Education and Home

Borderless education

MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz - The Philippine Star

It’s become fashionable to talk about “borderless education.” What exactly is it?

The definition proposed by Yoni Ryan of the Queensland University of Technology in “The Business of Borderless Education and Lifelong Learning” (2000) and “Borderless Education After the Dot.com Crash” (2001), is as good as any other:

“The term ‘borderless education’ encompasses a wide range of activities, from online training, off-shore campuses, technology-assisted teaching, and franchising of curricula. Since many of these activities emanate from the new providers of post-secondary education and programs, often for-profit institutions or commercial arms of non-profit universities, borderless education segues into ‘the business of education.’ That brings the activities of organisations supporting e-learning, whether vendors of learning management platforms or publishers of digital material, into our purview as well.”

Let us take each of the examples he gives to get a better idea of what borderless education is all about.

Online training has been going on for quite a while. A number of Filipino teachers today, for example, work from home, tutoring Japanese, Korean, and other foreign students.

The website italki.com is a successful online training company. Based in Hong Kong, the site matches tutors with students, without regard to place of residence or work. If you go to the site and look for teachers of Filipino (called Tagalog outside the Philippines), you will see that there are Filipinos (some based in the Philippines, others not) who offer Tagalog lessons for 4 to 8 US dollars per hour (depending on the qualifications of the teacher and the level of the student).

The language most in demand, needless to say, is English, and Filipino teachers now compete with American or British online teachers (despite the latter being regarded as “native speakers” of the language).

Off-shore campuses have been around for a while. Singapore has the Yale-National University of Singapore College, Malaysia its International University of Malaya-Wales, and Vietnam its RMTI Melbourne University Vietnam. Because our Constitution severely limits foreign ownership of schools, we find it much more difficult than our ASEAN neighbors to invite foreign universities to set up campuses in our country.

Technology-assisted teaching has been around since the invention of chalk and blackboard, but in the context of borderless education, the term refers to the use of the Internet in classroom teaching.

The best example of the use of the Internet in classes is the flipped classroom, where students watch TED talks, Khan Academy lessons, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and other such Internet-based lectures at home and come to class only to ask and answer questions. In a flipped classroom, what used to be homework is done in the classroom and what used to be classroom work is now done at home.

MOOCs, by the way, have evolved from the TED talk or Khan Academy type (where students merely watch canned lectures) to actual live classes, where hundreds, perhaps even thousands of students, join the few students attending a face-to-face class in a physical classroom. Using the tools available now through technology, a teacher can now teach hundreds, perhaps thousands of students, at the same time.

If you are a teacher and you want to know how that works, you could try to use the free software called Socrative in your classroom. Your students can answer questions on their smartphones, and you will get their answers instantaneously on your own smartphone or tablet. Just extend that to people watching you over live streaming, and you get the idea. It is possible to have simple question-and-answer sessions in a live virtual classroom (wait for better technology and real, open-ended discussions will soon be possible).

Franchising of curricula can be as basic as having your students pay for International Baccalaureate or as advanced as paying for the intellectual property rights of syllabuses and curriculums from the world’s top schools. One of the things that I wish would happen in my lifetime is that schools outside our country will use the teaching tools we have created in the Philippines, through franchising. After all, we do have some of the most advanced thinkers in the world today (sadly, completely ignored by our policy makers and political leaders, who prefer merely to follow what other countries have done rather than to tell other countries what to do).

Finally, vendors of learning management platforms or publishers of digital material clearly want to make money from borderless education, but what can we do? As Yoni Ryan himself says, borderless education costs a lot of money and most universities cannot afford it if they do it on their own. By paying vendors and publishers, schools will save much time, money, effort, and hardware in searching for the most appropriate Internet tools for their students.

At the 2014 International Conference and 5th National Tri-Level Conference of Teachers and Educators, sponsored by the Metrobank Foundation Network of Outstanding Teachers and Educators (NOTED), held last week, I ended my lecture on borderless education with an admonition: Borderless education is not a magic pill that will cure all of our educational diseases, but if we do not see beyond our geographical noses, we will stumble and fall.

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