Photographer:Fotograaf: Archief Observant
The International class room task force is providing students with the opportunity to get involved in the process of internationalizing the university, says Heiner Salomon, president of Student Representation Party NovUM in this opinion piece. Students should take this chance and participate, if not lead, this development.
In the last edition of the Observant the article “Waiting for the International Classroom” gave the impression that the student representatives of Maastricht University are having a very bleak outlook on the process of internationalizing the university. This is only telling part of the story. In fact, many of the student representatives, especially from the NovUM fraction, indeed are very positive about the recent developments. It is pleasant to see that finally everyone agrees on the importance of diversity in the class room, a topic NovUM has been promoting eagerly ever since its founding only a few years back.
PBL as a system is dependent on (international) diversity. The differences between the participants in a tutorial contribute greatly to the problem solving capabilities of the group as a whole. The more perspectives are present, the more different approaches will be considered and the higher the chance will be that one of these is a going to be a better solution than a very homogeneous group would have found. At the same time it is crucial that students and staff also appreciate their similarities in order to be able realize the positive effects of their diversity.
Over the last years the amount of international students have been steadily increasing at the UM. This academic year the percentage of non-Dutch students has risen to 43% amongst the new incoming students. So far the full potential for enriching the educational experience of students through using their multifaceted backgrounds, which in turn could foster critical debates, has not been realized yet at the UM. Up to this day differences are more often seen as a problem rather than as a solution. Still, many students and staff members are complaining about the gaps between groups and nationalities instead of actively working on sustainable solutions.
Therefore NovUM wholeheartedly welcomes the “Leading in Learning” program initiated by Rector Mols. We see potential especially in the task force “International class room” led by Fred Stevens and Jacqueline Goulbourne to bring about this change that we have been waiting for so restlessly. Thus, we expect a university wide wake up call to happen at the kick-off conference for the “Leading in Learning” program Thursday, 1st of December, when all the different groups will jointly present their results to a wider (staff) audience. This event will hopefully put the problems of (international) diversity experienced at Maastricht University right back on the agendas of the different decision makers.
Of course, change in the environment of the university cannot solely develop in a top-down manner, initiated by the highest executives and reaching the students at the very end of the chain. It is paramount to have the students participate in, if not lead, this development. They themselves must learn to accept the differences between the groups. They themselves have to be open and willing to learn from other customs. They themselves have to want to engage with the “other”.
The “International class room” task force is providing them with the opportunity to do exactly that. It is a truly student driven project and consists of five sub-groups for students to engage in: First, one group to infuse the UM with an (international) spirit of community. Second, one to prepare new students already upon arrival for their future international university environment, especially during the INKOM. Third, there is a group to support and expand the Mix and Mingle events, which are held usually to integrate Maastricht’s student body. Fourth, the training of staff will be dealt with by students in cooperation with university staff. Fifth, the research group will analyze the process of students’ integration and identify continuous problems and obstacles.
Now is the time to finally achieve a truly international atmosphere at Maastricht University, now is the time for working towards the international class room.
Heiner Salomon, on behalf of Student Representation Party NovUM
Want to become a part of the international class room task force? Then write to Fred Stevens (firstname.lastname@example.org).