The dynamics caused by migration, trans-nationalism and the process of globalization all make that the coexistence between different societies and cultures is probably the major challenge faced by humanity in the 21st century. The construction of a plural society, where different cultural conceptions and world visions have to fit, is indispensable in a globalized world. The processes and mechanisms to understand, dialogue and co-exist are the basis to create a multicultural society.
Higher Education can undoubtedly play a major role, if not a vital one, in the training of would-be multicultural social actors able to construct a globalized social order based on openness and respect of the difference. In this regard, the following questions are to be asked on how can higher education constructs contribute to these processes?
- In what way can higher education prepare itself to train its graduates, so that they are capable to act within multicultural social and work contexts, which must cease to be exceptional and become normal?
- What can higher education institutions undertake to adapt themselves to the new multicultural reality?
- How can migrations affect higher education institutions?
- How can higher education institutions be active agents able to preserve and foster cultural diversity?
Half a century ago, the Canadian visionary scientist Marshal McLuhan (1911-1980) predicted through his various writings the advent of the Global Village as a result of ground-breaking advances in technology in such areas as transportation, communication and informatics. Today, thanks to the digital revolution, the media has truly become a “technological extension of the body”, as he has openly stated in his world-famed work entitled: “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man,” (1964).
With the Internet, world citizens can project their image, their culture, their belief and their ideology through the planet at the click of a button. This, in many ways, is a major advantage for humanity, but it is, at the same time, a drawback in the sense that these projections could easily be manipulative by sending across, in a subliminal mode, ideological messages with the intent of brainwashing or moulding people to one's liking or belief,
Today, the Net is full of sites that preach given religions or cultures at the expense of others and even advocate the use of illegal and illegitimate means to achieve their goals, such as violence, deceit, treachery and demagogy. So, in some way the global village, though it is a very positive development for human kind, it is also a true land mine. After the 9/11 unfortunate events, the world discovered the ugly face of globalization: terrorism and consequent cultural backlash. At this point, a question imposes itself: Is going global a positive or a negative undertaking?
In the face of this current dilemma, the university, as a temple of acquisition of beneficial knowledge, positive values and appropriate behavior and way of life can play a major role in regulating globalization for the good of humanity. Indeed, because the geographical frontiers are melting away today and nobody can live any more in the comfort of their anonymity and remoteness, humans have to learn to live with each other and accept the “otherness” of the other and live with it in total harmony, and the university can be the appropriate forum for such training.
To achieve this properly, the university has to go international not only in the number of nationalities that seek knowledge in its classes, but also in the essence and the format of its curricula and adopt international education by extending its international reach through the development of branch campuses abroad, international exchange programs, cross-cultural courses and online learning initiatives. It ought also to strive to prepare the student for appropriate global living and for success in global market. In short, it has to incorporate in its mission statement the concept of “the development of the student's intercultural competencies and leadership skills” -skills essential for success in the 21st century environment-; and the ability for humanity to benefit from globalization in such areas as economy, culture, and way of life will increase exponentially.
Today, international education is positioned to deliver career-enhancing opportunities in different environments and for people from different cultures and backgrounds, but, also, and most importantly, bring these people together and reduce their risk of clash for cultural and religious issues and create, as it were, a trans-national learning community designed to enhance their personal and professional development. Today, there is, also, an urgent need for a global campus that would serve as the backdrop for continuous trans-cultural encounters difficult to replicate on traditional campuses, bearing in mind that today's global organizations are seeking young professionals with genuine international experience and the ability to operate successfully across cultural, political and linguistic boundaries.
The global campus would be required to design competency-based curriculum to develop and boost intercultural grasp and leadership skills of students; and it would, also, aim to provide the students with a base of knowledge about the world, its people and cultures, Theses globally-relevant learning outcomes are the result of purposeful integration of academic study, international living and experiential learning, With this in mind, it would, also, promote and emphasize such strong values as:
- INTEGRITY that upholds the principles of honesty, sincerity and trust;
- HEALTH and SAFETY as a top priority;
- HUMAN HISTORY, ACHIEVEMENTS, and STRENGTH as sources of inspiration;
- TRANSFORMATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL through experiential learning;
- STRONG COMMITMENT to global ethics and values;
- DIVERSITY and INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE and EXCHANGE;
- GLOBAL RESPONSIBILITY to make the world a better environment and habitat for all creatures;
- ORGANIZATIONAL EXCELLENCE through ongoing learning, innovation and communication; and
- LEADERSHIP THROUGH TEAMWORK and collaboration.
With these values embedded in an evolution-driven and participation-based curriculum, the student, at graduation, would have achieved the following golden aims:
- Achieve greater competence in chosen field of study;
- Enhance competence in skills essential to success and stability in the 21st century;
- Experience, learn from, critically reflect upon and understand a variety of transnational perspectives;
- Navigate through the complexities of diverse global environment with creativity and confidence;
- Act as a dynamic leader of local, national and global communities;
- Understand the background of various perspectives of major global issues, thus shaping a more compassionate and cooperative attitude toward the world.
This global higher education institution would, in principle, strive to offer a custom-made curriculum for both undergraduate and postgraduate students centered on the following core spheres of knowledge:
- international marketing;
- international business strategy;
- international fair trade;
- managing cultural diversity in business;
- international communication flows;
- intercultural communication; and
- communication and power paradigms in international relations,
- environmental studies;
- public health;
- water resource management; and
- leadership for sustainable development,
- dispute management and resolution;
- politics of terrorism;
- international security; and
- international negotiation and conflict resolution.
GLOBAL CULTURE AND SOCIAL CHANGE
- global culture;
- society and development in the world;
- anthropology; and
WORLDS OF ART AND CULTURE
- introduction to the study of religions;
- comparative religions;
- world literature;
- world theatre;
- world music; and
- world art.
In conclusion, thanks to the digital revolution, the world, as we know it, has completely changed both in spirit and form as well as in philosophy and content and humans have the obligation to follow suit. The Wall of Berlin has fallen for ever, so cultural walls that exist within minds have to follow suit sooner than later. As such, universities can play an important role in creating new social actors, open, just, communicative and responsible, able to operate in a globalized world, for the benefit of humanity at large. Amen.
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