Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Houses and Assemblies

The Autonomous Republic of Kurdistan, composing northeastern Iraq, is roughly the same geographical size as South Carolina, or central California, and is governed by its own President and Parliament. Like  our own state legislature, that body comprises a House and a Senate.  Also like ours, their House has a Speaker. There, however, at least as compared to my own state, the analogy ends. The Parliament is fiercely dedicated to improving education, and in demonstration of that, he requested that our delegation meet with him. That's me unseen behind the camera; him in the center; IIE President and CEO Allan Goodman on the left, and on the right, the Speaker's chief aid and foreign  policy advisor - a returned Fulbright scholar. She was one of several extremely capable, talented, intelligent, and well-educated young women I met who have been appointed to positions of real responsibility. The second, we-the-faculty (myself and two others), met in a follow-up meeting: she was an elected member-of-parliament, held the education portfolio, and wanted our advisory input on draft legislation regarding private for-profit universities. Indeed, a full 35% of the legislature are women. (We could learn something from that example). Without distinguishing between private for-profit and private non-profit institutions, they'd trusted the "private sector" to help them rapidly expand higher education, and had been badly burned. They provided land grants, tax-free status, and mountains of other incentives. The for-profits grabbed the money and ran within a year, leaving buildings empty and students stranded without degrees. So diploma mills be forewarned: you'll get no further traction in Kurdistan.  When these people say they want higher education, they mean it, and they know what that is. And now they also know the meaning of genuine accreditation.

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