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TC's Global Engagement: A Sampling of Past, Present and Future Programs

Academic Festival 2013

"TC's international impact has always been through its exchanges. Educators of all stripes have come here from abroad, from graduate students to Ministers of Education and of course our faculty, students and alumni have been active around the world."

The speaker, Marion Boultbee, knew whereof she spoke. In addition to holding a TC doctorate in in International Education Development, Boultbee served for years as the College's Director of International Services.

Boultbee moderated a session that gave the flavor of TC's extensive international engagement through presentations on several key efforts. She was joined by Portia Williams, Executive Director of TC's Office of International Affairs, which was established by President Susan Fuhrman in 2008.

Portia williams


"Susans vision was that, while a lot of our faculty were doing work in regions all over the world, she wanted to engage institutionally with other universities and ministries of education," Williams said. "We do that in ways that are collaborative -- not by establishing campuses abroad, but instead by working with other countries to help them build capacity."

Peter Moock, a veteran of TC's 1960s-era Teachers for East Africa program, recalled that the program grew out of a conference convened at Princeton University by the American Council on Education during the fall of 1960, at which African educators expressed concern about their nations' capacity to produce a new generation of citizens who could assume leadership roles.  Those fears were amplified by the region's acute shortage of secondary school teachers, said Moock, who later served as Associate Professor Economics and Education at TC and then Lead Economist at the World Bank.

Out of the meeting came a request by USAID for TC to put together a teacher prep program. It was a tall order, made even tougher by the fact that the African nations themselves were looking for seasoned professionals. 

"They said, we want people with more than just a BA and enthusiasm -- and if they don't have the training, let them get it by spending a year in school in Africa first," said Moock, who did just that in Tanzania.

In the first year, the program received 1,300 applicants, out of which it chose only 157 candidates.  (The pool grew after President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous inaugural speech in which he asked "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.") Overall, the effort lasted for just six years (an additional program, to train teacher trainers, was added), but its impact was profound, Moock said.

"I worked in East Africa thereafter, and I never met an African official who hadn't met or been taught by a TEA teacher," he said. Meanwhile, alumni of the program not only still meet for reunions (this year will be the 50th) but also raise money for the African schools they worked in long ago.

"We're still at it," Moock said.

A presentation on TC's second Afghanistan project, which concluded in 2005, was supposed to have been made via Skype by one of its core members, Frances Schoonmaker, Professor Emeritus of Education. However, a minor earthquake in Karachi, Pakistan, where Schoonmaker has been working on another TC project, scotched that plan -- so Boultbee read a brief statement that Schoonmaker had emailed instead.



It said, in essence, that when the Taliban fell in 2003, TC was asked back to Afghanistan, where a team from the College had spent 25 years developing textbooks in Dari and Pashto. This time, though, the focus was on creating materials and programs that reflected values put forward by the Afghans themselves.

"We asked all the participants to list 10 characteristics of an ideally educated Afghan citizen and the kinds of schooling that would be required to instill them," wrote Schoonmaker.  From the responses received emerged eight standards, and from those, a conceptual model for teacher education. That framework is still in use in Afghanistan today, and similar models have been adopted in Pakistan and other countries.

Madhabi Chatterji, Associate Professor of Measurement- Evaluation & Education, spoke about TC's global engagement and legacy in measurement, assessment and evaluation. That legacy -- and to a very large extent, the field itself -- began in 1904 when TC education psychologist Edward L. Thorndike published An Introduction to the Theory of Mental and Social Measurements, since hailed as the first textbook to define the knowledge base now known as classical test theory.

During the 1950s, Thorndike's son, Robert L. Thorndike joined forces with two other TC faculty members, Elizabeth Hagen and Irving Lorge, to create the the Lorge-Thorndike Intelligence Tests, later called "Cognitive Ability Tests," which were widely used to test scholastic ability. In 1971, the younger Thorndike and Hagen also co-edited the second edition of Educational Measurement, which has become the best-known reference handbook in the field and has been regularly reissued since.

Still another faculty member, the late Richard Wolf, served as the United States General Assembly representative for the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IA), which launched large-scale international assessment programs such as TIMSS and PIRLS. In 2005, IEA established the Richard M. Wolf Memorial Award.

In 2006, Chatterji herself established TC's Assessment and Evaluation Research Initiative (AERI), which seeks to promote meaningful use of assessment and evaluation information in practice and policy contexts, internationally and across disciplines. From 200-8-11, AERI collaborated with The Global Educational Leadership Foundation (tGELF) on designing and assessing tGELF's Life, Skills and Global Leadership Program, conducted in pilot schools in Delhi. Last yearwith sponsorship from the Educational Testing Service, the National Science Foundation and TC's Provost's Investment Fund, AERI held a major conference on educational assessment, accountability and equity that drew 250 attendees from around the world. Chatterji is in the process of publishing an edited volume, Validity and Test Use, based on presentations from the conference.

Susan Jay Spungin (Ed. D. '75), President of Blind Biz and former Vice President for International Programs and Special Projects at the American Foundation for the Blind, described her recent efforts to help the Sultanate of Oman, in the Persian Gulf, establish a system of inclusive schooling for all children with disabilities.

Spungin, honored at this year's Academic Festival as a recipient of Teachers College's Distinguished Alumni Award, said Oman was initially failing in this effort because it lacked  a universally understood and agreed-upon definition of "inclusion."

"One thing I've learned is that when you set up a system of special education, it has to serve all disabilities," Spungin said. "Also, there has to be cooperation with the government and with parents of both disabled and non-disabled children -- particularly the latter, who often don't want that involvement." 

After winning buy-in for that definition, Spungin's team, which included Linda Hickson, TC Professor of Education, recommended that Oman stop importing special education teachers from Jordan and Egypt, advice that has since prompted the creation of a university-level special education teacher training program in Oman. Oman may now lead a Gulf-wide conference on special education.

Donald Fulton (Ed. D. '91), a former New York City principal ande Director of Children's Education at the New York Botanical Garden, described his efforts (through TC's Office of International Affairs) to create a U.S. study tour for Indonesia educators in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). Fulton, in collaboration with Columbia's Center for Environment, Economy and Society (CEES), identified six New York City high schools with exemplary STEM programs, as well as leading science educators at the American Museum of Natural History and the Botanical Garden. He then brought a group of Indonesian educators to New York City to visit those institutions and to learn from TC faculty members. The group also met with the Consul General at the Indonesian Consulate to frame out the challenges of introducing progressive STEM education methods in Indonesia's school  system, which, though centrally directed, spread out across the 13,000 islands that make up the nation.  

Today there is a CEES program in Indonesia, and Fulton said he would be going there soon to assess implementation of modern STEM teaching. 

Published Friday, May. 17, 2013