ERIC Identifier: ED393504
Publication Date: 1996-03-00
Author: Brawer, Florence B.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Community Colleges International. ERIC Digest.
The community college is an educational institution unique to the United
States. Other educational systems throughout the world have established various
non-traditional forms of education, or non-university institutions, to
accommodate people who are past the age of compulsory schooling and who are not
served by the traditional universities. These non-traditional educational
institutions are similar to community colleges in several ways. One way in which
non-university institutions around the world mirror community colleges is in the
services they provide and the individuals they accommodate. People in other
countries who take advantage of alternative forms of education generally seek a
range of opportunities not available through traditional avenues, including
prebaccalaureate studies, access to jobs, cultural education, and recurrent
education. In the United States, community colleges developed in response to
similar needs of students and, thus, accommodate people who are past the age of
compulsory schooling and who are not served by the traditional four-year
institutions. This Digest describes various types of institutions successfully
operating in different countries that can be likened to community colleges, and
highlights points of commonality and difference.
TYPES OF COMMUNITY COLLEGES AROUND THE WORLD
United States, Asia and Europe are regions of the world where non-traditional
alternatives to post-compulsory education are fairly well developed. A variety
of names identify these institutions--examples include, community colleges;
junior colleges; technical, teknologi, or technological institutions; district
or regional colleges; colleges of further or advanced education; fachhochschulen
or folk high schools; higher schools; workers' colleges; and short-cycle
institutions. For the purposes of this essay, the term community colleges will
be used to describe these types of alternative post-compulsory educational
institutions in other countries, unless otherwise specified.
According to Cohen (1995), while none of these non-traditional educational
institutions offer the baccalaureate, considerable variation exists in their
functions. Prominent in the majority of non-university higher education systems
and community college type institutions around the world are occupationally
related studies. For example, Sweden's upper secondary schools integrate general
subjects with vocational training in a workplace-based setting. The regional
technical college system in Ireland, the special training schools in Japan, and
China's junior colleges similarly emphasize vocational courses. In nations where
the universities are unable to matriculate all degree seekers, like the United
States and Canada, prebaccalaureate programs predominate. And, in Australia,
Britain, Denmark, Germany, and Norway lifelong learning and cultural education
are emphasized (Cohen, 1995).
Organizational patterns also vary among and between these non-traditional
institutions in different countries. Unlike the United States where state
coordinated higher education systems are prevalent and include non-university
educational institutions such as community colleges, short-cycle postsecondary
programs in Austria, Denmark, Indonesia, and Sweden, are considered part of the
secondary school system. In South America, community colleges are more likely to
function as branches of polytechnic colleges. And, New Zealand's system links
its community colleges with the country's polytechnic and technical institutes
(Kintzer, 1990). Norway's short-cycle programs are conducted through district
colleges, Israel's through regional colleges, and Germany's through
Fachhochschulen, which are nationally coordinated. Canada is unique in that
community colleges are governed by a system separate from the rest of the higher
THE JUNIOR COLLEGE IN JAPAN: A COMPARATIVE EXAMPLE
community colleges are more aptly called junior colleges because they provide
general post-secondary education of short duration. However, compared to
community colleges in the United States where transfer education is a major
function, Japanese colleges are terminal education institutions, granting
certificates and preparing students for state licensing. Also, the open-door
admissions policy of community colleges in the United States is not found in the
Japanese junior colleges; Japanese colleges reject 50 percent of the applicants
on the basis of high school grades or low entrance examination scores. Further,
it should be noted that Japan's college student population is fairly
homogeneous, consisting of recent secondary school graduates, in contrast to the
large body of adult and continuing education students attending community
colleges in the United States.
Another difference between junior colleges in Japan and community colleges in
the United States pertains to governance and control. Although Japanese
institutions are under the control of the government, they are primarily
financed through tuition, with the government providing for barely 20 percent of
their costs. Also, Japanese colleges are directly responsible to the National
Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture. This is quite different from the
local boards that manage the internal affairs of American community colleges
In addition to the divergence between Japanese junior colleges and U.S.
community colleges, other countries offer examples of differences between
institutions. Variety appears in sources of funding, operating mandates, the
type of faculty, and in the types of liaisons and collaboration with other
organizations in and outside the educational system such as business, industry,
and public service organizations (Dennison & Behnke, 1993).
CHALLENGES TO COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN OTHER COUNTRIES
issues and challenges face community colleges in many countries around the
world. For example, challenges facing Jordan's 52 community colleges, which have
been established on concepts directly inherent to the community college system
in the United States, are detailed by Al-Tal and others (1993). As reported by
Al-Tal, the challenges Jordan's community colleges face include: articulation
and the difficulties in promoting transfer; how to develop comprehensive exit
examinations that cover any number of courses students may take; what types of
remedial courses are needed; how much emphasis to put on community services; and
unemployment of community college graduates. Despite these hurdles, Jordan's
community colleges are viewed as an investment that ensures both the social
prestige and economic security of the country and its people (Badran, 1989).
Community colleges in Israel are grappling with issues different from those
Jordan is experiencing. Israeli educators and the public are concerned with the
question of whether the 'second-chance' educational programs their community
colleges offer succeed in enhancing social equality in education, a problem with
which many American community colleges are currently struggling (Ayalon and
THE NEED FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN OTHER COUNTRIES
countries are faced with the possible need to institute community colleges or
similar institutions into their educational systems. Traditionally, Italian
universities have been open to all petitioners; now there is an apparent need
for other types of diploma-related, intermediate activities. Britain's expansion
of 18-year-olds entering higher education mandates increased two-year diploma
programs. It also calls for a breakdown in the barriers between universities and
community colleges (Cohen, 1995). And in Australia, the demand is for
Educational institutions respond to these demands in different ways. For
example, Australia responds to the demand for skill-based programs by injecting
strong vocational components into the curriculum (Barnett and Wilson, 1994).
South Africa's long-term needs for community colleges as a means to redress
educational disparities is resolved in the short-term by using existing
educational structures to create separate courses or curricula. An interim
solution, but one that nonetheless is likely to bring about long-term results
(Strydom and others, 1995).
Kintzer (1994) notes that many central and eastern European countries are
debating the extension of the non-university concept, with some national policy
statements arguing for major reforms. Some reform efforts have already taken
place in individual countries. For example, in the Ukraine junior specialist
courses are a part of the country's reform efforts. In Belarus, a network of
post-diploma courses focusing on commercial cooperatives and intended to upgrade
business and entrepreneurial skills have been offered. These courses lasted
anywhere from one month to more than one year. And, in Bulgaria, three-year
post-secondary schools are being established. Other portions of Eastern Europe
are exploring the adaptability of the American community college. Mellander and
Mellander (1994) note that Hungarian educational policy makers would like to
provide transfer opportunities for students, short-term vocational and
occupational training, and life-long learning courses.
As Cohen states, "the world-wide expansion of
post-compulsory, non-university education will continue as national development,
technical changes in the workplace, and rising demand for further education
focus on this sector" (1995, p. 73). Changing student populations, labor force
demands, and various types of administrative control all demand flexibility on
the part of these non-traditional post-secondary educational institutions. More
and more, similarities can be found between these institutions and community
colleges in the United States. The expansion of the community college sector
appears certain because of the world-wide demand for a variety of non-university
educational services at a reasonable cost by people who are past the age of
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