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Intercultural baloney

VU International News and Reviews No. 20 January 6 2014

January 2014

Academics in the fields for ‘hard” i.e. natural sciences often field ill at ease with the current fad of international awareness, intercultural sensitivity and intercultural competencies which are said to be so important as targeted HE learning outcomes nowadays.
“Our discipline is international by nature; there is no difference between our science in whatever continent, region or country. There is nothing intercultural about the laws of nature or the basic rules of mathematics.” “Go bother somebody else” is the unspoken message seems to be.
Indeed, taken as pure science, as the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, this may be true.
But if the relevance and value of the natural and exact sciences is defined in their contribution – directly or indirectly – to our grappling with the grand societal challenges of our world, then this truth becomes less self-evident.
A recent doctoral dissertation at our VU University – by Aulia Iskandarsyah – drove this message home. Breast cancer as a disease is subject to the laws of nature. But the impact of the disease on actual people is determined by many factors. Dr Iskandarsyah demonstrated the relevance of cultural and psychological factors on the diagnosis and treatment, thus on the mortality in breast cancer among Indonesian women.
A clear example how cultural dimensions play an important role in “hard” diseases like breast cancer. A clear sign that even “hard science” scholars and students need to have international awareness and intercultural competence to be effective “science workers” in the globalized network society of today and tomorrow.

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