Knowledge of global and environmental studies is fundamental to understanding a rapidly changing world in which the policies and actions of one country can affect or influence those of another country.
Dr Vic Li Yu-wai, Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK), has worked with his colleagues to put together a four-year undergraduate interdisciplinary programme which allows students to explore the impacts of globalisation. The programme gives students an in-depth understanding about global development and the challenges of sustainability.
EdUHK has offered the University Grants Committee-funded Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) in Global and Environmental Studies (BSocSc(GES)) since 2010. The programme has recently been revamped to reflect the evolving global environment, and to meet the changing needs of students. The pillars of the programme are global studies, which covers how globalisation and how it is now challenged; and environmental studies, especially socio-scientific knowledge about the environment. The courses integrate themes of globalisation, development and environmental change in a course-cluster format.
“Our students are a diverse group,” Dr Li says. “As they have progressed through the programme, they have suggested changes to make it a better fit for their areas of interests, for both global studies and environmental studies. We have worked on a new programme structure that allows students the flexibility to choose a course of study within the programme that better meets their needs,” Dr Li adds.
The structure of the programme is being consolidated to offer more flexibility, and to enhance the learning experience. As students progress from Year One to Year Four, the core interdisciplinary courses remain the same. But students would enjoy more freedom to choose courses from course clusters in their senior study years. The programme is built on multi-disciplinary curriculums, but students can choose to emphasise global studies or environmental studies.
“On the environmental side, we stress sustainability issues and the global challenges they present. With regard to globalisation, some of the policies that countries are adopting are challenging the international system in place for decades, so we are looking at that, too” says Dr Li. “We cover current issues to ensure that our students have a solid foundation in topics that will become increasingly relevant in the future.”
The programme also offers students the chance to gain real-world experience through a compulsory experiential learning component. Students spend two weeks’ time in places like South Korea or Taiwan for field-based learning. The experience offers students a real-world context for the topics they are studying, especially in the areas of social innovation, political economic changes and sustainability.
In addition, students will participate in internship programmes which enable them to work for an organisation in Hong Kong or abroad. One student from Myanmar recently took up an internship in a community clinic on the outskirts of Bangkok to promote health awareness, while other students worked for conservation groups in Australia. Others secured internships at environmental organisations like Greenpeace, Green Power, and the Business Environment Council. The students went on to take full-time employment with these organisations.
Dr Li believes that the programme can equip students with the essential knowledge they need to explore the development and environmental challenges the world is facing. With an understanding of how different political, socio-economic, cultural, and environmental processes work together to shape interaction in global and local contexts, students can contribute actively to local and global society.
Dr Li says that EdUHK is working to achieve accreditation from local and international professional associations for the BSocSc(GES) programme.