Professor Joshua Mok, Dean of School of Graduate Studies and Vice President, was invited by the World Education Research Association (WERA) to present a speech entitled “Questing for Sustainable Development in Higher Education: The Role of Liberal Arts Education” at the World Education Research Association Focal Meeting in Tokyo on 5-8 August 2019. The conference was successfully held at the University of Tokyo and Gakushuin University in Tokyo Japan. More than 1000 participants / presenters from over 60 countries / regions joined the conference. Professor Joshua Mok’s speech was warmly received with his critical reflections and analysis of the strategic importance of liberal arts education against the growing influences of neoliberalism in higher education. Upholding the humanistic values in higher education and nurturing university students to become caring professionals with global vision and caring minds are very important missions for liberal arts education. Professor Joshua Mok also shared the experiences of Lingnan University, being one of the Top Liberal Arts Universities in Asia (named by Forbes). He also highlighted what are the major challenges and opportunities for promoting liberal arts education in Asia.
Professor Joshua Mok was joined by three panel members from Japanese Educational Research Association. Professor Yuto Kitamura from University of Tokyo presented the growing popularity of liberal arts universities in Asia, especially in the developing countries in Southeast Asia. He also highlighted the recent launch of the Alliance of Asian Liberal Arts Universities advocated by Lingnan University in 2017. The Alliance has now grown to have around 24 partnering institutions from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China Mainland, Japan, South Korea, India and Thailand. Valuing the contributions of liberal arts education, Professor Kitamura called for more regional cooperation in promoting liberal arts education in Asia and for Asia. Professor Manabu Sato from Gakushuin University and the Chair of the Panel shared with his critical reflections on the importance of humanities and social sciences in higher education, raising the questions about the Japanese Government’s move to abolish some colleges with humanities and social sciences orientations for squeezing resources for development of STEM subjects. In his presentation, he also discussed the major challenges confronting the Japanese higher education, especially when gender inequality is becoming intensified in higher education. Professor Aya Yoshida from Waseda & University conducted a critical and historical review of the development of general education and liberal arts education. Making reference to the recent developments of liberal arts education in Europe and other parts in Asia like China and Hong Kong, Professor Yoshida called for the Japanese Government to pay more attention and give more emphasis on liberal arts education in the country. Two discussants Professor Eva Baker from UCLA, USA and Professor Tang Oon Seng from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore provided insightful responses and comments to the three presentations. The panel ended with some interesting and thought provoking discussions from the audience. After the Symposium, Professor Joshua Mok was invited by other universities in Japan like Sophia University, Mejiro University and Tamagawa University, as well as National University of Singapore for future collaboration.