chapter  12
12 Pages

Transforming Asian education through open and distance learning: through thinking

One of the most misunderstood approaches to learning by Western educationalists is that which emanates from Confucian Heritage Countries, but in addressing the subject of learning here I do not want to fall into the same trap. I want to focus on the philosophy of learning in the first instance because it points to two very important facts: to the universality of the human condition in which we do not know all the answers to the questions of our existence and, secondly, because none of us have instincts or sufficient knowledge to be able to live without learning. Human beings need to learn in order to survive. Moreover, we human beings have a paradoxical relationship with the world – we seek harmony with our life-world but because we do not have sufficient knowledge to do so, we are frequently in a disjunctural state with it and are forced to ask questions. But the way in which we all respond to our human condition is culturally-based. Only through understanding the culture can we begin to understand different approaches to learning and knowledge adopted by different countries and, traditionally, the West has not understood the East very well. As learning is a universal human process we would expect that there would be considerable similarities between the ways that all people learn but we would also expect different cultural emphases and explanations which lead to different practices. Consequently, I am not surprised to find considerable similarities between my own research into learning and the writings of Confucius and his followers. At the same time there are clearly fundamentally different cultural emphases which I hope to explore briefly in the first part of the paper.