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[Beijing Forum 2013] Molly N.N. Lee: Seeing Global Problem in a Border Perspective

Peking University, Nov.2, 2013: Dr. Molly N.N. Lee is the Coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Program of Educational Program for Development (APEID) and Program Specialist in Higher Education at UNESCO Asia and the Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok. As the Coordinator of APEID, she runs programs on higher education, technical and vocational education, education for sustainable development and ICT in education.

 

 

Prior to joining UNESCO Bangkok, she was a Professor of Education at Universiti Sains, Malaysia. Her research interests are higher education, teacher education, globalization and education, gender and education. Dr. Lee has published extensively on issues and topics relating to education in Malaysia.

 

At Beijing Forum 2013, Dr. Molly N.N. Lee attended sub-forum themed “Global Engagement & Knowledge Sharing in Higher Education”. During the break, she spoke with Peking University News on MOOC, the development of Chinese universities and education related issues.

 

Q: With the internationalization of higher education, MOOC, which stands for “Mass Open Online Courses”, is gaining popularity currently, and an increasing number of outstanding universities have participated in it, including Peking University in China. How do you see it? Do you think it will be a potential trend all over the world or it will only be available in western countries?

 

A: There’s a lot of attention given to MOOCs now. Since it is very new, there’s speculation as to what will the future trend will be in relation to MOOC. There’s one set of people who think MOOC is just a passing fade because although MOOC’s courses are free and high quality, the bottom line is there’s no certification, no qualification given at the end of the course. Especially in the contextof Asia, Asian employers, Asian parents and Asian students like to see the piece of paper at the end of the education. So there is a kind of thinking that it may not be as popular. Many students have registered but the completion rate is quite low. That’s one type of argument; another type of argument for those people who even go to extend that MOOC could replace the traditional universities because if it is properly run and is properly used it has a lot of potential and power. They even call it aeruptive innovation for replacement, just like PC replaced typewriter. The reason they are saying that is because the power of MOOC is individualized learning. Individuals have more control of the service they are getting. The advertisement “learn at anytime, anyplace”shows a very powerful idea. It is interesting to see how MOOC will develop in the future.

 

Q: There are some worrying about MOOC, for example, the interaction. The interaction between professors and students is not enough under the MOOC mode. And there’re concerns about providers, as now in America MOOC is provided mainly by business companies, so will there be a problem of education commercialization?

 

A: Business companies coming into high education is nothing new, there are private universities, corporativeuniversities. I don’t think the issue is about commercialization of high education. But the face to face social interaction, yes, it's changing our life. Everybody carries a smart phone and doesn't talk to one another. So the question of social skills and interpersonal interaction is affecting our life through this technology. So the question of how it is being managing and publicly, institutionally or even in the individual is very important, not just MOOC.

 

Q: You have done a lot of research on high education in Malaysia, actually in China most universities are public, do you think there is a chance that private universities can develop well in China?

 

A: It’s interesting. China does have private university but they don’t call it “private university”, so your “Minban University” is actually private in the sense that they collect tuition fee from student and make profit. Any foreign universities starting branch campus like Nottingham Ningbo and coming to China has to have partnership with local universities. They are also money-making institutions. Already it is happening thoughthey are not called “private university”. Private university has two types: nonprofit and profit. For the first type the surplus is given back to the university while the other one takes it out and put it in the shareholders’ or owners’ pockets. “Minban University” is the nonprofit one. You see the difference?

 

Q: You have worked for UNESCO for long time and are the former Coordinator of APEID. What’s the focus of the APEID?

 

A: You know interesting enough my successor is from China, Professor Wang Liben. APEID is a unit in UNOSCO regional office in Bangkok. APEID stands for Asia-Pacific Program of Educational Program for Development. The key word is innovation. In APEID unit we have 3 main programs, one is for high education. We pay a lot of attention to new types of education like cross-border education because it’s something new. The other one is ICT in education, like how to use computer in schools; then teacher education, it's an old topic but we are trying to see how the use of ICT changes teacher training. Also we have big component of what we call “education for sustainable development” And introduce this kind of values like protecting the environment, climate change and gender equality to the teachers’ education program. These are innovative elements we want to introduce to schools and teacher training system in this region.

 

Q: Actually we have Model United Nations in Peking University. In Model UNESCO, universities students from across the country will gather to discuss the problem of global educational issues. What role can we as students play in improving educational innovation?

 

A: In UNESCO we deal with global issues which cannot be handled by one particular country, like climate change and cross-border education. How to get countries to work together and solve a particular problem is essential. So from you students’ point of view, as now a lot of information is available in the Internet, you can get opinions from different perspective. For example, as for the environmental protection, farmers have different view, the industry have a different view. So the key is how do all these compromise and make a solution. Because we are all potential to see things in our own point of view, it’s very important to see a problem in a border perspective; you need to know how and why others think. That’s why this forum is themed about “harmony and dialogue”.

 

Reported by: Zheng Ye

Edited by: Zhang Jiang