MACIE student Annette de Nicker
MACIE student Annette de Nicker (center front) with program faculty members (left to right) Drs. Peggy Booth, Patty Kubow and Awad Ibrahim.

New degree bridges cultures, ‘knowledge gap’ for teachers

An innovative new degree at BGSU will address the “international knowledge gap” by preparing educators to effectively teach an increasingly diverse group of students, and at the same time prepare those students to be successful in an increasingly internationalized world.

BGSU’s College of Education and Human Development has responded to the problem by creating the master of arts degree in cross-cultural and international education (MACIE).

“There is a pressing need for this,” said Dr. Patty Kubow, educational foundations and inquiry (EDFI) and one of the program’s founders. “The international knowledge gap has been identified as one of today’s most urgent problems in education. American students lack awareness of international issues. In fact, a recent educational study reported that 25 percent of college-bound students could not identify the body of water separating the United States from Japan.”

The only one of its kind in the region, the MACIE program is designed to meet the needs of classroom teachers who plan to stay in the classroom, as well as people who will not be teaching in the traditional classroom but are nevertheless involved in educational outreach to disparate groups. In either case, program graduates will not only be able to teach but also to help make their organizations more globally aware.

The degree’s designers, Kubow and EDFI colleague Dr. Peggy Booth (along with former EDFI faculty member Alexander Sidorkin), chose to make the degree a master of arts instead of a master of education to emphasize its focus on providing the broad knowledge base future educators will need when working with other cultures in some way.

The program builds on the existing strengths of the faculty, who have extensive international research and teaching experience and speak 10 languages among them.

“We define cross-cultural and international education as an examination of education from diverse perspectives in an international context,” Kubow said. “It encompasses social, educational, cultural and economic factors and is a much more holistic approach.”

MACIE students will take core classes in cultural studies in education, comparative education, and cross-cultural human development and learning from Drs. Awad Ibrahim, Kubow and Booth, respectively. The interdisciplinary program also allows students to choose from numerous courses in other colleges that contribute to the cross-cultural and international theme.

“We have designed the program to assist graduate students in different ways depending on what their goals are for international education,” Booth said.

Classroom teachers gain insight, globalize curriculum
For classroom teachers who intend to stay in the classroom, the program will equip them to deal with the growing number of students from around the world who have come to the United States—and to enhance their American students’ global knowledge.

“The population is becoming more diverse by the day,” not just in national background but in social strata of immigrants as well, Booth said. With the influx of highly skilled workers from Japan related to automobile and other manufacturing, many children come from families with high educational expectations. Others are from low-skilled families, on academic exchanges or are political refugees. “For example, there’s a big population of Somalis in Columbus now,” Booth pointed out.

In addition to understanding students from other countries, the teachers will learn to relate to students from under-represented cultures within the United States, such as Native Americans or migrant workers. “Our teachers have to have a better understanding of their students’ lives, homes and neighborhoods,” Booth said.

Gaining cross-cultural sensitivity is a key goal for the program’s enrollees, Kubow added. “I really believe teachers teach what they are. You can’t project what you are not.”

Teachers with the MACIE degree will be able to help internationalize their schools’ educational practices and curricula by incorporating more diverse and different cultures into the course of study, whether those cultures are from outside the United States or inside.

International students are encouraged to enroll in the program for mutual benefit. “The international students will enrich our American students,” Kubow said.

Also, “we are attracting students from countries that desire to join the global market,” Booth said. In fact, the first student to enroll in the MACIE program is Annette de Nicker, from South Africa.

A grade 12 history teacher and head of her school's Department of Human and Social Sciences, History and Geography, de Nicker said what attracted her to the MACIE program was its cross-cultural and international aspect.

"While apartheid is officially over, the country is still very much segregated," she said. "People continue to be intolerant of other cultures and other ethnic backgrounds. I hope to use the experience and the knowledge gained through this degree to help bring acceptance of diversity. It saddens me that some of my students still think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them.’”

She said she looks forward to the challenge of implementing the goals of MACIE by serving as an effective leader in the internationalization of schools and communities in South Africa, and hopes to serve as a constructive facilitator of the new South African education policies, which are infused with cross-cultural sensitivities but not always effectively implemented and practiced in educational environments.

“In a cross-cultural curriculum, there’s less of a focus on Western European history,” Booth explained. “The teachers learn to place their specialty in a global context.”

“I feel strongly that a teaching professional in the 21st century has to have this international perspective,” Kubow said. “It enhances their professionalism.

“Only a few of the top 50 colleges in the United States require coursework in non-Western history for students who are preparing to teach history,” she went on. “Cross-cultural education enables students to see the connections between the issues.

“One of our goals is for our students to see the relationship between education and globalization,” Kubow added. “With the widening economic gap, globalization has the power to unite but also to be divisive. It’s important for classroom teachers to understand both the barriers and the benefits, to understand the relationships between the developed and developing people of the world and to understand how people in the rest of the world see events through their own historical background.”

Teachers outside the classroom gain skills
In addition to classroom teachers, “we’re very open to people who are not traditional classroom teachers but who are involved in education in another manner,” Booth said.

These might include returning Peace Corps volunteers or nongovernmental organization employees, people interested in doing extension work with adults for literacy or agriculture, or who are involved in public health campaigns such as AIDS education. Museum work is another area that would fit the MACIE degree—“anyone who is in education but in a nonlicensed, nontraditional school environment can customize the degree to their needs,” she said.

Choosing a focus
After their core classes, MACIE students will choose an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural focus, in gender constructs, international development or poverty and marginalization, or in another area of their choice. “If students know what they want to do or what region of the country or the world they want to work in, they can develop their own theme,” Booth said.

The program’s foreign language component was implemented to help educators see “how language influences society and vice versa,” Booth said. “The process of studying a language also creates cognitive structures important to understanding how someone else might think when learning or teaching in another language.”

MACIE graduates will also leave knowing how to conduct and evaluate research. “We want them to learn to be educated consumers of other people’s research and the information they will need to utilize in their professional lives,” Booth said.

Learning through experience
A requirement that sets MACIE apart from other programs is the cross-cultural internship, either in another country or in the United States, working with a group that is under-represented or culturally different from the student’s own. “Other programs suggest an internship but don’t require it,” Kubow said. MACIE students can benefit from the extensive international contacts of the program’s faculty in setting up their own experience, she added.

With Gender Constructs across Cultures as her interdisciplinary focus for MACIE, de Nicker said she is certain her internship at the Women’s Center will significantly enhance her education and understanding of domestic violence, sexual assault, environment, reproductive rights, and sexual identity issues. Though the extent may vary, "many of the issues, such as women's rights, reproductive freedom and sexual assault, are the same from country to country. I think there are similar problems and obstacles, and I hope that through what I learn here, I can make a difference."

October 30, 2006