IGPE has been confronted with systematic challenges that have occasionally thwarted the program mission. During a recent analysis of program strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges (commonly referred to as a “SWOC analysis”), we identified three immediate and substantive program challenges: (a) confusion among SUNY administrators about new site approval processes; (b) prohibitive graduate admissions requirements; and (c) steady increases in market competitors and teachers who enter international education with a master’s degree in hand. We assert that while, left unattended, any of these mounting challenges could create significant operational problems for IGPE, there is a concise and uncomplicated path to removing obstacles, overcoming each challenge, leading to unprecedented success and program growth.
Confusion About New Site Approval Processes
IGPE generates new revenue in two ways: by reactivating dormant partnerships and launching new site partnerships. The reactivation of dormant partnerships can sustain IGPE for a year or two, but longitudinal program growth depends on development of thriving new partnerships. With delays and system-level confusion over new site approval processes, IGPE has been hampered in providing timely information about new programs, particularly as it relates to launch dates.
This uncertainty about required forms and petitions has contributed to lengthy delays in the approval process and in launching new cohorts. The approval process for new IGPE sites should be clear, concise, and efficient; however, these avoidable dilemmas have resulted in diminished revenue intake and have the potential to negatively impact IGPE’s market reputation.
Prohibitive Admissions Requirements
Current Buffalo State graduate admissions policy restricts the manner in which IGPE serves teachers from many other educational backgrounds and academic cultures. Many well-regarded teacher certification programs around the world culminate in a 3-year degree; however, the graduate school currently only accepts applicants who have earned the equivalent of a US 4-year bachelor’s degree. Recently, an applicant with a 3-year degree was denied admission to the Buffalo State Graduate School despite having 15 years of professional teaching experience. This admission denial was counterintuitive on several levels.
We argue that prohibitive admissions requirements set in the Buffalo State Graduate School should be reviewed and, when possible, reinterpreted to reflect a more comprehensive institutional understanding of international applicants’ backgrounds and records. It is our belief that professional teachers in PK-12 international schools, particularly those with multiple years of experience, should not be penalized simply due to differences in credentialing requirements in other countries. Likewise, IGPE should be accessible to those who have earned 3-year bachelor’s degrees from accredited universities, as is common across Europe, India, and other parts of the world.
Increases in Market Competition and In-Hand Master’s Degrees
We have observed an increase in competitors in the international program marketspace. There are a variety of new programs; some university-led, some not; some accredited, some not, that advertise credit for teachers. To date, no other program can match IGPE’s price point; however, it seems only a matter of time before competing providers garner the support to develop and launch comparably priced offerings.
Additionally, due to the growth of fifth-year programs being offered across the US, the international education market is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of teachers entering the profession with master’s degrees in hand. Obviously, for a program offering only a master’s degree, this trend could prove fatal in the long run. As counterbalance, IGPE administrators seek to modify admissions requirements to make the program more accessible to partner sites’ local hires, most of whom are still entering the field with only a bachelor’s degree. Administrators are also exploring capacity to propose an IGPE-facilitated doctoral degree.
Attributes for Success in International In-Service Teacher Education
IGPE thrives on a deep sense of trust and transparency with stakeholders. Buffalo State administrators trust the IGPE director to maintain a healthy presence in the market, to build long-lasting partnerships, and to semiauton-omously manage the annual budget. School heads and site coordinators trust IGPE instructors to deliver high-quality and program-aligned coursework, and IGPE trusts school heads and site coordinators to communicate with transparency and regularity. In addition to stellar trust relationships and the programmatic promotion of the aforementioned global competencies, IGPE’s successes are derived from program flexibility, highly contextualized instruction and student supports, and vision for collaborative program growth.