New Mindset required to uplift varsity standards

September 24, 2016

New Mindset required to uplift varsity standards, says my  Academic Friend, Dr. James Gomez@Bangkok University, Thailand

by Pratch Rujivanarom
The Nation

Image result for Professor James Gomez
Bangkok University’s Dr. James Gomez
ACADEMICS have highlighted the challenges that higher education institutions within the region face in trying to meet international standards, including syllabus problems, system diversity, a lack of international staff and limited government support.

With the ASEAN Economic Community officially set up this year, improving the quality of education remains one of the community’s main goals.  This topic was the focus of a forum titled “Can Asean be a Global Higher Education Destination?” at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand recently.

Prof James Gomez from Bangkok University said many universities in ASEAN were restructuring to become international institutions to improve the quality of education and, more importantly, rebrand themselves to attract more students.

“Many university administrators chose internationalisation for increasing the university brand value, because it ensures the financial viability of the institutions by attracting more students,” Gomez said.

However, he said most universities usually directly translated syllabuses from the national language into English, so the curricula were not truly internationalised. He said another issue was that syllabuses were usually drafted by nationals, which resulted in a focus on issues particular to the home country instead of a truly international emphasis.

“From my experience in the field, most of the international university staff typically work in the language institutions or international colleges of the universities and are not stationed at the main faculties or executive positions that can guide the university’s policy,” he said.

Assoc Prof Nantana Gajaseni, Executive Director of the ASEAN University Network, said there was great diversity and disparity between educational systems in ASEAN states, so it was hard to harmonise a standardised system within the region.

‘Diversity makes credit transfers hard’

“The major challenge of internationalisation of higher education in Asean is the system diversity and quality recognition of the education. This disparity is making student and credit transfers among [ASEAN countries] and beyond the region hard,” Nantana said.

Gomez added that there was a lack of international staff in the region because of low salaries, the lack of research grants and government regulatory barriers. “There is the income gap between the rich countries in the region, such as Singapore and Malaysia, and the rest of the region. This income gap makes fewer international staff choose to work in these [lower-income] countries,” he said.

“Another barrier is the limitation of research grants. For instance, Malaysia limits applicants for its grants to Malaysian citizens only. Furthermore, consideration for research scholarships usually focuses on the national perspective only and it is hard for the researchers to apply for funds to study the international perspectives.”

Wesley Teter, UNESCO senior consultant for the Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, related his experiences teaching in China, where government regulations could be a barrier for international staff. In his case, strict information restrictions imposed by the Chinese government made academic research more difficult, reducing the appeal for international researchers.

Nantana said another big problem for internationalisation was budgetary. She said high-income countries in the region such as Singapore and Brunei had an easier time encouraging the internationalisation of their universities, but for poorer countries the task was difficult.

“There are many problems from shortages of budgets in low-income countries such as the lack of infrastructure. Even in Thailand, the state has just let public universities rely on themselves to find revenue and does not grant governmental support anymore,” she said.

“However in my view, an abundant budget does not ensure quality education and successful internationalisation … I believe that the mindsets of university administrators and professors need to change as well to suit global education.”

5 thoughts on “New Mindset required to uplift varsity standards

  1. Why does the “internationalisation” of the university’s teaching staff – or even the administrative staff – increase the brand value and quality of education of higher institutions of learning (such as public and private universities)? Does the process of learning become more effective because of that? Might there be other factors than more “internationalisation” that could contribute more effectively? What is wrong with the present mindsets, what sort of mindsets that work and don’t work in the process of learning (in whatever setting, and in the case under examination, a university setting), and do only foreigners with impeccable English possess the kind of mindsets that bring more vigor to the process of learning? What does this all mean to me as a father with growing up children who, InsyaAllah, will have to decide, sometime not far into the future, about my children’s higher education? What constitutes quality university education anyway? And how might we judge whether a person has had a good university education or not, what might be the parameter, what yardstick might we measure it by, so that we might make a proper and accurate judgement?

  2. If education issues need a rethink, the rapidly changing worldwide employment situation has to be factored in…otherwise we shall end up with millions and millions of “graduates” being forced to work serving Lattes in restaurants…

  3. M F Muhammed, this is an example of internationalization. A recruiter from Scallop Corporation (a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell) was doing interviews for young executives for Shell. Question asked “what would you do to address the oil shortage”. Answer by local grad “I will drive smaller car” Answer by foreign grad ” I will explore alternative fuel supplies” I’m sure you can guess who got the job.

    The world is getting smaller and almost everything is globalised. Graduates will have to deal with matters or issues happening around the world and keep abreast of development. If graduates only think locally, this will limit his/her marketability.

    Why do US universities excell? The incoming class is usually made up of the best the world has to offer, not just the US. There are more foreign students doing PhD than American students. These students will be competing with the best. Just a few points for consideration.

  4. Let’s not beat around the bush. As long as the majority Malay needs crutches (and clutches?) to compete in schools and universities, there is no way or no political will to lift standards. How to lift standards when the current low standards are already proving a hurdle to most students. That they have to resort to easy courses that graduates find useless in getting jobs. That they have to have different matriculation standards and different passing marks for different races.

    So, until the state-sanctioned discrimination is abolished, forget about lifting standards.

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