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A Field Returns to Its Roots

The annual gathering of comparative international education will take over campus during spring break. The meeting is expected to draw upwards of 1,500 scholars and students from around the world, and it will feature some 300 panel sessions and 1,200 papers.

Annual gathering of comparative and international education to take over campus during spring break; TC’s Hank Levin is chair

In 1899, James Earl Russell of Teachers College taught what’s generally thought to be the world’s first course on comparative education—the study of education systems in different nations. In subsequent years, the field of comparative education was virtually invented

More than a century later, Russell’s pioneering efforts are coming home to roost, as Teachers College plays host for an entire week (March 16–21, when TC is on spring break) to the 52nd annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES). Chaired by CIES president-elect Henry Levin, TC’s William H. Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education, the meeting is expected to draw upwards of 1,500 scholars and students from around the world, and it will feature some 300 panel sessions and 1,200 papers. The theme is “Gaining Educational Equity Around the World.”

“Education has become a global issue as never before,” says Levin, who has intensely 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.”

The conference will feature two keynote speakers, both of whom are former students of Levin’s. Vicky Colbert, founder and Executive Director of the Escuela Nueva Foundation and also founder of its U.S-based sister organization, Escuela Nueva International, will deliver the Claude Eggertsen Lecture from at 5:30 p.m. on March 18 in TC’s Cowin Conference 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 the quality, efficiency and sustainability of rural and urban basic education through dissemination of its model and private-public partnerships.

J. Douglas Willms, Professor and Director of the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), will deliver the George Kneller Lecture at 5:30 p.m. on March 19, also in the Cowin Center. Willms’ lecture is titled “Raising and Leveling the Learning Bar: International Perspectives.” Willms, an internationally recognized leader in the field of human development, holds the Canada Research Chair in Human Development at UNB and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the International Academy of Education and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. His use of large-scale surveys such as the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth and the Programme for International Student Assessment has demonstrated a clear relationship between the quality of early child development and performance in the education system and labor force.

Other highlights of the conference include:

•  The annual Gender Symposium will take place all day on Tuesday, March 18, in 179 Grace Dodge Hall. The Symposium will bring together prominent speakers in four panels on current topics: gender and education frameworks, girls education funding debates, and gender in relation to peace education and to globalization. The symposium will close with comments by Nelly P. Stromquist, of the University of Southern California, on the state of the field and future directions.

•  A panel titled “Innovative Partnerships for Reconstruction and Change: The Case of Liberia” will be held at 10:30 a.m. on March 19 and chaired by Beverlee Bruce of Columbia University. Liberia is emerging from a protracted period of interrelated civil and regional conflicts that led to massive displacement and devastated its physical and political infrastructure. The democratically elected government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has placed education at the center of Liberia’s reconstruction efforts. The panel will explore the unique education partnerships that the Government of Liberia has fostered with bilateral, multilateral, non-governmental and private philanthropic organizations to rebuild and strengthen its education system. Panelists will include Christopher Ashford, Liberia Teacher Training Program/AED; Batuhan Aydagul, Ministry of Education; Honorable James E. Roberts, Ministry of Education; Hugh McLean, Open Society Foundation and Aleesha Taylor, Open Society Foundation and TC Graduate.

In addition, Sunday, March 16, has been designated CIE/IED Teachers College Alumni Day. Over the past 20 years, TC has graduated over 900 students from its CIE and IED programs. TC graduates have gone on to accomplished careers in education and research, government and policy, international organizations, and community and development work. The CIE/IED Alumni Day is being organized under the direction of TC faculty member Gita Steiner-Khamsi, Vice President of CIES.

To find out more about the CIES conference, visit http://www.tc.edu/its/cies/about.htm.


Published Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008


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