A recent thread in the maling list of "FEUI lecturers" discussed about how to create students' empathy for the poor. A senior professor talked about his initiative to bring his students on 'Development Economic' course to Bantar Gebang, Jakarta's garbage dumspter which is also a resident of some poor family with a very miserable living standard. He talked about how his students spend some hours there, played with the kids, and watched the people live from garbage. Some fellow lecturers thought about institutionalizing such initiative and integrating it into the curricula.
While I applauded the senior professor's initiative, I have some reserves on the idea of regular student 'field trip' to Bantar Gebang or any other student area. OK, they spend some hours there, play with the kids, watching the people eat from garbage, and what after that? OK, perhaps go home with some empathy after that. But what about the benefit for the poor?
Surely, an image of UI students regularly visiting Bantar Gebang (or any other slum areas) each year makes me a bit worried rather than proud. The poor will at best get some 'empathy.' But will empathy lift them up from poverty? Moreover, does somone consider the possibility that they would get sick of having students visiting for their field trip purpose?
Meaiwhule the students get their grade for that, which they will use it to compete in the job market. Getting relatively high salary and opportunity -- talking about education creating inequality?