Conseil supérieur de l'éducation

by Céline Saint-Pierre,
Conseil President

The processes of integrating the Americas and of globalization place different emphasis on how the internationalization of education and the academic mobility of students and professors fit into the mission and practices of higher education institutions. As a result, educational establishments have to equip themselves with their own institutional policies in order to clearly define the vision and framework needed to guide their practices. A survey of the situation of Québec universities shows that several are currently working to develop such policies. Some are reviewing their undergraduate and graduate programs in order to integrate an international profile that is in line with the educational objectives of each of their programs. A certain reciprocity in exchanges between students at Québec universities and those at U.S. or South American universities is also sought; such reciprocity draws on the complementary expertise of the partners involved. We should not be oblivious, however, to the fact that an institution’s ability to attract students to this type of exchange depends in very large part on the quality of the education offered. Seen from this perspective, the evaluation of programs takes on a new light, becoming a tool that universities can use to prove their worth.

Evaluation of the quality of higher education should therefore include the aspect of the internationalization of programs and the means for supervising and providing support to the students enrolled in them. It would be most desirable and useful for educational institutions in the North and the South to work together to develop evaluation principles and tools that are validated and recognized by all institutions aware of the importance, in the context of the liberalization of education services, of maintaining control of the evaluation of the quality of higher education, while respecting the specific cultural characteristics of each country.

Is it time to call for a change of culture to encourage higher education institutions to take advantage of the opportunities offered by globalization and the regional integration of the Americas, while avoiding the traps that come with them? What is required is that we educate stakeholders to value the intercultural enrichment and cooperation defined as reciprocal exchange in this new regional space that is being built.

However, and this is a major point, this change of culture will be neither sufficient nor effective if the provincial and national governments of the Americas do not embody these visions in both their educational and economic policies, so strongly solicited by the economic interests currently dominating the globalization movement and continentalization of the geopolitical space of the Americas. Consequently, I believe it is crucial that higher education institutions be able to make themselves heard by their respective governments, on the basis of certain points of consensus reached among these institutions beforehand, in order to demand that any agreement that the heads of state negotiate concerning education, particularly higher education, and which is likely to be part of the free-trade agreements of the Americas and NAFTA, be made public and be subject to democratic debate.

Panorama • Volume 6, Number 3 • November 2001


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