Monday, December 7, 2009
So, toss you hat for the Finnish Independence Day!!!
Of equal fascination were the displays from the city. There were also posters and displays on buses of the words... “Hopenhagen” This was a subtle, but clear concern that Copenhagen could be the place of hope for a better future for climate policy. It was fascinating to think about all of the 15,000 delegates to the conference, as well as the city of Copenhagen and its many tourists…all focused upon climate change and the future of the world. How do we learn and communicate our desires for this future? It may be a valued experience to host this type of conference (although there are concerns for protest riots and for the general chaos of huge numbers of individuals. Clearly Denmark was actively engaged in the dialogue with the conference. What would a USA city have done in these same circumstances?
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I found the group to be intently engaged, but reticent to speak during our time together. They suggested that it was the Finnish way. So, the next day, they were both more responsive, but I had also structured more exercises for them to brainstorm and share beyond my discussions of communities of practice, the inclusion of adult students with young students, and the initial development of partnerships. I am always amazed at the ability of other individuals who are not native English speakers to listen, understand, and speak in English. These folks were amazing as they struggled sometimes with locating a technical English word for their Finnish activities. I also found them to appreciate the sharing of their past work at integration with their colleagues. I would hope these experiences have a positive impact on their future work.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Yes, Finland is not only part of the broader world, but its people have had experiences of travel, study leaves, and research projects in India, Africa, and Asia. I suspect that my colleagues, as worldly as they may be, have not had these same opportunities. Many of the Finnish faculty travels have been funded through the government to provide social and educational supports in other parts of the world, as well as support for international travel. From my vantage spot, the US talks about internationalization…but doesn’t step forward to provide the financial and physical structural supports. I fear we are losing our worldview—because of our isolation to the rest of the world. We don’t speak multiple languages, we don’t craft our work in relation to other countries and systems … we appear to dabble, rather than commit and act. We have much to learn from the Finnish perspective.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
My life here is continuing to be a fascinating venture. I have found that Metropolia College, my project site, has an “adult education” effort focused upon select programs targeted to adults who are working and who wish to return and receive a credential or additional training. However, this focus is a unique one for the institution. If individuals desire to be in an undergraduate academic program that has an adult education commitment, they come four nights a week (yes, from 5-8pm taking courses) and complete their two year course of study in about 1 ½ years. Not all programs offer this option. At the master’s level, individuals come one week a month (yes, during the day) and complete their studies in approximately 1 year. Both of these options are paid by the government, so the program and courses are free to the students. At this time, there is not a significant press for adult career changers. Part of the stability is the economy and part of it is the culture. They have mandated retirement (which varies depending upon the year of your birth – due to policy changes. So, you may be required to retire at 54 up to 63 years of age…and you are called a “pensioner”.) I hear little of industrial layoffs, they face limited migration, and, I suspect, it is a hearty culture that doesn’t easily attract outsiders (to learn Finnish and live in a climate of colder weather and limited sunshine in the winter).
Tonight I will experience the Finnish Symphony in Finlandia Hall… It should be a special treat
Monday, November 23, 2009
Helsinki is an amazing, compact city. I start tomorrow with a meeting of the key faculty leaders in the area of Health and Social Services at Metropolia College of Applied Sciences. The college was created by the merging of two institutions in 2008 and is now the largest technology college - or what I would call polytechnic college - in Finland, with a specific focus on serving international student clientele as well as the greatest Helsinki metropolitan area. I will be working with the group in Health on a project called, collaborative intensity, a partnership with the Helsinki hospitals and Metropolia through funding from the European Union. They are creating a partnership in both the instruction and action research across these two arenas.
This weekend I have a number of special experiences as a explore Helsinki. During Saturday, I joined the massess and saw a major exhibit of Picasso from the key museum in Paris with Picasso's collective works. Although I have seen various pictures by Picasso over the year... this was by far the most impressive exhibit, with the best representation of all of his works = from the earliest to a few months before his death. Further, it included his patins, his drawings, his sculpture (yes he was a great sculpture) and mix media too. There were also photos and a variety of drawing. I again was in awe of his amazing creativity, and discovered his close relationship with Braque. Secondly, I did shopping for food --- at a major grocery store - Kompaii-- in the basement of the bus terminal and major shopping area. It was an amazing experience seeing the packing, pricing, and of course -- the names in Finnish of many products. I was not clear about buying chicken, but last night I did discover that I can guessed correctly. I also went to the Rock chuch on Sunday and experiences an English worship service filled with individuals from throughout the world. I discovered that there was a committed group to Bible translation through a presentation from someone in Togo and also a brief discussion of a mission representative from Singapore. So, even Finland - which is someone homogenous in culture - has an active outreach to other lands. The church itself was amagin --built within a rocky mount-- in a rounded auditorium structure. It was most impressive on the inside - given that you felt literally you were walking into a rock. Yes, Helsinki is filled with huge rock structures throughout the city.
I will share more later...with the weather and the college. These three weeks shoudl be an amazing difference from my experiences in Korea and Malaysia. Now to resolve technology difficulties - as well as experience my first Helsinki bus ride back to my private hotel.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
As I pause to think about these past three weeks... I recall a discussion with an fellow traveler in the "holding lounge" in Taipei on our way from Kuala Lumpur to LAX. He believed all college students should spend a summer, a semester, a year, in a developing country doing service work. He believed that Americans (he was Scottish, Malaysian, and Australian ) were very naive and ethnocentric. So, he challenges all of us to move beyond our comfort zones - and learn and be in the world of diversity beyond our white faces, our cultural understandings, and our achievement focus. In particular, he and I spoke of the many international students in the US...who gain so much beyond the classroom, while few US students have the same type of opportunities.
Another key reflection from my chats with my Malaysia counterparts - they view traditional extension outreach by the university to no longer to knowledge exchange. Rather, it has become entrepreneurial, focused on benefit exchange between private industries and the university, and with traditional training activities become cost centers. Yes, even in Malaysia, they have seen significant changes in the roles of universities providing lifelong learning supports.
I will share more when I start my next segment - my Fulbright experience in Finland around November 19th-20th. So, thanks for checking this blog out! And I have learned many painful lessons about connections between my laptop and hotel internet access. You don't want to learn about the many crazy moments... just say, even in the best of hotels and universities - technology does have its own glitches.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
So, I say good bye to this lovely country and people. I have invitation to return and to invite other faculty to also come and share their expertise. I hope that I can provide opportunities for others to learn of this amazing and diverse culture.
What is evident… is that they want to be the best and see themselves working very hard to be valued and recognized at the international level. They value expertise from many places and value friendships with that expertise. It is truly amazing and humbling.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Today is my last official day at Putra Malaysia University meeting with administration, faculty and staff. I will be providing a speech on their concerns for becoming a world-class university. This request has been a surprise to me, because I know that this concern is one that all higher education institutions and particularly university administration and faculty discuss. As I develop this presentation, I found my own mixed beliefs part of this discourse. For me, higher education should be about lifelong learning - a commitment to support learning across the lifespan. However, the rankings and ratings for national and international reputation are becoming more based upon scientific discoveries and high volume citations- more often based in the sciences. Providing access to adults, providing professional continuing education, and providing life-wide lifelong learning are not part of this discourse and agenda. Traditional liberal education efforts are now marginalized, many professional schools – such as education and business – are becoming marginalized, and even undergraduate education is being considered a suspect in holding back world-class rankings. It is a curious and strange time for universities across the world. Where are the voices of alternative understandings? Clearly this university and NC State do care about being a quality institution. Where are the alternative valued perspectives?
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Wednesday was a day of sightseeing – visiting south to Malucca (or Meleka- as spelled here). This site is a fascinating historic place – with a rich history in the 14th to 16th centuries – based in the significant trading across Asia. It was fascinating to see Portuguese, Arab, Thai, Indonesian, - as well as British and French involvements. I discovered that beyond the traditional government structures, there is a King and Queen valued and presented in a number of billboards. As we drove, I was particularly taken by the number of marketing signs for varied universities - clearly focused upon technology and medical areas. I was also impressed with the tropical, vibrant foliage - palms, banana trees, bougainvillea, calla lilies, birds of paradise, ginger lilies…and much, much more. In the late afternoon, we came back to UPM and transferred to a university jeep and visited the capital, Kuala Lumpur – or KL. It is a huge city, highly modern, significant traffic jams, and the second highest buildings in the world – Petronas Towers (two towers of beautiful sculpted metal – gleaming in the sun. As part of the visit – we visited the key shopping area of the towers – a place for the affluent – with Louis Vuitton, Coach, Burberry, etc. as well as for the day – to – day shoppers – with an interesting visit to the food court – represent food from all sectors of Asian society – and a little representation of “western food”. With surprise – Kenny Rogers chicken is a major quick food restaurant here – along with the other western regulars. As we finished up the day, we visited the major aquarium- Oceania – one of the best aquariums I have ever seen – including my visit to Sydney, California, and Florida. Although they didn’t have whales, dolphins and the “outdoor” water show, their displays were outstanding. With a city in lights and leaving in a traffic jam- we made it back to the hotel in the three downpour of rain for the day. Yes, this is a tropical and fascinating place.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Who is doing better in the learning race? This is the second day of the International Conference on Education. It has been fascinating to hear varied research presentations, perspectives, and critiques of the state of “schooling” and of the broader landscape of lifelong learning. One of the key dilemmas for some of the speakers is the focus on capitalism as a driver for the “knowledge economy.” Many of the speakers questioned the utility of this framework of Marx and Marcuse for the future of life-balanced learning (or of living complete lives – including work, learning, and learning). Some individuals examined the issue of the broad international landscape based in K-12 assessments of PISA and OECD figures – showing varied levels of performance of nations on international standards. The underlying belief that, our national is doing well or that it needs to do better. A few focused upon practice, evidence based efforts – predominantly with teacher education, and higher education class structured research. Lastly, there were a few who were futurists focused upon developing future global leaders, of the future of a lifelong learning economy, and of the nature of academic competence and its applications to varied contexts and peoples. In Korea, it is clear that there is a focused achievement orientation—of being the best academically and also in the world marketplace. Thus, there research both philosophical and empirical was concerned for being the best. Interesting cultural contrast from two years ago - when the strong topic was Confucianism and its importance for engaging in lifelong learning. Yes, there are cultural clashes here also.
Saturday, I did my own learning project and visited the DMZ and Panmunjeon – the site of continuing military and political focus for North and South Korea. As is always the case, I gained a new emotional and historically appreciation of the conflict between these two groups – and of the major issues that continue with North Korea desires to take over South Korea for its own territory. No other place in the world has this continued tension and war atmosphere. Seeing the barbed wire, the secret tunnels, the stories of killings both by military and by spies, of ongoing attached on their premier again reviews my understanding that peace in the world is yet far away from us.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
It has been a fascinating mind-extension to be in a comparative conference discussing various educational issues. In many ways, the world has gotten more similar – yet there are so many different understandings and configurations of education. Thursday was focused on broader issues of academic competence , while Friday will be more focused upon the topic area of lifelong learning. The ICER – International Conference on Educational Research – has brought together about 20 international scholars, as well as a healthy attendance from the graduate students and faculty at Seoul National University. The focus of the morning was on current understandings of large-scale school student assessment – possibilities and issues. Whether USA, Korea, Japan or Belgium (which doesn’t have nation-wide school assessment), similar thinking and concerns were raised. In my session, the afternoon was focused on academic competence and higher education. Specifically, four individuals discussed aspects of current issues and understandings of rankings of higher education institutions whether through teaching, research, other varied criteria, or some efforts at organizational effectiveness. I welcome the international collegial discussions - very rich and intriguing. I am particularly fascinating with Latvia and Lithuania and their understandings of academic life and education issues..
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
It has been a amazing several days of sightseeing, learning cultural worlds of Korea and also interacting with graduate (and undergraduate) adult education students. Sunday morning I was introduced to a wedding party – women in traditional and colorful Korean gowns and a limousine decked out with roses in the shape of a heart on the hood. In Korea, most weddings happen on Sunday and happen in “wedding chapels”. In the discussion of marriage and family, most Koreans value children and the family is committed to making the most advantaged environment for the child. What is shocking to me is that advancing the child usually means that the child from a very early age in involved in private schools after attending regular K-12 schooling. For some Koreans, they view this commitment as a fear of parents that the children won’t be competitive for college. And here in Korea, college admissions is highly competitive and select, with a strong belief that college establishing your future status in society.
Monday I gave course presentations with a combined graduate and undergraduate class in adult education/lifelong learning at Seoul National University, and on Tuesday night at Soongsil University. The students were different between the two institutions. At Seoul National, they were younger, full-time students with a few Chinese students and all appeared to have excellent English skills. At Soongsil, the students were a mix of ages and many were day-time professionals, with a number of Taiwanese and Chinese students. There was also more variability in their understanding of English. Both had strong interest in discussions of adult higher education in the US and both expressed similar concerns in the Korean setting. In discussions, Seoul National University has a significant focus on lifelong learning efforts for government policy focus on lifelong learning centers (based in either universities or municipalities – including citizenship education, arts & culture education, and adult access to higher education), at Soongsil, students were more varied in professional interests – but a number of them were focused on gerontology and such institutions as University for the Third Age. These students asked a number of interesting and provocative questions regarding my research on adult students who saw themselves more so as students, than as lifelong learners within their commitment to higher education. Some interesting ideas to ponder!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Food in Korea is an amazing adventure here. Today I had a “traditional Korean breakfast” of a type of “boiled” scrambled egg, a broth soup, a small bowl of rice, and four small bowls of varied tastes of onion, mushroom, kim chi (a type of pickled spicy cabbage), and a type of bean. Guiding me through this process was Kyung Hi Kim, a friend and professor at Kyungnam University. For lunch and dinner, Youngwha Kee, professor at Songsil University treated me to special eating experiences. For lunch, she identified a special restaurant with a central heated wok-type utensil with an onion soup type of broth with sliced beef, onion, and mushrooms cooking at the table. Again, this main course was complemented with six small bowls of varied side “tastes” of varied onion, shredded cabbage, kim chi, and other varied possibilities. And for dinner, I experiences a neighborhood café offering Korean barbecue, with a central small grill about 1 ½ feet in diameter and the “grilling” over coals” of pork, mushrooms, and kim chi. As the pork is grilled, it is cut with a scissors into small bite-size pieces and eventually placed (with chop sticks)in a lettuce leaf or sesame leaf, with green onion slices, grilled slices of garlic, and a bit of chili paste. Again, there were a number of additional small condiment bowls. Part of the challenge was sitting on the floor and eating with chopped sticks. Yes, all of the meals were hearty and could have been interchanged from one meal to the next…yet Koreans are fit and slim. I suspect they eat selectively and eat mostly vegetables and small bits of meat.
This Saturday I meet with a graduate course, presenting my research on adult meaning making in the classroom. It was a fascinating experience to share my work in English and then hear translations and discussions in Korean. The student were attentive and about half of the class appears to immediately understand English. This course is part of a typical 9 semester hours taken on Saturdays by education graduate students. (Because traffic is so heavy and problematic, professionals can best get graduate coursework on Saturdays). So, these student take three courses throughout Saturday for their entire graduate program. One striking difference…The students were all dressed professionally, with men in suits and ties (a typical style for those attending graduate courses- supposedly as a sign of respect to the professors).
In the afternoon, we drove to a museum dedicated to the memory of Comfort Women, a social atrocity of the Japanese colonial rule during WWII, where between 50,000 and 200,000 women became sex slaves to Japanese soldiers and distributed throughout the pan Asian area. After the war, they were either abandoned in the current country of their settlement or killed. Many never returned to Korea, while some came back through efforts of the allied forces. The women were so ashamed and often alienated by their families, that the first women to speak out at this human injustice occurred in the 1990’s. Japan had not yet accepted their responsibility for these horrid actions. Every Wednesday a number of the original women who suffered these injustices as well as a number of women’s groups march and protest at the Japanese embassy here in Seoul. The Museum has a House of Sharing – which provides homes to about 12 of these women. It was a very moving experience.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Friday was a day of reunions beginning with Dr. Kyung Hi Kim, Professor of Lifelong Learning at Kyungnam University in southern Korea. Kyung was the conference director for the International Conference on Lifelong Learning held in 2007 in Chongwon, with my past involvement in the international scholar’s subconference at Chongwon. We had a special lunch and then navigated by taxi across Seoul (significant traffic all the time) to the western side of the center of Seoul. She introduced me to her undergraduate university, Ewaha University – the largest women’s university in Asia with a current enrollment of 20,000. The campus is built on hills, with beautiful architecture – both Gothic and contemporary. After a tour of the campus, we visited KCER – the Korean Conference on Educational Research – somewhat similar to AERA in the United States. It was held in one of their education buildings. Their theme this year was “The Convergence of Knowledge and Methodology.” Unfortunately, the conference was totally in Korean language, so I met a number of noted education scholars – but did not take active participation in the sessions. The lack of Korean has been a serious detractor to the visit – but most everyone knows and can speak excellent English. It has been a lifesaver.
Kyung shared an afternoon tea at a traditional Korean tea house (the tea was called Sendak) and then we meet for dinner with Dr. Shinil Kim, former Prime Minister of Education. Now retired, Shinil was the leading professor in lifelong learning in Korea and was a member of Seoul National University. Shinil has been a colleague for many years-- with past meetings together in the US, Korea, and Taiwan. He was instrumental in establishing the national framework of lifelong learning and was an active supporter of Learning Cities. In fact, I was introduced to this concept of a Learning City at Chongwon – two years ago. Throughout the world, learning cities have become a social movement to support lifelong learning endeavors by communities and supported by municipalities, states/provinces, and in Korea by the national government. The government has established criteria for cities to qualify for learning city status. Upon meeting these criteria, the government provides special recognition and funding for their efforts. Each year, there is a national conference and individual subgroups – such as traditional Korean cultural arts groups, youth science programs, senior citizen clubs, professional association projects, etc, receive awards for the best project in the nation. He continues to view lifelong learning and adult education as of primary importance for the future of Korea and its citizens. Because of the highly competitive nature of Korea, there is a strong Confucian belief in creating balance – thus learning should be both instrumental and expressive. Not surprising to this understanding, we spent much of dinner discussing Confucian beliefs of learning and of life harmony. Fascinating conversation! In particular, Korean educational leaders have begun to focus many of their current lifelong learning policies on the out of schooling--the shadow curriculum of family, community, parent’s education, work efforts; and of the importance of adult learning in varied venues and forms as paramount for the future vitality of Korea.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Cultural differences continue to be part of this engaging visit to Korea. I experienced a second traditional Korea meal today--seating on the floor and many little dishes filled with often unknown possible vegetables, fish, pork, fruit, as well as rice and noodles… all to be eaten with chopped sticks. They were polite, but laughed at my limited chop stick capabilities. The food is fascinating - but often I am unsure what it is. So, it is adventurous eating. This afternoon meal with the mid-way meeting with the researchers and key leaders at the Korean Open University.
It was a fascinating experience to visit KNOU – Korea Open University – modeled after the British Open University. Providing accessible undergraduate and graduate programs, this university uses a wide variety of media – with a predominant emphasis on distance education delivery and open access for adult learners. They currently have about 183,000 enrollments- predominantly undergraduate adult learners (a small number of graduate students – 800). It was fascinating to share USA current demographics and institutional responses and to learn of many similarities in Korea and their current work. I had the opportunity to tour their significant production facilities with 300 courses offered each semester (including over 100 new courses produced each semester). Attempting to offering learning options, they provide courses through all textbook, cable television, and internet multimedia, as well as CD’s and Video-conferencing. In addition, a portion of the courses are offered in a traditional classroom at 13 regional campus sites across Korea (for up to 8 hours within a course), as well as tutors for all students at both the 13 campuses and 35 study centers. Because most Korean universities do not provide access to adults, this institution has been the major adult higher education provider for over 40 years. Every place I have visited has discussed strategic new initiatives - based in lifelong learning and upon the changing “marketplace” of higher education in Korea, as well as the aging of the Korean society. In particular for KNOU, they are facing growing competition for cyberuniversities - as they are called. One of the concerns is the quality of assessment of student learning by these universities—with the government suggesting involvement in examining practices. So, they are starting a new strategic initiative to reposition their role and mission for the future. However, they have a clear and firm commitment to serving part-time adult learners in a variety of delivery formats and face many of the same issues as their USA counterparts in serving the special and diverse needs of this group.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday/Wednesday,October 20-21st. It is a beautiful fall day in Seoul. Different language and customs are evident in subtle and striking ways. Remove your shoes at the entrance to your room. Pride in technology and the belief stated on the TV – “Korea remakes itself every six months”. Korea will be a fascinating engagement.
For two weeks, I will be exploring this context in relation to adult education, lifelong learning, and specifically the understandings of adult learners in higher education in Korea. Today, Wednesday, I experienced an overview tour of Seoul National University, built in a valley among several hills and with significant construction of new buildings. (Seoul Nat’l University is the largest university in the country and has a “global research extensive” designation). Meeting with key academic leaders in the Department of Education, Yong-Je Woo, and specifically in Lifelong Education, Soonghee Han and Dae Joong Kang, I learn of this lifelong learning orientation and their new focus on globalization. Although their courses are similar to our own, several are unique – “Educational planning for the civil society education” and “Theory of lifelong learning cities” as two prominent examples. Currently the department is working to establish linkages with key associations and research institutes in Vietnam and China, as well as the Scandavanian countries. They have great pride in their Educarional Research Institute and their publication of the Asia Pacific Education Review journal.
This evening, I had a fascinating visit with the National Institute of Lifelong Education and presented a seminar on Perspectives of Adult Undergraduates in US Higher Education. The Institute was formed in 1998 to promote a lifelong learning society for both the development of the individual and the society. Among its activities is The Center for Academic Credit Bank System for learning experiences both in formal and informal systems. They can offer a Bachelors Degree through the Ministry through this credit bank system, totally over 35,000 degree in 2008. They also provide leadership for the Center for Bachelor’s Degree Examination for Self-Education, with varied exams provided to test competence. Last year. Approximately 700 were awarded. Beyond these two major roles, they have a significant number of lifelong education projects, including support for adult literacy education and financial support for the marginalized. They also offer lifelong learning workshops to professionals and currently working on a new project targeted to adult access to higher education.
I attempted to upload two pictures (without success) to acquaint with the fall colors at a coffee bar near the Hoam Faculty Faculty (the building which provides both housing for conference and visiting faculty, as well as a conference facility. Currently, they are hosting an international aging conference. Korea is facing a significant decline in their birthrate, which is projected to impact both the significant number of their higher education institutions (they are talking about mergings among a number of institutions), and also the future quality of life of the elderly through lifelong education.