Introduction

The aim of the ‘Connecting the Classroom’ student activity is to facilitate learning and a cross-cultural appreciation of a number of international development related topics between a group of students at the Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University (UK), and the Department of International Relations, Universitas Indonesia (Indonesia).  Students participating in this activity have the opportunity to learn from one another as they share, review and comment on the other group’s perspective of the topic. By engaging students from different parts of the world in this way, both sets of students will develop a deeper understanding of the culturally specific and situated nature of our own knowledge that informs our understanding of international issues and topics.

Interactions between both sets of students are moderated by the link tutors, Dr Rory Padfield at Oxford Brookes University and Dr Shofwan al-banna Choiruzzad at Universitas Indonesia.

This teaching and learning activity has been incorporated as part of a British Academy International Partnership and Mobility scheme project. The principal investigator is Dr Adam Tyson (Leeds University) and co-investigator is Dr Helena Varkkey (University Malaya).

Student projects

Project 1: Tropical peatlands – a curse to development in the Global South?

The aim of this project is to examine whether tropical peatlands – a soil type of considerable ecological value yet susceptible to fire and negative climate change impacts when developed in less sustainable ways – are a curse to development. The haze events occurring in Southeast Asia could arguably be described as a ‘wicked problem’ as reflected in their frequency, impacts to public health and the limited success to date to prevent them from reoccurring. In this project students are expected to address the following questions: i) Where are tropical peatlands found in the Global South and what are their different ecological, social and economic uses? ii) In what way do these uses conflict? iii) Ultimately, are tropical peatlands a curse to development or is there a more sustainable path to be found in the future?

Please click the link to join the discussion of Project 1:

Connecting the Classroom Project 1: Tropical peatlands – a curse to development in the Global South?

Project 2: Indonesia, deforestation and sustainable development

Indonesia has one of the largest areas of remaining tropical forest in Southeast Asia yet has been subject to considerable deforestation in the past years. The main cause of deforestation is agricultural development, including timber, paper and pulp, and palm oil industries. Acknowledging the contrasting values that different groups of people place on the forests of Indonesia, students are expected to address the following questions: i) what are the causes and effects of deforestation in Indonesia? ii) Should forests be left alone on conservation grounds or developed for economic gain?  iii) Is there a realistic ‘middle ground’ or alternative sustainable development model that can satisfy all people, including Indonesians and those living outside of the country?

Please click the link to join the discussion of Project 2:

Connecting the Classroom Project 2: Indonesia, deforestation and sustainable development

Project 3: Media censorship: a help or hindrance to development?

According to Reporters without Borders (2016) the print and digital media is more tightly censored in countries in the Global South as compared with those in the Global North. Governments usually opt to censor the media as a means to control or prevent the release of specific information to the public. Beyond blocking or shaping content, media censorship can actively reshape how the public (or sub-sections of a population) perceive an issue, or what they believe to be the ‘truth’. Drawing on case studies from the Global South, students are expected to address the following questions: i) which countries are known to censor the media and how is media censorship achieved? ii) What purpose does it serve and are there instances where it can lead to a positive outcome? ii) On balance is censoring the media a help or hindrance to development in the Global South.

Please click the link to join the discussion of Project 3:

Connecting the Classroom Project 3: Media censorship: a help or hindrance to development?

Project 4: Land grabbing: neo-colonialism or a genuine opportunity for development?

Large scale land acquisition, often referred to as ‘land grabbing’, is a common characteristic of past and contemporary development in the Global South. From colonial expansion in conquered and unconquered territories through to a more ‘modern’ corporate acquisition of land by foreign companies and states. At the heart of this issue are questions related to the morality of land acquisition on this scale, especially in light of the growing food crisis in many parts of the Global South.  Drawing on case studies from the Global South, students are expected to address the following questions: i) Where in the Global South has land grabbing taken place historically and more recently i.e. in last 10 years? ii) Which group of actors are typically in conflict over this issue?    iii) On balance is land grabbing a form of neo-colonialism or a genuine opportunity for development?

Please click the link to join the discussion of Project 4:

Connecting the Classroom Project 4: Land grabbing: neo-colonialism or a genuine opportunity for development?

Project 5: Sustainable palm oil

Sustainable palm oil, which may seem like a misnomer or a contradiction in terms, has come to represent a key debate in the contemporary Global South. We ask students to analyse the problem of expansion (land conversion causing deforestation) versus intensification (higher yields and extraction rates). We encourage students to debate the prospects for sustainability when economic growth, not biodiversity conservation, is the ultimate goal. Students are expected to address the following questions: How is sustainable palm oil broadly understood in current debates? How should vulnerable smallholders respond to market pressures and conservationist concerns and what incentives are there for better land use management? Ultimately, will environmental sustainability always be sacrificed at the expense of economic growth?

Please click the link to join the discussion of Project 5:

Connecting the Classroom Project 5: Sustainable palm oil

Code of Conduct for the Connecting the Classroom online discussion – March 2018

To ensure that the Connecting the Classroom online forum is a positive environment, the Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University (UK), and the Department of International Relations, Universitas Indonesia have developed a code of conduct for the benefit of all users. Please download the PDF document on the top for the Code of Conduct.