A Time for Transformation: Opportunities and Challenges from Participatory Development for Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century

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We share a world in which poverty remains endemic, social injustice is widespread, and the voices of millions of disadvantaged people remain unheard. Education plays a critical role as transmitter, reproducer or resistor of a complex weave of knowledge and power relations, influencing development processes and outcomes throughout the world. These complex relationships are seldom explored in the context of higher education, even though higher education is itself becoming transformed through changes in its purposes and priorities, and the transfer of policies, curricula and methods of assessment between countries. Are higher education institutions equipped and ready to transform themselves to meet the challenge of contributing to "good change" that spans the local and the global?

At this early stage of the 21st Century, to what extent do, and should, the goals of higher education institutions go beyond the generation of wealth and the advancement of self-recognition? How can they narrow the gap between what they "know" and what they "do"? One example is through closer engagement with the wider community and through participatory research and co-construction of knowledge. Another example is through participatory mechanisms that promote collaborative learning and sustainable development. This paper suggests that there is much to be done by higher education institutions to meet the challenges we face and that now is the time to do it.

Reinventing Higher Education: Towards Participatory and Sustainable Development
UNESCO Bangkok
Bangkok, Thailand