The commitment of Professor Mark Mason, Professor and Head of the Department of International Education (IE), The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK), to international education and the internationalisation of the University may seem to be at odds with the fact that he grew up in a country at a time when segregation was not only rife, but institutionalised. But it is perhaps this very background that is the unexpected source of his enthusiasm to bring together students from around the world and enhance understanding of different education systems. This dedication has driven him forward and given him the energy to travel around the world, following his passion for international education and education development.
International education, a growing global trend
One of the founding academics of the recently renamed IE, Professor Mason has witnessed and played a part in the growth of the Department. He explained that the new name reflects a new strategic direction, which builds on the strong foundation laid by the Department’s founding academics, whose areas of expertise included international and comparative education, and foundational studies in education (principally, the philosophy of education). Since then, the Department has grown organically, and with its rising reputation, attracted scholars from around the world. “We are perhaps the most globally diverse department on campus,” said Professor Mason. “We have colleagues from Russia, England, Australia, Korea, Belgium, mainland China, South Africa, the Philippines, Scotland, Canada, and of course, Hong Kong.”
The team at IE has continued to grow to deliver new programmes and enhanced curricula to meet teacher needs and trends in the global education landscape. Many of the new staff members bring with them expertise in the International Baccalaureate (IB) and Cambridge Assessment (also known as A-levels) systems, and their experience of teaching in China, Africa, and even in Inuit communities. They have contributed greatly to IE’s new programme offerings, such as the graduate programme in Life and Values Education, developed in response to the increasing importance that Hong Kong is placing on this domain; programmes that prepare teachers to teach in international schools; and programmes that enable early- and mid-career teachers to enhance their capacity as teachers and leaders in international schools.
Professor Mason pointed out that the number of international schools is increasing sharply, in Asia and globally, and alongside this is the growing influence of the IB and Cambridge systems. He said, “These schools need teachers who are capable of teaching these curricula and possess the competencies associated with international schools, such as global-mindedness, more cosmopolitan and less nationalist approaches to citizenship, and a commitment to planetary stewardship and sustainable development.” He added that these attributes and those identified by the IB Profile guide the Department’s programme development in the international schools domain.
IE is the University’s leading provider of study tours abroad through the Global Learning Enhancement Fund, enabling EdUHK students to develop an internationally comparative perspective in their studies here. “Our colleagues have led or will lead study tours to St Petersburg, Taiwan, Cape Town, Israel, Nepal, Germany, Cambodia and Eastern Europe,” he said. “We like to think we’ve helped to encourage the University to include in the new undergraduate curriculum this overseas experiential learning as a formal, if still optional, part of the curriculum.”
Since he was appointed Head of IE in 2016, his aim has been to steer the team to become a leading provider, in Asia and globally, of teacher education in the domains of international education and education studies. Indeed, the new name reflects a new strategic direction for the Department, understood in terms of international education, namely comparative education and international schools; and education studies, including life and values education in the global context. To achieve the Department’s goals, colleagues are working closely with sister departments in the Faculty – Education Policy and Leadership, and Curriculum Studies – and with overseas universities, and international schools in Hong Kong and abroad.