Sunday, October 30, 2005

Empathy for the poor?

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?


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  3. Hmmm AP, one mustn't be so skeptical.
    I suppose one of the main purposes of the site visit was to get the students to really see (atleast some part of) the theories they've learnt, in 'real life'.

    Empathy certainly is one thing. But I think that whole 'seeing (theories) upclose' is more valuable and will stick on to these students' mind...whom (I believe) will turn in to tomorrow's 'economist/business-savy persons of (at the very least) Indonesia.

    I see it the same as if they were to have gone to a factory to understand 'how things get processed'. You don't necessarily need to be sure about the workers' welfare after that visit, right? (and you can be sure those type of students will become economists or, student activists :P hehehe)
    And please, I believe we can be creative enough to check other 'poverty-proof' parts to go to :P instead of Bantar Gebang every year :)

    [wishing her professor had taken her class out for trip...:)]

  4. the trip may be followed up by assigning the student to make a partisipatory research may be by staying a week or two at the site and make a research on certain topics

    they are not just sight seeing but can feel and experience the poor by this kind of activities