Tag Archives: higher education

Scan of Ed News: U.S. travel ban and higher education

On January 27, 2017, United States President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order temporarily withholding entry to the U.S. to individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries. In addition, aspects of the current visa and refugee program were suspended. The order has affected many people and caused confusion worldwide. Since it was established, news reports show that the order is also having an impact on higher education institutions around the world. Therefore, we decided to conduct a brief scan of reports that share information on how the ban will effect higher education, and how school leaders in the U.S. and around the world are responding.

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

Universities and scholars are grappling with what the restrictions of the travel ban means for students and scholarship. One primary concern is for international students and faculty who are  studying and working in U.S. institutions, but who happened to be outside of the country when the order was signed and are now unable to return.  Additional concerns have been raised about the future of longstanding partnerships between universities in the US and in affected countries, such as Iran.  Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education, was quoted in the Times Higher Education: “What we have is, frankly, a matter of significant concern and a great deal of confusion and very little clarity.”

According to Business Insider, tens of thousands of students across the country could be affected. Dallas News detailed how the ban will impact students in colleges and universities in Texas. Southern Methodist University has 49 students from the seven affected countries; The University of North Texas has 85 students; the Dallas County Community College District has 47; UT-Dallas has 127; Texas Tech University has 149; UT-Austin has 110; and the University of Houston has 280. Students and staff are being warned not to travel and to avoid the Texas-Mexico border checkpoints.

A coalition of 598 college and university presidents signed a letter to President Trump urging that the travel ban be rescinded. As reported by The Hill, this letter was sent to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly through the American Council on Education (ACE). As reported in The Boston Globe and in Time Magazine, these higher education leaders said that the order “specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses. American higher education has benefitted tremendously from this country’s long history of embracing immigrants from around the world.”

Additional reports share individual responses from presidents of Princeton, RutgersHarvard, MIT and Carnegie Mellon.  The Association of American Universities and the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement also issued statements. Also, as reported in The Independent UK, more than 4,500 scholars from Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East have signed a petition calling for a boycott of international conferences held in the U.S.

Since the implementation of the Executive Order, there has been some speculation that the travel ban could benefit countries wiling to take the displaced students and faculty—such as Canada, Australia, and Ireland. For example, Memorial University of Newfoundland, in Canada, has offered to waive the application fees of students applying from the seven countries named in the Executive Order—hoping to attract new talent to the school. In an article just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, two physicians at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center explore the consequences of the travel ban and point out that international medical graduates currently fill gaps in the American healthcare system, particularly in rural areas.

Meanwhile, protests and demonstrations continue. Yesterday, hundreds of New York City high school students walked out of school in protest of the ban. As reported in Chalkbeat, students filled Manhattan’s Foley Square, chanting “No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!” College students have also been protesting in many states, including Vermont, Maine, Illinois, California, Massachusetts,  and even in the UK.

Deirdre Faughey

In Norway, where college is free, children of uneducated parents still don’t go

Advocates see it as a case study proving that the problem isn’t solely about money

© 2015 Jon Marcus, as first published by The Atlantic.

OSLO—There’s a saying in famously egalitarian Norway that Curt Rice, the American-born incoming president of the country’s third-biggest university, likes to rattle off: “We’re all sitting in the same boat.”

What it means, said Rice, is that, “To single out anyone, we’re against that. That just does not sit well in the Norwegian soul.”

So all Norwegians have the same tuition-free access to college, no matter what their backgrounds. Every student gets the same allowance for living expenses.

But something surprising is happening in Norway, which explains a similar phenomenon in the United States that has been thwarting efforts to increase the number of Americans pursuing higher education.

Even though tuition is almost completely free here, Norwegians whose parents did not go to college are just as unlikely to go themselves as Americans whose parents did not go to college.

This conundrum demonstrates a critical point that’s widely misunderstood, according to higher-education experts: money is not the only thing keeping first-generation students from seeking degrees.

Even though it’s essentially free, only 14 percent of children from the least-educated families in Norway go to college, compared to 58 percent of children from the most-educated families.

“This is almost a laboratory case, where we get to control one factor — namely, cost — and see what happens,” said Rice, who in August will take over as head of Norway’s Oslo and Akershus University College.

And what happens is that — even though it’s essentially free — only 14 percent of children from the least-educated families in Norway go to college, compared to 58 percent of children from the most-educated families, according to an analysis by a Norwegian education researcher, Elisabeth Hovdhaugen.

That’s almost exactly the same proportion as in the United States, where the cost of college is borne largely by students and their families, and where the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation reports that only 13 percent of children of parents without higher educations end up getting degrees themselves.

“I don’t think that people do understand it’s not about money,” said John Gomperts, president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance, a coalition of organizations trying to steer more young people to and through college in the U.S.

It’s a huge issue, considering that fully one-third of five- to 17-year-olds in the United States have parents who did not go to college, the College Board reports, at a time when policymakers are trying to increase the number of Americans with degrees. They’ll be needed to fill the 65 percent of jobs by 2020 that will require some sort of college or university training, according to the Georgetown University Center for Education in the Workforce.

“Norway is an interesting window into this,” Gomperts said. “If you come from a background where everyone goes to college, there’s no question that you’ll go to college. But if you grew up in a challenging community where nobody went to or succeeded in college, there’s no one at home who is going to know how to navigate the system. It takes the right amount of social preparation and support. That’s the magic.”

The Norwegian system eliminates some obstacles in addition to cost. Except for kindergarten, primary and secondary schools are funded nationally, not locally, for example, so there’s ostensibly no difference in education quality between higher- and lower-income towns and cities, as there might be between wealthy suburban and poor urban districts in the United States. And the Norwegian funding system is very easy to understand, while the American system of grants and loans is complex and often confusing, even to families with college-going experience.

But the principle of social equality in Norway also means that there are no programs providing academic support to first-generation or low-income students in college, although there are a few for immigrants and women in fields in which they are underrepresented.

“Helping students from low socioeconomic status does not happen at all,” Hovdhaugen said in her office at the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, across the street from the royal palace in Oslo. “It’s the idea of the equitable society, and that students are considered adults, independent of their parents. You could almost turn it around and say that if the students whose parents with high income were not eligible for support, that would be judged as very unfair.”

Also, because wages remain high for blue-collar occupations, she said, there’s less of a financial incentive for some Norwegians to bother with college, since they can get jobs more quickly, and earn almost as much money, working as plumbers or electricians. American advocates for higher education worry that a similar thing might be happening in the U.S., as people increasingly question the return on investment for degrees; a new federal report shows that the average annual earnings of 25- to 34-year-olds with bachelor’s degrees actually fell from $53,210 in 2000 to $46,900 in 2012, even as tuition continued to rise.

“A bachelor’s degree in the U.S. has been seen as one serious option for getting into the middle class, whereas in Norway everything is a ticket into the middle class, because everyone is in the middle class,” Rice said. “It’s now less clear that it really is a ticket into the middle class in the U.S.”

American students’ scores on the SAT and other college entrance exams also correlate with the level of their parents’ educations; the better-educated a student’s parents, the higher he or she scores on the tests, according to the College Board, which administers the SAT.

Since education affects income, children whose parents didn’t go to college are also unlikely to be well off, said Margaret Cahalan, vice president for research at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. And families that are less well off are statistically more likely to face health problems, problems with the law and unplanned pregnancies, among other challenges.

Students from such backgrounds “are going to be on average facing more obstacles than a student who comes from a more advantaged background,” including nonfinancial ones, Cahalan said.

With a third of U.S. primary and secondary school students now coming from families without higher educations, the most important lesson is that cultural, and not just economic, considerations may keep many of them from going on to college.

Young people from backgrounds such as these, when considering whether or not to go to college, often “don’t even really know that they can go to the library and borrow books” instead of buying them, said Gomperts.

“How do you know that? You’re not born knowing such a thing. And who’s going to tell you? Stripping away the money piece shows how complicated this is.”

This post was also published on The Hechinger Report.

Improving teacher education in Norway

In 2013, Karen Hammerness and Kirsti Klette reported on the efforts to improve teacher education in Norway. In this post, following recent conversations with members of the Ministry of Education in Norway, Hammerness puts the work on teacher education in historical perspective and describes some of the latest developments.

Norway is a particularly interesting country to follow in terms of teacher education policy. Questions about the quality of education came to the forefront in 2000, with the publication of the first PISA results (what some Norwegians refer to as “the PISA-shock”). Those results showed that Norwegian students had not performed as well as many had hoped or expected. In fact, along with students in the United States, Norwegian students’ outcomes, were slightly lower than the average of the OECD countries measured. Concerns continued to mount when the second round of PISA revealed Norwegian students’ performance declining further.

A weak system of teacher education was considered to be one of the key problems. Policy makers and educators pointed to several key challenges. First, teacher preparation was organized around a ‘generalist’ conception of teaching. At the time, the Norwegian system of teacher certification allowed teachers to teach all subjects at all grade levels—a conception captured by the term allmenlærer—roughly translated as “teacher of all.” Next, the quality—and size—of teacher preparation programs varied considerably throughout the country. Furthermore, teacher education coursework in the programs seemed disconnected from teaching practice and was not tightly tied to current research on teaching and learning. Finally, reports suggested a steady decline in applications to teacher education institutions, amplifying concerns about a lack of qualified teachers in the near future.

Teacher education reforms

In response, over the last five years, Norway has invested heavily in funding for work on teacher education and teaching and made a number of important policy changes. In 2010, building upon a white paper that had summarized key concerns about preparation of teachers, Norway transformed their system of certification and established two ‘lines’ or ‘streams’ of certification—a stream that prepares teachers for grades 1-7 (somewhat similar to a primary school certification in the US), and another that prepares teachers to teach grades 5-10 (when lower secondary school ends in Norway). A new national curriculum framework for teacher education was also developed and came into effect in 2010. The framework required more coursework on pedagogy and learner knowledge, including an emphasis upon research-based subject-specific methods, learners’ development, and classroom management. The new framework also created new graduation requirements including the completion of a bachelors’ thesis, related to teaching and learning. In addition, new regulations stipulated that teacher education programs would need to increase the percentage of faculty who have completed doctoral studies—ultimately, requiring programs to ensure that 50% of faculty have PhDs.

A proposal was also made to address some larger ‘structural’ issues that affected the quality of higher education. In particular, in 2008, the government released a report calling for a reduction in programs in higher education, including teacher education. Correspondingly, some policymakers expected that the new requirements might lead to significant restructuring, particularly among smaller and more remote teacher education programs. Conceivably, such programs might decide to focus upon one degree; they might start to share students, collaborate or even merge with other local institutions; or the programs might determine that they could not meet the new demands and might voluntarily choose to close.

Responses to the reforms

These moves to streamline programs are not easy in a country like Norway. Teacher preparation has been central to the identity of many of the smaller institutions throughout the country—reflecting a social policy that has been supportive of small institutions in a country in which the population has been somewhat ‘spread out’ across a wide geographical area. The existence of such small, local academic institutions (and teacher preparation programs) reflects a national investment and policy support for the deeply held value of living and working locally. This support for living in in widely-dispersed regions throughout the country in fact has been a historical Norwegian value–and it seems understandable, given that Norway spans about 2,500 miles from north to south (and, with 25,000 miles of rugged coastline, it is among the ten countries with the longest coastlines).

Norwegian educators point out that teacher education programs have been central to supporting and financially maintaining smaller regional institutions of higher education. As Øyvind Johnson, a Senior Advisor at the Ministry, noted, “Teacher education is the pillar of many of these small institutions.” Many of these institutions prepare only a very few teachers every year (although of course, they also are intended to prepare teachers who are committed to remaining local). For instance, reflective of the small scale of some of these institutions: a recent report found that of the twenty programs in Norway that prepare teachers for teaching in grades 1-7, as many as twelve institutions have fewer than 50 student-teachers, and two have as few as nine students.

The new requirements have put considerable strain on some of the smaller institutions throughout Norway to redesign, develop new curriculum, and to change program expectations. However, Ministry representatives reported that none of the programs thus far had chosen to focus only upon one certification ‘stream’ nor had any programs voluntarily closed entirely. At one point, the Ministry considered requiring programs to have a minimum of twenty students in order to remain open, but never put such a requirement in place. As Johnson noted, “If programs had under twenty applicants, what would you do?” In short, policymakers have been trying to develop policies that both strengthen programs and continue to provide support for small, local institutions (and local communities) all the while, maximizing flexibility and equity of participation. Not surprisingly, under these conditions, the number of teacher education programs that offered the allmenlærer degree has not changed since the reform: there were twenty programs prior to the latest reforms, and twenty remain.

What’s Next: A continued focus on “existing programs”

In considering future steps to continue to improve teacher education, the ministry has also just released a new strategy, Lærerløftet (or, raising teachers), which has set forth a set of key themes for continued improvement of teacher education. Top among them is the requirement that teachers in both streams will have to obtain a master’s degree. By 2017, all teacher education programs must be structured as 5-year programs. Senior advisors from the Ministry reported that several reasons underlay that decision: the desire to ensure that teachers are substantially well-prepared and the belief that an additional year beyond a Bachelor’s degree provides more depth of training; more support for teachers to use research in their teaching and to draw upon scientific knowledge in their work; and an opportunity for teachers to develop an understanding of the research base of teaching and learning through their work on a Master’s thesis. As Dalen Tennøe explained, “We looked to Finland, that teacher education should be research-based.” The latest strategy also calls for tightening requirements for entry into teacher education—Norwegian students are graded on a scale of 1-6 (1 being lowest and 6 highest), and currently the requirement has been that to enter teacher preparation one needed a three average in mathematics and Norwegian. Now, prospective teachers will need at least a four in mathematics to enter teacher education. Illustrating the challenges however, at the same time that the policy makers use the example of Finland to support the strengthening of these requirements, a recent newspaper article with the headline “Yrket som falt fra statustoppen” (the profession fallen from high status), shows that critics of these policies also use Finland as an example to argue that teachers should be granted greater autonomy without policy makers’ intrusions.

However the debate develops, Norwegian policymakers are not considering the development of alternative routes into teaching as a policy lever for improving teacher preparation. (For a related argument on why policy makers might not consider alternative pathways into teacher education, see Pasi Sahlberg’s post on why there is no Teach for Finland.) Senior Advisors in Norway were quite clear that the focus of policy was improvement of current programs, not on adding new or alternative pathways. Although Norway does have a “Teach First” program, it is the only alternative program in the country—it is offered at the University of Oslo and has only 20 students. As Fredrik Dalen Tennøe, Deputy Director General, Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, noted, “The main focus has been improving the teacher education programs which are there already, not introducing new [pathways] into the schools.”