By Ruth Hayhoe
It was a great pleasure to attend the 16th World Congress of Comparative Education in Beijing, August 22-28 on the theme of “Dialectics of Education: Comparative Perspectives.” The World Council of Comparative Education Societies was founded in 1970 and had its first Congress in Ottawa that year, since then meeting about every three years in cities around the world, including Montreal in 1989, and more recently, Chungbuk, Korea in 2001, Havana, Cuba in 2004, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2007, Istanbul, Turkey in 2010 and Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2013.
This was the first time for China to host the World Congress and Beijing Normal University welcomed well over 1000 scholars from thirty or more national and regional comparative education societies around the world.
Sessions relating to higher education covered many topics of interest, including: “The Global Ranking System and the Changing Mission of the University,” “International Students’ Mobility: Market, Policy and Choice,” “Exploring Hybrid Universities in East Asia,” “New Insights into the Regionalization of Higher Education,” and many other topics. The program is still available on line.
Recent OISE doctoral graduates who presented at the Congress include Dr. Jack Lee, Dr. Phirom Leng, Dr. Jian Liu and Dr. Yeow-Tong Chia. Dr. Jun Li who was a postdoc at OISE from 2006-2008 also presented.
Professor Gu Mingyuan, one of China’s leading scholars in Comparative Education since the 1960s, and a former Vice President of Beijing Normal University, still an active and dynamic scholar at 87, was a key figure in this event. It was my pleasure to honor his leadership in my keynote address, entitled “China at the Centre: What will it mean for Global Education?”
Professor Gu’s extensive writings on the cultural foundations of Chinese education give many insights into what China has to offer to global education. His most recent book, “Portraits of Chinese Schools” was launched at a major event in Beijing’s annual Book Festival, as well as being distributed to all Congress participants. Springer and Beijing’s Higher Education Press hosted this event, and also launched a new book series entitled “East West Cross Currents in Higher Education,” which features China’s famous silk road on the cover.
It was particularly significant that the host for this Congress was a normal university, with a strong emphasis on pedagogy and the student learning experience. This was an opportunity for China to introduce this model to a world of higher education dominated by the global research university and the ranking systems informed by its values.