THE concept of kampus sejahtera at
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), which is being internationalised by the
Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable
Development (ESD) of Tongyeong in South Korea, was highlighted in this
column (Dec 8, 2013 and Jan 15, 2012).
The Tongyeong RCE plans to launch a Sejahtera Centre to mark the end of the United Nations Decade of ESD this year.
The centre is inspired by the kampus sejahtera programme in USM which started at the turn of the new millennium.
Right Livelihood College — another USM
initiative — was internationalised last week. The concept was
established in 2009 to support the Accelerated Programme for Excellence
(APEX) awarded to USM in 2008.
It is aimed at reshaping the future of
the university in the new millennium. It is not only about transforming
the university and higher education, but also making both sustainable in
line with the USM goal to be a sustainability-led tertiary institution,
given the global challenges so great that the mental make-up of the
20th century is no longer deemed adequate.
There is a need to realign more closely with the global demands of being more equitable and balanced.
In turn, this means to effectively
diffuse existing and emerging tensions represented by the many
long-standing global divides, disparities and cultural insensitivities.
And the RLC is a means to do this.
There are seven RLCs in five continents,
the latest in India. Last week witnessed the setting up of the RLC
Global Secretariat at University of Bonn that has housed the RLC Bonn
campus since 2011 in Germany.
Right Livelihood Laureates, also known
as Alternative Nobel Laureates, and a number prominent invitees attended
the inauguration of the RLC Global Secretariat hosted by the Lord Mayor
of Bonn in the historic city hall.
This move marks a major shift from the
early days at USM in terms of reaching out through various innovative
programmes to advance higher education for the future where sustainable
development is embedded as one of the core commitments and principles
networked among existing RLCs.
By leveraging on the expertise of 153
Laureates, who are now de facto faculty members of the RLCs, the
Colleges are at once armed with invaluable “best practices” demonstrated
by Laureates the world over.
Uniquely, they represent a precious
library of living resources and experiences that have time and again
made a “real” and long-lasting difference to the community they serve.
The RLCs collectively set the stage for
consolidating and codifying these “practices” so that they can be shared
as a "new" source of knowledge to inspire the future of the planet.
These practices include dialogues and
discourses involving researchers, graduate students and the Laureates to
promote research and scholarships (such as thoseheld in Bonn last week)
and community projects designed to improve the sustainable livelihood
of the community.
The overarching purpose is to develop a
sustainable governance structure and system of sustainable planning,
decision-making and impact assessment that can lay a firm ground for the
emergence of a sustainability-led university and community.
This could create an alternative institution for the new millennum while challenging the status quo at the same time.
The time has come to humanise
universities (and education) by reclaiming the ethos of education that
regards people as valued members of the community anchored in values and
virtues to nourish humanity as its core responsibility and purpose as
the new mission of 21st century education.
This is perhaps the first step to
transcend marketplace logic and neoliberal practices that distort
education as no more than mere cogs in a dysfunctional mechanised world
dictated by the fancies of shareholders.
For instance, the trend to corporatise
and commoditise education by subscribing to the hallmark of so-called
competitive benchmarking, ranking and marketability have demeaned the
authority of the universities in preference to the marketplace.
Ultimately, what is left is a
“University of Small-Mindedness” (the other USM) that is drawn into a
cocoon of “education-industry complex” — an Eisenhower
“military-industrial complex” analogy— with similar and equivalent
consequences as sure signs of failure ahead.
The article is based on the writer's keynote address at the inaugural ceremony.