Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The meaning and purpose of higher education

Balu's paper: "Rethinking a Humboldtian vision for the 21st century". (PDF file)

The teacher does not presuppose a pre-existent motivation in the student; in fact, s/he is indifferent to the multiple motives present among the students. The teacher provides a goal for the student, induces the student to search for truth, and instils in that student a capacity to reach that goal as well. The teacher does not merely provide ‘information’ for the student to choose and pick but actively participates in the learning process by convincing the student that pursuing the goal of seeking truth is the ultimate goal of higher education. Far from being a mere (pre)condition for learning, the teacher becomes an equal partner in the educational process of the student. Pedagogy, in this new Humboldtian vision, is not subordinated to psychology, but becomes as crucial to the learning process as the presence of the learner.

The student learns autonomously, but this autonomy is taught by the teacher and is acquired by the student at the end of a particular phase in the learning process. Through the active intervention of the teacher in the learning process, the student slowly acquires the ability to learn autonomously. Autonomy, then, is the end-product of higher education and not its presupposition. The teacher becomes an exemplar for the student to follow because the former embodies the unity of facts and values, namely, knowledge.

Consequently, the University does not merely become an institution that functions as a reservoir of information. It becomes that social institution which builds bonds between two generations.

If one accepts this as a mission of the University and the Teacher, then
Pedagogical innovations become interesting only to the extent they succeed in the goal of inculcating the value of searching for truth in the student.

IMO, that is the answer to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).