OPINION: Clearly defining the higher education agenda in Macau

Macau Business | September 2022

Keith Morrison – Author and educator

Here we are at the start of the academic year in higher education (HE) in Macao. What will students learn? What kind of people do institutions produce? For example, look at the thousands of students studying business and technology in Macau, the big recruiters for higher education.

Take this article from a business journal. Here, MBA students have adopted an uncritical acceptance of a market-only, profit-oriented mentality. There was a culture of getting a degree and getting a job, rather than a society-focused development of the person. The students and their teachers ignored local and social needs and valued only self-serving conformity to the neoliberal creed and being enterprising, self-serving individuals, hungry to compete in a market of dog-eating dogs. High-paying jobs, creating marketable graduates, global mobility and commercialization were highlighted. Students who did not conform to this view were marginalized, labeled as abnormal, and subject to fines and expulsion. Neoliberal beliefs defined what was normal and abnormal. The class-stratified society and socio-economic inequalities were reinforced and perpetuated. What were the students learning? Well, many things: self-interest, greed, acquisition, materialism and exploitation; ES for utilitarian, economic and employment purposes; the promotion of consumerism, commodification and the commodification of everything; the benefits of competition in a market economy privatized of public goods; personal investment in individualism and knowledge capital; the value of people measured by individual performance, esteem being measured by salary. People have become economic units; things, not people.

Or take information technology. A recent analysis of electronic technology for learning found that out of 27 of its alleged benefits and 30 alleged dangers, almost all relate to the individual. There was almost total silence on technology for society, community, social justice, values, ethics, equality, societal and community issues and development.

What do we see here? Business courses and information technology courses were almost silent on the type of society, values, ethics, morals and people we should have, what matters to humans and societies. There was almost no mention of social service, community solidarity, a human-oriented society, key values ​​for society, social systems, ethics, morals and type of humans we want and need.

We live in a time when social good, public good, social justice, (re)distributive justice, social identity and recognition, solidarity, human rights, ethics, morality, values, care and the collective good are engulfed, consumed, by individualism within a neoliberal market mentality. HE is much richer than these. As Newman puts it: the idea of ​​a university is to provide more than what is of utilitarian value: it is to develop “an atmosphere of pure and clear thought, which the student also breathes”. Similarly, as the English philosopher John Stuart Mill has (albeit too exclusively) pointed out: a university “is not a place of professional education. Universities are not meant to teach the knowledge needed to adapt to men [sic] for a special way of earning a living. Their goal is not to make skilled lawyers, or doctors, or engineers, but capable and cultured human beings”. HE is an agent of societal emancipation, community development, human rights, debate, argument, criticism, ethics, morals, values ​​and the promotion of social justice, recognition, identity and service. HE should take a stand on its meanings, purposes and its crucial role in educating students to participate in an inclusive society, promoting social justice and humanity.

As we begin the new academic year in Macau’s higher education, ask yourself: how do teachers and students ensure that what is taught and learned promotes sustainable humanity, society, people who think, social justice, equality, human rights, critical thinking, action, debate? , and public, collective, egalitarian good living for all? What kind of society are they trying to create that is worth living in? How do they improve the lot of the poor, oppressed, exploited, voiceless, marginalized, desperate and unrepresented? What is HE, a major player in society, doing to respond to this? HE has a duty of care and responsibility here that is more valuable than just getting a job. Does the HE of Macau fulfill them?

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