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Like higher education in general, religious or theological education also pursues forming and informing not only religious leaders but also responsible citizens. The concept of citizenship here is not necessarily understood in legal terms. In this time of globalization, we need to consider what global citizenship means. While globalization brought ...
Global Perspectives on Higher Education
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
This sprawling volume, which incorporates co-written essays alongside those written by the main author, focuses on several themes in global higher education in the last half century, including massification, systemic inequalities, and the hegemonic role of English. Key areas where higher education has changed significantly include Asia, India, and Latin America; Africa still lags behind in many ways. The book is organized in five major sections: “The Global Context”; “The Implications of Globalization”; “Centers and Peripheries”; “Comparative Perspectives”; and “Teachers and Students.” This review will focus mostly on the final section as most relevant to the readership of this online publication.
The authors aim high in their goal of surveying the landscape of rapidly globalizing higher education over fifty or so years. The first few chapters provide a modicum of historical perspective on higher education and go on to examine the most recent “revolution” in higher education through four interrelated forces: “mass higher education, globalization, the advent of the knowledge society and the importance of research universities in it, and information technology” (16). The author(s) note that these forces have fed the growth of privatization, international rankings, and burdensome systems of assessment, among other developments. The essays in the following sections focus in different and sometimes overlapping ways on those themes, noting that the recent internationalization of universities is a necessary response to increased globalization. Anyone who works in higher education would come away with a better general understanding, if not an in-depth knowledge, of trends in higher education after reading these chapters. Depending on the topic, Altbach and his occasional co-authors provide few citations for their claims; for instance, the chapter on “The Globalization of Rankings” includes just one reference, to an essay by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. Consequently, this volume will be of limited use for those wishing to pursue their own research in these areas.
The final section (Chapters Seventeen and Eighteen) is titled “Teachers and Students,” but it is more accurately about the ways academic work is contracted for and compensated as well as reasons for student political activism. Both topics yield slippery data, so both chapters seem more tentative than definitive. It is clear from the data that they do use that disparities in remuneration and opportunity are widespread across academia worldwide. It is also clear that nobody truly understands the driving forces behind student activism except in certain local cases. Neither chapter addresses issues related to curriculum or pedagogy as they focus more on broader institutional and bureaucratic issues. This is perhaps necessary given the broad sweep of this book overall, but it also means that this book will be of less use to readers of this journal than one more focused on actual classrooms and pedagogical continuities and changes around the world. Despite this, readers looking for an overview of the ways globalization has driven the internationalization of higher education will appreciate the broad sweep of this volume.
The Balancing Act: International Higher Education in the 21st Century
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
What can teachers of theology and religion learn from a text on contemporary global education? Moreover, “If our world is constantly changing, particularly with globalization, how can educators support the nature of change through curriculum, teaching, and learning, particularly in international contexts” (30)? Mary Gene Saudelli, a Canadian educator with a rich background of teaching abroad, highlights the significance of contextual considerations in twenty-first century teaching and learning through this case study of nineteen international educators at Dubai Women’s College in the United Arab Emirates. Within the pluralistic context of many of our classrooms, as well as the increased emphasis on internationalization in many of our institutions, theological and religious educators will benefit from Saudelli’s insightful analysis of contemporary educational theory and curriculum through a global lens.
Divided into three modules, the first describes the context of the study along with a discussion of contemporary theories of adult learning, including sociology of education and change theories. Module 2 presents the international educators, the Emirati learners, and the curriculum. And Module 3 explores issues within the learning context: religion, culture, society, and language. Finally, a brief conclusion captures salient lessons learned from this case study with application to twenty-first century curriculum design.
Saudelli’s analysis of contemporary learning theories in light of the global educational context is of particular significance as it represents the integrative thinking that is essential for our thinking and practice in culturally-responsive theological education. For example, she examines Knowles’ work on andragogy and Mezirow’s transformative learning theory from an international and intercultural perspective, indicating the implicit Western individualistic bias that undergirds these approaches to learning. Moreover, values such as empowerment or emancipation, lauded in contemporary adult education scholarship, may look quite different through the lens of a more restrictive Arab context.
Saudelli’s description of twenty-first century learning and its implications for curriculum design is another helpful discussion. In her words, twenty-first century teaching and learning refers to “an orientation that recognizes the incredible change that has been ushered in by virtue of a dramatic technological evolution and advancements, globalization and cross-national migration of both people and information, and intense shifting of educational needs” (63). Such curriculum is interdisciplinary, experiential, balanced, and interconnected with both local and global contexts (63ff). Moreover, its design supports the development of key skills that students require to be equipped to address the opportunities and challenges in our ever-changing world. It may be instructive to consider how these criteria could contribute to shaping theological and religious studies within our own educational institutions.
The section on faith is somewhat brief, especially given the enormous impact that religion has in the context of this study, the Arab world. And while the author does reference epistemological differences in the conclusion (179), a more robust discussion as to their significance for global education would be a welcome addition to her otherwise helpful synopsis in the final chapter.
Thus, while the particulars of this case study may be unique, the author suggests that the text can be useful, “as a way to think about how we approach internationalization in education” (12). Moreover, its fresh perspective on curriculum and educational theory through a global lens is one that is worthy of consideration for contemporary theological educators.
Teaching Global Theologies: Power and Praxis
Date Reviewed: January 18, 2016
This collection of ten essays examines globalization (the radical diversity and complex interconnections that characterize the present state of human existence in the world) and offers various methods for teaching and doing Christian theology in this context. Globalization has arisen, in large part, from the colonial expansion of western European nations, through trade and commerce, migration, travel, and mass communication, and has resulted in a crisscrossing and blurring of national and cultural boundaries (12, 40, 145). The first century Marcan imperative for Christians to “go into all the world” that was at first aspirational is now the reality of Christianity in the twenty-first century.
The collection is divided into three sections. Part I defines globalization and encourages theological educators to take seriously not only the current pluralism in the world but also the diversity within Christianity both presently and historically (14, 29, 46). Part II examines the concept and practice of theological education, inclusive of methods for encouraging seminary students’ positive engagement with persons of other faith traditions (104). Part III goes further to suggest how theological educators can enable their students to achieve a deeper understanding of being and acting as persons of faith in global community.
Just as important as the divisions of the collection are the prominent themes in this volume of essays. Some of these themes are: intentionality in seeking, welcoming, and appreciating encounters with other religions (51, 92); the role of theology in public life in addition to its functions in Christian churches and communities (12); the importance and desirability of dialogue in teaching theology as well as in the encounters between different religions and cultures (42, 54, 83, 109, 150); the enhancement of systematic theology and theological education through comparative studies and comparative theology (47, 100, 104, 109); the interrelatedness and mutual influences between local settings and global networks (79, 146, 165-166, 173); social justice as the common good and essential feature of global community (58-59); and global citizenship as participation in global networks and responsibility for improvement of the same by exposing and challenging systems of oppression and by working for social justice (59, 67, 88, 126).
The collection represents a noteworthy start to critical reflection and modifications in teaching Christian theology in light of the diversity and pluralism resulting from globalization. The essayists describe their use of pedagogical tools such as field trips (51), sacred texts from various religions (52), roundtable discussion (152-160), service and study abroad (81-84, 169), non-western cultural sources (92-99), comparative studies in religion (52, 100), music and language arts (117-120), and autobiography for reconstructions of identity (78, 168-171).
Further work is needed in analysis of the shifts within Christianity itself. Several of the essayists acknowledge that demographic shifts are tilting the population growth of Christianity towards the Global South – Africa, Asia, and Latin America. One essayist asks the question: What new or alternative interpretations of Christian doctrines will emerge in these areas? (38). Postcolonial theologies are already taking shape. Christian theology in the future will likely be the product of mutual learning between the Global South and the Eurocentric Global North.