In the 1960s, Thailand began moving away from separate stream academic and vocational secondary schools, and in 1966 its government signed an agreement with the University of Alberta to obtain further training for those educators who would administer its new comprehensive schools.
The first participants soon arrived from Thailand and the success of the initial project, sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency, was such that it was followed by two similar projects, both financed entirely by Thai funds. By 1980, more than 300 Thai educators - virtually all the senior personnel associated with their comprehensive school movement - had participated in studies at the U of A, some going on to complete master's and doctoral degrees.
Thailand is not the only country in which the influence of the U of A's Faculty of Education can be traced. Dr Kazim Bacchus, chair of the Department of Educational Foundations and director of the Faculty's Centre for International Education and Development names some others: "Kenya, Tanzania, Korea, Uganda, Australia..."
While the Thai project represents the Faculty's entry into international education in a major way, it was not its first such effort. In 1964 the Faculty's then-dean, Herbert T Coutts, responding to a request from Canada's External Aid Office (which became CIDA) agreed at short notice to provide a special one-year program for three vice-principals from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), part of a group of 12 who had come to Canada to further their professional education. Coutts, who still resides in Edmonton, recalls telling the development agency representative - U of A graduate
Bob Byron '35 BSc, '36 Dip(Ed), '47 BEd - that it might have been better, since a special program would have to be developed, to have had all 12 Rhodesians. Only weeks later he was reminded of those words when Byron called again, asking him to put together an upgrading program for 15 young women from Uganda. These women, early childhood education teachers, arrived in the fall of 1964 and were followed by 30 more the next year.
Bacchus admits to being unfamiliar with the details of that early link with Uganda - "That was well before my time," he says. However, during his travels the Centre for International Education and Development director has met some of the women who took part. "Many are still very actively practising and are so very proud of their experience here - 'Oh, I remember Pembina Hall,' they tell me," he says.
In 1971 an agreement which brought another group of African students to campus was signed. Also sponsored by CIDA, it involved instructors in Tanzanian teacher colleges. The project director was Dr Myer Horowitz, then chair of the Department of Elementary Education who would actively promote the University's involvement in international education and development during his tenure as its president. "We should never neglect local needs;" he says, "but one of the distinguishing characteristics of a University is that it is involved internationally."
The former University president describes the Tanzanian project as "a great success as judged not only by the University but by the government of Tanzania."
"We really assisted these people, and therefore their country. They gained a lot of confidence in their leadership abilities."
The close ties that the Faculty has with Korea arose out of the Korean government's desire to bring formal education to all its people. In 1980 a U of A professor of secondary education, Dr CY Oh, was engaged to evaluate the distance education efforts of the Korean Educational Development Institute. Not long after, an agreement between that institute and the University saw Korean educators arriving on campus to gain professional upgrading in the production of educational programs.
A second link with Korea was forged in 1981 when the U of A entered a twinning agreement with Korea's Chang-Ang University. The agreement called for "cooperation in the areas of research, development, and training particularly in the field of education" and has resulted in various faculty and student exchanges and has seen a number of Korean educators complete higher degrees in Alberta.
The Education Faculty's ties with Australia have been, less formal, says Bacchus.
The U of A's early involvement in PhD programs in education and the reputation these programs have sustained have attracted a number of educators from Down Under. Indeed, so significant is the U of A connection in Australian education that an informal survey made in the late 1980s showed that a quarter of the people holding the highest administrative offices in Australian education had U of A degrees.
The Centre that Bacchus heads was created in 1981 to coordinate and promote the Faculty's involvement in international education and development. It currently has 45 graduate students and is actively involved with projects operating in Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Kenya and Nepal. Another, which will look at increasing the efficiency of China's higher education system, is just getting underway.
In addition, the Centre is exploring the possibility of initiatives relating to the changing face of world politics. In cooperation with the UN and UNESCO, the Centre may help address the educational needs of the victims of apartheid; with assistance from the Alberta government, it is exploring , possible academic links with the states emerging from the breakup of communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
The Centre is also active in projects closer to home, says its director. This includes working closely with the Alberta Teachers Association , in the ATA's global education project and with Native groups. The needs of Native communities are very similar to those of communities in the developing world, says Bacchus. Therefore, the Centre has also taken intercultural education under its wings in recent years.
Published Autumn 1991.