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The Internationalization of Teacher Preparation Abroad

by guest blogger Caitlin Haugen

Today we continue our look at global competence in teacher preparation programs. Caitlin Haugen, Executive Director of Global Teacher Education, reached out to teacher prep programs across the globe to see how internationalization of teacher education plays out abroad.

In my day-to-day work, I focus on efforts to internationalization teacher preparation programs in the United States because the need is so great.  Education remains one of the least internationalized areas of study in higher education. Preparing teachers with global perspectives, however, is a global issue—so I set out to explore it on an international level.

I reached out to teacher educators at institutions outside the U.S. to learn how internationalization of educator preparation is viewed abroad. I connected with six teacher educators in five countries. [Important note—I intentionally sought out globally minded teacher educators. I found them through the Member Directory at Global Teacher Education or have met them personally.] 

How does internationalization play out in your institution?  Nationwide?
Internationalization comes in many shapes and sizes among the institutions represented. Daniel Tshireletso, Acting Head of Foundations of Education and Educational Technology at Tlokweng College of Education in Botswana states that his institution is fairly new to the process. "Internationalization is a new goal that is being realized, although through incremental steps." His college is exploring international exchange for students and faculty, and determining how they might infuse global perspectives into courses while taking national accreditation into account—an issue also common in the U.S. 

 According to Laura Crane, Director of Academic Affairs and Operations at York University in Ontario, Canada, her institution is more experienced. "For quite a number of years, internationalization of teacher education has been a part of our programs in teacher education." York offers myriad global experiences including international exchanges and internships, student teaching abroad, an international specialization, and many events that allow students to gain global perspectives and interact with people from other countries and cultures.

 In Denmark, internationalization of teacher education is a national effort. Rebecca Addleman—an associate professor at George Fox University who taught in a teacher education program on a Fulbright  last spring—notes that teacher education is undergoing a major national reform, and one of the key aims is to improve conditions for internationalization. Teachers are certified on a national level, so internationalization impacts all pre-service teachers. This model is quite different from what we see in America—every state has its own set of regulations for certification, and every institution interprets those regulations a bit differently.

Emil Tyberg, Director of International Affairs and a teacher educator at Linnaeus University in Sweden states that, "Teacher education embraces internationalization in theory, but not in practice." For example, students are offered ample opportunities to study abroad and provided incentives to do so—such as an increased stipend (all students receive a government stipend to study) for study in the EU or opportunities to borrow money from the state—but only 1 to 2% of their teacher education students study abroad.  These numbers are comparable to the U.S. 

How do we ensure our teachers are provided a global perspective?
Tyberg notes it is important to provide global opportunities—including study abroad.  Students must also, however, be provided with ample information about the opportunities and resources available to them.  Crane agrees and adds that it is important to provide financial support. "We...provide funding to help students offset the costs of participating, so that study abroad is not only for those student from [wealthier] families."  Milton Ascencio is a Program Coordinator at the Universidad Don Bosco in El Salvador. He notes that his institution also provides scholarships for study abroad, and that quite a few students take advantage as a result.

Roopa Desai Trilokekar, an associate professor of education at York, argues for an additional consideration—students. They must be involved. "Students are key to the internationalization process and need to be engaged in its conception, planning, and implementation."

Why is it important to internationalize teacher preparation programs?
"My main aim is world peace," argues Tyberg. "In a world where most people are dependent upon both the world around them and the world far away, to a great extent, we need to teach our students to communicate across borders, so that we can avoid war and conflicts." 

"We live in a global society and it is opportune to train our teachers to have internationally accepted skills and competencies for a teacher of the 21st century. This will enable the same teacher to pass down these abilities to learners who will be competitive in the modern world which is now more interconnected and interdependent," notes Tshireletso.

Trilokekar, who teaches several globally focused courses to pre-service educators adds, "Today it is essential...especially for our teachers who themselves teach very diverse groups of students and interact with many diverse parents and communities while often representing the majority culture." 

"Internationalization expands a person's horizons. It raises global awareness and understanding of other cultures (their beliefs and values) leading to more tolerance to others. This is important because the more we know about and recognize the value of other cultures, the more we build cultural democracy, where every culture is respected and valued for what they are and for their contribution to construct a global society," asserts Ascencio.

These teacher educators' responses appear to parallel my reasoning—from an American perspective—for internationalization. We agree that we are living in an increasingly interdependent, globalized society, and our teachers need to prepare future generations for the world we live in.  I have also learned challenges in this country are not unique, and that we have a great deal to learn from each other as we work toward internationalization.

Follow Caitlin and Asia Society on Twitter.

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