Education professor Jun Li is taking on global educational inequality as he assumes his new role as vice-president and president designate of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES).
This history-making appointment makes Li the first East Asia-born and first from Western to be elected to this role.
“I’m extremely humbled, honoured and thrilled to be taking on this huge leadership role. I am so thankful for the wide trust from CIES members, and I will try my very best to serve the international community,” Li said. “The election is solid evidence and action that the CIES community respects diversity and inclusion.”
Li said he wants CIES to help meet the sustainable development goals for education and development of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030, including alleviating the unequal educational conditions that millions of children face around the world, including those in Canada, such as Indigenous students.
“We have kids who are treated unequally in terms of educational opportunities, and we also see unequal learning outcomes in addition to their potential success of life,” Li said.
He added his election provides Western with opportunities to increase its impact in international communities through leadership, and to enhance its global partnerships with other universities, non-governmental organizations and international development agencies, such as UNESCO and the World Bank.
“CIES has members from almost every corner of the world, so we can hear their voices, and we can spread and empower these voices around the world for educational initiatives we’re advocating for, especially with regard to social justice and educational equality,” said Li. “This is timely and particularly meaningful to the global movement fighting against anti-Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander racism.”
COVID-19 has also provided CIES a role to play in pandemic recovery, according to Li. In particular, CIES needs to aggressively approach educational inequality among different groups, especially the underrepresented groups whose situation has been made worse during the pandemic.
While there’s a desire to go back to how things were before the pandemic, Li said there is a need to find new ways to be more inclusive and innovative to improve learning, teaching and education.
“We have to keep our hope in solidarity. We have to stay optimistic and work together, make concerted efforts, so that our situation can be better in the near future and eventually we can win in fighting against the pandemic,” he said.
Established in 1956, CIES fosters cross-cultural understanding and scholarship and has more than 3,500 members representing over 1,000 universities, research institutes, government departments, non-governmental organizations, and multilateral agencies across the globe. Members explore educational issues related to schools, students, teachers, and administrators — from early childhood and primary school to secondary and higher education, as well as non-formal education and lifelong learning.
Li’s term ends in 2025 after he serves as CIES past president.