Tag Archives: educational technology

A view from Japan (part 2): Hiro Yokota on parenting, education and the new Digital Agency in Japan

This week’s post features a follow-up interview with Hirokazu Yokota, discussing his experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, as a parent, education policymaker and now government officer at Japan’s newly established Digital Agency. Yokota was a principal architect of two recent policies: the Basic Act on the Formation of a Digital Society, which set basic principles to transform Japan by cross-ministerial policy making and passed the Japanese Diet on May 2021; and the Priority Policy Program for Realizing Digital Society, which include policy measures for the government to implement and got cabinet approval in December 2021. Recently, he published an article on school leadership in Japan in the International Journal of Leadership in Education. The post shares his own views and does not necessarily represent official views of DA and the Japanese government.

IEN: What has been happening with you and your family this year? How does this compare to what you told us in your previous post at the beginning of the pandemic (A view from Japan: Hirokazu Yokota on school closures and the pandemic)?

Hirokazu Yokota: Too many changes to remember, I would say… the positive thing is that I and my family are still doing well and safe, which is the most important. My working style has changed a lot. I still work from home two to three days a week, which means I have more time to spare with my kids. Almost every meeting, including the ones with the Minister, happens online, which was almost inconceivable pre-pandemic to me. The society now has more tolerance for that flexible style, as it found paper-based and face-to-face working style infeasible in the presence of this lasting pandemic.

The other side? My six-year-old daughter suddenly said she wanted to wear a mask on top of another and cried (she always wears one when going outside). She, by watching TV news etc., was kind of afraid of getting Omicron. I couldn’t just say getting it isn’t a big deal. Kids absorb and think much more from what they see in the world than we imagine. As a parent, I have to balance two seemingly-conflicting demands – providing my kids with real-life, authentic opportunities to interact with a variety of people, and preventing the infection of Covid-19 at the same time. This is a very challenging act of parenting, and to be honest, I have not found any solid answer here.

“As a parent, I have to balance two seemingly-conflicting demands – providing my kids with real-life, authentic opportunities to interact with a variety of people, and preventing the infection of Covid-19 at the same time. This is a very challenging act of parenting”

IEN: It’s interesting to see that you’re now working at a new governmental agency. What is the Digital Agency and what does it have to do with this pandemic?

HY: The Covid-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for Japan’s digital transformation. Management of the health crises was hampered by outdated and cumbersome administrative systems. Additionally, in the past, each ministry, agency, and local government has been promoting digitalization separately, which resulted in 1,700 local governments with 1,700 systems: procured and managed separately with dispersed responsibility. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the ineffectiveness of this practice.

As a response, in September 2020, then Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide made the digitalization of Japan one of his top priorities. Accordingly, the Digital Agency (DA) was established at an incredible speed and launched in September 2021. DA has strong powers of comprehensive coordination, such as the power to make recommendations to other ministries and agencies.

What is particularly interesting is that of the about 600 DA officers, a third (some 200) are coming from the private sector, which creates a mixed organizational culture of thorough coordination of stakeholder interests in the public sector and agile/flexible decision making in the private sector. New challenges every day, but a very inspiring working environment. Given that I’ve mainly worked within the education sector it really helps to broaden my perspective.

IEN: In the field of education specifically, you previously mentioned that the Japanese government planned to implement “one device per student” initiative. What has worked, and what has been problematic?

HY: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has started the GIGA (Global and Innovative Gateway for All) School Program to make certain equitable and individually optimized learning by providing one computer per student and high-speed Internet for schools, which originally aimed at one device per student by the end of FY 2023. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, it was accelerated and strengthened, with the distribution of one device per student almost completed by July 2021. About 461 billion yen (some 4 billion US dollars) in total was allocated for that purpose, which obviously was a huge investment.

However, when I collected voices from 217,000 students and 42,000 educators through an online questionnaire on this GIGA School Initiative in July 2021, it turned out that there were many problematic issues on the ground – including slow networks, slow digitalization of school affairs, school staff that never got devices, equipment that was too old or insufficient for use inside and outside of the classroom as well as insufficient support by experts. In terms of policy implementation, just distributing a subsidy does not necessarily guarantee that ICT devices are actually used, and there are many steps to be taken before these are put into daily use like pencils and notebooks.

In order to fill in this gap between policy and practice, the Digital Agency, with the ministries concerned, released a joint message to students and educators, and presented their responses in the form of future directions of relevant policies. Some of them actually led to subsequent supplementary budget items approved in December 2021.

Additionally, we took the comments from students and educators very seriously, and based on the “Open/Transparency” principle of DA, we explained our stance in as much detail as possible, including cases in which measures are difficult to take. This, I believe, is very meaningful as a new trial of policy refinement based on voices from the ground, where digital plays a significant role in reaching out to people/users.

IEN: This initiative is still in progress, but what’s next?

HY: Yes, when we think of three phases of digital transformation – (1) digitization, (2) digitalization, and (3) digital transformation, the current movement is mostly in phase (1) (digitization). However, the potential of digital technology goes far beyond taking paper and face-to-face processes and putting them online; it also lies in promoting student-centered learning as well as providing wraparound and push-type services to children by connecting a variety of data. Therefore, recently (in January 2022), DA and the ministries concerned published “Roadmap on the Utilization of Data in Education.” First, we set the mission of digitalization in education as “a society where anybody, at any time and place, can learn with anybody in his/her own way,” and established “three core goals” – enriching the (1) scope, (2) quality, and (3) combination of data – for realizing that mission. Issues and necessary measures, such as standardizing data in education, the way the creation of the platform in the field of education ought to be, determining rules/policies for the utilization of data in education, are clarified with a timeline.

Although most of the policy measures are supposed to be taken by MEXT, DA recently started a pilot project for realizing support for children in need (e.g. poverty, child abuse) through data connection across departments and organizations. As for now, when it comes to data in such fields as education, childcare, child welfare, medical care, etc., they are handled at different departments within the local government. Additionally, there are a variety of institutions concerned such as child consultation centers and schools, each of which, based on their respective role, engage in support for children by utilizing the information that they have. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in each organization/department working in silos without having a clear understanding of which children/families need priority support. For example, the “Child Development Monitoring System” in Minoh City, Osaka Prefecture, classifies children through (1) economic situation, (2) child rearing ability, (3) academic achievement, and (4) non-cognitive abilities, etc.; they then utilize the results for support and monitoring through case meetings, etc.. Building on such practices, we will support local governments by establishing a system for connecting data in education, child welfare, health etc. as needed, utilizing that data to discover children truly in need (e.g. poverty, child abuse) and providing push-type support to them.

IEN: Knowing that fundamentally changing education is such hard work – just like “Tinkering Toward Utopia” – what do you imagine for education in the future?

HY: We have to admit the possibility that the fundamental framework of learning instruction in which “in school” “teachers” “at the same time” teach “to students in the same grade” “at the same pace” “the same content” cannot work anymore. This is not because teachers are incapable of doing their jobs. This is because there are so many different needs that children have – from absenteeism, special needs, Japanese-language learners, poverty, to so-called gifted.

With that in mind, we set the goal of digital transformation in education as realizing learner-centered education by enriching the combination of a variety of “places”, “people” and “contents” relating to learning (”A society where anybody, at any time and place, can learn with anybody in his/her own way”). For example, teachers are also expected to serve as coordinators who utilize resources such as human resources for learning that should be provided to a group of students (“Can learn ‘with anybody’”). Additionally, assessment will move from measurement of student learning at the entry point (how much students learn) to that based on a hybrid of the entry and exit points (what attributes and abilities they acquire) (“Can learn “at any time””). Furthermore, what students learn and in what order will differ based on respective needs and understanding of each student, which can be helped with big data analysis (“Can learn “in his/her own way””). This is easier said than done, but MEXT recently set up a new special council composed of stakeholders to discuss concrete policy measures to realize this vision. I’m hopeful that Japanese education will be able to shift from an equality-oriented, lecture-style system to the one that embraces diversity (individually optimized learning and collaborative learning) without undermining our focus on equity.

Internet for all (Part 2): What can be done now?

This article is one a series of articles by Thomas Hatch looking at what can and should change in education post-pandemic.

At the same time that we try to figure out how to reimagine post-pandemic schooling in the future, there are clear, concrete steps that can be taken right now to make educational opportunities more equitable. In particular, strategies are already available that can provide internet access for many students who remain disconnected. These strategies will not work everywhere yet, but, as the World Bank reports, in combination with strategies to reach students through television, radio, WhatsApp and other means, many more students can have access to online and remote educational opportunities than have had them ever before. But how long will it take? Will the energy and funding dry up before universal access is established?

Part 1 of this 2-part post shared articles that show that providing internet access to all is an enduring problem despite the evidence that many disconnected students and families could be connected using available approaches. Part 2 brings together here a few of the many articles that highlight some of the strategies that are already available to increase internet access in the US as well a few articles from India that illustrate what is possible in other parts of the world.

In the US

Several articles in the US this summer focus on the establishment of the Emergency Connectivity Fund – designed to reimburse schools and libraries for equipment and costs incurred to enable students, staff, and patrons who lack internet access to engage in remote learning.

“internet access has shifted from an amenity to a necessity. Nothing has illustrated that shift more clearly than the pandemic… But for the millions of students and families without internet access at home, adapting to the virtual classroom became extremely challenging, if not impossible.”

For Families Who Lack Reliable Internet Access, Help Is on the Way — $7B of It,
EdSurge

Acting FCC Chair Rosenworcel Unveils Proposed Rules for Emergency Connectivity Fund, FCC

What You Need to Know About the Emergency Connectivity Fund, THE Journal

The FCC’s $7 Billion Fund to Address the ‘Homework Gap’: 6 Key Issues to Watch, EdWeek Market Brief

Beyond funding, a number of articles over the past year have highlighted both overall strategies for increasing internet access and specific initiatives designed to connect students in urban as well as rural areas.

How to Expand Home Internet Connectivity for K-12 Students Over the Long Haul, Education Week

If you build it, they will learn: Why some schools are investing in cell towers, NBC News

Philadelphia widens free internet eligibility for families with children in school, Chalkbeat

Philadelphia expanding ‘PHLConnectED’ free student internet program, KYW Newsradio

Philadelphia School District Repairing Thousands Of Chromebooks For Free As Students Return To Classrooms Next Week, 3CBS

Connecticut Gives Every Student a Computer and Home Internet to Close the Digital Divide, EdSurge

Citing remote learning needs, Cuomo calls for $15-a-month internet cap for low-income NY families, Chalkbeat

Chicago helped 55,000 students get free internet. Much work remains, Chalkbeat

In Rural ‘Dead Zones’, School Comes on a Flash Drive, The New York Times

These Buses Bring School to Students, The New York Times

Sitting on the Roof at Night for Internet: Pandemic Learning in the Navajo Nation, EducationWeek

Lessons In Leadership: How a superintendent tapped SpaceX to help close homework gap, K-12 Dive

In India

Articles over the past year in India, highlight strategies that work to connect students to remote learning through the internet, television, radio, and other means.

“Remote learning during the pandemic has been painful, even for children with the best computers and broadband. Imagine trying to do it all on a cheap cellphone with a 2G connection”

Think Remote Learning Is Hard? Try Using a Phone in an Indian Village, Wall
Street Journal

Jharkhand to set up gadget bank to facilitate online classes for underprivileged kids, The New Indian Express

Learning Through Radio And Television In The Time Of COVID-19, India Education Diary

Karnataka to bridge online school learning gaps by installing TV sets at 5,766 gram panchayat libraries, The Indian Express

Now Odisha turns to radio for classes, The Hindu

Community radio-based blended learning model: A promising learning model in remote area during pandemic era, ScienceDirect

Telangana schools to have chatbot to assess students work, Times Now News

Bright spots in remote learning: lessons from India and Sierra Leone, Education Development Trust

Navigating Education in 2021: From Remote Learning to Blended Learning, Central Square Foundation

Exploring Self-Directed Professional Learning Online and Off: A conversation with Jeffrey P. Carpenter

This week, IEN shares an interview with Jeffrey P. Carpenter (@jeffpcarpenter), the latest in the Lead the Change (LtC) Series for the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. Carpenter is an Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Teaching Fellows Program at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina, and he has been a teacher in high schools and middle schools in Japan, Honduras, and the United States. A pdf of the fully formatted interview will be available on the LtC website.

Lead the Change (Ltc): The 2021 AERA theme is Accepting Educational Responsibility and invites those of us who teach in schools of education to accept greater responsibility for the inadequate preparation of educators for work in racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse P–12 schools and postsecondary institutions. For example, when educators discipline African American students at disproportionately higher rates, misdiagnose them for special education, identify too few of them for advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, deliver to them a culturally irrelevant curriculum, teach them in culturally disdaining ways, and stereotype their families as careless and hopeless, the schools of education that produced these professionals are just as responsible as the professionals themselves. Furthermore, if scholars who study and document these trends do too little to make our findings actionable, then we, too, are contributors to the cyclical reproduction of these educational inequities. Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems in our own institutions and education more broadly, what specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?

Jeffrey Carpenter (JC): Across all education sectors, it is clear that we need to do more to contribute to change in the interest of systematically underserved and oppressed students and communities. I primarily study self-directed teacher professional learning, and this past summer, many educators undertook various forms of self-directed learning around matters associated with racial justice and anti-racism. I’m engaged in several current research projects in which we study the opportunities and challenges of self-directed educator learning in this context. For example, I’m working with colleagues on a study of Instagram content from educators who identify themselves as anti-bias, anti-racist (ABAR) educators. I’m also interested in how educators can sustain self-directed learning that may make them quite uncomfortable or lead them into potentially complicated and contentious discussions. Although autonomy can be beneficial, it can also potentially be exercised to avoid or flee difficult but potentially necessary and powerful conversations. So, one step I am taking in my work, to support these aims, is to ask more research questions that pertain directly to self-directed educator learning that challenges the status quo and helps make our teaching and schools more justice-oriented.

Also, I agree that researchers, myself included, often do too little to make our findings actionable to educators. The implications of our research cannot always just be, “Well, it looks like we need to do more research.” To try to get my work in front of more educators’ eyes, I have tried to translate some of my research into practitioner-oriented pieces for outlets like Educational Leadership (see Carpenter, 2016) and Kappan magazine, and to present at practitioner-oriented conferences like ISTE and ASCD. I also share summaries of all of my research articles via my Twitter (@jeffpcarpenter). Recently, I’ve tried doing a couple livestreams where I talk about my research. I know, however, that this is an area where I can improve and need to do more. I’m also aware of the risks of going too far or too fast with implications and actionable findings; sometimes it does require time for knowledge to build and accumulate

LtC: Given your focus on various form of technology and its role in teacher professional development, collaboration and student learning, what would be some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?   

JC: Research on teacher learning has paid a lot of attention to formal interventions or programs targeted at developing teacher knowledge and/or skills in particular areas. Research on online teacher learning has also tended to explore formal online programs. We’ve learned a good deal from such research, but we also know teachers do not just learn and engage in professional activities in such formal contexts. I don’t think you can fully understand educational change without paying some attention to teachers’ organic, informal, self-directed, grassroots professional learning. My work has therefore been more focused on the ways educators use different technologies outside of official programs or courses for professional learning and networking. I’ll highlight four studies my co-authors and I published recently that should be of interest to the field. The first two studies deal specifically with change in relation to professional learning that includes digital elements.

First, I’ve co-authored several papers with Torrey Trust and Dan Krutka on professional learning networks (PLNs), and we recently published an article in the Journal of Educational Change on how educators’ PLNs change over time (Carpenter, Krutka, & Trust, 2021). In 2018, we followed up with respondents to a 2014 survey on PLNs and asked them how their PLNs had changed since that earlier survey response. The respondents described a variety of changes in their PLNs and attributed those changes to a multitude of factors; we analyzed these changes using a social ecological model. Participants were most likely to reference changes in the people in their PLNs, and shifts in jobs or job responsibilities were the most common factor influencing changes in PLNs.  

The second study that specifically addressed change is part of a series of studies I’ve conducted with Bret Staudt Willet on teaching-related subreddits (Staudt Willet & Carpenter, 2021). In this most recent study, we analyzed more than a million contributions from close to 100,000 users to two subreddits over a three‐and‐a‐half year timespan. The two subreddits were quite different in nature and culture, which demonstrates how online spaces for educators are not monolithic, even within the same platform. Subreddits are also different from many other social media in that users primarily remain anonymous, which creates both opportunities and challenges with educator professional activities.

“Online spaces for educators are not monolithic, even within the same platform”

Two other studies that should be of interest relate to recent trends in educators’ uses of technology. First, I’m working with Matthew Koehler, Catharyn Shelton, and Spencer Greenhalgh on research into the online educational marketplace TeachersPayTeachers.com (TPT), which is widely used by educators but to date has barely been researched (Koehler et al., 2020). It appears that many teachers are making use of resources and curriculum from sites like TPT, and these sites operate outside of the regulation and approval processes associated with more traditional sources of curriculum. There’s little understanding of how sites like TPT may be contributing to education change. We recently published the results of the first stage of this project, which focused on the money side of the platform. We found that despite some of the democratizing rhetoric around the site, TPT sales were dominated by a small group of elite sellers who may in many regards be akin to small publishing houses. 

Finally, Instagram has become the site of a fair amount of professional activity among educators, and my Elon colleagues and I conducted the first survey of educators on their Instagram use (Carpenter et al. 2020). Instagram’s role in education will be interesting to follow, as the rise of social media influencers has been important in other industries and we are beginning to see more education influencers on Instagram and more recently Tik Tok. What kinds of change influencers may bring to education will be important to explore.

Across these four studies, it is apparent that by using social media and other online platforms, educators can adjust their professional learning activities according to their evolving interests and choose different spaces that meet their various needs. However, the same openness that may attract educators to these media mean that issues of quality, expertise, and commercial motivations inevitably complicate the use of social media platforms 

“By using social media and other online platforms, educators can adjust their professional learning activities according to their evolving interests.”

LtC: In some of your recent work, you highlight the possibilities and challenges of self-directed learning in social media spaces. Such work has implications in terms of how we can best promote meaningful change in learning delivery and orientations across educational institutions and the field writ large. What do you see as the most needed changes to policy/practice to address these issues in the field, in educators’ daily practice and interactions with colleagues and students alike?    

JC: Self-directed educator professional learning is commonplace, but school districts and re-certification regimes often accept only certain types of activities for continuing education credit or licensure requirements. This can mean school districts potentially miss out on some of the benefits of the collective knowledge and resources educators develop through self-directed learning. It can also mean that there are missed opportunities to scaffold and improve the quality and impact of self-directed professional learning. Policy makers could consider how to accommodate and support the admittedly messy variety of participant-driven, voluntary professional activities that exists. Yes, formal, school-mandated PD can positively impact teacher and student learning, and it will remain part of the professional learning landscape. But it is apparent that educators do not learn and network purely through such PD formats. Meaningful learning and professional connections can occur via social media. Why not try to leverage that? Many, many educators do not want to learn only about the topics their state, district, or school decide to prioritize. Different educators begin professional learning experiences from different starting points and seek to implement what they learn in unique contexts.

School administrators should seek to understand and support the full scope of professional activities and learning in which educators engage. Self-directed learning activities may sometimes be less explicitly linked to institutional goals or strategic plans, but some such activities can likely be harnessed to the benefit of schools or districts. Educational institutions and policy makers have often attempted to curtail teachers’ social media use, especially their interactions with students, and such policies often fail to consider the ways educators use social media for professional learning. Educators can use platforms like Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter, to connect with others and engage in various kinds of professional exchanges. School leaders, policymakers, and teacher educators alike should consider ways in which wise professional uses of social media could be scaffolded and encouraged, while pitfalls and problems could be minimized or avoided. For example, some school districts have developed systems by which educators can earn continuing education units (CEUs) through submitting documentation for and reflective writing about some of their self-directed professional activities on Twitter (Carpenter et al., 2016).

LtC: Educational Change requires those engaged in and with schools, schooling, and school systems to spearhead deep and often difficult transformation. How might those in the field of Educational Change best support these individuals and groups through these processes?    

JC: That so many teachers appear to be willing to engage (largely voluntarily) in self-directed professional learning via social media suggests to me that there are a lot of teachers who are hungry for educational change. However, social media stereotypically is not associated with “deep and often difficult transformation.” Now, some of that stereotyping of social media is a little unfair, as there are deep and difficult discussions that happen among social-media-using educators. But discussions don’t inevitably lead to transformation, or even humbler forms of change. It is possible that some or even much of the education discussion on social media amounts to idle chatter that does little to contribute to changes in teaching practices and student learning. There is important work to be done regarding how to help educators derive the most possible benefit from the wider networks they can establish and conversations they can engage in thanks, in part, to social media. For social media to have more positive impacts in education than negative ones, teachers will need to be able to manage a variety of tensions; the field of Educational Change may be able to impact how those tensions are navigated and mitigated. For example, social media is lauded for lowering barriers to participation and giving voice to users who may struggle to be heard elsewhere, but this lowering of barriers to participation also means that the quality of the shared content via social media can be problematic. Educators who use social media must be skeptical and critical consumers, aware of the pitfalls and perils associated with these media, and they may need assistance to become such users.

“Educators who use social media must be skeptical and critical consumers, aware of the pitfalls and perils associated with these media, and they may need assistance to become such users.”

Another tension the field of Educational Change can further attend to is exploring the optimal balance between self-directed professional learning and system-directed professional learning. Administrators, school boards, and policy makers understandably are interested in PD that is related to the approved curriculum, educator performance standards, and school and district strategic plans. They may have very good reasons for wanting groups of teachers to have shared PD experiences and common understandings of certain topics. If every educator pursues a completely self-directed PD path, educators in a district or school could lack the shared understandings that would help them to collaborate and push forward bigger change initiatives. Some educators may be self-aware enough and engage consistently in reflection such that their self-directed PD is maximally beneficial, but others may need external nudges to recognize their own areas for growth. Also, students could encounter a dizzying array of strategies and expectations if there are no shared experiences of any kind in the professional learning of their teachers.

LtC: Where do you perceive the field of Educational Change is going? What excites you about Educational Change now and in the future?

JC: The pace and quantity of social media activities and content are relentless and potentially overwhelming. This contrasts sharply with how much of the work of education change is slow and incremental. We are experiencing a historical moment where there is finally, and rightfully a lot of demand and momentum for educational change. The immediacy and public nature of social media may help keep up the pressure for change, and that pressure may at times be helpful and on other occasions it may not be. I am excited by the prospects for helping pre-service teachers (PSTs) to make wiser use of social media. Many PSTs will at some point explore professional social media uses. To increase the chances that they use social media in ways that contribute to positive educational change, teacher education programs could help PSTs learn how to leverage the learning affordances and mitigate the challenges of social media. Teacher educators may be able to play a key role in helping PSTs understand the dangers associated with different social media platforms. Social media can provide PSTs with access to resources and educators otherwise unavailable to them, but managing the quantity of content and assessing its quality can prove difficult. Many PSTs could benefit from activities that help them consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of tools such as Instagram and heuristics that help them assess the content and ideas they find via such media.

References

Carpenter, J.P. (2016). Teachers at the wheel. Educational Leadership, 73(8), 30-35.

Carpenter, J. P., & Krutka, D. G. (2016). The virtual workroom. The Learning Professional, 37(4), 24.

Carpenter, J.P., Krutka, D.G., & Trust, T. (2021). Continuity and change in educators’ professional learning networks. Journal of Educational Change. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-020-09411-1

Carpenter, J.P., Morrison, S.A., Craft, M., & Lee, M. (2020). How and why are educators using Instagram? Teaching and Teacher Education, 96,103149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2020.103149

Koehler, M., Shelton, C.C., Carpenter, J.P., & Greenhalgh, S. (2020). Where does all the money go? Free and paid transactions on TeachersPayTeachers.com. Teachers College Record. https://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentId=23478

Staudt Willet, K.B., & Carpenter, J.P. (2021). A tale of two Subreddits: Change and continuity in teaching-related online spaces. British Journal of Educational Technology, 52(2), 519-535. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.13051

ABOUT THE LTC SERIES: The Lead the Change series, featuring renowned educational change experts from around the globe, serves to highlight promising research and practice, to offer expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change, and to spark collaboration within the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association.  Kristin Kew, Chair; Mireille Hubers; Program Chair; Na Mi Bang, Secretary/Treasurer; Min Jung KimGraduate Student Representative; Jennie Weiner, LtC Series Editor; Alexandra Lamb, Production Editor.

International Cooperation in Education

Our monthly scan of news and reports often reveal numerous discussions of ways in which different countries are collaborating to support the development of education. These collaborations are reflected in a number of reports on the development and deepening of partnerships around particular educational issues, or as part of larger efforts addressing many aspects of society. This month’s news includes cooperative agreements that focus on issues like vocational education, technology, and system building.

Vocational Education:

One of the ways in which countries are working together to improve education is as part of a larger effort to meet the needs of the labor market. For example, Germany is working with Bulgaria on a joint vocational education project that aims to help Bulgaria make reforms to existing legislation, standards, and programs. As Bulgaria’s Education Minister explained in www.focus-fen.com  “Bulgaria would like to introduce the dual education system so that there is a link between vocational education and the labour market.” The Slovak Spectator reported that Germany will also be working to build a similar collaboration with Austria.

Meanwhile, as reported by Thailand’s public relations departmentThailand, Laos, and Vietnam are working together to create tri-country vocational certification programs that will allow students with opportunities to study in each country. Executive Director of the ASEAN University Network (AUN) Nantana Gajaseni said that each ASEAN government should support the grouping of educational institutions specializing in similar fields of study as clusters, in order to push for education development in this region.

Technology:

Finland and Estonia are also working together as part of a specific endeavor to develop cloud technology that will “step up” educational and technological cooperation between the two countries. According to the Finnish government’s press release, “This joint effort aims to enable the creation of cloud services in education and learning and the use of digital materials and find new ways of learning and teaching in the learning environments in both countries. In particular, we wish to help change the school culture to become more student-oriented and inspiring and promote approaches to teaching where the focus is on experiences of success.”

System Building:

As noted in Business Reporter, Denmark and Pakistan have been expanding upon a supportive relationship, as part of Denmark’s interest in “conflict-hit” Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Denmark supports civil society organizations in the area, such as the Youth Parliament, to which it has given financial aid of 3.5 million dollars. In his most recent visit, Denmark’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Jesper Moller Sorensen, highlighted the importance of education in nation-building, and suggested that Pakistan increase education spending as a means of investing in the country’s future.
A new cooperation between China and South Africa has also been announced. According to Business Day Live, South Africa is “hoping to get lessons from China on curriculum development and implementation; teacher training and development; vocational education and training; and research and development to improve basic education.” The agreement also includes a cultural exchange and the teaching of Mandarin in South African schools.

 

Bilateral Partnerships:

Cooperative education efforts have also been seen in countries that seem to be looking to build alliance in multiple arenas. For example, The National reports that the United Arab Emirates and South Korea have been building a bilateral strategic partnership since 2009, which is now expanding to the areas of education, cultural, medical and health care sectors. The Kuwait News Agency also reported that Canada and Kuwait are working on ways to enhance cooperation in scientific, cultural, and educational fields, and to facilitate visa procedures for Kuwaiti students and their parents.

 

Memoranda of Understanding:

In the news we also see multiple examples of countries signing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on educational cooperation. Examples include:

England

Teaching technology: we need a digital revolution in the classroom
The Guardian (31 March 2012)

Recently, the government has “thrown out the old syllabus” to institute a new system of education in England.  This editorial challenges the government to change the ways that computer technology is taught in schools, ensuring that students know more than typing in a word processor and downloading an app for the iPhone.  The editors want students to understand that computers are tools that can be programmed and critiqued.  They also want students to learn programming skills in schools.  But, the editors remind governmental leaders that effective change is more than rhetoric: “Ultimately, as anyone who has worked in education knows, fine intentions count for little without the human resources to back them. In this sense, bringing technological innovation and best practice to the classroom is much like the art of building a successful syllabus: the result should set good teachers free to teach, and enable the best possible use to be made of their time and attention.”   Furthermore, the editors remind readers that digital technology has been important for economic growth and political movements (e.g., the Arab Spring), thus providing compelling reasons to continue to teach about computer technology in schools.