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Historical development of the university system


It is necessary to reflect upon the historical development of the university system before delving into the discussion of Future NTU. In the East, benevolence-oriented education of ethics, politics, and philosophy has long been considered to be necessary for the maturation of young adults. This is reflected by Confucius' quote in The Book of Rites, “What the Great Learning teaches is: to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence”. The Western higher education systems were initially dominated by the Church and subsequently secularized after the Renaissance. In the 19th century, it further developed into the Humboldtian model that focused on the integration of empirical research and teaching as well as academic freedom. This indirectly inspired the model of modern universities in the 20th century led by higher education institutions in the United States, which emphasized on linking innovative applications with industrialized capital markets. With the development of disruptive technology and industrial transformation in the 21st century, the world has shifted from Industry 4.0 to Technology 4.0 (Kenichi Ohmae, 2017) or even Society 5.0 (UNESCO, 2019). The Internet and globalization have fundamentally changed the way information is produced and disseminated. This collides with the shift of our worldviews from the traditional Newtonian view believing that a pristine and singular truth exists in the world to the quantum theory of a new era that describes the truth of the world as vague, uncertain, complex and ever-evolving.Therefore, higher education institutions must align their agenda with this world amidst its chaos. As John Dewey proclaimed in his work Democracy and Education,


Higher education nowadays has started to transform itself. Stanford University proposed Stanford 2025 several years ago (Stanford Univ., 2014), hoping to create a knowledge ecosystem that is tailored to an individual’s needs. The concept of a “60-year curriculum” has emerged in recent years. The previous generation sees their “9-to-5” as the life-long career goal. In the future, “job-hopping” every 5 years during one’s working life span of 60-80 years might become the norm, making continuous learning mandatory and necessary (Tugend, 2019). To address this trend, universities have to adapt to learners’ dynamic needs for learning. Organizations and platforms that break away from the traditional higher education system have indeed emerged, such as Singularity University which emphasizes bold innovation, Minerva Schools at KGI which combines interactive online seminars with international mobility, and Coursera that allows people to learn ubiquitously without the limitation of geographic boundaries.

As a trailblazer, NTU pays careful attention to whether our community members are well- equipped to face the new reality. We believe that technology cannot substitute the genuine and profound interactions between each other and with Nature. To acquire the problem-solving skills, we have to enable learners to have a solid grasp of the real-world problems and integrate cross-domain knowledge to find solutions.

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow” (Dewey, 1916).

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