The global phenomenon of education

By

Meghan Krein

Many people view education as fundamentally a local phenomenon, especially in the United States. Iveta Silova, professor and director of ASU’s Center for Advanced Studies in Global Education, part of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, says that view needs to be broadened. We need to be much more open to the world, she says. It’s changing all of the time, and so must we.

Perhaps global education gets a bad rap, Silova says, because “Often, when people do engage in the global education activities they are trying to sell the U.S. models of best practices to others.” There’s a business component to it and this bothers Silova, “and many other people who think of global issues and education more critically,” she says.

Iveta Silova

The assumption, says Silova, is the United States has the best models, which should be emulated by others. “So when we enter these conversations we want to enter them very mindfully and critically, without assuming what we do here is the best. We enter these global and local spaces with expectations to learn ourselves,” she says. “The intent is not to make everybody in our own image, but rather to have us transform in the process of interacting with others, in the process of ‘becoming-with’.”

Why it matters

“When I was a teacher,” says Ann Nielsen, associate director of CASGE, “I taught students from so many different countries, cultures and languages that I had to relearn a lot of things from a different perspective.” Nielsen says another tidbit she picked up in her teaching days was, “You have to see yourself in your students and to be able to do that, you have to be open to other cultures and languages.” People learn so much from working with others, says Nielsen.

“This idea of learning with others, being with others, in this very rapidly changing world is so important and one of the reasons why global education is so relevant,” echoes Silova. One of CASGE’s core values, in fact, is to design and implement research projects, collaboratively. Silova says, “That means from the very beginning not assuming that we have all of the answers and solutions, but developing projects together with our partners, reinforcing the idea that along the way, we learn with them.”

The partnerships Silova speaks of are sustainable. “We don’t want to go in and drop our best practices on somebody and leave. Our partnership will last after the projects are over,” she says. These partnerships are not formed aimlessly — there is a great deal of strategy behind them. “We look at where the needs are and where we can contribute and learn at the same time,” Silova says.

Current initiatives:

 A mutually beneficial and transformative partnership

The Argentina Educator Training Program, a partnership with the Osborn Elementary School District allowed 25 teachers from Argentina to travel to Arizona to enhance their pedagogical skills and learn about the culture and education systems in the United States. During their 21-day stay, the visiting educators were each part of a K–12 classroom for a morning field experience which included co-teaching with their hosts.  “The schools plan all kinds of activities in advance on how they can collaborate with the Argentine teachers in their Spanish language programs, and tweak the curriculum in these innovative ways,” Silova says.

Michael Robert, superintendent of Osborn Elementary School District says, “It was such an amazing opportunity for us.” Osborn has a dual language program at three of its five schools.

“Any partnership needs to be mutually beneficial,” says Robert. Osborn’s teachers received professional development from working with the visiting educators, the students benefited from having an extra teacher in the classroom, and of course, everyone involved received a bilingual interaction opportunity. The Argentinian educators also benefited from the exchange as they were immersed in classrooms in the Osborn Elementary School District and had opportunities to practice and apply new teaching methodologies they learned from Osborn educators.

Ann Nielsen

Nielsen says the teachers from the Osborn district wanted to visit Argentina, “And it wasn’t for a vacation. It was truly for an exchange.” The teachers were very interested in the language component. They were so excited to be exposed to the different dialect, as well as for their students to hear Spanish in a different way, she says. “It was a tremendous learning experience for the teachers, as well as the students and the visiting educators,” Nielsen says. “There’s an assumption sometimes that teachers don’t want to do this, but there is such a willingness and interest here,” she says.

The ripple effect

“The work that CASGE does is changing what faculty members teach and their curriculum,” says Silova. Nielsen says there have been cases in which faculty revamped their syllabi based on the participation of the international fellows and scholars in their classes and the questions they raised. “The questions and situations they bring up have challenged our faculty to go back and think, am I really presenting this information in a broad enough way?”  

“When the fellows visited from the West Bank-Gaza Preservice Teacher Education Project, they completed a semester in courses and visiting schools. Their context with crisis and conflict was so different but so similar in some ways. They pushed back on questions in policies, which caused some of our faculty to rethink how they are presenting course material and what readings they are assigned,” says Nielsen. This effect works both ways, “That faculty member is going to go on and work with other students. It’s a ripple effect.”  

“The world is changing around us and the students are changing, but education isn’t necessarily,” Silova says before adding, “So it’s important for us to rethink how we approach teaching and learning, and how we prepare teachers and students for the world that is becoming increasingly more complex.”  

Learn more about what CASGE is doing.