Internationalisation in support of teaching staff
For once, let’s talk about staff and internationalisation without looking at staff mobility. If only because the majority of teaching staff are, in fact, non-mobile and they constitute a considerable group of professionals in any country.
Teacher quality is crucial
Research has shown that the quality of teachers is the most important school-side determinant of student learning. Furthermore, as the Norwegian government rightfully stated, already in 2005, teaching staff are core to the quality of education and, therefore, internationalisation without involvement of teaching staff can doubtfully lead to enhancement of the quality of education. The question often asked, including at a recent CAREM seminar in Amsterdam, is: how do we make our teachers internationalise the curriculum?
Internationalisation as a support tool
In my view this topic should be approached from the opposite direction. We should ask ourselves how internationalisation can support teachers in their tasks. If you find a convincing answer to this question and are able to deliver the support needed, I am sure you will see a significant growth in internationalisation of the curriculum in years to come. As Alan Päll, chair of the European Students’ Union (ESU), stated at a conference in Lund in December: 'focusing on teaching staff is a key challenge. It will produce large results in the end.'
Towards a more open attitude
Attitudes are an obstacle, however. Both of lecturers who do not accept that a course at a partner institution is of the same level and of internationalisation professionals unable to understand the real needs of their lecturing colleagues. In this light, ESU suggests to include art and languages in each curriculum to encourage more open attitudes among future (teaching) staff. In addition to this, EAIE President Gudrun Paulsdottir suggests that marketing of internationalisation should also be aimed at internal stakeholders. There should be a movement towards international higher education. Using that term would open doors for solutions. The emphasis can then be on education rather than on the internationalisation process itself. This can bring on the motivation needed to solve current problems.
Change takes time
However, we must not be impatient. Developing or changing educational programmes requires time and if, additionally, a change in tasks and competences of staff is required then it even takes more time.
Help at hand
Obviously, this topic is not new and has been debated heavily in the past years. Some hands-on publications have been produced such as the EAIE toolkit on Internationalisation at home. Some institutions have taken up this topic internally. ZHAW in Zurich developed a handbook for its teachers called ‘Internationale Curricula-Entwicklung’.
Focus on teaching staff needs
These initiatives will certainly support teachers and I would suggest to increase these efforts and to focus them on the questions and concerns the teaching staff pose themselves. In the end, internationalisation is similar to ICT: it is not the main objective of education to implement ICT or internationalisation. Rather the opposite: similar to ICT, internationalisation can be a major contributor to high quality education. Let’s support teaching staff in figuring out what options internationalisation has to offer them.