Universities in Hong Kong

Baptist University should stop forcing students to do courses

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2016, 4:58pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 4:55pm

For many, a university is seen as a place for students to unleash their potential.

Students supposedly attend classes in order to learn what they believe will be useful to them and lead to them becoming mature and responsible citizens. They are supposed to be free of the constraints placed on them during their secondary school studies.

Some universities place emphasis on holistic education, the aim being to cultivate the abilities of each individual through “whole person education”. And some academics also talk about creating “whole persons”, “global citizens” and “lifelong learners”.

This holistic education philosophy is prevalent at Hong Kong Baptist University through its general education courses. Under the banner of “Whole Person Education”, the university requires students to attend compulsory general education courses.

I do not think undergraduates gain from these courses. For example, an arts major student has compulsory mathematics and physical education. This gives him less time to attend arts lectures, the very subject which he is passionate about.

I accept that undergraduates should have course requirements that they must meet, but they should be given a choice about the courses outside their faculties they wish to take. Surely this is what academic freedom is all about.

We thought we had escaped the spoon-feeding system in secondary schools.

However, that is what students face with these compulsory courses in which they have no interest. A university should not only give students the right to voice their political opinions, it should also allow them to choose what they believe will be useful to them in the future.

Surely, most professors and tutors want to see students at their classes who have come willingly and not because of some course requirements imposed on them.

As the renowned philosopher and ex-Hong Kong professor Neven Sesardic said in an article in the South China Morning Post last year, terms such as “whole person education” and “lifelong learning” are false, fuzzy and nebulous.

I hope the academics designing these degrees at tertiary institutions such as Baptist University will review their approach and make the necessary adjustments.

Raphael Blet, Tai Po