Faculty of Education forges new partnerships with China

Paul Axelrod, dean of the Faculty of Education at York, is continuing to forge new partnerships and initiatives between York University and China. His recent trip to the cities of Shanghai, Nanjing and Suzhou in China has faculty gearing up to deliver programming to visiting educators at the new SuOn Centre.

China’s Jiangsu Educational Services for International Exchange (JESIE), a branch of the Department of Education, plans to open the SuOn Centre, a postsecondary educational training centre in North York, this spring. The name of the new centre is derived from the names of the two provinces, Jiangsu and Ontario. Several universities and colleges in Jiangsu plan to send faculty to Ontario to complete courses in English language and pedagogy, and to investigate current instructional practices and research in their fields.

Visiting educators will reside at the centre while participating in a range of short-term programs delivered by York’s Faculty of Education and, in some cases, the York University English Language Institute (YUELI).

Left: Tove Fynbo (left) and Paul Axelrod in the lobby of the Jiangsu Department of Education in Nanjing

Two groups completed a similar program with York in 2006 and 2007. A series of courses for teachers (elementary, secondary and college) and programs for school administrators will be delivered in 2008. Once the program is fully operational, JESIE expects to send some 800 educators to the SuOn Centre each year to engage in programs with York and other Ontario universities. The SuOn Centre initiative is Jiangsu’s largest educational venture outside of China.

Axelrod and Tove Fynbo, York International programs coordinator in the Faculty of Education, met with Xiaochang Ding, deputy director general of China’s Jiangsu Provincial Department of Education, and his colleagues in Nanjing on April 3. Ding’s officials expressed great enthusiasm for past collaborations with York and anticipate a strong working relationship in the future, said Axelrod.

"These international collaborations are mutually enriching experiences. Travel and educational interactions deepen our appreciation of different cultures and we expect that more of our own graduates will be looking for opportunities and experiences abroad," said Axelrod.

York’s Faculty of Education has been working in close collaboration with the Jiangsu Department of Education in China since July 2006, when the first of several delegations from that province visited York as part of a larger set of agreements with Ontario, its sister since 1985.

During the trip, Axelrod and Fynbo also visited the Shanghai Normal School, Sanjiang University and the Suzhou Institute of Art and Design Technology, where potential new collaborations with York were explored.

York’s Faculty of Education has two other initiatives in China, including a long-standing collaboration with the Hong Kong Institute of Education that includes study abroad semesters, internships and exchanges. As well, this spring marked the first year of a new international practicum placement (IPP) for consecutive education students at York who are completing a three-week practicum placement in Jiangmen, China. If successful, the IPP will be extended to include other partner schools in Jiangsu and Hong Kong as well as schools in other international settings.

"We are all aware of the current political controversies in China leading up to the Olympics. We hope that in a small way, our own collaborative educational programs can demonstrate the value of openness, dialogue, tolerance and respect for difference," said Axelrod.

York’s Faculty of Education initiatives coincide with the recent agreement between York and Shanghai’s Fudan University to offer dual degree programs.