James Mellor

Universities abroad have begun to look to the western educational system to set international standards of education.

Bonnie Konopak, dean of Cal Poly’s College of Education and an expert in accreditation in the United States, recently traveled to one such university in Kuwait to evaluate whether the university was ready to begin the process of attaining international recognition.

“I was asked to go to Kuwait (University) and look at their programs,” Konopak said. “They haven’t really started (the international recognition) process yet. I went there to see whether they’re ready to start this process. To see what policies and planning have been done and what they still need to do before they can officially go through the recognition process.

“It’s kind of a consulting type of visit to see where they are,” she added. “We want them to be successful as they go through the process, so we need to see if they are ready to get started to go through the process yet.”

According to Konopak, Kuwait University is “making good progress” and is only “a year or two,” away from beginning the international recognition process. International recognition is a process similar to the accreditation process United States universities must follow.

“Here in the U.S. we have an accreditation processes,” Konopak said. “There’s a national organization called the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, plus each state has its own accreditation. National accreditation in California is voluntary. Cal Poly is working towards national accreditation, and should go up for it in a couple of years.”

Foreign universities don’t always have a high national standard of education to look to, so more universities are beginning to look at international standards.

“Internationally, they don’t have a process like that,” Konopak said. “For example, universities in the Middle East have standards in their own country, but they don’t have international standards, something that looks beyond their own country’s standards. Many universities are moving in that direction – they want to look to broader, more globalized standards. In some areas, they look to the U.S. for those standards.”

Konopak was chosen to travel to Kuwait because of her involvement on the board of examiners for a national education group.

“Several of us have been asked to work with this new agency in Washington D.C. that sponsors all these international visits,” she said. “It’s called the Center for Quality Assurance in International Education – what a university like Kuwait University does is contact this center for quality assurance in Washington D.C. and say they’re interested in undergoing this international process. They’ve agreed they’re going to meet all the standards that are set up and that they’ll bring in reviewers that will look at their programs and see if they’re meeting these standards or not.”

According to a Cal Poly press release, Konopak performed a similar evaluation at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates in 2003.

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