An Interview with Dr. Ben S. Malayang III, President, Silliman University
Dr. Ben S. Malayang III, is the twelfth president of Silliman University and a specialist in the fields of environmental policy and governance. Under his leadership, Silliman has constructed an approach to higher education that is based on interaction in five venues: the classroom, the Church, the cultural center, the (athletic) court, and the community. In this interview, he shares some of his ideas on whole person education.
What is your definition of whole person education?
Whole person education to me is an education that builds competence, builds character, and builds faith in God, together.
It is an education that elevates and transforms a person into someone with a higher ability to learn, higher ability to live, higher ability to serve others, and higher ability to serve and to see God. That, to me, would be the essence of whole person education.
Are there ways in which the United Board can help colleges and universities integrate whole person education into their curricula?
I believe so,because the United Board is one organization that has extensive linkages across higher education institutions across the whole of Asia, and in particular in ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations], that are all committed to surfacing the presence of Christian faith in their schools.
I believe that the United Board can be instrumental as a partner institution in allowing for us in Asia to develop a sense of how to measure ourselves as institutions that are able to succeed in shaping whole persons out of our students.
Accreditation systems, for example, can be one thing. We can set up internal and external standards for education, including languages, so that we not only address the obvious curricular content of our institutional system but also provide the silent curriculum that is available in each of our institutions. By “silent curriculum” I mean an underpinning objective of shaping graduates who are competent in their own area of study, imbued with character and integrity so as to command respect and esteem to be leaders in their profession and communities, and a strength of faith that makes them people who can be relied upon in good or difficult times.
This is something that the United Board, and through the United Board all of us in ASEAN that are institutions associated with United Board, might form the basic network of advocating whole person education across Asia.
Being associated with Christian institutions should not be an impediment – because the challenge will always be the extent to which higher education institutions can usher in opportunities for our students to enter into dialogue so that they are able to see how others are also struggling to have their faith in the world. That ability to see yourself in others is, I think, one of the great challenges of education in our time and in our region.
Are faculty receptive to this type of education?
That is another challenge. Because when you say education you are not only needing to educate those who will be educated but the educators as well.
I am sure that most faculty in our institutions of higher learning in Asia are all committed to pushing the envelope in terms of improving the ability of Asian students and Asian young people to be as good as all others in the world without losing their distinctive Asian heritage. To me that need not be questioned – most faculty of higher education institutions in this region are committed to that.
The question is how we are going to facilitate a transition to a re-imagining, transitioning, and transforming curricular, pedagogical, and other personal approaches to teaching and learning.
The United Board, together with its partners, would have a unique opportunity to be a venue and a forum for that.