A new orbit around the shrinking globe;Research focus;Briefing

1st October 1999 at 01:00
The themes of the European Educational Research Association Conference were as global as the speakers, reports Reva Klein.

GLOBALISATION exercised the minds of many at last weekend's European Conference on Educational Research in Finland. And in keeping with the theme, the event itself turned out to be truly global.

While there was a preponderance of British delegates - English being the official language of the conference - they were joined by speakers from Australasia, the Far and Middle East and North America as well as many more from all over a rapidly changing Europe.

The keynote address by Professor Bob Lingard of Australia's Queensland University looked at globalisation and its influence on education policy.

Professor Lingard charted the growing standardisation of policy across the globe - partly in response to the publication of education indicators by international bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. His address set the scene for other papers on the effects of the now ubiquitous marketplace approach to education.

National identities and national curricula were another recurring theme. A quirky but thought-provoking paper by English academic David Hamilton from Umea University in Sweden suggested that new curricula will have to do away with obsolete notions of national curriculum and multi-culturalism. Instead, he argued, we need a curriculum that reflects the new identities of modern society, based on common prospects rather than common inheritances.

Others grappled with cultural barriers. From a largely homogeneous Finland, Sirkha Laihiala-Kankainen described the two-way culture shock of absorbing 3,000 Russian-speaking immigrants. She spoke of the need for teachers to understand the culture and pedagogic traditions that children come from.

Technology, inevitably, featured in many guises. Perhaps most interesting was the lecture by Erno Lehtinen, another Finn, who gave an overview of research on computer-assisted learning. He showed, in a nutshell, that it's not the computers but how you use them that increases pupil performance. It was a fascinating reminder of how educational research is a constantly evolving science that changes in line with pedagogic trends.

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