Sunday, November 2, 2008
Back from Shanghai
Certainly an interesting time in Shanghai! Robin and I were well looked after by staff from Shanghai University of Engineering Science, and it was great to have participated in their 30th Anniversary celebrations. The University is proud of the cooperative education focus of its curriculum, and it was clear that they very much want to be known for a "practical" curriculum - so my address was well targetted.
I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SUES to enable our CAPL project to proceed. This project will be a challenge for both ourselves and the Chinese, because the whole concept of recognising prior experiential learning is not currently part of the way the Chinese see tertiary education. On the other hand, experiential learning is precisely the direction they want to take, so the challenges are worth tackling.
We were really impressed with the level of resources that SUES enjoys, and they are but one of eight universities being invested in on the same site. And "invested in " is the operative phrase - unlike here in New Zealand where our government is hell bent on seeing how little they can get away with in terms of spending on the polytechnic sector. Actually, the lack of investment in polytechnics in NZ is a disgrace, and by international comparison a sick joke! We have a government which urges us to increase export earnings through tertiary education, and has a stated vision of building a world class polytechnic sector - but these really are just hollow words, especially so when one realises that funding in real terms for 2009 is a reduction on 2008.
Shanghai itself is certainly a city of contrasts - rich and poor, old and new - both ways of life as well as buildings and transport. What stood out, though, was that people were very friendly - everywhere - and more often than not had a smile on their faces. In spite of the congestion, the smog and for many the poverty. Perhaps it has something to do with choosing to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty!
I also came away reflecting on what a "cotton wool" society we have become in NZ - manifested in our present day attitudes to health and safety. This appreciation was brought about through experiencing the utter chaos ( from a visitor's perspective) on the roads and footpaths - but especially the latter. Here, bicycles, motorbikes/scooters and pedestrians intermingled with gay abandon, but I did not once hear the screech of tyres nor witness a close call. I also climbed a 1000 year old tower, and was free to do so without signs screaming at me about the dangers - which were pretty obvious.
And talking about the contrast of old and new - one of the thrills of the visit was riding the Maglev, the very high speed electric train from the city to the airport. We reached the phenomenol speed of 431kmph, in almost total silence. And when we passed the train coming the other way it was but a blurr and a whoosh, in a split second. Now, for a long time petrol head ,believe me this was just great!