Intercultural Open University: Alternative Education
I am committed to Intercultural Open University Foundation. I am a product of traditional and non-traditional higher learning in the U.S. I received my B.A. and M.A. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania, and I received my Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio, the first university without walls in the U.S.
I met the IOU Foundation’s founders, Professor Dr. J.R. Hakemulder and Professor Dr. Fay A.C. Hakemulder, in 2005. Discovering that we shared a philosophy of education, we began a long discussion about alternative education, distance education, culturally and socially relevant education, and the role of IOU Foundation in global education.
IOU Foundation is one of a small number of alternative education institutions, which has its beginnings in the open education movement of the 1960s. This learner-centered, self-directed orientation of education emerged in the U.S. and U.K. in the mid-1960s. Roy P. Fairfield, a Harvard University professor of education, was among the founders of the movement. His book, “Person Centered Graduate Education” (1977), chronicles his pioneering efforts at the Union Graduate School to create a self-directed graduate program and explores the paths and pitfalls of alternative modes of education. Much of the non-traditional educational philosophy in the 1960s incorporated the ideas of humanistic psychology, such as those of Carl Rogers’ client-centered therapy, Arnold Mindell’s process-oriented psychology, and Clark Moustakis’ transpersonal psychology.
The beliefs of the pioneers in non-traditional education were that study is more an attitude than a system. That attitude puts the learner first and the institution second. It concentrates more on the learner’s need than the convenience of the institution. It encourages individual opportunity rather than uniform prescriptive learning, and de-emphasizes time, space, and even course requirements in favor of competence and performance.
Among the most prominent U.S. graduate institutions founded on these principals were the Union Institute and Graduate School, Fielding Institute, Saybrook Institute, California Institute of Integral Studies, The New School in California, and Antioch University. Regional accrediting associations eventually accredited all of these institutions.
Accrediting bodies are generally capable of understanding the language of non-traditional education. Government bodies have more difficulty doing so. They prefer external evaluation, grades, and commonly accepted standards of progress. In the U.S., learners are forced to seek government grants to pay the high cost of university tuition. The need for government money has led to greater conformity among U.S. educational institutions and less emphasis on alternative education philosophy.
IOU Foundation remains one of the few global institutions still supporting self-directed, non-traditional adult graduate education. I believe the foundation is positioned to play an important role in contemporary adult education. Part of IOU Foundation’s philosophy is to maintain modest tuition fees and to have tuition fees from the developed world subsidize tuition fees for the developing world. By emphasizing adult education, concentrating on specific programs and continuing appropriate accreditation, IOU Foundation will continue to consolidate its role in alternative education. #