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Applying Human Governance in teaching

by Dr Abey P. Philip

It is the responsibility of academics to create, through the provision of quality education, a new generation of empowered citizens that are responsible and caring towards their fellow human beings, and capable of making sustainable decisions in their lives.

However, it is not easy to implement the concept of human governance to the current education system. If only the education system can create in students’ hearts a passion to be more humane and promote sustainability, they will become future leaders capable of making holistic decisions. Although family can be a huge influence in shaping students’ ethics, their teachers can make them think more humanely.

I am convinced that teaching will have long-lasting effects on students, so academics should always take their learning and critical thinking to heart. The mission of an educator is to encourage lifelong learning by promoting critical thinking skills and enhancing the unique cognitive skills each student possesses. I respect my students as unique individuals and take measures to put them in charge of their learning.

It can be argued that universities these days tend to focus increasingly on achieving accreditation and rankings to enhance their reputation, often requiring academics to publish more in research journals and other publications to boost rankings without looking at how it affects their teaching skills.

Such attitudes may cause us to easily forget about the ethics and responsibilities of teaching, and have a negative impact on our students. To ensure the integrity of academic values and teaching quality, I believe academics should focus on teaching and bring their research inside the classroom and discuss with the students as part of their learning process.

Committed academics should make sure that they are approachable and responsive when students need help and advise the students to meet them as often as necessary. This strategy has worked very well for me and my students feel comfortable approaching me with all kinds of problems. It has also helped me create a positive relationship with them, creating a classroom environment that is more conducive to learning and meeting their developmental, emotional and academic needs. As a result, the students are putting more effort into their learning.

In classes, there should not be any differentiation or segregation of students based on background or ethnicity. I believe in inclusiveness, and also ensure accountability and fairness in the classroom. Furthermore, we should try our level best to encourage interaction and participation in class, especially by the more reserved ones. I tell students always that the participation and asking questions are the first steps to acquiring knowledge.

Most importantly, academics should always remind students to be humane, sympathetic and responsible towards others, just as their parents are towards them. I start my lectures every semester by introducing the concept of ‘opportunity cost’, asking my students to calculate the explicit and implicit cost of their current studies to make them realise the considerable investment their parents have put into their education. By doing this, they will come to appreciate the significance of furthering their education, and they will be more conscious of their responsibilities as students, sons and daughters, and members of society.

When I teach about market failure due to moral hazards, I tell my students about the importance of education in promoting obedience to the law and responsibility to family and society. Parents spend their hard-earned savings on their children’s education and they expect their children to study well at university. However, it is impossible for parents to monitor their children and the onus is in the students to be responsible and eliminate the moral hazard as much as possible.

The moral hazard concept is applicable to academics as well. Lecturers are supposed to teach effectively, otherwise the problem of moral hazard will arise and the effectiveness of teaching will suffer.

Incorporating these values in teaching make students more accountable and responsible - to themselves, their families and society. Students who are responsible and honest will be accountable for their behaviour, will make sound and equitable decisions, and think about the future generations when making decisions. 

Dr Abey P. Philip is a senior lecturer in economics of the Department of Finance and Banking, Faculty of Business, Curtin Malaysia. He has received a number of awards for teaching excellence since joining Curtin Malaysia in 2009, including Curtin University’s Excellence in Teaching and Innovation Award, the University’s highest award. He also received a Teacher of the Year Award from the Curtin Business School in Perth and Curtin Malaysia’s own Excellence and Innovation in Teaching Award, as well as its ‘Best Lecturer - Students Choice Award’ which he received in the years 2009 to 2011, 2013, and 2015 to 2016, and again in 2017. Dr Abey can be contacted at 085-443 939 ext. 3945 or by email to