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Date :  2001-01-24
Language :  English
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The Globalisation of Education

Education I

Author :  Christoph Wulf


The expansion of the European Union involving ever more European countries means education in Europe can no longer simply be seen as a national undertaking but has become an intercultural task.The core question in this growth is how geographical, regional and national differences and similarities in education and training will be dealt with. On the one hand, there is a need to maintain cultural differences between the various countries within Europe as one facet of the rich multiplicity of the continent; on the other hand, the political, economic and cultural developments in Europe entail the need for a common approach.

In the face of the globalisation of important areas of life as well as worldwide political, economic, and cultural integration the need for such a common approach is greater than ever. In the long term, such developments will increase the tension between the local and the global, with people increasingly seeing themselves as members of a global village with joint responsibility for the fate of the planet, and yet at the same time being unwilling to give up their attachment to a local and national context. Conflicting values and a sense of insecurity are the consequences. At present, we can distinguish two tendencies within societal development, contrary but at the same time inseparably entwined, which are both central requirements for shaping education within Europe: one tendency is directed towards an increase in individualisation, the other towards an increase in globalisation. The highly differentiated societies within Europe give each individual the chance to live her/his own life, yet simultaneously force this choice on each individual. The contradictory conditions of present-day socialisation are contained within this requirement: each one of us is supposed to live an individual life under societal conditions, which, however, are not subject to the individual’s control. Thus, the demand made is to organise one’s own life, with the expectation that one organises it successfully. Each is to choose his own biography; each is to actively create his own life, to construct it, to take up the responsibility for it being a success. In this scenario, tradition plays a subordinate role; what is expected is self-determination and self-realisation.
In addition, there is also the tension between the universal and the individual, which needs to be readjusted in the processes of education. On the one hand, globalisation influences most areas of human endeavour creating similarities across cultural boundaries; on the other hand, it encourages resistance against the levelling of differences in the name of the individual’s uniqueness and integrity. Finally, education in the 21st century is being drawn into the conflict between tradition and modernism or post-modernism: how can one remain open to changes both now and in the future without betraying one’s own cultural tradition? How can the various developmental dynamics be related to one another and adjusted one against the other? And which role do the modern media play in this development?
The radical pluralism of worldviews and educational concepts has created an increase in the complexity of educational thought and action, bringing in its wake, more than ever before, greater insecurity about the goal of education, and individual and societal development. However, such insecurity should not only be considered as a threat since it also generates the willingness to question one’s own values, perspectives and actions in a more open-minded way. The willingness to reflect on one’s own fundamental beliefs leads to greater openness towards the other, towards other models of education and other ways of life. In the world at present with the new developments of globalisation, regionalisation and localisation, this greater openness toward the other and the foreign is of central importance.

The present-day far-reaching societal change characterised as ‘globalisation’ is a multi-dimensional process, with economic, politi­cal, social and cultural effects, which will alter the relationship between the global and the local, regional and national state level. In considering this process, we can distinguish the following as the most important changes with regard to education:

Shortage of work: This applies, above all, to less-qualified jobs. The shortage will remain despite the hopes bound up with a changeover to service industries. For increasing numbers of people, the deep-rooted connection between the meaning of life as a social being and work will cease to be viable. This, however, is not the only change we are facing. The fixed link between many training programmes and particular jobs will dissolve as there is an increasing recognition of and encouragement of key qualifications like the ability to co-operate, reflect, and innovate, coupled with the drive to achieve, with, in addition, strengths in intercultural and media areas. As well as conveying knowledge in specific areas, education will have to contribute more to the development of those qualities which help to shape those constantly growing areas outside the world of work. In order to master the ever-more complex connections between areas of life and work arising from globalisation, there is thus a need for greater, rather than less, investment in education.
The reduction in importance of the nation state: If in many areas of the world the nation state is the primary carrier of culture and education, globalisation today leads to a general reduction of a nation state’s importance and thus to generally changing conditions for education. There are a variety of reasons for the loss of sovereignty of the nation state.

For one thing, nation states increasingly delegate decision-making to supra-national bodies. A further reason for the loss of sovereignty is that multinational conglomerates disempower nation states by playing one off against the other in this process. Thus, for example, they develop their products in countries with a high level of technological know-how, manufacture the products in low-wage countries, and pay tax in countries with low tax-rates. Through destroying jobs in the country the company is based in, and through tax-saving measures, the company burdens the state with increased costs for constantly new unemployed while simultaneously the loss of tax paid severely limits the state’s ability to produce the financial means needed. The strategy pays off for multinationals in terms of increased profits. However, as a consequence there is a lack of funds available for the areas of education, health and social welfare.
Globalisation leads to distances being overcome, and brings with it the knowledge of previously unknown, far-distant cultural and societal areas.
These are no longer the discrete territories which go to make up the nation state, with all its borders and border controls since the new media of telephone, television, and computer can travel over vast distances at close to the speed of light: space is shrinking.
And only limited means, both financial and temporal, are now needed to overcome distance. Images, the spoken word, and mass tourism all bring the distant into our near environment. The traditio­nal order of space and time, of distant and near, of strange and familiar is becoming destroyed, with new mixes and ‘impurities’ being created. The transnational world society is not to be characterised by homogeneity and simple structures but by multi­plicity, differences and complexity. ‘Planet Earth’ may well be depicted as mankind’s ‘Heimat’ in space and these images firmly anchored deep in our inner iconography and imagination, nonetheless these images do not say that the Earth is economically, culturally or politically homogenous nor that it is in the process of becoming so. The world has, in fact, many cultural, economic, and political ‘transnational centres’ and in these are created various global scenarios whether in technological or financial areas or in images, communication or in the media.

Glocalisation of cultures: One needs to give up the idea of imagi­ning education as something which takes place exclusively within an upturned airtight ‘container’ exactly covering the territory of one single nation state. The various origins, approaches and focuses of a culture are such that it makes more sense to imagine them overlapping with the global, regional and local all inter-connected. The term ‘glocalism’, coined by Roland Robertson, expresses this layering of the global with the local, of the universal with the particular, whereby new forms of cultural and social aggregates are created which are to a great extent autonomous. This overlapping and interdependence of varied cultural elements does not make an independent cultural unity existing in itself, but creates the intense cultural multiplicity in the conditions of our lives through the coming century. The more exactly we try to locate the commonalities, the more we will see the diversities. Yet precisely through the perception of diversities, are commonalities often more likely to emerge. Thus, there will be new mixes of different cultural elements. The new tasks facing education are to be found within this process: the development of new accounts of the other, new reference points, and new transnational loyalties and alliances. Ecological and peace movements have developed initial forms of transnational associations together with the corresponding actions by segments of the popula­tion.
Today the processes of globalisation pervade all areas of life and have increased the complexity of life-worlds and the ways in which people live. They have an influence on the young generation through, above all, new media, new ways of communica­tion, and the world market; these processes make their effect felt across all cultural differences, however great, though what they achieve is similarity, not sameness. There would be resistance against an attempt to reduce similarity to sameness in order to smooth over differences, and within this framework one would justi­fiable try to maintain the value of the integrity and uniqueness of the particular. In view of this development, education has to occupy itself increasingly with the task of supporting young people in meeting the demands which have developed from the enormous expansion of knowledge and help them unfold their personal abilities through knowledge, experiment and experience. Thus, they will be better able to cope with the increased complexity of life and better able to organise and make decisions about their own lives. In this situation, one of the most difficult tasks within education is balancing the demand for equality of opportunity and the need for competition: equality of opportunity brings with it the demand for special resources to promote socially disadvantaged children whereas the support needed for life in a competitive society demands the development of skills needed for self-assertion. The former aims at developing solidarity, the later at individuality. These two goals are frequently seen as mutually exclusive, allowing no simple compro­mises to be made.

The Scenario of the Future? The Increase of Individualisation and Globalisation: At present, we can distinguish two main tendencies within societal development, contrary but at the same time inseparably entwined, which are both central requirements for shaping education: one tendency is directed towards an increase in individualisation, the other towards an increase in globalisation. In many parts of the world many highly differentiated societies give each individual the chance to live her/his own life, yet simultaneously force this choice on each individual. The contradictory conditions of present-day socialisation are contained within this requirement: each one of us is supposed to live an individual life under societal conditions, which, however, are not subject to the individual’s control. Thus, the demand made is to organise one’s own life, with the expectation that one organises it successfully. In this scenario, tradition plays a subordinate role; what is expected is self-determination and self-realisation.
The ability to reflect and make decisions has become the most important qualities for the way we organise our lives and the decisions we make. Life, nowadays, for many people, is a life in a material world without reference to transcendence. Each individual is solely responsible for the difficulties arising in their own situation and any errors made in dealing with them.


On the other hand, growth in individualisation is increasingly deter­mined by the processes of globalisation. The result is a reciprocal relationship: the present-day forms of increased individualisation have become possible through globalisation processes, yet globalisa­tion processes, in turn, require a growth and intensification in indivi­dualisation. The demands made by these processes in globalisation and individualisation have a sustained and lasting effect on the education and socialisation of children and teenagers. The commo­nalities and diversities arising from this are manifold, as are the unintended side effects of the educational processes.
Curiosity and the Foreign in Today’s Education: Within the social and cultural processes created by globalisation, the increasing contact to and confrontation with the foreign becomes more and more important.
As we have seen, success or failure in dealing with the foreign is a decisive factor in determining the quality of life. In as far as education is supposed to prepare the next generation for the challenge of life under societal conditions which are globally in the process of change, a more intense debate with both the foreign and foreigners belongs to one of the increasingly important tasks within education. Yet what is foreign, and what is familiar? Where do the commonalities and diversities lie when we consider what is foreign and what is own?
The main task of education will be to awaken curiosity about the foreign and maintain it without sacrificing it to mere superficial knowledge. This is the prerequisite of making an encounter with the foreign more an enrichment and less a threat. One of the most important though most difficult tasks facing education is how to encourage interest in the unknown and develop methods of heuristic learning. When reforms in education are planned, differences in the value of measures achieved in the longer or shorter-term should be taken into account, since what is effective in the short-term is frequently ineffectual in the long-term and vice versa. Thus, education needs to be looked at from the perspective of lifelong learning, which should be planned and applied accordingly. This will itself involve developing a variety of forms of learning.
Tensions and Dilemmas in Education: Education today is influenced by various tensions, conflict formations and dilemmas:
1. In the long term, tensions will increase between the local and the global, with people progressively seeing themselves as members of a global village with joint responsibility for the fate of the planet, and yet at the same time being unwilling to give up their attachment to a local and national context.
2. The tension between the universal and the individual needs to be readjusted in the processes of education too. Rather than the tendency towards a globalisation of life being limited to areas such as economics and politics, this process is also taking place within culture and education. On the one hand, globalisation influences most areas of human endeavour creating similarities across cultural boundaries and, on the other hand, encourages resistance against the levelling of differences in the name of the individual’s uniqueness and integrity.
3. In the next century, education will be drawn into the conflict between tradition and modernism or post-modernism bringing with it questions like: how can one remain open to changes both now and in the future without betraying one’s own cultural tradition? How can the various developmental dynamics be related to one another and adjusted one against the other? And which role do the modern media play in this development?
4. There is an increasing tension between long-term and short-term considerations, i.e. what makes sense from a short-term perspective might be wrong when looked at from a long-term perspective. Many of the financial cuts in education would fall into this category.


5. Within educational reforms, the tension between the need for competition and the concern for equality of opportunity cannot be overcome once and for all. All the solutions offered are merely simplifications of the problem. Within the framework of lifelong learning, there is a need to balance the three forces of ‘competition’, ‘co-operation’ and ‘solidarity’.
6. The extraordinary expansion of knowledge creates a tension between itself and human beings’ capacity to assimilate it. The educational system, therefore, has to support young people to help them cope with the challenges inherent in acquiring new knowledge as well as helping them develop their own personal proficiency.
7. There is a tension between the spiritual and the material. Only if education can balance the potential conflict between the spiritual and the material, can it help young people adequately to prepare themselves for life in modern or late modern societies.
The aim of education ought to be to enable young people to balance these tensions in their lives and contribute towards the shared future of mankind. Education needs to be considered as a process of life-long learning and as a value in itself. Although education has to accept the challenges emerging from societal, economical and political developments, it ought not to be reduced only to those. Furthermore, education has to resist the economisation of the educational field and encourage an awareness that there is more to education than merely economic considerations. Through education, young people need to be prepared for the diversity and heterogeneity found in the different regions of the world.

Learning: the treasure within. In this situation of growing societal and educational complexity, UNESCO has presented a report on education in the 20th century, which delineates four pillars of learning: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, learning to be. Learning ought to be based on living together with others and help to shape communal lives constructively and in the spirit of peace and social justice. Mutual understanding is to be encouraged and skills needed to form one’s life productively are to be fostered and developed. Of particular importance among the many types of knowledge is the scientific knowledge required for shaping societal change. The development of the competence to act in various societal areas is to be encouraged. Thus, such demands are directed to the specific skills and needs of the individuals, to their health, memory, reflection, imagination and aesthetic and communicative abilities. Such learning ought to contribute to the multidimensional concept of education, avoiding the economisation of education; this is a dominant perspective in viewing education in what is often referred to as the Neo-liberalism of the capitalistic world society.
Many hopes for improvement have centred on the UNESCO report’s main concepts of the ‘learning society’ and ‘lifelong learning’ for everyone, with the requisite adjustments in form and content for individual abilities and potential. Learning should be related to people living together and contribute to shaping this constructively in the spirit of peace and social justice. The aim needs to be to improve mutual understanding and skills in order to develop a conduct of life, which is more productive. Here, the humanities and their knowledge are of central importance both in achieving these aims and reforming education and society. There is, moreover, a need for developing competence in acting socially within different social areas. Education has to focus on the improvement of memory, reflection, imagination, health, communication skills and the particular needs and abilities of the individual social subject.
Given that there are 900 million illiterates and 130 million children without the opportunity to visit school, greater efforts are needed to improve basic education without reducing secondary and university education. International efforts have to be increased in order to help poor countries extend the quantity and quality of education. The successful introduction of educational reforms depends on the commitment shown by communities - including parents, teachers, principals, the general public and the international community. The report stresses that, for the success of educational reforms, decentralisation and the active participation of teachers are both crucial.
The report recommends the international community take the following steps:
- Educate women and girls for equality,
- give one quarter of all development aid of international organisations as support in education,
- allow no reduction of debts and credits if the finances for the educational sector have been reduced,
- introduce worldwide modern information technology,
- increase consideration on NGO’s for international co-operation.
The UNESCO report of the Delors commission consists of the following chapters; their titles indicate the character of the programme they are proposing:
- From the local community to a world society. Worldwide interdependency and globalisation have a strong influence on the daily life of most people. This situation is a challenge to culture, education and society. There is a danger of the gap increasing further between a minority of human beings, who can creatively shape these new conditions of life and the majority of human beings, who are helpless vis à vis these innovations. Finally, an improvement of mutual understanding, responsibility, and solidarity is needed, to which education can contribute.
- From social cohesion to democratic participation. Educational policy must take a broad perspective; it should not contribute to the social exclusion of individuals and population groups. Education ought to combine, on the one hand, societal demands and, one the other, an individual’s right to personal development. Education cannot solve the central societal problems, but it can help to cope with them better. Schools fulfil their societal tasks only when also they contribute to the education of minority groups. An education developing democracy, citizenship and civil behaviour has to take place in all schools, since it is precisely in school that students can learn democratic behaviour, including the understanding of the other and how to make competent judgements. Education needs to assist students and adults to develop the cultural prerequisites necessary for the structuring of information and the understanding of their historical context.
- From economic growth to human development. A new concept of development is needed, generating a framework within which actual living conditions can better be taken into consideration. More research is needed on the future of work and changes in the world of work caused by technological developments. The relation between policies of development and education need to be reconsidered and improved. Further efforts are needed for the enlargement and improvement of basic education in all areas of the world.
- The four pillars of education. The four pillars of learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be should all lead to a better general and focused education. There needs to be further development of skills which would enable people to act adequately in different local, regional and international situations. Mutual esteem and the ability for competent co-operation ought to be developed and therefore there is a concomitant need for many different types of knowledge and ways of learning and acting in the educational system.
- Learning throughout life. Strategies of lifelong learning have to be developed since more and more competence is expected from the social subject. This in turn entails the development of adequate programmes and strategies within a learning society.
- From basic education to university. Worldwide efforts in education need to be focused on basic educational skills with special attention given to primary education and the teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic. Such a worldwide concern for basic education would take into consideration the specific conditions of different countries and populations. Furthermore, there will still be a need for writing and reading programmes for illiterates. To help transmit basic scientific knowledge, better curricula are required. The teacher student ratio has to be improved or compensated for by new teaching technologies. Within the context of lifetime learning, secondary school education ought to be reconsidered, with educational counselling used to help improve educational opportunities and social justice. On the tertiary level, universities should be able to teach the specific knowledge required for social and economic life nowadays; in addition, they should be equipped well enough to prepare students for university careers. Universities should be open to all those who meet the entrance requirements. On the university level, there ought to be more international co-operation, although each university should retain its autonomy in teaching and research. On the level of both secondary and university education, there ought to be a large variety of programmes available.
- Teachers in search of new perspectives. Teachers, in many areas of the world, find themselves both economically and socially disadvantaged. Both of these aspects need to be changed in order for teachers to be able to fulfil their important societal task. Co-operation between different sites of learning and differently qualified people is needed to improve the variety of learning and education processes in various societal areas.
Since the outcome of schooling depends largely on the quality of the teachers, continuous teacher in-service training is needed. A national and international exchange of teachers can considerably help in two ways: by helping students cope better with the demands of society today and improving the feeling of solidarity between the generations.
- Choices for education: The political factor. The quality of the educational system influences the orientation and quality of society and therefore there is a need for public debate on educational issues, which involves decision makers in it. The quality of educational institutions is improved through decentralisation and relative autonomy. The state and the community should remain responsible for education with finance provided by the state and the public. Private support is desirable, but cannot by itself replace the state or the community. The financing of education has to take a lifelong perspective into account. Educational technologies offer more possibilities than are at present in use.
- International co-operation: educating the global village. Today, international co-operation is needed in the field of education. Investments in education are investments in the future of the society. There should be explicit positive support for girls and women in education. New information technologies should be developed and improved. One aim of international co-operation ought to be the internationalisation of curricula and the use of new technologies. NGOs should co-operate to improve educational development.
It is not my aim here to offer a detailed critical review of the UNESCO Report of the Delors Commission on the future of education. Nevertheless, I feel it would be useful to raise a few questions which may serve as a point of departure for a more substantial critique, such a critique being understood as an attempt to improve the report’s relevance for education and schooling in different part of the world:
- To what extent does the report fulfil its intention to create a general perspective for human
development on the basis of learning and education?
- Isn’t the report itself - in spite of the contributions from different parts of the world in the Epilogue - too European centred and in need of further elaboration to be relevant for educational planning and practice in Asia, Africa and South-America?
- Doesn’t the universal character of the report reduce its relevance for the different regions of
the world and wouldn’t a regionally more specific report be a better help for the improvement of education and schooling?
- Aren’t the underlying philosophical and anthropological assumptions about the perfectibility of human beings too optimistic? And isn’t that optimistic view itself a handicap for practical educational work, since it tends to give practitioners a bad conscious, which might in turn paralyse their innovative energy?
Whoever considers education in the next century runs the risk, as in the UNESCO report, of over-stressing the utopian side of educational thinking and doing. The optimistic hope in the perfectibility of young people transforms the nature of their reality, a reality equally characterised by resistance and incorrigibility. A large number of educational reforms have shown that young people are not prepared merely to let themselves be led in the direction which the older generation believes is right for them. In addition, the problem of unwanted educational side effects ensures that the gap between such utopian hopes and wishes and the reality of educational practice can never be fully overcome. Educational theory and practice will forever be confronted with this discrepancy since it lies at the very heart of human existence.

References
Delors, F´J.: Learning: The Treasure within. Report to Unesco of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, Paris: Unesco 1996. Wulf, Ch. (ed.): Education for the 21st. Century: Commonalities and Diversities, Münster/NewYork: Waxmann 1998.
Wulf, Ch. (ed.): Education in Europe. An Intercultural Task, Münster/New York: Waxmann 1995.


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