Academic journal article Educational Research for Social Change

Sustainability of International Collaborative Partnerships in Education: A Personal Research Journey

Academic journal article Educational Research for Social Change

Sustainability of International Collaborative Partnerships in Education: A Personal Research Journey

Article excerpt

Introduction

The growth of international collaborative development and research programmes owes much to a greater focus on transcultural research, funding in this regard, and the concern of universities to extend their international visibility (Rigby & Edler, 2005). It has also raised significant challenges and concerns regarding the conceptualisation and dissemination of international educational research, its sustainability, and the development of collaborative partnerships that transcend international borders. Furthermore, as those of us who have been closely involved in the development of international educational research and development projects have learned, developing sustainable international partnerships has been difficult, and has often been fraught with issues. These issues are not only related to processes of funding, knowledge production, and who the ultimate beneficiaries of the research will be, but also to partnership relationships as well as transcultural communication and intercultural learning.

In this article, I focus on revisiting my field notes and personal reflections from a reflexive diary (ethnographic account), that I kept during an international project in education in Palestine that came to an end in 2014, in order to explore aspects that could possibly have influenced the development of sustainable international partnerships in education that brought about change. The purpose is to analyse my own reflections during the project and after it came to an end and, by connecting the personal to the cultural in this way, possibly contribute to further development of knowledge in this field.

The project in Palestine cannot be characterised as a research project as such, but rather as an externally funded knowledge exchange project in education, with a strong emphasis on evaluation research in order to monitor progress and evaluate the impact of the project. As this project came to a close, it generated new projects and influenced the development of revised policies on teacher education. The dynamic relationship between international collaborative projects in higher education and the nature, scale, sustainability, and quality of our collaboration in bringing about educational change in this project has also become clearer. I, therefore, increasingly realised that the role that quality of collaboration played within this project, including the willingness of individuals and collective team groups to transcend international sociocultural boundaries, cannot be underestimated. The challenging path that this partnership followed enabled the greater international project team, as well as the Palestinian project team, to accomplish much more than we would have been able to achieve as individual researchers or as consultants at individual universities. Furthermore, my personal belief in the integral connection between the quality of human relationships in complex international educational research settings and the validity of processes in projects aimed at bringing about social change was confirmed.

Brief Description of the International Project in Education

The main objective of this knowledge exchange project was to improve the quality and relevance of the teaching practice component of teacher education programmes for primary school-aged pupils in Grades 1-4 in Palestine (West Bank and Gaza). In pursuance of this objective, the World Bank funded a Teacher Education Improvement Project (TEIP) in 2010, for which an international cross-faculty, cross-university team successfully bid to act as international consultants. Notification of the contract was received in March 2011, and the project came to a close in 2014. Strategic planning to achieve the overall goal of this project within a period of about 36 months was informed by a coherent body of knowledge derived from international research and practice in teacher education, whole-school improvement, and continuing professional development. …

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