wealth and promote development, the distribution of benefits has been unequal. While some countries as well as corporations and individuals have greatly increased their wealth, others have been unable to keep up or have even become poorer. It is even worse since it is perceived that globalization has been imposed upon some countries. It is a process in which they are unable to participate in an effective way. The words of Pope John Paul II were brought to the fore to conclude the address of Archbishop Foley: “This growing sense of international solidarity offers the United Nations System a unique opportunity to contribute to the globalization of solidarity by serving as a meeting place for States and civil society in a convergence of the varied interests and needs.” (Archbishop John P. Foley, Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations dedicated to Information and Communications Technology, 2002).

Without question, the flow of capital and technology and information into the poorest countries would create economic value for the people and improve their absolute standard of living. But without just political and economic systems, it is unlikely that the quality of life of ordinary people in these poorest countries will improve. In the process of globalization, we are gaining new understanding of our world. People are not motivated by economic enlightened self-interest alone. Love of family and tradition, the appeal of a common cause, generosity and benevolence, responsibility for future generations, religious faith and nationalism are also important, as well as fear of uncertainty, ethnic and racial defensiveness, ancient grievances, prejudice and yearning for a simpler, pre-modern world. (Locatelli, 2002).

The best things in life happen only when we share them in common: conversation, family, friendship, art, education, celebration and ritual. The purpose of global politics is to expand our moral sympathies so that we experience solidarity with peoples of other cultures, so that their flourishing is seen as an integral part of our own. The tradition of Catholic social teaching insists that all those who are excluded from participation in society due to poverty, illness, hunger and homelessness make an urgent claim on us. Those properly educated in solidarity are in the best position to raise those questions. (Locatelli, 2002).

The challenge of globalization at the dawn of the new millennium will require a response from Catholic teachers and educators of schools of all levels, marked by competence, skill, disinterested service, a sense of interdependence and concern for an all encompassing human progress. We know its ultimate secret: the ingenuity, justice and love preached by the Gospel.

Let me close this attempt to describe and understand the phenomenon of globalization and the challenges posed by this extremely complex reality to Schools, Colleges and Universities by saying that with earnest efforts and dedication of the educative communities making these institutions of learning, these challenges could be transformed into “great opportunities for creativity and initiative” to fulfill their avowed mission of service to society and thus serve as a beacon of hope at the dawn of the 21st century.