Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How important is the bit of paper?

We've been in Mexico for a bit over 8 months now, and have learnt stacks of things. In some ways living here is a bit like living in Sydney - apart from everything being in Spanish, but there are some (in fact, quite a few) profound differences.

Take for example the question of qualifications.

When I was teaching a PTC course to people in Sydney, I'd regularly say 'Remember, this course is not about the mark you get in the exam or the piece of paper that you will be awarded. This course is about your godliness and equipping for ministry.' And everyone would nod and get on with it.

When I teach PTC here is Latin America the reaction is very different. Its not that the students are not interested in the subject matter or growing in godliness and being equipped for ministry - far from it. The difference is, for many of them, the piece of paper, the qualification that comes as a result of completing this course is a really big deal.

Why the difference?

From (only) 8 months of observation, here are some preliminary thoughts and reflections.

1. For better or for worse, the system of education here is much more respectful of authority. Teachers are held in the highest regard, their opinion carries great weight and therefore the qualification that they have as teacher is of great importance. Of course this can have all sorts of outcomes - ranging from a less than encouraging pattern of education to an inability to ask questions and process information. But, thats the way it is.

2. Because of this high view of authority, qualifications are an essential component in a resume when you're trying to get a job. And often we're not talking the quality of the qualification, but the quantity. The more certificates, diplomas, short courses and recognitions you have in your folder the better, because it makes you better at your job.

3. Jobs are often hard to get, especially ministry jobs where money is tight, so the more 'qualified' you are the more likely you are to get the job.

These factors, and I'm sure many more, lead to two very common questions being asked here when I talk about PTC.

(a) What degree or qualification will this work towards?
(b) Who will recognize / accredit the coursework I have done?

In my years of teaching in Australia I don't think I have ever been asked this question, and yet everytime I taught in Africa or start talking with people here in Latin America, it is raised almost without fail.

At the moment we have one option for counting PTC subjects towards a bachelor's degree - through FLET, a University based on Miami, USA. However this is an expensive option and not particularly accessible or satisfactory.

And so there is a great challenge ahead, and many questions being raised.

Australia has a great reputation when it comes to education - right up there with England and the USA (in fact often better). Should we be aiming for accreditation from an Australian institution?

The coursework as it stands is pretty much right for a degree level course, but what about the readings and assignments. Many of the required texts are not available in Spanish.

If an institution is going to award degree status, what will be the effect on other degrees offered by the institution?

These are important questions that do need to be thought about. The PTC is a world class 'product', and as more translations are completed, the questions of accreditation and recognition are going to keep coming.

1 comment:

Gordon Cheng said...

Hey Pete.

'This is not about the piece of paper' is a disclaimer that only really works if you have that piece of paper.

I'm not saying that makes the disclaimer any less true (1 Cor 4:3).

But it is good to be able to consider the matter from the point of view of those who don't have that piece of paper.