Education, fundamental to economic growth and development, has become an arena for global competition in the digital information age. As in the United States, many Asian policymakers are now pushing for higher education reform in the belief that strong, innovative higher education systems will pave the way for their countries’ future economic and political strength.
Looking comparatively at situations across Asia and in the United States, the fourth annual Stanford Kyoto Trans-Asian Dialogue considered possible solutions to the challenges of reforming higher education today.
Scholars and top-level administrators from Stanford and universities across Asia, as well as policymakers, journalists, and business professionals, met in Kyoto on September 6 and 7, 2012. In the discussion sessions following the presentations, participants raised a number of key, policy-relevant points, which are highlighted in the Dialogue’s final report. These include:
All countries face the challenge of preparing students to find meaningful employment, yet there is a lack of clarity in educational goals. Several participants felt the political expediency of government funding aiming for world university rankings must be balanced with the less politically attractive but potentially more critical vocational needs of economic development.
University administrators and government policymakers need to define their goals for “globalization” or “internationalization” as they launch new initiatives and policies. Participants noted that, while few are opposed to the principle of internationalization, without a sense of concrete and realistic goals, the cost-benefit of various measures may not make sense.
Online education promises great potential innovation in education, but it is still at a very early stage. While potentially valuable in enhancing traditional learning and research, serious challenges remain. There was a sense that far more needs to be done than simply taking existing forms of education and putting them online in order to truly harness the potential offered by online education.
The Stanford Kyoto Trans-Asian Dialogue series is made possible through the generosity of the City of Kyoto, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, and Yumi and Yasunori Kaneko. The final report from the 2012 Dialogue, and previous years, is available for download from the Shorenstein APARC website.