Promotion of Internationalization of Teacher Education: A Case Study from Croatia

Promotion of Internationalization of Teacher Education: A Case Study from Croatia

Sanja Tatalović Vorkapić (University of Rijeka, Croatia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0169-5.ch026
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Abstract

Internationalization in (pre)school teachers' education presents a great challenge for all professionals included in the Higher Education (HE) sector, especially professors. As such, it implies a significant change that is accepted by students and professors who see it as a way of enrichment. In relation to the experiences of an Erasmus Coordinator and Assistant Professor in the field of social sciences (psychology major) at the Faculty of Teacher Education in Rijeka, Croatia, this chapter describes and analyzes this information in the context of internationalization promotion within this faculty. Implications that could be drawn from this analysis are closely related to running objective empirical research on students and professors toward internationalization in (pre)school teachers' education, creating clear and formal Erasmus procedures, and developing the pre-requisites for international (post)graduate study programs.
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Introduction

I think therefore I am -Descartes

In the context of education, although significant progress in ‘internationalization’ may be observed over the last two decades, the concept is not so well known. It has been applied in political science and diplomacy for centuries. Its popularity slowly started to grow in the 1980s within the field of education. The concept is widely defined as the integration process of international and intercultural dimensions that are in the function of teaching, researching, and institutional service delivery. A decade later, dominant discourse has been placed in the frame of distinguishing concepts such as ‘internationalization of education’, ‘comparative education’, ‘global education’, and ‘multicultural education’. As we move into the 21st Century, the need to further differentiate the term ‘internationalization of education’ from other terms such as ‘transnational education’, ‘borderless education’, and ‘cross-border education training’ has ensued (Knight, 2013).

Frequent overlaps and/or unclear differentiations of these key terms indicate problems in defining the ‘internationalization of education’. Fundamental problems may be detected in the application of this term in various countries, cultures and educational systems. It was concluded that its general definition should not contain all the elements that vary considerably in different countries, such as the rationales, benefits, outcomes, actors, activities or stakeholders of internationalization. Therefore, the definition of internationalization has been used in order to define ‘internationalization at the national, sector and institutional level, as the process of integrating an international, intercultural and global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education’ (Knight, 2013, p. 2).

In this definition, several key concepts need to be elaborated. The first relates to the notion of process. The internationalization of education is not a static concept, but represents the continued investment of effort in some changes, which provides it with evolutionary and developmental features. The second important concept is related to the triad, which intentionally appears together. This triad consists of international, intercultural, and global dimensions. The first dimension refers to the sensitivity of the relations between/among nations, cultures and countries. The second dimension is related to the diversity of cultures that exists within countries and HEIs. The third dimension relates to the ability of global perspectives in a great number of readings. The common occurrence of these three dimensions is explained by their complementarity, resulting in enriching the concept of internationalization of education at all levels.

The third concept refers to the integration process, which involves the implementation of international and intercultural dimensions into existing policies and programs, which allows for their sustainability. The fourth group is another major triad in the definition; rationales, functions and outcomes. The rationales include the overall purpose of the role of Higher Education (HE) in a particular country or mission of the institution. The functions are related to the basic elements or tasks that characterize the national HE system or individual institution (HEI). As for the outcomes, they refer to all educational programs offered in the country (home) or in another country (host). In this way, the definition of internationalization has achieved the uniformity criterion that simultaneously takes into account all the peculiarities and variances of education systems in different countries.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Psychology Courses at the Faculty of Teacher Education: University courses that cover basic knowledge about human psychological processes and states within several disciplines: Developmental Psychology; Developmental Psychopathology; Emotional Intelligence; Fundamentals of Psychology of Teaching and Learning; General Psychology; Positive Psychology; and Psychology of Early Teaching and Learning.

Erasmus Coordinator: The person responsible for the academic support for outgoing and incoming students, teaching and non-teaching staff involved in the Erasmus exchange. The Erasmus Coordinator is appointed by the faculty dean. Comparison and assessment of the comparability of study programs, courses and recognition of credits, grades, and a period of professional practice is performed by the Erasmus Coordinator in cooperation with the professors and ECTS Coordinator at faculty.

Internationalization of Education: The integration process of international and intercultural dimensions that are in the function of: teaching, researching and institutional service delivering. It consists of several key concepts. The first, the internationalization of education is not a static concept, but represents the continued investment of effort in some changes. The second group of important concepts is related to the triad consisting of: (a) international; (b) intercultural; and (c) global dimensions. The first dimension refers to the sensitivity of the relations between/among nations, cultures and countries. The second dimension is related to the diversity of cultures that exist within countries, companies and institutions. The third global dimension relates to the ability of global perspectives in a great number of readings.

Internationalization of Teacher Education in Croatia: Although this process is in the early stage, there are faculties and courses that intensively promote internationalization in education. Taking into account all the peculiarities and variances of education systems in Croatia some main factors are identified as a barriers in that same process. These are: financial shortcomings, attitudes of teachers and students toward internationalization, and openness to other cultures.

Intercultural Competence: Comprises three major segments: (1) the ability to establish adequate communication and interaction with people of other cultures; (2) the ability to acquire intercultural attitudes, knowledge and skills i.e., a better understanding and respect for cultural diversity; and (3) the ability to implement effective behavior in other cultures i.e., intercultural sensitivity. Thus, the fundamental elements of intercultural competence are intercultural attitudes, knowledge and skills of interpretation, discovery and interaction, critical cultural awareness and political culture.

Primary School Teachers in Croatia: Master’s of Primary Education who have finished five-years of university studies. They have the qualification that attains the competencies required to teach in primary education i.e., the junior grades of primary school aged from 6/7 to 9/10 years.

Preschool Teachers in Croatia: After completion of an three-year undergraduate university study program (six semesters), students, they become university Bachelor’s of early and preschool education and their qualification attained allows them to successfully perform duties and tasks related to nurturing young and preschool children (from six-months to seven-years of age), caring for them and educating them in different preschool programs. After they finished graduate two-year university study program (four semesters), they become Master’s of early and preschool education with the qualification that enables them to perform highly professional, research and development work in the field of early and preschool education.

Faculty of Teacher Education in Rijeka: One of 11 faculties of the University of Rijeka in Croatia. It provides activities such as: organization and execution of the university study programs in the area of primary education (integrated university study program) and early and preschool education (undergraduate and graduate university study programs; life-long learning program); scientific activity and professional work; and organization and execution of professional training and development programs in the area of primary education and early and preschool education.

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