Globalizing educators

Globalizing educators McGill University

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McGill Reporter
November 7, 2002 - Volume 35 Number 05
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Globalization and education

Globalizing the educators

A little more than a week after the last echoes of "FTAA has got to go" faded from the streets of Montreal, some McGill students will again be tackling the complex issue of education in a changing world.

The Education Graduate Students Society will be hosting their second annual conference on November 8 and 9. Called "Directing the Winds of Change: Educational Perspectives on Globalization," the conference aims to find ways educators can deal with globalization issues inside and outside the classroom.

"Our standard is excellence in education and preparing teachers - trying to make everyone cognizant of world issues and things we need to be prepared for when we go into the classroom," said conference co-chair Gia Deleveaux, a PhD student in education.

Deleveaux, along with co-chair Karina Younk, has helped organize a series of lectures and seminars that deal with everything from multicultural counselling, to the internet and literacy.

"We're trying to let people know that globalization is something that affects all of us and is something we need to be aware of," said Deleveaux.

The keynote speaker of the conference will be Maude Barlow, founder of the Council of Canadians. Barlow spoke to the Reporter about the importance of educators in shaping the course of globalization.

"It's important for [teachers] to ask hard questions about economic globalization that people are wanting answers to, and open up paths of inquiry," she said. That's important not just in Canada, where Barlow sees corporate interests having an ever-increasing presence in our education system, but also internationally.

"Both education and health care services have been attacked in many third world countries, which have been forced to cut back on public services in order to adapt to the structural adjustment imperatives imposed by the World Bank and the IMF."

The business approach to education is something that worries Younk as well. The master's student said that her own research has shown disturbing trends in current approaches to education.

"I did a study looking at the mission statements [of provincial departments of education] - what was surprising is that teachers weren't mentioned. But the goal of education in general seemed to be to meet students' needs - defined by someone outside of the students - as well as to ensure that we have citizens that are able to function in a prosperous and sustainable society. It's that notion of prosperous that kept popping up."

That, combined with a lot of biz-speak terms like "stakeholders" and students as "clients," indicates to Younk a shifting priority in education.

Of course, globalization isn't just business - the increasingly high proportion of our schools' population that comes from immigrant backgrounds also means there are cultural issues to consider. "How do you teach these children while still respecting their different cultures?" said Deleveaux. The conference will have several talks on this theme - from teaching Islam in the classroom to how Southern education models fit in Inuit classrooms.

The conference will finish with a series of "Action Initiatives" where participants will discuss how they can use what they've learned at the conference to make positive contributions to the various issues.

"One concern was that people would go, and when they finished, say 'Now what?'" said Younk. "There is a burning desire to do more."

Mary Maguire, associate dean of academic programs, graduate studies and research, was one of the driving forces behind the inaugural EGSS conference last year. She feels that in addition to examining important issues in education, the conference is a benefit to the department as a whole.

"It has been a very important and successful academic initiative by EGSS, one that provides opportunities to celebrate the excellent work of our graduate students, to encourage dialogue among students and faculty," she said.

"Directing the Winds of Change: Educational Perspectives on Globalization" runs November 8 and 9 in the Education Building. For more information check out www.education.mcgill.ca/egss

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