Education For Nation Building: Exporting Standards of Excellence And Standards For ExcellenceEarl Harewood | Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University/School of Higher Education
In a time where globalization is creating all kind of opportunities and challenges around the world it is important for leaders in higher education, government and elsewhere to do something meaningful to safeguard the gains made in developing and underdeveloped nations. Doing nothing places many of these nations on a downward spiral and in some cases creates situations that elevates some and further marginalizes others at the hands of their own countrymen, invited investors and other entities whose focus is to seek their own self-interest. This assertion is supported by the termination of some entities in some countries and in some cases entire industries have been moved from one nation to later emerge in lesser developed and developing nations. The consequences of these actions can be seen and felt in pronounced ways all over the world and in some ways are linked to the global crisis.
One very noticeable trend is in the import-export of educational services. Universities are packaging and exporting educational programs as a diversification strategy while some are exporting programs to encourage collaboration and engaged scholarship to assist in developing nations’ capacity or in some cases institutions are simply shipping educational programs overseas to make money. Regardless of the rationale for exporting an educational program, what should be clear is that reduced standards do nothing to elevate individuals; do nothing to situate and empower communities; do nothing to better position organizations; and do nothing to equip nations to improve their infrastructure and empower their citizens.
In fact, reduced standards may hurt the reputation of the sponsoring higher education institution operating in foreign countries. Hence, there should not be an assumption that because the receiving country is a lesser developed or developing country that standards should be lessened. As a matter of fact, maintaining high standards in educational programs can be pivotal in helping nations challenge faulty mindsets and develop culturally sensitive leaders who can function with high ethical courage. Furthermore, maintaining higher standards can assist nations in becoming better positioned economically, support existing industries and develop capacity for creating new ones, develop capacity for research and development activities, develop more equitable sociopolitical systems and encourage nations to become more self-sustaining. Standards for general and specific subject accreditation tell an important story about an institution, its ability to meet and adhere to internal and external standards, its internal competencies, areas of comparative advantages, areas of recognition, its students’ preparedness and readiness for suitable sustainable employment, students and faculty’s successes, faculty productivity, standards for admission and graduation, appropriateness of engagement and retention strategies and outlets for varied students, faculty and staff voices among other things. It is standards like these that make good higher education institutions great and make other such institutions strive to be best-in-class. Wanting to be best-in-class should be universal practice regardless of where the education program is situated. In cases where these programs are offered in education centers in foreign countries, the same standards should be maintained and those standards should be established with some relevance to the local context, as well. Still, standards must be such that they support nations in developing stronger and more congruent educational programs; better equip citizens to engage in sustainable nation building, develop more equitable and aligned systems; and a greater appetite for futuristic thinking, planning and infrastructural development.
It is clear that higher education can’t do everything for a nation that it chooses to house its programs, but it is that premise that should compel higher education institutions to empower the host country to offer its own educational programs and to develop it citizens for meaning involvement in their own internal development. Rightly speaking, there are many cultural challenges that can stall many meaningful efforts, but by responding to specific needs ‘on the ground” such as creating education opportunities that will lead to meaningful sustainable employment, create new industries and generate wealth that will be equitable distributed will soften many resisting elements. Still, every attempt is to be made to provide these educational opportunities at the lowest levels of society as well if these nations are to be elevated to a self-sustaining status in this global economy.
For too long those lower status groups have been underrepresented in wealth generating activities in these nations and have been seen as insignificant in nation building efforts, but in these times where everything has changed and continues to change rapidly, leaving anyone behind is analogous to stalling progress in any nation and fueling all kind of social ills. The evidence can be seen in many nations where this has been the case where despite the wealth of a nation, underdevelopment is still very pronounced. In some situations, the educational levels and standards in some of these nations are on par with more developed nations, but the opportunities to use those knowledge, skills and abilities in meaningful ways are absent. It is situations like these that lead to all kind of brain-drain issues that keep many of these nations at a standstill and less positioned for global competition.
For too long things have been done for developing and underdeveloped nations without fully empowering them to create a path for their own future, thus creating all kind of dependency issues that continue to stagnate these nations. In this global economy, it is time for those in higher education and those involve in development work to rethink their develop strategies if their efforts are to achieve meaningful change in these nations. Targeted change must be designed to realize some clearly defined outcomes such as helping these nations to develop their internal capacity through their people who in turn will use their knowledge, skills and abilities to change their thinking and transform their systems, processes and their way of being in the new global economy. It is only with this kind of positioning that developing and underdeveloped nations will be able to empower their people, transform their infrastructure, cultivate a culture to generate funding for research, develop their own capacity for doing and appreciating research and development, improved work processes, systems and relationships and acquire a capacity to interpret and use research that will heighten their capacity for self-sustainability.
Higher education institutions that choose to export their programs must be intentional in aligning these programs with meeting some of the fundamental needs in developing and underdeveloped nations. Many of these nations have enormous intellectual capacity but they need to be supported if they are to be able to leverage these capabilities and for these abilities to have internal national relevance in national building.
Author Perspective: Educator