the WCCI Student Chapter
Sonia Nieto's book Affirming Diversity states that, "All students of all backgrounds deserve the very best our society can give them.... Their cultures, languages, and experiences need to be acknowledged, valued, and used as important sources of their education." As the United States continues to diversify along ethnic and racial lines, the College of Education at Southeast Missouri State University felt the need to provide both undergraduate and graduate education majors with a wider variety of professional experiences in global and international education. This mindset is what urged a group of undergraduate students to begin the very first chapter of the World Council for Curriculum and Instruction (WCCI).
Part I: The
Vision and Mission of the WCCI Student Chapter
Our vision coincides with WCCI International's vision. We desire to initiate and encourage interaction and cooperation around the world. We want to promote the use of curriculum and the teaching practices, which are designed to foster intercultural, interracial, and international understanding and cooperation. These goals are accomplished through conferences and meetings and through friendships between people of different backgrounds.
As a student chapter, we do many things. We invite individuals to our campus who are from other countries to come and share their experiences with us, so that we might celebrate both our differences and our similarities. We spend time talking to one another so that we can learn about educational practices and ideas being used in other countries. We also ask guest speakers to come and share their ideas and experiences with us. These activities, among many others, help us to see the importance of being united as a world in furthering the education of our children.
Why is it important to have a student chapter of WCCI? For many reasons. From our perspective, every year schools in the United States are becoming more diverse. Families from other countries move into the districts as global business opportunities are broadened. Immigrants enter, bringing new cultural practices and different languages. However, even as differences abound, children need to be united. They need to learn how to understand each other and find their similarities, for laughter and play are part of every culture, though they may be found in different forms. With the help of parents and teachers, children can find these common bonds. Teachers can provide opportunities for learning about other cultural practices in ways that cannot be done at home. They can do this as different countries and regions are studies. Students in the class who are from different backgrounds can be given the chance to tell about their families, or guests can be asked to come and share. Even if the classroom is not divers, with advances in technology, students can have Internet pals from across the world. Our educators need to know how to take advantage of the wonderful teaching opportunities that a divers society brings, and organizations such as WCCI can provide that.
Southeast Missouri State University believes that WCCI International's vision of a just world developed through educational opportunity provides education students with an excellent model from which to create student chapters on campuses throughout the world.
Organizations like WCCI will produce better teachers for our nation's children. Future educators will develop an understanding of the importance of promoting equity, peace, and human rights through their roles as teachers. They will also learn about educational practices being used in classrooms around the world that they can then use with their own students. University students will gain insights from professional educators who are actively involved in the field of education every day. This organization, sponsored through the College of Education, will show teachers how to reach their students through the curriculum; curriculum that will change attitudes and minds for the better.
While there is an abundance of student chapters of professional educational organizations worldwide, none proved education students with the opportunities that WCCI does to network with educators on a global basis, to begin to develop comparative perspectives on academic issues, and to create a global consciousness about providing equality of educational opportunity to all citizens of the world. Thus, the College of Education at Southeast Missouri State University created the first student chapter of WCCI and actively encourages other schools to do likewise.
Establishing our WCCI Student Chapter
The birth of our vision began in Fall 1998 with Dr. Jean Benton bringing an idea to our College of Education of starting an organization for education majors who were interested in learning about multicultural education issues they may face when in the field. There was great excitement among interested individuals, because there was not such international education organization for students within our College. Shu-Ju Chuang, the only international students in the undergraduate education program at the time, became personally very interested. She felt that she had a personal responsibility to help educate her fellow students about current issues in global education. As the vision became clearer, she also saw that this organization would give members the opportunity to be exposed to and learn from the various perspectives of established international educators. She realized that this could be a significant contribution to educating students at our college, and so agreed to start the organization. In the spring of 1999, Dr. Benton contacted the International Chapter of WCCI about the possibility of starting the first student chapter. Fortunately, WCCI International realized the importance of this opportunity also and they granted us their permission and full support. With support behind us, we started the recruitment process by word-of-mouth throughout the education department. We not only informed the professors, but also asked for time at the beginning of our classes to give the news to the students. At the end of the first week, we had 12 charter members signed.
Now that we had charter members, we had to work together to nurture this vision. The first charter meeting, in which the constitution was to be written, was held in March 1999. Six of the twelve members attended. Using the constitutions of WCCI International and WCCI North America as guides, we worked in pairs to write two articles each. Once approved by Dr. Benton, a proposal was also written and included with the constitution to be sent to WCCI International for approval. Two weeks later, we held our next meeting to elect officers. After the officers were chosen, we went through the process of registering the organization with the student government.
Our dream finally became a reality on April 13, 1999 when we were honored by a visit from Dr. Piyush Swami, President of WCCI International, who had come to recognize our achievement as the first student chapter of WCCI in the world. In addition to giving his support, Dr.Swami also reminded us what a vast network of resources we now had to learn from as well as contribute to. He encouraged us to begin becoming resources by invited us to present our story at the 4th International Education Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 6-10, 1999.
Since our initiation, we have recruited more students into the organization. We are now 30 members strong and still growing. The initial idea that Shu-Ju Chuang and Dr. Benton shared was just a dream, but with all the support that we have received and the hard work done by the group as a whole, that dream has truly become a reality.
Part III: The
Vision of Our Future
This is a very exciting time for us at Southeast Missouri State University and our student chapter of World Council for Curriculum and Instruction. We are entering our first full year as an organization and are faced with many challenges and fun times. We know what this year holds for us, but what is our vision of the future?
Our hopes are that the WCCI Student Chapter will provide graduate and undergraduate teachers with a variety of opportunities to create a global consciousness about the equality of educational opportunity to all citizens of the world. We want to encourage communication and collaboration with other student chapters throughout the world in order to promote various forms of curriculum and instruction designed to foster intercultural, inter-religious, and international understanding and cooperation.
In order to do this, we plan to have student representatives attend WCCI Regional and International Conferences, in order to participate in the exchange of ideas across cultures and curriculums. We are planning on visiting multi-cultural and bilingual school programs and we are having students from other cultures as guest speakers to our organizational meetings. Along with that we will be participating in International Week activities and otherwise educating the student body and the community about international issues by developing projects in the community.
We often speak of accommodating the needs of diverse learners. Our desire is to help all teachers gain the knowledge that they need in order to meet the needs of students from diverse cultural, ethnic, linguistic, or socioeconomic backgrounds. Often, teachers' expectations of students are formed by inaccurate assumptions, low expectations for minority students and lack of knowledge about students' different cultural backgrounds. Our Student Chapter of WCCI wants to help ensure that education students graduating from Southeast Missouri State University walk away with the concepts and ideals of multicultural education.
We believe that all individuals should be treated equally and with respect. This requires that alternative instructional strategies be available to accommodate the various learning styles of students. We want all teachers to understand the importance of considering language, heritage, culture, and other factors that could influence achievement. We want to improve the quality of instruction in hopes to improve the performance of all students.
Education must include all children. We, as educators, can teach children to appreciate the cultural diversity of all students. As future and continuing teachers we have to learn how to adapt new cultures into the classroom and make all students aware and respectful of other cultures.
Teachers should have the knowledge and the know-how to be able to foster social responsibility among their students. Cultural diversity in schools and in the curriculum helps prepare students for living in a multicultural society and interdependent world.
If America is to educate all of its children adequately, then teachers must recognize and nurture the unique strengths and experiences that diverse students hold.
We hope that after having read our statement of purpose, that you will join us on this journey and adventure into the world of educating all children to live in a diverse society in the 21st century!
The above paper was presented by the authors as part of a workshop at the 4th International Education Conference at the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio on October 9 which was attended by educators from 41 countries.