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A New Movement in Teacher Education

Today, Caitlin Haugen, Executive Director, Global Teacher Education, returns to share with us how teacher education is increasingly international in focus.

by Caitlin Haugen

Over the last year, I have been encouraged by an international movement in teacher education. 

Craig Kissock, Director of Educators Abroad, argues that educators engage in a global profession because, "teachers are responsible for preparing students, from or living anywhere, for their future as citizens of the world." Teacher educators, therefore, must "model the best educational practice in preparing teachers for their future in our global profession." 

He notes that if a teacher graduates today and teaches for 30 years, and their students live for 70 years, teacher education programs are actually preparing teachers for 22nd century learners. 

Deans and faculty in hundreds of institutions get this. They are working to internationalize their colleges, and national efforts are also emerging. The US chapter of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES)  formed a special interest group focused on teacher education that will meet for the first time in 2014. The American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) also recently approved an application  for a new Topical Action Group focused on Internationalization of Teacher Education. 

Since my work focuses on American institutions, sometimes I feel I am wearing blinders, focusing solely on efforts stateside.  But, many other countries are committed to developing global competency in their teacher candidates. Organizations such as the International Council on Education for Teaching (ICET) and the International Society for Teacher Education have been committed to infusing teacher education with global perspectives in multiple countries for several decades. The International Consortium for Educational Development (ICED)  recently identified a special interest group on International Standards for Teacher Education. Recently, however, efforts gained an even broader reach as multi-governmental organizations have started to focus on internationalization of higher education generally, and teacher preparation specifically.

Interest in internationalization of higher education has seen a recent upsurge. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)which operates under a mission of improving "the economic and social well-being of people around the world," has developed strategies to support internationalization in higher education as part of a global effort to increase faculty capacity. In the report Fostering Quality Teaching in Higher Education Policies and PracticesOECD argues that teaching quality in higher education "throughout the world is also influenced by contextual shifts within the higher education environment. Current factors influencing the quality of teaching include...the internationalization of higher education." 

The report argues that efforts at improving teaching in higher education should be coordinated with internationalization policies. This includes exploiting the knowledge gained by students and faculty going abroad, identifying research and projects that offer international teaching and learning opportunities, and benchmarking quality measures with international models. While the recommendations are targeted at all disciplines, they can be applied to colleges of education. Similarly, the World Bank and UNESCO created the Global Initiative for Quality Assurance Capacity (GIQAC)  to promote cross-national cooperation and collaboration in institutions of higher education.

Specifically, internationalization of teacher education is moving into the spotlight, driven in part by shifting priorities in international development organizations. Efforts such as UNESCO's Education for All (EFA)  initiative and the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) typically focused on educational access. While access remains a priority, recent efforts have also started to consider quality issues to ensure that all children not only enroll in school, but also receive a high quality, relevant education. This is where teacher preparation comes in.

The UN's Education First Initiative (EFI), has developed new education priorities  that now include improving the quality of learning and fostering global citizenship. These goals were developed in response to a study reporting that 250 million children worldwide lack basic literacy and numeracy skills—despite spending at least four years in school. 

Debates on educational quality often focus on teachers because educators are essentially the sole drivers of a student's classroom experience. James O'Meara is President of ICET and elected member of UNESCO's NGO Liaison Committee. He argues that meeting the EFI priorities, "requires developing more globally competent teachers," and that these skills will start to address the barriers preventing students worldwide from receiving a quality education. Teacher preparation programs, he argues, have the responsibility to internationalize their curricula and programs to ensure future teachers learn these skills. 

This philosophy is gaining momentum, evidenced by the organization of the first Global Education First Conference (GEFC) in Chicago earlier this year. GEFC brought together international education thought leaders with the intention of facilitating more streamlined, globally focused internationalization efforts to support EFI's goals. The sessions highlighted efforts worldwide, and included an online component to support accessible, global collaboration. Participants joined from all over with world, both virtually and in live sessions. While presentations focused on a wide range of topics, the importance of global competence in teacher preparation as a strategy to meet international development goals emerged as a clear theme. 

Just as Kissock suggests, it is more important than ever to start preparing the next generation of high-quality, globally minded educators because the teachers we train today have the potential to impact the world for a century. 

Follow Caitlin Haugen and Asia Society PGL on Twitter.

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