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Talking Equity, From Azerbaijan to Zambia



The 52nd annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society, which will take place at Teachers College beginning this Monday, March 17th, will tackle issues of gender, ethnicity, economics, disability, urbanization, privatization and peace education, to name a few.

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The 1,500 scholars and students from around the world who will convene at Teachers College from March 17-21 for the 52nd annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society will share a common theme -- “Gaining Educational Equity Around the World” – but their research interests are as far-flung as the many nations they represent.

To learn more about the CIES conference, including the full schedule of presentations and events, visit Media wishing to attend should contact Joe Levine at 212 678-3176,

The meeting will feature some 300 panel sessions and 1,200 papers, including presentations on education corruption in former Soviet countries; the paradoxical increase in risk of HIV/AIDS infection associated with public health education in sub-Saharan Africa; the superiority of Cuban primary school education to that of other Latin American countries; the rapid growth and privatization of higher education in China; and more. There will also be a special session on international and community-based non-government organizations (NGOs), and a presentation by a group of teachers and students from Scarsdale High School on preparing students for an inter-dependent world. (One of the students, Amy Tsang, is the daughter of TC faculty member Mun Tsang, Professor of Economics of Education, and Director of the College’s Center on Chinese Education. The elder Tsang is presenting a paper on Gender Disparities in Science and Engineering Fields in Chinese Universities.) 

“Education has become a global issue as never before,” says CIES president-elect Henry M. Levin, William H. Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, who has intensively studied investment by the U.S. in its own education system. “Within that context, we’re placing special emphasis on the theme of educational equity within and among regions and countries, focusing on a range of factors that includes gender, race, ethnicity, economics, disability and urbanization.”

Levin, the meeting chair, has worked for months to organize the event, together with 2008 CIES Conference Coordinator Andria Wisler, a Ph.D student in TC’s Department of International and Transcultural Studies; Assistant Coordinator Andrew Shiotani, Ph.D. student in Comparative International Education/Sociology; TC Professor of Education Gita Steiner-Khamsi, President-elect of CIES for 2008-09; and Frances Vavrus, Associate Professor of Education at TC and a CIES board member. 

The world’s first course on comparative education was taught at Teachers College in 1899, and the field was shaped largely by scholars at the College during the early 20th century.

The conference’s two keynote speakers are Vicky Colbert, founder and Executive Director of the Escuela Nueva Foundation and also founder of its U.S-based sister organization, Escuela Nueva International, and J. Douglas Willms, Professor and Director of the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy at the University of New Brunswick (UNB). Colbert will deliver the Claude Eggertsen Lecture from at 5:30 p.m. on March 18 in TC’s Cowin Conference Center, and Willms will deliver the George Kneller Lecture at 5:30 p.m. on March 19, also in the Cowin Center.

Colbert established Escuela Nueva in Colombia in 1976, and today more than 20,000 rural public schools in Colombia, as well schools in 13 other countries in Latin America (representing some five million children), have benefited from its efforts to improve rural and urban basic education. Willms, an internationally recognized leader in the field of human development, has used large-scale surveys to demonstrate a clear relationship between the quality of early child development and performance in the education system and labor force.

Among the other issues addressed by presenters at the conference:

  • Why do Cuba’s primary school students perform so much better than their counterparts in other Latin American countries? The question has taken on new relevance as Cuba stands on the brink of major political change. Martin Carnoy, the Vida Jacks Professor of Education at the Stanford University School of Education, analyzes the performance of Cuban students versus that of students in Chile and Brazil, drawing on his recently published book, Cuba’s Academic Advantage. (Tuesday, March 18th, 1:30 pm, 229 Thompson Hall)
  • HIV/AIDS education in Sub-Saharan Africa – social vaccine or risk factor? In sub-Saharan Africa – home to two-thirds of the world’s AIDS-infected individuals – research has shown that, paradoxically, educated individuals (especially men) are more likely to have multiple sexual partners. Based on study of the relationship between education and infection among three different age-groups in 11 sub-Saharan countries, David P. Baker, professor of education and sociology and director of the Institute for Policy Research and Evaluation at the Pennsylvania State University, and colleagues conclude that for younger people, education is beginning to serve as an effective preventive strategy – but one that will fail without massive international aid for primary education. (Wednesday, March 19th, 3:30 pm, 365 Grace Dodge Hall)
  • Education corruption in former Soviet countries. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, government education officials in many former Soviet countries are demanding bribes from school administrators for accreditation and procurement, while administrators and teachers, in turn, are demanding bribes from students for admission, housing, book rental, grades, exams and transcripts. From their study of universities in Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic, Stephen Heyneman, Professor of International Educational Policy at Vanderbilt University and his Vanderbilt colleague Kathryn Anderson find that degrees are becoming devalued, decreasing the earning power of graduates by as much as 70 percent. Funding from international development assistance organizations is also in jeopardy, as is the “Bologna Process,” through which members of the European Union seek to make university degrees equivalent across borders. (Tuesday, March 18th, 1:30 p.m., 449 Grace Dodge Hall) 
  • The impact of higher ed privatization worldwide. In the U.S., private higher education is synonymous with elite institutions – but not so in the rest of the world, particularly in developing countries. With the demand for education increasing, however, and with governments often unable to meet that demand, private institutions have proliferated. Unlike critics who focus on the lack of traditional resources at many of these institutions – libraries, laboratories, full-time staff – Daniel Levy, Distinguished Professor of Educational Administration and Policy Studies at SUNY Albany, and director of the Program for Research on Private Higher Education (PROPHE), asks how effective private institutions are in promoting access and equity in education, particularly regarding preparation for the job market.
  • The impact of China’s rapid expansion of higher education. Since 1999, China has enrolled more than 20 million students, creating the largest higher education system in the world. From her study of 2, 400 undergraduate students at 12 universities, Ruth Hayhoe, Professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, and President emerita, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, describes how this dramatic change is helping to shape China’s emerging civil society and changing the contributions of China’s top universities to global cultural dialogue. (Thursday, March 20th, 10:30 a.m., 136 Thompson Hall)
  • Global perspectives on peace education. Among the presenters on this panel, which is chaired by Associate Professor Monisha Bajaj of Teachers College (where the field began), Yaacov Iram of Isael’s Bar Ilan University, holder of the UNESCO Chair on Human Rights, Democracy, Peace and Tolerance, who has written extensively about peace education efforts aimed at Israelis and Palestinians, will discuss the European Union Partnership in Culture of Peace. The work is being conducted jointly with the Palestinian Sartawi Center for the Advancement of Peace and Democracy, at Al Quds University, and with Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva.  (Monday, March 17th, 1:30 p.m., 229 Thompson Hall)
  • Research and responsibility for educational equity in Africa. Do researchers in impoverished countries have an obligation to do more than simply gather information? Frances Vavrus, Associate Professor of Education at Teachers College, will discuss, citing examples such as her own six-year study of Tanzanian secondary school students, in which local participants ultimately questioned whether funds for the study (including researchers’ salaries) would not have been better spent on school expenses for their children. Vavrus recommends creation of an incentive structure in the tenure system for work in which researchers actively “give back” to the communities they study. (Monday, March 17th, 1:30 p.m., 277 Grace Dodge Hall)
  • The impact of globalization on education, democracy and citizenship. Globalization is one of the key forces of the 21st century, but there has been little research on its impact on education. In a study of 16 countries – including the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Finland, Armenia, Egypt, South Africa and Japan – Carlos Alberto Torres, Professor of Social Sciences and Comparative Education and Director of the Latin American Center at UCLA, looks at how globalization has affected the dynamic relationship between education, states and markets; how those changes show up in daily classroom experiences; and how education can be improved to meet the needs of a more diverse, multicultural classroom. (Thursday, March 20th, 3:30 p.m., 281 Grace Dodge Hall)
  • The challenges of improving educational equity in developing nations. Despite the policies instituted by many well-meaning education ministers, educational inequities persist over decades in many countries. In this plenary session, Alec Ian Gershberg of The New School for Social Research chairs a discussion by Luis Crouch, Research Vice President, Don Winkler, Senior Research Economist, and Frank Method, Direction of International Education Policy and Systems, of the Research Triangle Institute International, with specific reference to the experiences of Brazil, South Africa and Uganda. Gershberg will also analyze gender and class inequities fostered by school construction in Egypt, focusing on persisting gaps for girls and poor children despite Egypt’s construction of 14,000 new schools between 1992 and 2006 (Wednesday, March 19th, 12:10 p.m., 179 Grace Dodge Hall)
  • How academic work is changing in the global university. In a global economy, competition for jobs comes from all around the world; scholars in all nations face increasing pressure to publish in English and in international journals; and research itself is increasingly commercialized. Philip Altbach, Moran Professor of Higher Education and Director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, analyzes these forces, with particular attention to how they affect developing countries.  (Thursday, March 20th, 10:30 a.m., 433 Horace Mann)
  • The challenges of conducting leadership training for young girls in rural Western China.  In a case-study approach, Heidi Ross, Professor of Education Leadership and Policy Studies at Indiana University, looks at the experience of a U.S.-based NGO that tried to provide rural Chinese secondary school girls with activities, knowledge and skills designed to cultivate their leadership abilities. The project fell short because of the differing assumptions of teachers and principals about the needs of poor, rural and scholarship girls. (Friday, March 21st, 10:30 a.m., 179 Grace Dodge Hall)
  • The annual Gender Symposium will bring together prominent speakers in four panels: gender and education frameworks, girls’ education funding debates, and gender in relation to peace education and to globalization. The Gender Symposium will close with comments by Nelly P. Stromquist, of the University of Southern California, on the state of the field and future directions. (Tuesday, March 18, all day, 179 Grace Dodge Hall)
  • The NGO Fair. Representatives from Global Kids, World Up: The Global Hip Hop Project, Network for Public Schools, the National Center for Children in Poverty and other organizations will showcase their work. (Wednesday, March 19th, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Teachers College Dining Hall.)

  • Preparing students for an interdependent world. Scarsdale High School teachers and students will present on their school district’s partnerships with the East-West Center, Yale’s PIER Middle-East Studies Program, the Holocaust Human Rights Education Center, and The Lincoln Center Institute. (Friday, March 21st, 10:30 a.m., 306 Russell Hall.)  

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