1. Introduction: An opportunity for liberal arts

Developing and Third-World countries have been recognized to experience a paradox on societal welfare. In parallel with their desire to get better resilience, local limitations could be the real obstacles (Sianipar, et al., 2013). To overcome the problems, many of them have attempted to use permaculture (Roseland, 2000) or community empowerment (Kasmel & Anderson, 2011). In these approaches, Appropriate Technology is known to give benefits despite a resources-limited circumstance. It delivers a sufficient technical performance at an affordable price. However, the nature of Appropriate Technology as a pure applied science has made it difficult to be included in engineering educations. Appropriate technologists tend to state that the senses of technological appropriateness might only be captured through experiences and field projects, but not from any engineering education. Although several universities have begun to include Appropriate Technology in their engineering subjects, there is a fancy positioning to suppress the meaning of technological appropriateness as only a cheap technology with a set of limited functions. It is caused by an inclined decision to put Appropriate Technology as a single dedicated subject or only a mere part of a learning subject. The root problem is on the tight space to include Appropriate Technology in other scientific subjects with higher prestige or merits.

On the other hand, there is a unique way to understand a learning subject: liberal arts. It is taken as an approach to do an unrestrained exploration on an object under investigation by using interconnected subjects that have an indirect or almost no relationship with it. Blaich, et al. (2004) have stated that it has been used in many scientific educations to deliver a set of intellectual capabilities beyond only professional or vocational skills. Furthermore, they identified that the final purpose is to create strong ethos and values within someone who learn through liberal arts. In other words, there is an opportunity to learn Appropriate Technology based on the liberal arts perspective. The tight space for Appropriate Technology in educational curriculum might be solved through a set of educational subjects in which each of them consists of one or several pieces of understanding on technological appropriateness.

2. Discussion: Interconnected learning subjects

Technological appropriateness is commonly taken with almost no universally accepted definition (Akubue, 2000), hence its key points must be constructed based on previous studies. This discussion takes three most important characteristics of Appropriate Technology study, i.e. its criterias (Wicklein, 1998), tangible perspectives (Sianipar, et al., 2013), and involved parties (Sianipar & Widaretna, 2012). Wicklein (1998) has proposed the seven criteria of Appropriate Technology as a set of efforts in reaching a sustainable development. Sianipar, et al. (2013) have synthesized that economics, technical, environment, and social are the minimum aspects to establish a holistic understanding on technological appropriateness. Furthermore, involved parties in the application of an Appropriate Technology have been suggested by Sianipar & Widaretna (2012) based on Triple-Helix concept, i.e. community as business entity, researchers as the representation of academia, and local government as the last helix – regulator and policy maker.

Table 1. Matrix of analysis
(Sianipar, et al., 2013)TechnicalEnvironmentEconomicsSocial
(Sianipar & Widaretna, 2012)AcademiaGovernmentCommunity
(Wicklein, 1998)Systems-Independence2.12.22.3
Image of Modernity
Individual vs. Collective Technology
Cost of Technology
Risk Factor
Evolutionary Capacity of Technology
Single vs. Multi purpose Technology

2.1. Engineering cores in technical and environmental studies

Looking at the technological nature of Appropriate Technology, technical studies must be delivered to students to understand technological appropriateness. Its system independence gives an opportunity for system engineering subjects in encouraging students to design a technology that is not dependent to surrounding circumstance, even in a resources-limited situation. Besides, design thinking shall be taken to develop students’ understanding on technological possibilities and their changes in current implementation as well as future developments. Education curriculum needs to deliver a good pedagogy on how students may convert their sophisticated idea into a sufficient technological acceptance. However, it shall not be interpreted as a limitation of functions. Combined functions seem useful to diminish the requirement of a single technology for each targeted process, with an emphasis in which it does not increase the dependence of each process to other ones. Image of modernity can be learned through an art subject or product design. It shall build the understanding of students on how to develop an appropriate technology which has sufficient functions as well as interesting attraction for community members to use it in their daily routines. Its scale must also be posited as another concern. Scale that is too small produces a technological shortage, yet an excessive scale means excess requirements. Scale is also related to technological changes in the development of a targeted community, meaning that a curriculum shall include some sessions to discuss how community or society will change along with technological changes around them.

Furthermore, technical studies must give enough attention to environmental issue. Environment seems to be a very important issue for today’s and the next centuries’ education. It will also sustain engineering educations, including a maintained attention from other engineering disciplines. A technology with a comprehensive appropriateness will produce a competitive solution for increasing environmental benefits by reducing technical process or materials which have high environmental impacts. Hence, environmental issue has its own merit to other technical requirements. To capture it, educators shall give insights for their students. Applied environmental sciences will be useful, with more concern on activities related to technology applicationin such simple solution. Particular subject on life-cycle assessment seems useful to investigate imposed emissions, material degradation, and disposal options. The boundary shall be built based on system independence and evolutionary considerations.

2.2. Technological sustainability in governmental, economical, and environmental studies

The important subjects in this matter are public policy and public administration. They are subjected to study through an engineering way in policy-related engineering study. They shall involve economics and environmental as two integral approaches being acknowledged by students to build their set of values in reaching technological sustainability. In economics study, educators must encourage students to develop policies which may maintain the flow of economical benefits of an appropriate technology. As benefits, appropriate technology does not provide a one-time value added for community. It delivers a cyclical process that results in an economical sustainability. Besides, it has characteristics for being expanded without forcing investments exceeding community income. Because of that, some financial subjects on simple beneficial calculations seem useful to understand the cost of technology, its risks, and economical calculations between optional specifications of an appropriate technology design, e.g. scale or modularity, and the number of designated purpose(s). Simple calculations are preferred rather than a complicated mathematical formula. Students shall understand that they will provide an independent system as well as empower economical conditions of a targeted community. Their calculations must hence be easy to transfer to community members and local government. Curriculum may include these topics to several subjects such as regional economics or engineering economics. Students are also required to develop flexible calculations for as many as future possibilities of policies or administrative actions.

On the other hand, environmental studies must also be provided as a means to give reflection of either policy or administrative actions in the application of an appropriate technology to the Earth. It would sustain the attention from either higher bodies, organizations, or donors to a currently-applied appropriate technology. Students are supposed to master possible policies to control and balance any impact imposed by an appropriate technology to its surrounding environment. Public administration subject shall encourage a preventive behavior of students on the current condition as well as future development of an appropriate technology. However, a reactive mode shall not be completely suppressed as a means to maintain the fast response of graduates affected by any dynamics in public management. In short, engineering students must learn how to conduct public administration and develop a set of public policies related to economical and environmental issues in achieving technological sustainability.

2.3. Technological appropriateness in community and social studies

Then, the most critical part in appropriate technology studies is on the technological appropriateness for a targeted community, particularly how a technology might be seamlessly diffused and accepted by the community. To do so, engineering students must be involved in community and social studies. There are three questions must be answered by graduates, i.e. “what do community have already understood?”, “what do they want to understand?”, and “what don’t they want to understand?” The first question is related to the existing knowledge of community members. Educators must provide a deep understanding for students in which community shall be allowed to develop themselves based on their social goals. A subject within management of technology seems useful to deliver it. The second question is emerged along with the third one. They concern on the community conception and their hesitancy in accepting an offered technology. Sustainability science is useful to build a complete framework of community empowerment and to predict any possible future change. Then, spatial planning subject is required for achieving an understanding on how activities flow within and around community members. To do so, an advanced study in action-research may support graduates to understand local conditions and discover real requirements of locals related to a technology. A deeply qualitative methodology must be taught to students for stimulating their sense in reading a local situation with a limited availability of quantitative data. Political subject is also useful because graduates must be ready to do a wide and balanced relationship to local gatekeepers as a way to support the diffusion of an appropriate technology.

3. Conclusion and insights for further research

It is clear that appropriate technology has been proven to give benefits despite a very limited circumstance, hence engineering education must catch its opportunities to prepare graduates with the capabilities in mastering technological appropriateness. To overcome the space limitation in existing curricula and to avoid a narrowed understanding, engineering students require appropriate technology for being learned by using a liberal arts approach. Learning subjects are supposed to be designed to deliver one or several pieces of the puzzle of technological appropriateness for students, including a stimulus to encourage a holistic viewpoint on the application of appropriate technology in their future works.

Besides, students shall be encouraged through the utilization of either simulations or games to understand the effect of any possible actions to local conditions of a targeted community, including any future change of developmental effects. System dynamics or agent-based modeling seems useful to provide a simplified simulation. Different scenarios will establish the sense of students related to the holistic overview on the field application of an appropriate technology.

Further research is encouraged to build a framework on how to include appropriate technology issues in a set of subjects based on opportunities suggested by this study. Another research may compare existing curricula and suggest improvement based on given opportunities here. Moreover, a standardized curriculum of appropriate technology is very recommended as a means for triggering other disciplines to include appropriate technology as holistic solution in pursuing community survivability.