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Education must adapt to globalization, Methodist academics say

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Peter Vardy, of Heythrop College in London, says educators must equip young people to be “fully human.”
July 25, 2005

A UMNS Feature
By Hendrik Pieterse and Vicki Brown*

Educators must teach a broader vision of what it means to be human in a world struggling with the effects of globalization, speakers told staff and students from Methodist-related schools in 19 different countries.

“Unless we equip young people to become more fully human and take a stand, we are not fulfilling our task as Methodist educators,” said Peter Vardy, vice principal at Heythrop College, University of London.

Vardy and others explored the ethical challenges globalization raises for Methodist-related education at the fourth meeting of the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges, and Universities, held July 11-14 at Westminster School in Adelaide, Australia.

Speakers warned that much education today is “outcome dominated” and fails to deal with what it means to be human amid the complexities of our global world.

“Institutional evil flourishes where fear is present — where people fear to make a stand,” Vardy said. Preventing that, he said, means educating young people to challenge unjust economic systems and institutional evil.

Ninety-two participants explored the topic “Globalization: Ethical Implications for Methodist-related Education” at the conference, for which the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry provided staff and financial support.

Presidents, administrators, faculty and students struggled with the question of how Methodist-related institutions of higher education identify and educate leaders to meet these ethical challenges.

Walter Klaiber, a retired United Methodist bishop from Germany, called for a new approach to Christian education that he termed “global learning.” He defined global learning as a holistic approach that rejects the narrow intellectualism of traditional Western education, while fostering awareness of the “connectedness” of different cultures and communities.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A Web-only photo courtesy of Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Walter Klaiber, a retired United Methodist bishop from Germany, calls for a new approach to Christian education.
“To learn to see (our neighbours) or even to learn to see the world through their eyes would be one of the most important goals of a form of global learning,” Klaiber said.

Jerome King Del Pino, top staff executive of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said the international association is an extension of the principle that “knowledge and vital piety belong together,” that there can be no effective commitment to care for the world and participate in God’s mission to renew the world, without leaders who are “characterized by intellectual excellence” as well as “holiness of heart and life.”

“It is not an exaggeration to assert that if Methodist-related educational institutions and the church that created them would be true to their calling, they will claim the ‘world as their parish’ and promote learning that removes barriers — social, political, racial, economic — that divide and separate the human family of God,” Del Pino said after the conference.

Other speakers and participants challenged United Methodist churches and educators to help shape the impact of globalization on the economy, the environment, and religion and culture.

Masayuki Ida, associate dean of the Graduate School of International Management at Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan, warned of the growing digital divide between the rich and the poor.

The world’s developing countries own just 4 percent of the world’s computers. In 2002, there were only 6.3 million Internet subscribers on the entire African continent, compared with 34.3 million in the United Kingdom alone.

Ida noted that globalization has brought economic and technological advances that have provided millions of people with unprecedented opportunities for commerce, self-improvement and social connection. But he and others warned globalization also brings the dangers of exclusion, injustice and marginalization.

Globalization does offer an important window of opportunity for protecting the environment, one in which educators have a critical role, said Peter Mullins, chief executive officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

He challenged educators to become more aware and informed about threats to the environment and the complex solutions that are needed.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A Web-only photo courtesy of Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Masayuki Ida of Japan warns Methodist educators of the growing digital divide between rich and poor.
“Take a leadership role in pushing environmental awareness and thinking into your schools,” he said.

While most of the conference attendees were educators, 10 students from the United States and Australia participated through the cooperation of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Campus Ministry Section.

The students visited an aboriginal college, Tauondi College, in Port Adelaide, South Australia.

Tahara Rahman, a 21-year-old recent graduate of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, said she took away from the conference the idea that “silence is consent” when there is an injustice.

“If you sit back and don’t do anything, it’s just like you are consenting,” she said.

In other business, the association’s board re-elected as president Rukudzo Murapa of Zimbabwe, the vice chancellor of Africa University. Almir de Souza Maya of Brazil, president of the Latin American Association of Methodist Institutions of Education, was elected vice president, and Wanda Bigham, the Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s assistant general secretary of Schools, Colleges and Universities, will serve as secretary/treasurer.

The International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities represents more than 700 Methodist educational institutions around the world. It aims to develop a dynamic, worldwide network of member institutions for preparing a new generation of Christian leaders.

In panel discussions and group sessions, participants warned that the injustices and inequities that frequently accompany globalization may end up leaving large sections of the world’s population behind.

“How can we talk about globalization when two-thirds of the world’s population lives under the poverty line?” asked panelist Elvira Romera of Argentina, a consultant to the minister of education in the Buenos Aires province.

The United Methodist Church should respond to globalization by fostering a sense of wholeness that calls for respect of all living things and working to overcome the divisions that still plague the body of Christ, Klaiber said.

“The church has to face this reality in all its complexity,” he said.

*Pieterse is director of scholarly research, and Brown is associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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