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.