Reform of higher learning should not be simply expanding the scale of universities; rather, higher learning institutions should align themselves with the value and essence of tertiary education and talent nurturing. The University of Macau (UMacau) took an innovative initiative to make knowing oneself as its educational goal and implemented a 4-in-1 model for talent nurturing. This approach aims to reflect the core values of higher education: making a difference in the growth of individuals and playing a positive role in societal changes.
Recently, UMacau has had an opportunity to develop a new campus with 60+ buildings over a land of one square kilometre. Seizing this unparalleled opportunity, UMacau has carried out a comprehensive and systematic reform in teaching and research in recent years. As its overall quality and international reputation increase, its reform has attracted the attention of tertiary institutions worldwide.
Under the student-oriented approach, the university has set the goal of knowing oneself as its primary educational ideal. It is only through a process of knowing themselves that students can fully actualise their potential and capitalise on their strengths to better serve the community.
We believe that a positive interaction between the self and the real world is the key to the learning process. Thus, students should be guided to understand themselves better and know “what I want to do” and “what I can do”.
- “What I want to do”: It is the process of seeking self-awareness and relating one’s interests and aspirations to external incentives. This approach emphasises the self-motivation of students in their development and decisionmaking. It focuses on students as independent learning agents and enables them to formulate their own goals and set their own paths.
- “What I can do”: It relates the prospect of fulfilling one’s aspirations to actual circumstances and links personal capacity to the resources available. Self-development is highly shapable but also conditioned by many factors. In this regard, education must take into account the talent, strength and limitation of each individual. In fact, apart from their own aptitude, individuals are also subject to such societal conditions as socio-economic development, values and educational system.
Thus, by setting knowing oneself as the educational goal, UMacau has implemented an innovative Four-in-One model that consists of four types of education: the discipline-specific education, general education, research and internship education, and community and peer education.
For these four components, the first two are conducted in the classroom while the latter two are carried out beyond it. By relating these two types of learning experience to each other, the university strives to create a new type of education which is integrative, comprehensive and through which education and life are combined together. Students can learn and practice at the same time and achieve the goal of “learning in life and life for learning”. And by adopting this educational model, we can help students understand themselves better.
Preliminary findings show positive results in respect of the progress observed in students’ academic performance, personality building and job competiveness. The reform of the university has not only optimised its education to cater to the development of Macao, but has also served as an inspiration for higher education in other places and pointed out a new direction for tertiary education.