The answer? It depends. Definitely, China’s national government is well known to be autocratic and although the government in Bangladesh could do a lot more to protect the rights of minority populations including the million Rohingya and the 300,000 Tripuri people in Bangladesh, the US also struggles to protect the rights of minorities. It seems that democratic policy development and decision-making is much easier claim as a goal than it is to implement into practice.
Basically, everyone agrees that when you include stakeholders in decision making, it takes longer, but policy decisions are much more effective. When the UNESCO wanted to promote sustainable development in higher education, it called on a range of stakeholders. North American authors such as Michael Fullan, Jennifer Rippner, and Christina Chow & Clement Leung emphasize the importance to include stakeholders in decision making. At our own California State University, Dominguez Hills, our university vision states that the “CSUDH will be a model urban university responsive to and engaged as partners in addressing the most pressing challenges in our local and global communities.” At the College of Education, our mission, vision, and core values emphasize concepts such as “collaborating alongside communities we serve,” “co-creating,” and “collaboration…among all stakeholders.”
Recently, I was privileged to hear a presentation of faculty at Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh who presented their plans to create a masters in education. They described how they had developed a curriculum by engaging with a range of stakeholders to determine the focus of their classes. Wow, now that is democracy.
I also read an article in which Chinese and Czech authors Wang, Yang & Maresova (2020) describe how decision-making among the students, staff, and faculty (some stakeholders) led to a greater awareness and understanding of sustainable development at a Chinese university compared to another Chinese university that was more top-down. They included the a figure to the left (Koester et al., 2006) that represents internal and external stakeholders who should be engaged to promote greater success of any policy for sustainable development according to their literature review.
Recently, our College of Education developed a new policy on Reappointment, Tenure, & Promotion (RTP) as a faculty alone instead of engaging all of our stakeholders. The new policy which claims to be anti-colonial marginalizes the voice of students by reducing the value of student evaluations of professors and marginalizes the voice of our peers by reducing the value of peer reviewed journal articles. The staff and faculty in the Teacher Education Department is also in the midst of developing a new teacher credentialing curriculum without the engagement of stakeholders. Given our mission to be a “model” university, to “collaborate,” and “co-create,” I think we could do better and I hope that future curricular and policy decisions will be more democratic engaging more stakeholders.
So back to the question in the title of this post, Are Higher Education Institutions in China and Bangladesh more Democratic Than those in the US? It depends….not on the mission or vision statement, but on the engagement and dialogue of stakeholders concerning policy or curricular matters. As Peter Mayo (2020) suggests, “Praxis…finds a place in any organization or movement striving for the greater democratization of society. Democracy is seen here…as an ongoing process for the enfranchisement of different members of society.” In the context of the university, we professors are the powerful. If we are to transform and act in ways consistent with democracy and praxis, we must include more stakeholders in curricular and policy decisions.
Koester, R.J.; Eflin, J.; Vann, J. Greening of the campus: A whole-systems approach. J. Clean. Prod. 2006, 14, 769–779.
Mayo, P. (2020). Praxis in Paulo Freire’s Emancipatory Politics. International Critical Thought, 10(3), 454–472. https://doi.org/10.1080/21598282.2020.1846585
Yang, M. & Maresova, P. (2020). Sustainable Development at Higher Education in China: A Comparative Study of Students’ Perception in Public and Private Universities. Sustainability. 12. 2158. 10.3390/su12062158.