Wisdom as a ‘higher’ global competency: perspectives from Thailand and Indigenous Australia

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Presenter:  Associate Professor ZANE MA RHEA

Date: Oct 17, 2017

Time: 12:00pm to 2:00pm

Contact person:  International Graduate Centre of Education
T: 8946 6851
E: igce@cdu.edu.au

Location:  CCDU Casuarina Campus, Orange 2.4.07, IGCE Seminar Room


One of the emerging global competencies for higher education has as a goal that students should be educated to be wise. Thailand and Indigenous Australia provide examples of what this might mean as an enactment of national higher education policy. What is wisdom and what does it mean in a nation such as Australia with its complex geolocation as the lands and waterways of Indigenous Australians, regionally located in the Asia Pacific region and with a strong colonial heritage that links the modern nation state to its roots in Britain? What do ancient Buddhist understandings about wisdom mean in the contemporary Thai higher education context?

This paper will report on a cross-cultural, comparative, and international study that has been conducted over the last 20 years. The first section of the paper will make close analysis of the definitional aspects of the key terms: wisdom and knowledge in order to clarify how these terms and phrases are being used.

The second section of the paper will provide a synthesis of the relevant literature and methodological aspects of this study that has used a mixed methods approach drawing on developments in the field over time.

The third section will report on key findings about what might be considered to be emergent forms of wisdom as they are being discussed in the global higher education system. The research found that there is uncertainty among senior higher education policy makers in how to operationalize their vision of wisdom as a global graduate competency. Even more challenging is the notion of wisdom as a global competency for research scholars. Findings also suggest that in some nations such as Thailand, while there is an extant pedagogical pathway called siinsamaadipanjaa that could underpin and shape discussions about how to evolve traditional understandings of wisdom into a de-imperialized, postcolonial, postmodern university system, there is little research about the pedagogical or curricula aspects of enacting the development of wisdom as a global competency within the contemporary university. In sharp relief, a nation such as Australia does not have a ‘wisdom tradition’ given its colonial past. Therefore it is important to consider what Indigenous Australians consider the wisdom path to be and some ideas about how to move forward to incorporate Indigenous principles into an emergent global competency about wisdom and wise research in particular.

Contemporary lack of attention to operationalizing wisdom as a global competency in higher education will make the attainment of the policy intention difficult to achieve.

Short Biography

Zane works in the Faculty of Education, Monash University. Her intellectual project has established ‘wisdom’ as a researchable concept in education (sociology of education, sub-field of international and comparative education), theorising how wisdom traditions teach wisdom as an ideal and as a practice across cultures. In her publications, she has shown that the powerful influence of the current western education model across the planet has meant not only that the wisdom tradition has been forgotten and written out of the core business of education in westernized nations, wisdom traditions are also under threat in other cultural and religious systems. Her work emphasizes the need to restore wisdom to its rightful place in education in pluricultural, postcolonial democracies.