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Article

Clarence W. Joldersma

Education needs an ethical orientation that can help it grapple better with global environmental issues such as climate change and decreasing biodiversity, something called earth ethics. The term ethics is used in an unusual manner, to mean a normativity more basic than concrete norms, principles, or rules for living. The idea of earth is also used in an unusual way, as a kind of concealing, a refusal to disclose itself, while at the same time, constituting a kind of interference with the familiarity of the world. The idea of earth plays on the contrast between living on earth and living in the world. The latter involves the familiar concerns and actions of culture and work, of politics and economics. Earth ethics becomes a call to responsibility coming from the earth—a call to let the earth and earthlings be, to acknowledge their refusal to answer our questions or fit easily into our worldly projects, and to recognize their continuing mystery as beings with their own intrinsic worth. The idea of earth ethics is developed through attending to a set of human experiences. First is an experience of gratefulness toward the earth. This gratefulness not only reveals our finitude, but also our indebtedness to the grace-filled support the earth continually gives us for our worldly projects and concerns. This reveals earth as our home, a dwelling we share with other earthlings. This reveals earth’s fundamental fragility. What seems solid and dependable from a worldly perspective shows up as vulnerability from an earthly viewpoint. The experiences of gratefulness to and fragility of the earth gives rise to feeling a call to responsibility, the core of earth ethics. Earth ethics is a call of responsibility to the earth, one that grows out of our debt of gratitude and the earth’s fragility. It is this normative call that might guide education in its grappling with environmental issues.

Article

Nicole Hayes and Bruce Pridham

Mentoring is a positive, supportive facilitation of learning and development between a person with more experience, knowledge, or expertise in a certain field, and a person who is less knowledgeable or is new to that field. In the tertiary setting, mentoring programs take on many forms and structures, with a range of objectives such as support for transition, academic supplemented instruction, and social support. All mentoring programs, regardless of structure, are fundamentally a transactional process of support underpinned by a mutually respectful relationship. The foundations of mentoring are drawn from theoretical frameworks grounded in social constructivism, social learning, applied learning, and developmental theory. These frameworks inform aspects of collaborative learning and outline the multiple benefits for participants including the building of interpersonal, problem-solving and communication skills, increasing academic success and motivation. Successful mentoring programs are conceptualized and planned to ensure the program meets its objectives, has sound processes, clear expectations and roles for all participants, and an effective evaluation system for continual refinement and improvement. When the objective of the mentoring is to increase academic knowledge and skill, the greatest success occurs when the mentor has the expertise, experience, and the ability to scaffold the personal construction of meaning for the mentee. In initial teacher education (ITE) contexts mentoring programs derive successful outcomes for the mentee, mentor, academic teaching staff, organization, and ultimately the profession. The less able students require support and scaffolding to promote and enhance deep learning and the mentor experiences altruism, while refining and practicing pedagogical skills. Mentees and mentors gain self-efficacy, confidence in pedagogical skills, and inter- intrapersonal skills. Staff are able to support diverse open learning tasks to accommodate a personalized learning approach for large cohorts with trained mentors working in the classroom providing point-of-need feedback to maximize learning gains. The university gains through low-cost innovations that increase levels of academic success and positively influence retention and student satisfaction. Society benefits from the resultant high-quality graduates, who are “classroom ready” and prepared to meet the challenges of complex learning environments. Mentoring plays an integral role in the development of teacher professional identity through modelling and intergenerational relationships. Changing accreditation requirements and government-led inquiries into initial teacher education courses have prompted a review of current practices in the tertiary sector. To better meet the needs of the workforce, universities have a greater responsibility to demonstrate the classroom readiness of graduands. Successful teacher education programs utilize mentoring to support and enculturate the next generation of practitioners and ensure they are work ready. Structured mentoring programs transform the student experience, and create cohesive program designs to guide and support preservice teachers who are engaged in the process of learning and reinforcing their positions as developing teachers. Students in near-peer mentoring programs develop a range of mentoring skills and experiences that complement their academic development as they enter the teaching profession.

Article

Fuk-chuen Ho and Cici Sze-ching Lam

Hong Kong has adopted a dual-track system of the education for students with special educational needs (SEN). The system provides a diverse school education to cater to the individual needs of students. In principle, students with SEN are encouraged to receive education in ordinary schools as far as possible. Students with severe SEN or multiple disabilities, however, can be referred to special schools for intensive support services upon the recommendation of specialists and with parents’ consent. Before the launch of the pilot scheme of integrated education in 1998, students with SEN were mostly placed in special schools. The change from a mono-track system to a dual-track system caused concerns for teachers in ordinary schools. This is because integrated education is more than placing students with SEN in ordinary classrooms. It involves a total change in the way schools and teachers operate. Teachers require the skills and background knowledge to support a diverse range of students in the classroom through ordinary classroom practices, and the ability to meet the needs of every student as an individual. In Hong Kong, most teachers have particular concerns about the short duration of training in professional development, the difficulties in the design of the curriculum and assessment differentiation under the three-tier support system, the practice of collaboration among different teaching teams, and the change of administrators’ perceptions on the education of students with SEN. The central authority and the school community should work collaboratively to deal with these pressing difficulties.

Article

The evolution of curriculum development in schools reflects the evolution of knowledge and civilization itself. What knowledge is of most worth? How shall it be codified, structured, and transformed into curriculum for the acculturation and growth of successive generations so that the future is better than the past? How can the school be designed and equipped as a productive and democratic learning environment? These are some of the questions that intersect with the fundamental factors of the education process, namely the learner, the curriculum, and the society. When these fundamental factors are set in opposition or isolation, the possibility for educational progress is impeded or set back. Embracing the idea of progress and the science of education, the experimentalist movement over the first half of the 20th century sought to dissolve the dualisms carried from ancient Greece (e.g., mind/body, intellect/emotion, abstract/concrete knowledge) in endeavoring to create new designs and structures for curriculum synthesis to meet the democratic prospect and the universal educational needs of the rising generation. In sum, the experimentalists reconstructed curriculum development into a process of problem solving for educational progress, holding to the paradigmatic principle that the structure and function of the school curriculum must be in congruence with the nature and needs of the learner for effective living in the democratic society. The paradigm holds the fundamental factors in the education process as necessarily interdependent and in harmony. The curriculum paradigm explains why so many reforms imposed on the schools predictively are destined for failure simply because they set the fundamental factors in conflict with each other. The march of democracy in global affairs will require a resurgence of the progressive vision for the curriculum of the democratic classroom and school in which students are engaged openly with each other and with the teacher in investigative cooperation, collaboration, and consultation.

Article

Martin Mwongela Kavua

Educational reforms have been made from time to time since independence in Kenya. These reforms have been effected through commissions of education in the context of the country. Among education commissions that have steered reforms in Kenya are the Kenya Education Commission, the National Commission on Education Objectives and Policy, the Presidential Working Party on the Second University, the Commission of Inquiry into the Educational System of Kenya, and the Taskforce on the Realignment of the Sector to the New System. The main challenges facing the education sector have been issues of access, equity, quality, relevance, availability of educational resources, and efficiency in managing them. Moreover, the education system has been blamed for some of the challenges in the education sector, necessitating system change from the 8+4+4 to the 2+6+3+3+3 system. Challenges facing education reforms include inconsistency in carrying out reforms fueled by lack of a guiding philosophical framework, a top-down decision-making process, limited backing for inclusive education in policy, and curriculum-based challenges. Going forward, a bottom-up approach to education reforms, an evidence-based decision-making for reforms in education, and an implementation of inclusive education may play a significant role in reforming the education system.

Article

Roza Valeeva and Aydar Kalimullin

Teacher training in Russia began at the end of the 18th century and has been transformed many times over the past two centuries. The reforms were connected with the development of a comprehensive school system, which became a mass phenomenon in the 19th century. The transformation was most active when the country went through social and economic growth. Up to 2011 Soviet teacher training traditions and principles strongly influenced the Russian teacher education system. It was the period of significant change of shifting from a 5-year program, called “specialist’s degree,” to bachelor’s and master’s degree programs as a response to the Bologna process. At the beginning of 2010 a range of organizational problems and content-related problems of teacher education arose: the reproductive character of teaching in higher education institutions implementing training programs for future teachers; the predominant single-channel model of the system of teacher training not providing students with opportunities to implement transitions between teaching and non-teaching areas of training; and the lack of the system of independent assessment of the quality of future teachers training. These problems prompted the government to start a reform of teacher education in the country from 2014 to 2017. Teacher education in Russia in the early 21st century is a complex system of continuing teacher training which gives students a chance to enter the teaching profession through a number of different ways. The main structural levels of the system of continuing teacher education in Russia are vocational training educational institutions funded by local governments (teacher training colleges), higher education institutions (specialized teacher training higher education institutions, classical universities, non-governmental [private] universities, non-pedagogical universities), and educational institutions of continuing professional development and professional retraining. The types of educational institutions correlate with the degree levels. The content of teacher education is based on the Federal State Educational Standards. All teacher training universities that provide teacher education programs follow these Federal State Educational Standards when they develop their educational programs. Teacher education in Russia determines the quality of professional training in all social spheres. In the early 21st century, graduates from teacher training universities have started working in different professional areas, including social, educational, cultural, and administrative fields.

Article

Universal Design for Learning, widely known as UDL, is a framework for creating flexible curriculum and pedagogy that provides access for all students, giving the opportunity to build from their strengths. First introduced in 1998, UDL is centered on three principles: (a) provide multiple means of engagement, (b) provide multiple means of representation, and (c) provide multiple means of action and expression. In applying the framework in K–12 or postsecondary schools, educators first consider the diversity of students, their assets and needs, the barriers that interfere with their success, and then plan lessons that are widely accessible. UDL has close relationship with technology as it provides various ways to present content, engage students, and demonstrate their learning. Research and policy, largely in the United States, support the growth of UDL. Research has created UDL tools like the Strategic Reader, produced recommendations for implementation, and measured efficacy. The National UDL Task Force, a coalition of stakeholder organizations has worked for the integration of UDL principles into local, state, and federal policies. Critiques of the framework note a dearth of empirical evidence and inconsistency in the research. They also help identify a path forward in designing new research and attending to complications in the framework that might better address diversity and bring students to the center.

Article

In 2013, the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China initiated fundamental reforms of the Matriculation English as a Foreign Language Tests (the Matriculation EFL Tests hereafter) in order to solve problems in college admissions and K–12 education. Under the guidance of the Ministry of Education, provinces announced their specific reform plans. This round of reforms features holding the Matriculation EFL Tests multiple times per year and involving nongovernment testing companies in test development and administration. This indicates China is on the way to aligning with international educational assessment standards and practices. Meanwhile, some proposed reforms are unexpectedly deviating from the longstanding English fever and have triggered heated debates and disputes in China. Proposed reforms of the Matriculation EFL Tests reflect China’s current language policy and the trend of de-Westernization. These reforms will have both positive and negative influences on test development, the K–12 EFL curriculum, instruction, and learning. Social impacts and potential influences on social justice caused by this round of reforms also deserve attention.

Article

Julie Gorlewski and Isabel Nuñez

Curriculum, while often conceived as a static entity delivered as a neutral set of facts arranged in disciplinary categories, is, in reality, a pedagogical artifact—a product generated as a result of decisions made by a range of stakeholders who represent different cultural imperatives linked to contested perspectives about the purposes of school. Students’ and teachers’ experiences of school, then, are dialogic performances of a curriculum that promotes various levels of power and privilege, as well as understandings of equity and diversity. Therefore, whether or not it is recognized, the curriculum delivered in schools serves to either maintain or interrupt the status quo. Given the number of students who participate in public education, curriculum contributes a great deal to shaping the national narrative. Curriculum contributes to social movements, and the nature of the curriculum determines the direction of the movement. Since curriculum development and implementation involves myriad decisions, influence is wielded by those with decision-making power. Social status and cultural capital, both of which are historically linked with political power, largely determine who makes curricular decisions, as well as how decisions are made. These conditions pose challenges for those who have been historically marginalized within educational institutions. Despite obstacles related to systemic inequities, different forms of curriculum can and do contribute to the creation and perpetuation of social movements. Moreover, educators who understand how educational institutions function, how curricular changes occur, and how curriculum can be a source of and vehicle for change can create conditions for transformative activist curricular movements.