Globalization and education essay.

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Globalization involves the integration of economic markets around the world and the increased movement of people, ideas, goods, services, and information across national borders. It has been marked by a rise in the power of corporations vis-à-vis nation-states. The influence of globalization is growing in education spheres as well. For example, the standardization of education under the No Child Left Behind Act is certainly connected to a desire for global competitiveness, particularly in educating citizens to participate in the global economy. So, too, is expanded corporate involvement in schools. This entry provides a brief overview of globalization and then looks more closely at its impact on schools.

This entry first defines globalization and explores its technological, political, cultural, and economic dimensions. It then describes concerns about the downsides of globalization, in particular, how many see it as synonymous with global capitalism, and thus the cause of various forms of social misery, such as a widening gap between the wealthy and poor, ecological destruction, homogenization of cultures, and excessive consumption and greed among the privileged. Next, it examines the ways in which globalization has led to significant shifts in educational priorities. For example, in the United States, there has been increased competitive standardization of teaching and learning, growing commodification of education, and a move toward seeing schooling as primarily a private good. Finally, the entry considers some ways of harnessing the democratic potential of globalization through creating an expanded notion of global citizenship, using new forms of technology in the service of social change activism, and reinvigorating discussions of democracy and social justice.

Globalization may be the word that best characterizes the twenty-first-century world. It is a term talked about across academic disciplines, in the media, in advertising, and by politicians and world leaders. Yet despite the fact that this word is talked about in so many different contexts, both popular and scholarly, there is no clear and/or agreed-upon definition of globalization. It is an idea that is elusive, complicated, and contentious. People often seem to use the term in contradictory ways depending on their social position, cultural perspective, and level of investment in current political and economic systems. Some herald globalization as the path toward a future of growing prosperity, intercultural cooperation, and technological advancement. For others, it is simply the most current manifestation of the forces of colonialism, imperialism, and capitalist greed, with the inevitable outcome being increased impoverishment and marginalization of many of the world’s people, as well as wide-scale environmental and cultural destruction.

The term globalization is increasingly used in education spheres as well, though perhaps not as quickly as in other academic disciplines. For example, the standardization of education under the No Child Left Behind Act is certainly connected to a desire for global competitiveness, particularly in educating citizens to participate in the global economy. So, too, is expanded corporate involvement in schools. The fact that so many people are talking about the phenomenon of globalization, and in so many different ways, indicates that important issues are at stake in how people come to understand what many call the defining reality of the contemporary era.

What Is Globalization?

It is difficult to describe concisely the phenomenon of globalization. It is referred to variously as an ideology, a practice, a trend, or simply the best way to characterize the contemporary world. Some of the confusion surrounding globalization is surely due to the fact that the concept is used in so many different places and in multiple ways. Although the word itself is relatively new, the processes to which it refers— especially movements and interactions between cultures, countries, and regions—have been around seemingly forever. John Coatsworth claims that there have been several cycles of globalization, beginning with the period of global exploration in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, running through the creation of conquest colonies in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, and leading to more contemporary efforts by major superpowers to develop an international system of trade rules and regulations, and to remove artificial barriers to the spread of free-market capitalism. Although there were surely some noble goals in these initial phases of exploration, there is no doubt that, viewed from this perspective, there are also distinct parallels between globalization and colonialism, as even in its initial phases, globalization involved a desire to obtain wealth and power.

Jan Scholte usefully offers five different conceptual usages of the term globalization: internationalization, liberalization, universalization, modernization, and deterritorialization. Internationalization simply refers to international relationship, exchange, and interdependency. Often, this is facilitated by liberalization, that is, the removal of government barriers in order to create a more fluid and open world economy. Similarly, neoliberalism, or the deregulation of economic markets and the growth of a competitive private sector, is also frequently used in connection to globalization. When people, goods, and ideas are spread throughout the world, a kind of universalization takes place, where the same products, beliefs, and worldviews become seemingly pervasive everywhere.

What tend to get universalized are the values and social structures of modernity: capitalist economic arrangements, rational forms of understanding, bureaucratic organizational structures, industrial processes, and media forms. Such modernization contributes to the destruction of indigenous cultures and the diminishment of self-determination. Finally, globalization involves changes in the integrity of countries, or deterritorialization, such that geographic places, distances, and borders no longer solely mark social spaces. As part of these geographic changes, different regions of the world are now much more closely linked, and actions in one part of the world can affect, and be affected by, people in other places both near and far.

In the current climate, the integration of people and places across national borders seems to have happened almost overnight, and in ways faster than most people’s ability to comprehend or control it. In part, this is due to technological advances such as the Internet, which have allowed people in one country easy access to others around the world, facilitating the sharing of knowledge, the trading of products, and the diffusion of ideas. Moreover, the economies of countries throughout the world have become increasingly intertwined. More people than ever before have access to means of communication (computers, cell phones, cable systems); they can buy, sell, trade, and otherwise invest money right from their home computers; and through Internet and satellite technology, they can quickly learn what is going on around the world.

Paralleling the various definitions of the term globalization, there are multiple arenas in which this idea takes shape: political, technological, cultural, and economic. Politically, it involves the lessening of the strength of nation-states as large corporations, through transnational capitalist processes, dominate spheres of decision making and influence. These transnational corporations tend to have more power than many countries. Arguably, by locating businesses and investing in developing countries, these corporations create economic growth and job opportunities, and contribute to an increased standard of living for many people. Technologically, there is a dramatic increase in electronically mediated forms of communication to the degree that people begin to see the world, and their place in it, differently. Older, industrial type factories have increasingly been replaced by high-tech, computerized companies.

Culturally, interconnection among citizens throughout the globe is becoming commonplace. One can enter an online discussion group about this topic of globalization and, in real time, talk to people from Albania to Zimbabwe. This increase in global communication can lead to new forms of collaboration, problem solving, and creativity. At the same time, it can also result in the homogenization and Americanization of cultures, as people everywhere come to desire the same consumer products and watch the same mass media news and entertainment.

Although the political, cultural, and technological dimensions of globalization are certainly important, it is the economic dimension of globalization that most advocates and critics address, most particularly, the ways in which globalization has amounted to a seeming celebration of unfettered, free-market capitalism. Here, the integration of the world’s people is largely about creating more potential consumers and markets; about greater access by the privileged elite to both human and natural resources throughout the globe. Critics charge that, ultimately, globalization is about greed, profits, and the desire for private gain.

The increased contact among peoples from different cultures can stimulate creativity and innovation, and, concurrently, economic development and productivity. Moreover, global sensitivity can enhance collaborative international efforts for ameliorative social change. For example, social justice activists can now work together more easily to expose, and bring attention to, violations of human rights, and consequently pressure governments to ensure basic protections for their citizens. Although international relationships have existed for hundreds of years, what seems new in this current era is the pace of change and the degree to which the lives and livelihoods of all people in the world are now so closely intertwined, even though people may not be fully aware of the depth of those connections.

The Dark Side Of Globalization

Despite the promises of worldwide economic growth and the creation of a more harmonious global community, there are also dark sides to globalization. These are linked to uneven and inequitable relationships between countries and geographic regions, such as between the “developed” and the “developing” world, and to the uncontrolled growth of free-market capitalism. It sometimes appears that the desire for cross-cultural exchange by wealthy countries is really a desire for economic gain through access to cheap raw materials, low-paid labor, and new export markets.

Capitalists in wealthy countries claim that their activities are a necessary part of the growth process for developing countries, and that the fruits of these efforts trickle down to even the poorest of citizens. The problem is that many people in poorer countries may not see these fruits and may feel that they have been exploited and that the quality of their lives has actually gotten worse. Poor citizens in wealthy countries feel the effects of this system too, as their places of employment are downsized and jobs are sent overseas. Thus, many see globalization as tantamount to capitalism without any barriers, limitations, or protections and fear that what results is a world of growing inequity, of the haves and the have-nots.

In addition to contributing to mounting economic inequities, this expansion of capitalism significantly complicates the democratic promises of public education. Arguably one of the central goals of education in U.S. society is to cultivate the habits and dispositions of democratic citizenship. These include commitments to diversity, equity, cooperation, reflective thinking, social reform, and a concern for the common good. Yet the market-driven imperatives that largely underlie most manifestations of globalization often run counter to these goals.

For many years, scholars in the foundations of education have been troubled by the tenuous relationship between capitalism and democracy. Implicitly and explicitly, they have been arguing against the processes that are currently so much a part of globalization. They have called for schools to nurture democratic habits, teach compassion, and foster equality of opportunity and social responsibility. Similarly, critical pedagogues have called for educators to foreground the social justice issues related to the effects of a capitalist economic structure on the quality of people’s lives. In the current context of globalization, rethinking the relationships among education, democracy, and capitalism is increasingly crucial.

In mass movements around the world, people have protested contemporary manifestations of globalization, most notably whenever the World Trade Organization meets. These ant globalization activists represent a diverse range of concerns. They include labor organizers, environmentalists, human rights workers, students, indigenous peoples, and citizens from developing countries who see their ways of life being irreparably altered when the driving motivation for global interaction seems to be profit. What loosely unites these activists is a shared fear about the consequences of uncontrolled expansion of global capitalism.

Global capitalism and globalization are routinely treated as synonymous in the literature and by critics, as the economic dimension of globalization dominates much of the thought about this phenomenon. Proponents of capitalism claim that the internationalization of this system will raise the standard of living for people throughout the world. The logic is simple. Competition is stimulated by a free-market system in which barriers to trade are eliminated, foreign investment is encouraged, and public goods are privatized. This in turn necessitates more efficient use of resources, creates innovation, enhances productivity, and ultimately lowers prices.

By opening up markets, companies can manufacture products in the most advantageous locations, such as where they are close to natural resources or cheap labor. This makes consumers happy, because they can then buy products more cheaply, and purchase more, which leads to a desire for more, which stimulates growth. The ultimate assumption is that efficiency and competition invariably lead to economic growth, the benefits of which will trickle down to the poorest members of all societies.

There are multiple problems with this logic, however. Primarily, many argue that this system has made the wealthy richer, but it has not had the same effects for the poor, and that the extremes of wealth and poverty have grown rather than shrunk in the era of globalization. This is largely due to the fact that the playing field for economic competition has historically been quite uneven. Given multiple different ways of measuring growth, as well as determining inequality, supporters and critics of globalization argue back and forth about whether free trade has raised the global standard of living. Yet even when some indications of economic growth can be shown to be the result of trade liberalization policies in one country, they are often at the expense of those in other places.

There is also a danger of conflating quality of life simply with economic measures such as the gross domestic product. In other ways, the quality of people’s lives is compromised when they are motivated by the quest for personal profit and gain. For example, many Americans consume excessively and wastefully, are burdened by huge debts, and are stressed out and overworked. In response to concerns about the quality of people’s lives under a system driven by capitalist motivations, ant globalization activists maintain that at its most basic level, the problem with globalization is that it is a system that puts profits before people. It encourages competition, greed, exploitation, and a winner-take-all mentality that divides rather than unites citizens of the world. For many, the reality of globalization is simply that it elevates economic gain above all else, including the quality of people’s lives. Here, the intimate connection between globalization and global capitalism is a significant cause for concern.

For many critics, one of the biggest problems with capitalism as the guiding international system is that it is amoral. The goal of this system is for money to make money; the bottom line for capitalists is profit. Allan Johnson argues that the system does not require ethical or moral reflection; what matters is not what people produce (e.g., healthy food, affordable housing, health care, drugs, weapons, pollution, slavery), but whether there is a market where they can sell their products for a profit. At the same time, capitalism contributes to the commodification of our lives, as workers who do not own the means of production are forced to sell their labor for wages. Where profit is the bottom line, other dimensions of human relationships are ignored and other social considerations are overshadowed. This is a particular challenge to education for democracy because there are more important considerations in assessing the quality of people’s lives than simply how much they can acquire and consume.

Despite the claims that economic globalization makes life better for everyone, the realities and consequences of this movement are well documented by critics: a widening gap between the wealthy and poor, loss of job security as mobile companies race to find the cheapest labor, ecological destruction resulting in part from corporations moving to countries with few environmental protections, sweatshop work conditions in developing nations eager for capital influx, excessive greed and consumption by those driven by a profit motive, homogenization of world cultures, insurmountable debt crises, diminishment of biodiversity, cultivation of dependency where there was once self-sufficiency, massive pollution, threatened national sovereignty, and widespread poverty in the Third World.

Impact On Education

When the measure of worth is profit, and material gain is the criterion by which social growth and progress are judged, it becomes increasingly difficult for educators to argue for schooling as a public good, to decouple individualistic consumption from democratic citizenship, and to work toward a world of peace and harmony as opposed to one of exploitation. Yet just as globalization can mean many different things, the relationship between globalization and education is equally contested. Certainly, expanded international relationships and interconnections can inspire challenges to parochialism and ethnocentrism in schools, especially so students can better work with, and learn from, those who are different from themselves. New modes of technology can lead to novel forms of research, inquiry, and pedagogy. As teachers and students attempt to develop global networks for collaboration and cooperation, the fact that they can communicate more easily with people throughout the world is surely advantageous. In this sense, globalization can be truly democratizing, as expanded access to information and people can result in more equality of opportunity, greater intercultural awareness, and new avenues for social justice activism.

However, just as the neoliberal economic policies of global capitalism tend to be the defining feature of globalization, neoliberal ideology also tends to be the dominant force currently influencing educational reform, eclipsing the potential of more democratic goals. Rather than educational changes that are aimed at helping marginalized citizens become part of a larger global community marked by more just social arrangements, typical reforms are overwhelmingly consistent with a neoliberal, corporate agenda of standardization, competition, and privatization. Corporations have infiltrated schools and policy makers have increasingly sought market solutions (such as vouchers, private schools, and choice programs) for educational problems. Corporate influence over schooling is manifested in more standardized approaches to teaching and learning, and, concurrently, what some may find as excessive testing and competition; the use of supposedly more efficient forms of pedagogy, such as distance learning and online courses; and calls for the privatization of education and a diminishment in the belief that education is a public good.

Beyond such obvious forms as subtle and overt advertising in schools and the use of corporate constructed curriculum materials, business management ideas encapsulated in such words as efficiency, accountability, competitiveness, world-class standards, calculability, and control have grown in popularity among educational leaders. The No Child Left Behind Act, one of the most sweeping pieces of educational legislation in recent history, emphasizes mastery of content standards, regular measurement of student performance through frequent testing, and accountability schemes that punish students and teachers in already struggling schools.

Critics argue that schools increasingly teach toward tests; creativity is suppressed in favor of a narrow vision of performance; teaching is increasingly tantamount to transmission; and competition among students, schools, districts, and states is exacerbated and seemingly celebrated. Yet, at the same time, there is the illusion of fairness and equality of opportunity when everyone takes the same tests, and thus a belief that the winners in this system deserve the rewards heaped upon them. The logic behind such a corporate vision of schooling is that education should prepare students to succeed in the global marketplace. The way to do this is to condition them to engage in the competitive behaviors that are supposedly necessary to economic flourishing, in particular, the elevation of individual, self-interested achievement above all else.

The idea that education is fundamentally a means for personal growth and a path to individual gain is especially pervasive on college campuses, where corporate funding streams, student demands, and the prevalence of new technologies have significantly shifted educational priorities. Students increasingly enter higher education with the mindset of consumers. They seek degree programs with guaranteed job placement and think of education instrumentally: as a means to more earning power. They demand greater convenience, flexibility, and immediate relevance, and thus online courses and occupational, as opposed to liberal arts, programs have grown in popularity.

At the same time, colleges operate as big businesses, restructuring programs and priorities to meet the needs of the market. From a business perspective, online classes and programs are popular because of their cost efficiency; if students learn to desire them, even better. They require minimal human resources, yet generate large income streams. So, too, do large, lecture-based classes, also increasingly prevalent on campuses. Learning is commodified when faculty are pressured to seek external funds for their research, often from corporate sources, and marketability is the primary criterion for determining course offerings.

Perhaps the most significant way in which the forces of globalization have influenced education is the trend toward the privatization of schooling. This is not surprising, as the privatization of public goods is a defining political and economic feature of neoliberalism and, concurrently, globalization. To succeed in a globalized world, Thomas Friedman maintains that countries must don a “golden straitjacket.” Among other things, this entails making the private sector the central engine for economic growth, shrinking state bureaucracies, privatizing public institutions and industries, and encouraging domestic competition.

As conservative critics have argued that public school systems are top-heavy and cumbersome bureaucracies, and that absent competition, they are not pressured to improve performance, the calls for privatization have gained increasing popularity. The push toward privatization begins with the rhetoric that schools are now failing, despite the existence of evidence that would refute this claim. When people are convinced that schools lack rigor, that students are failing to master even basic skills, and that students in other countries outperform Americans in many measures of academic achievement, it becomes easy to also convince them that the United States needs to drastically overhaul education. Here, the logic of privatization becomes persuasive, especially when it can be linked to abstract democratic ideas such as freedom, choice, and individual rights, as well as to the mythologies that support capitalism, such as meritocracy and social Darwinism.

The practices put into place under the No Child Left Behind Act seem to greatly support the path toward privatization, particularly in the form of vouchers, school choice programs, and the eventual development of even more for-profit schools. This is because the Act mandates that students meet performance standards but does not ensure that they have the necessary resources and support to do so. When schools fail to meet these standards, they must provide options for students to transfer to other schools, although there is no provision that other schools must accept them, nor is there any guarantee that space will be available at these other schools. This mandate thus seems implicitly designed to create a market for alternative educational programs, and thus opens spaces for privatization, especially as the Act allows for failing schools to reconstitute as charter schools and/or to solicit private management firms to run daily operations.

The assumption behind privatization is that the competitive climate of free-market schooling will force all schools to get better. At the same time, a privatized system rewards individual initiative and conceptualizes education as a private good. This echoes the logic of global capitalism in suggesting that competition stimulates growth and innovation, the benefits of which supposedly trickle down to all citizens. Yet a belief in schooling as a public good, critical to the development of more than simply self-centered consumers, is missing from this corporate vision of schooling, and from many of the educational manifestations of globalization. This corporate vision is seen to conflict with the goal of cultivating democratic citizens committed to equity, justice, ethics, compassion, human flourishing, and ultimately, to the common good.

Democratic Visions In An Era Of Globalization

The democratic promise of education is significantly complicated in the current phase of globalization. Educators have been asked to narrowly prepare students to participate in the economic market, students have developed an even more instrumental rationality in the face of schooling, and corporate influences have permeated every sphere of academic life. Yet there are forces within the globalization movement itself that can help to challenge these trends and to reassert the importance of critical democratic citizenship, which fundamentally involves responsibility to others and to social betterment. As part of uncovering these forces, Douglas Kellner calls for the development of a critical pedagogy of globalization, or a globalization from below, in which people resist the negative consequences of a free-market-fueled capitalist globalization and use the forces of globalization for more socially just ends. In particular, he argues that the new technologies that are so much a part of globalization can be used in more utopian ways: to circulate information, provide avenues for creative expression, offer a vehicle for the development of collaborative social change strategies, and link networks of resistance. For example, the Internet can allow activists to band together, expose corporate abuses, market socially and environmentally conscious products, and rally citizens to hold corporations accountable for more ethical behavior.

There are a number of ways for educators to respond to the realities of globalization and to use the tools and technology that it has unleashed in order to foster more democratic ends. These include developing an expanded conception of democratic community and global citizenship, encouraging the use of new media and technology in the service of activist work, and responding to the dark sides of globalization with renewed critical discussion on the meaning of democracy and justice in the contemporary era. As globalization has created deep interconnections among people and places around the world, there are glimmerings of a new, potentially more powerful conception of democratic citizenship developing as well. In this vision, global citizens would recognize their interdependence; see their happiness as linked to the happiness of others; and believe it important and valuable to learn to work amid differences and across such artificial boundaries as race, class, religion, ethnicity, and nation.

Living in a globalized world compels people to think more deeply about their responsibilities to others both locally and globally. To be good global citizens, people ought to learn to understand and value cultural diversity, work collaboratively with others both near and far, communicate better with those who don’t necessarily share their language or values, and look at the consequences of their choices in much more nuanced ways. All of these represent new priorities for contemporary education as well as important democratic values.

Taking the idea of a global community more seriously could compel students and teachers alike to rethink their responsibilities to others as citizens of the world, not just citizens of a particular geographical location. This would help all people to realize, for example, exploitation anywhere in the world, especially for the sake of the private gains of a few, hurts all of people in the long run.

The technological tools of globalization have certainly provided people the ability to develop a more global outlook in relation to the world’s problems. The Internet has created a climate of increasing transparency and enhanced access to information. For example, no longer can human rights abuses in remote regions of the world be hidden from broader public view and critique. Through satellite, television, and Internet technology, barriers to information are more porous than ever. These technological advances offer powerful tools for activists around the world, who can and do use electronically mediated forms of communication to circulate information, galvanize support, organize protests, and pressure corporations and governments to be more socially and ecologically responsible.

Educators could certainly help students use these new forms of technology to express themselves, become active citizens, and take action against the oppressive elements of the world around them. In this sense, increased access to information, along with newly developed avenues for freedom of expression, can contribute to empowering citizens to imagine and create more democratic social, economic, and political relationships.

Ultimately, globalization has both dark sides and spaces for possibility. When conceptualized narrowly as a celebration of the uncontrolled growth of capitalism, the deleterious effects of globalization are most evident. Yet exposing the dark side of globalization can also shed light on new possibilities. That is, the more educators talk about problems, as well as imagine more sustainable alternatives, the more they can help to reinvigorate discussion on matters of democracy, social justice, and civic responsibility. This discussion is central to keeping alive the promise of democracy in the face of increasingly undemocratic international practices and relationships. Arguably, many educators believe that democracy is the ideal form of social life, or at least the best form of living that citizens have yet come up with. This is because it is a way of life that most consciously strives for social justice by aiming for the fulfillment of individuals and the growth of communities, and by balancing individual rights with commitment and responsibility toward others. Free-market-fueled globalization presents a significant challenge to both the idea of democracy, broadly conceived, and educating for democratic citizenship.

Educators need to invest much more energy into understanding the dynamics of globalization, challenging its problematic effects, and harnessing its democratic potential. One place to start is by helping to revive the public discourse around education for democracy by asking and exploring critical questions about the global realities of our contemporary world. What are the ethical and social responsibilities of global citizenship? What are the most socially just economic arrangements? What is the relationship between democracy and capitalism, and can they coexist? What are the conditions that make democracy possible? What protections must be put into place to ensure environmental justice and ecological sustainability? How do, and should, actions in the global sphere reflect the values that should be passed on to children? What constitutes the good life? The current context of globalization, although obviously troubling in many ways, could also provide the impetus educators need to take issues of democracy, justice, and citizenship much more seriously in our public and educational discourse. In this way, educators might begin to harness the democratic potential of living in a truly globally interconnected world.


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write an essay about education in the midst of globalization

Education in the Context of Globalisation (and How it Impacts Teachers)

Categories: Education and Teacher Training, Postgraduate

Education in the Context of Globalisation (and How it Impacts Teachers)

The term “globalisation” encompasses a number of things, including economics, culture, politics, technology and communication. In education, globalisation in education refers to the increasing mobility of students and teachers across the world, and the need for educators to be more inclusive.

Understanding globalisation in education requires a broader perspective, one that looks at local, national and global contextual influences in a unified way. Teachers need to widen their cross-cultural skill set, and school leaders must update educational policies in order to respond to these global impact changes.

Multicultural and International education

International global education is a catalyst for leading change around the world, and there’s a growing demand for teachers and educators who have the right skills in multiculturalism.

One of the key challenges is supporting international teaching in higher education to prepare the next generation for a rapidly shrinking world. Certain subject areas such as engineering, business or architecture are especially affected as global mobility increases. In order to maintain international relations and help future professionals establish important business partnerships, multicultural studies are essential for the curriculum.

Some big benefits of globalisation in education include greater awareness of other cultures, better transnational collaboration, reduced discrimination and racism, the spread of technology and innovation, and higher standards of living across the globe.

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Globalization and education.

  • Liz Jackson Liz Jackson University of Hong Kong
  • Published online: 26 October 2016

Few would deny that processes of globalization have impacted education around the world in many important ways. Yet the term “globalization” is relatively new, and its meaning or nature, conceptualization, and impact remain essentially contested within the educational research community. There is no global consensus on the exact time period of its occurrence or its most significant shaping processes, from those who focus on its social and cultural framings to those that hold global political-economic systems or transnational social actors as most influential. Intersecting questions also arise regarding whether its influence on human communities and the world should be conceived of as mostly good or mostly bad, which have significant implications for debates regarding the relationship between globalization and education. Competing understandings of globalization also undergird diverse methodologies and perspectives in expanding fields of research into the relationship between education and globalization.

There are many ways to frame the relationship of globalization and education. Scholars often pursue the topic by examining globalization’s perceived impact on education, as in many cases global convergence around educational policies, practices, and values has been observed in the early 21st century. Yet educational borrowing and transferal remains unstraightforward in practice, as educational and cultural differences across social contexts remain, while ultimate ends of education (such as math competencies versus moral cultivation) are essentially contested. Clearly, specificity is important to understand globalization in relation to education. As with globalization generally, globalization in education cannot be merely described as harmful or beneficial, but depends on one’s position, perspective, values, and priorities.

Education and educators’ impacts on globalization also remain a worthwhile focus of exploration in research and theorization. Educators do not merely react to globalization and related processes, but purposefully interact with them, as they prepare their students to respond to challenges and opportunities posed by processes associated with globalization. As cultural and political-economic considerations remain crucial in understanding globalization and education, positionality and research ethics and reflexivity remain important research concerns, to understand globalization not just as homogeneity or oppressive top-down features, but as complex and dynamic local and global intersections of people, ideas, and goods, with unclear impacts in the future.

  • globalization
  • economic integration
  • education borrowing
  • global studies in education
  • comparative education
  • education development

Few would deny that processes of globalization have impacted education around the world in many important ways. Yet the term “globalization” is relatively new, and its meaning or nature, conceptualization, and impact remain essentially contested within the educational research community. Competing understandings of globalization undergird diverse methodologies and perspectives in the expanding web of fields researching the relationship between education and globalization examined below. The area of educational research which exploded at the turn of the 21st century requires a holistic view. Rather than take sides within this contentious field, it is useful to examine major debates and trends, and indicate where readers can learn more about particular specialist areas within the field and other relevant strands of research.

The first part below considers the development of the theorization and conceptualization of globalization and debates about its impact that are relevant to education. The next section examines the relationship between education and globalization as explored by the educational research community. There are many ways to frame the relationship between globalization and education. First explored here is the way that globalization can be seen to impact education, as global processes and practices have been observed to influence many educational systems’ policies and structures; values and ideals; pedagogy; curriculum and assessment; as well as broader conceptualizations of teacher and learner, and the good life. However, there is also a push in the other direction—through global citizenship education, education for sustainable development, and related trends—to understand education and educators as shapers of globalization, so these views are also explored here. The last section highlights relevant research directions.

The Emergence of Globalization(s)

At the broadest level, globalization can be defined as a process or condition of the cultural, political, economic, and technological meeting and mixing of people, ideas, and resources, across local, national, and regional borders, which has been largely perceived to have increased in intensity and scale during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. However, there is no global consensus on the exact time period of its occurrence, or its most significant shaping processes, from social and cultural framings to those that hold global political-economic systems or transnational social actors as most influential. Intersecting questions also arise regarding whether its influence on human communities and the world should be conceived as mostly good or mostly bad, which have clear and significant implications for understanding debates regarding the relationship between globalization and education.

Conceptualizing Globalization

Globalization is a relatively recent concept in scholarly research, becoming popular in public, academic, and educational discourse only in the 1980s. However, many leading scholars of globalization have argued that the major causes or shapers of globalization, particularly the movement and mixing of elements beyond a local or national level, is at least many centuries old; others frame globalization as representing processes inherent to the human experience, within a 5,000–10,000-year time frame. 1 Conceptualizations of globalization have typically highlighted cultural, political-economic, and/or technological aspects of these processes, with different researchers emphasizing and framing the relationships among these different aspects in diverse ways in their theories.

Cultural framings: Emphasizing the cultural rather than economic or political aspects of globalization, Roland Robertson pinpointed the occurrence of globalization as part of the process of modernity in Europe (though clearly similar processes were occurring in many parts of the world), particularly a growing mutual recognition among nationality-based communities. 2 As people began identifying with larger groups, beyond their family, clan, or tribe, “relativization” took place, as people saw others in respective outside communities similarly developing national or national-like identities. 3 Through identifying their own societies as akin to those of outsiders, people began measuring their cultural and political orders according to a broader, international schema, and opening their eyes to transnational inspirations for internal social change.

Upon mutual recognition of nations, kingdoms, and the like as larger communities that do not include all of humanity, “emulation” stemming from comparison of the local to the external was often a next step. 4 While most people and communities resisted, dismissed, or denied the possibility of a global human collectivity, they nonetheless compared their own cultures and lives with those beyond their borders. Many world leaders across Eurasia looked at other “civilizations” with curiosity, and began increasing intercultural and international interactions to benefit from cultural mixing, through trade, translation of knowledge, and more. With emulation and relativization also came a sense of a global standard of values, for goods and resources, and for the behavior and organization of individuals and groups in societies, though ethnocentrism and xenophobia was also often a part of such “global” comparison. 5

Political-economic framings: In political theory and popular understanding, nationalism has been a universalizing discourse in the modern era, wherein individuals around the world have been understood to belong to and identify primarily with largely mutually exclusive national or nation-state “imagined communities.” 6 In this context, appreciation for and extensive investigation of extranational and international politics and globalization were precluded for a long time in part due to the power of nationalistic approaches. However, along with the rise historically of nationalist and patriotic political discourse, theories of cosmopolitanism also emerged. Modern cosmopolitanism as a concept unfolded particularly in the liberalism of Immanuel Kant, who argued for a spirit of “world citizenship” toward “perpetual peace,” wherein people recognize themselves as citizens of the world. 7 Martha Nussbaum locates cosmopolitanism’s roots in the more distant past, however, observing Diogenes the Cynic (ca. 404–323 bce ) in Ancient Greece famously identifying as “a citizen of the world.” 8 This suggests that realization of commonality, common humanity, and the risks of patriotism and nationalism as responses to relativization and emulation have enabled at least a “thin” kind of global consciousness for a very long time, as a precursor to today’s popular awareness of globalization, even if such a global consciousness was in ancient history framed within regional rather than planetary discourse.

In the same way as culturally oriented globalization scholars, those theorizing from an economic and/or political perspective conceive the processes of globalization emerging most substantively in the 15th and 16th centuries, through the development of the capitalist world economic system and the growth of British- and European-based empires holding vast regions of land in Africa, Asia, and the Americas as colonies to enhance trade and consumption within empire capitals. According to Immanuel Wallerstein’s world system theory, which emerged before globalization theory, in the 1970s, the capitalist world economic system is one of the most essential framing elements of the human experience around the world in the modern (or postmodern) era. 9 Interaction across societies primarily for economic purposes, “ not bounded by a unitary political structure,” characterizes the world economy, as well as a capitalist order, which conceives the main purpose of international economic exchange as being the endless generation and accumulation of capital. 10 A kind of global logic was therein introduced, which has expanded around the globe as we now see ourselves as located within an international financial system.

Though some identify world system theory as an alternative or precursor to globalization theories (given Wallerstein’s own writing, which distinguished his view from globalization views 11 ), its focus on a kind of planetary global logic interrelates with globalization theories emerging in the 1980s and 1990s. 12 Additionally, its own force and popularity in public and academic discussions enabled the kind of global consciousness and sense of global interrelation of people which we can regard as major assumptions underpinning the major political-economic theories of globalization and the social imaginary of globalization 13 that came after.

Globalization emerged within common discourse as the process of international economic and political integration and interdependency was seen to deepen and intensify during and after the Cold War era of international relations. At that time, global ideologies were perceived which spanned diverse cultures and nation-states, while global economic and military interdependency became undeniable facts of the human condition. Thus, taking world systems theory as a starting point, global capitalism models have theorized the contemporary economic system, recognizing aspects of world society not well suited to the previously popular nationalistic ways of thinking about international affairs. Leslie Sklair 14 and William Robinson 15 highlighted the transnational layer of capitalistic economic activity, including practices, actors and social classes, and ideologies of international production and trade, elaborated by Robinson as “an emergent transnational state apparatus,” a postnational or extranational ideological, political, and practical system for societies, individuals, and groups to interact in the global space beyond political borders. 16 Globalization is thus basically understood as a process or condition of contemporary human life, at the broadest level, rather than a single event or activity.

Technological framings: In the 1980s and 1990s, the impact of technology on many people’s lives, beliefs, and activities rose tremendously, altering the global political economy by adding an intensity of transnational communication and (financial and information) trading capabilities. Manuel Castells argued that technological advancements forever altered the economy by creating networks of synchronous or near-synchronous communication and trade of information. 17 Anthony Giddens likewise observed globalization’s essence as “time-space distanciation”: “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.” 18 As information became present at hand with the widespread use of the Internet, a postindustrial society has also been recognized as a feature of globalization, wherein skills and knowledge to manipulate data and networks become more valuable than producing goods or trading material resources.

Today, globalization is increasingly understood as having interrelating cultural, political-economic, and technological dimensions, and theorists have thus developed conceptualizations and articulations of globalization that work to emphasize the ways that these aspects intersect in human experience. Arjun Appadurai’s conception of global flows frames globalization as taking place as interactive movements or waves of interlinked practices, people, resources, and ideologies: ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes, finanscapes, and ideoscapes. 19 Ethnoscapes are waves of people moving across cultures and borders, while mediascapes are moving local, national, and international constructions of information and images. Technoscapes enable (and limit) interactions of peoples, cultures, and resources through technology, while finanscapes reflect intersection values and valuations; human, capital, and national resources; and more. Ideoscapes reflect competing, interacting, reconstructing ideologies, cultures, belief systems, and understandings of the world and humanity. Through these interactive processes, people, things, and ideas move and move each other, around the world. 20

Evaluating Globalization

While the explanatory function of Appadurai’s vision of globalization’s intersecting dimensions is highlighted above, many theories of globalization emphasize normative positions in relation to the perceived impact of global and transnational processes and practices on humanity and the planet. Normative views of globalization may be framed as skeptical , globalist , or transformationalist . As Fazal Rizvi and Bob Lingard note, these are ideal types, rather than clearly demarcated practical parties or camps of theorists, though they have become familiar and themselves a part of the social imaginary of globalization (that is, the way globalization is perceived in normative and empirical ways by ordinary people rather than researchers). 21 The positions are also reflected in the many educational discourses relating to globalization, despite their ideological rather than simply empirical content.

Skeptical views: Approaches to globalization in research that are described as skeptical may question or problematize globalization discourse in one of two different ways. The first type of skepticism questions the significance of globalization. The second kind of skepticism tends to embrace the idea of globalization, but regards its impact on people, communities, and/or the planet as negative or risky, overall.

As discussed here, global or international processes are hardly new, while globalization became a buzzword only in the last decades of the 20th century. Thus a first type of skeptic may charge that proponents of globalization or globalization theory are emphasizing the newness of global processes for ulterior motives, as a manner of gaining attention for their work, celebrating that which should instead be seen as problematic capitalist economic relations, for example. Alternatively, some argue that the focus on globalization in research, theorization, and popular discourse fails to recognize the agency of people and communities as actors in the world today, and for this reason should be avoided and replaced by a focus on the “transnational.” As Michael Peter Smith articulates, ordinary individual people, nation-states, and their practices remain important within the so-called global system; a theory of faceless, ahistorical globalization naturalizes global processes and precludes substantive elaboration of how human (and national) actors have played and continue to play primary roles in the world through processes of knowledge and value construction, and through interpersonal and transnational activities. 22

The second strand of globalization skepticism might be referred to as antiglobalist or antiglobalization positions. Thinkers in this vein regard globalization as a mark of our times, but highlight the perceived negative impacts of globalization on people and communities. Culturally, this can include homogenization and loss of indigenous knowledge, and ways of life, or cultural clashes that are seen to arise out of the processes of relativization and emulation in some cases. George Ritzer coined the term “McDonaldization” to refer to the problematic elements of the rise of a so-called global culture. 23 More than simply the proliferation of McDonalds fast-food restaurants around the world, McDonaldization, according to Ritzer, includes a valuation of efficiency over humanity in production and consumption practices, a focus on quantity over quality, and control and technology over creativity and culture. Global culture is seen as a negative by others who conceive it as mainly the product of a naïve cultural elite of international scholars and business people, in contrast with “low-end globalization,” which is the harsher realities faced by the vast majority of people not involved in international finance, diplomacy, or academic research. 24

Alternatively, Benjamin Barber 25 and Samuel Huntington 26 have focused on “Jihad versus McWorld” and the “clash of civilizations,” respectively, as cultures can be seen to mix in negative and unfriendly ways in the context of globalization. Although Francis Fukuyama and other hopeful globalists perceived a globalization of Western liberal democracy at the turn of the 21st century, 27 unforeseen global challenges such as terrorism have fueled popular claims by Barber and Huntington that cultural differences across major “civilizations” (international ideological groupings), particularly of liberal Western civilization and fundamentalist Islam, preclude their peaceful relativization, homogenization, and/or hybridization, and instead function to increase violent interactions of terrorism and war.

Similarly, but moving away from cultural aspects of globalization, Ulrich Beck highlighted risk as essential to understanding globalization, as societies face new problems that may be related to economy or even public health, and as their interdependencies with others deepen and increase. 28 Beck gave the example of Mad Cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) as one instance where much greater and more broadly distributed risks have been created through global economic and political processes. Skeptical economic theories of globalization likewise highlight how new forms of inequality emerge as global classes and labor markets are created. For instance, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue that a faceless power impersonally oppresses grassroots people despite the so-called productivity of globalization (that is, the growth of capital it enables) from a capitalist economic orientation. 29 It is this faceless but perceived inhumane power that has fueled globalization protests, particularly of the meetings of the World Trade Organization in the 1990s and 2000s, in the United States and Europe.

In light of such concerns, Walden Bello argued for “deglobalization,” a reaction and response by people that aims to fight against globalization and reorient communities to local places and local lifestyles. Bello endorsed a radical shift to a decentralized, pluralistic system of governance from a political-economic perspective. 30 Similarly, Colin Hines argues for localization, reclaiming control over local economies that should become as diverse as possible to rebuild stability within communities. 31 Such ideas have found a broad audience, as movements to “buy local” and “support local workers” have spread around the world rapidly in the 2000s.

Globalist views: Globalists include researchers and advocates who highlight the benefits of globalization to different communities and in various areas of life, often regarding it as necessary or natural. Capitalist theories of globalization regard it as ideal for production and consumption, as greater specialism around the world increases efficiency. 32 The productive power of globalization is also highlighted by Giddens, who sees the potential for global inclusivity and enhanced creative dialogue arising (at least in part) from global processes. 33 In contrast with neoliberal (pro-capitalism) policies, Giddens propagated the mixture of the market and state interventions (socialism and Keynesian economy), and believed that economic policies with socially inclusive ideas would influence social and educational policies and thus promote enhanced social development.

The rise of global culture enhances the means for people to connect with one another to improve life and give it greater meaning, and can increase mutual understanding. As democracy becomes popular around the world as a result of global communication processes, Scott Burchill has argued that universal human rights can be achieved to enhance global freedom in the near future. 34 Joseph Stiglitz likewise envisioned a democratizing globalization that can include developing countries on an equal basis and transform “economic beings” to “human beings” with values of community and social justice. 35 Relatedly, some globalists contend against skeptics that cultural and economic-political or ideological hybridity and “glocalization,” as well as homogenization or cultural clashes, often can and do take place. Under glocalization , understood as local-level globalization processes (rather than top-down intervention), local actors interact dynamically with, and are not merely oppressed by, ideas, products, things, and practices from outside and beyond. Thus, while we can find instances of “Jihad” and “McWorld,” so too can we find Muslims enjoying fast food, Westerners enjoying insights and activities from Muslim and Eastern communities, and a variety of related intercultural dialogues and a dynamic reorganization of cultural and social life harmoniously taking place.

Transformationalist views: Globalization is increasingly seen by educators (among others) around the globe to have both positive and negative impacts on communities and individuals. Thus, most scholars today hold nuanced, middle positions between skepticism and globalism, such as David Held and Anthony McGrew’s transformationalist stance. 36 As Rizvi and Lingard note, globalization processes have material consequences in the world that few would flatly deny, while people increasingly do see themselves as interconnected around the globe, by technology, trade, and more. 37 On the other hand, glocalization is often a mixed blessing, from a comparative standpoint. Global processes do not happen outside of political and economic contexts, and while some people clearly benefit from them, others may not appear to benefit from or desire processes and conditions related to globalization.

Thus, Rizvi and Lingard identify globalization “as an empirical fact that describes the profound shifts that are taking place in the world; as an ideology that masks various expression of power and a range of political interests; and as a social imaginary that expresses the sense people have of their own identity and how it relates to the rest of the world, and … their aspirations and expectations.” 38 Such an understanding of globalization enables its continuous evaluation in terms of dynamic interrelated practices, processes, and ideas, as experienced and engaged with by people and groups within complex transnational webs of organization. Understandings of globalization thus link to education in normative and empirical ways within research. It is to the relationship of globalization to education that we now turn.

Historical Background

Globalization and education are highly interrelated from a historical view. At the most basic level, historical processes that many identify as essential precursors to political-economic globalization during the late modern colonial and imperialist eras influenced the development and rise of mass education. Thus, what we commonly see around the world today as education, mass schooling of children, could be regarded as a first instance of globalization’s impact on education, as in many non-Western contexts traditional education had been conceived as small-scale, local community-based, and as vocational or apprenticeship education, and/or religious training. 39 In much of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the indigenous Americas and Australasia, institutionalized formal schools emerged for the first time within colonial or (often intersecting) missionary projects, for local elite youth and children of expatriate officials.

The first educational scholarship with a global character from a historical point of view would thus be research related to colonial educational projects, such as in India, Africa, and East Asia, which served to create elite local communities to serve colonial officials, train local people to work in economic industries benefiting the colony, and for preservation of the status quo. Most today would describe this education as not part of an overall development project belonging to local communities, but as a foreign intervention for global empire maintenance or social control. As postcolonial educational theorists such as Paulo Freire have seen it, this education sought to remove and dismiss local culture as inferior, and deny local community needs for the sake of power consolidation of elites, and it ultimately served as a system of oppression on psychological, cultural, and material levels. 40 It has been associated by diverse cultural theorists within and outside the educational field with the loss of indigenous language and knowledge production, with moral and political inculcation, and with the spread of English as an elite language of communication across the globe. 41

Massification of education in the service of local communities in most developing regions roughly intersected with the period after the Second World War and in the context of national independence movements, wherein nationally based communities reorganized as politically autonomous nation-states (possibly in collaboration with former colonial parties). In 1945 , the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) emerged, as the United Nations recognized education as critical for future global peace and prosperity, preservation of cultural diversity, and global progress toward stability, economic flourishing, and human rights. UNESCO has advocated for enhancement of quality and access to education around the world through facilitating the transnational distribution of educational resources, establishing (the discourse of) a global human right to education, promoting international transferability of educational and teaching credentials, developing mechanisms for measuring educational achievement across countries and regions, and supporting national and regional scientific and cultural developments. 42 The World Bank, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have engaged in similar work.

Thus, the first modern global educational research was that conducted by bodies affiliated with or housed under UNESCO, such as the International Bureau of Education, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and the International Institute of Educational Planning, which are regarded as foundational bodies sponsoring international and comparative research. In research universities, educational borrowing across international borders became one significant topic of research for an emerging field of scholars identified as comparative educational researchers. Comparative education became a major field of educational inquiry in the first half of the 20th century, and expanded in the 1950s and 1960s. 43 Comparative educational research then focused on aiding developing countries’ education and improving domestic education through cross-national examinations of educational models and achievement. Today, comparative education remains one major field among others that focuses on globalization and education, including international education and global studies in education.

Globalization as a contemporary condition or process clearly shapes education around the globe, in terms of policies and values; curriculum and assessment; pedagogy; educational organization and leadership; conceptions of the learner, the teacher, and the good life; and more. Though, following the legacy of the primacy of a nation-state and systems-theory levels of analysis, it is traditionally conceived that educational ideas and changes move from the top, such as from UNESCO and related bodies and leading societies, to the developing world, we find that often glocalization and hybridity, rather than simple borrowing, are taking place. On the other hand, education is also held by scholars and political leaders to be a key to enhancing the modern (or postmodern) human condition, as a symbol of progress of the global human community, realized as global citizenship education, education for sustainable development, and related initiatives. 44 The next subsections consider how globalization processes have been explored in educational research as shapers of education, and how education and educators can also be seen to influence globalization.

Research on Globalization’s Impact on Education

Global and transnational processes and practices have been observed to influence and impact various aspects of contemporary education within many geographical contexts, and thus the fields of research related to education and globalization are vast: they are not contained simply within one field or subfield, but can be seen to cross subdisciplinary borders, in policy studies, curriculum, pedagogy, higher education studies, assessment, and more. As mentioned previously, modern education can itself be seen as one most basic instance of globalization, connected to increased interdependency of communities around the world in economic and political affairs first associated with imperialism and colonialism, and more recently with the capitalist world economy. And as the modern educational system cannot be seen as removed or sealed off from cultural and political-economic processes involved in most conceptualizations of globalization, the impacts of globalization processes upon education are often considered wide-ranging, though many are also controversial.

Major trends: From a functionalist perspective, the globalization of educational systems has been influenced by new demands and desires for educational transferability, of students and educators. In place of dichotomous systems in terms of academic levels and credentialing, curriculum, and assessment, increasing convergence can be observed today, as it is recognized that standardization makes movement of people in education across societies more readily feasible, and that such movement of people can enhance education in a number of ways (to achieve diversity, to increase specialization and the promotion of dedicated research centers, to enhance global employability, and so on). 45 Thus, the mobility and paths of movement of students and academics, for education and better life opportunities, have been a rapidly expanding area of research. A related phenomenon is that of offshore university and school campuses—the mobility of educational institutions to attract and recruit new students (and collect fees), such as New York University in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. By implication, education is often perceived as becoming more standardized around the globe, though hybridity can also be observed at the micro level.

How economic integration under globalization impacts local educational systems has been traced by Rizvi and Lingard. 46 As they note, from a broad view, the promotion of neoliberal values in the context of financial adjustment and restructuring of poorer countries under trade and debt agreements led by intergovernmental organizations, most notably the OECD, encouraged, first, fiscal discipline in educational funding (particularly impacting the payment of educators in many regions) and, second, the redistribution of funds to areas of education seen as more economically productive, namely primary education, and to efforts at privatization and deregulation of education. While the educational values of countries can and do vary, from democracy and peace, to social justice and equity, and so on, Rizvi and Lingard also observed that social and economic efficiency views have become dominant within governments and their educational policy units. 47 Though human capital theory has always supported the view that individuals gain proportionately according to the investment in their education and training, this view has become globalized in recent decades to emphasize how whole societies can flourish under economic interdependency via enhanced education.

These policy-level perspectives have had serious implications for how knowledge and thus curriculum are increasingly perceived. As mentioned previously, skills for gaining knowledge have taken precedent over knowledge accumulation, with the rise of technology and postindustrial economies. In relation, “lifelong learning,” learning to be adaptive to challenges outside the classroom and not merely to gain academic disciplinary knowledge, has become a focal point for education systems around the globe in the era of globalization. 48 Along with privatization of education, as markets are seen as more efficient than government systems of provision, models of educational choice and educational consumption have become normalized as alternatives to the historical status quo of traditional academic or intellectual, teacher-centered models. Meanwhile, the globalization of educational testing—that is, the use of the same tests across societies around the world—has had a tremendous impact on local pedagogies, assessment, and curricula the world over. Though in each country decision-making structures are not exactly the same, many societies face pressure to focus on math, science, and languages over other subjects, as a result of the primacy of standardized testing to measure and evaluate educational achievement and the effectiveness of educational systems. 49

However, there remains controversy over what education is the best in the context of relativization and emulation of educational practices and students, and therefore the 2010s have seen extraordinary transfers of educational approaches, not just from core societies to peripheral or developing areas, but significant horizontal movements of educational philosophies and practices from West to East and East to West. With the rise of global standardized tests such as the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), educational discourse in Western societies has increasingly emphasized the need to reorient education to East Asian models (such as Singapore or Shanghai), seen as victors of the tests. 50 On the other hand, many see Finland’s educational system as ideal in relation to its economic integration in society and focus on equity in structure and orientation, and thus educators in the Middle East, East Asia, and the United States have also been seen to consider emulating Finnish education in the 2010s. 51

Evaluations: From a normative point of view, some regard changes to local education in many contexts brought about by globalization as harmful and risky. Freire’s postcolonial view remains salient to those who remain concerned that local languages and indigenous cultural preservation are being sacrificed for elite national and international interests. 52 There can be no doubt that language diversity has been decreasing over time, while indigenous knowledge is being reframed within globalist culture as irrelevant to individual youths’ material needs. 53 Many are additionally skeptical of the sometimes uncritical adoption of educational practices, policies, and discourse from one region of the globe to another. In many countries in Africa and the Middle East, ideas and curricula are borrowed from the United Kingdom, the United States, or Finland in an apparently hasty manner, only to be discarded for the next reform, when it is not found to fit neatly and efficiently within the local educational context (for instance, given local educational values, structures and organizations, and educator and student views). 54 Others argue, in parallel to globalization skeptics, that globalization’s major impact on education has actually been the promotion of a thin layer of aspirational, cosmopolitan values among global cultural elites, who largely overlook the realities, problems, and challenges many face. 55

On the other hand, the case for globalization as a general enhancer of education worldwide has compelling evidence as well. Due to the work of UNESCO, the OECD, and related organizations, educational attainment has become more equitable globally, by nation, race, gender, class, and other markers of social inequality; and educational access has been recognized as positively aligned with personal and national economic improvement, according to quantitative educational researchers. 56 (David Hill, Nigel Greaves, and Alpesh Maisuria argue from a Marxist viewpoint that education in conjunction with global capitalism reinforces rather than decreases inequality and inequity; yet they also note that capitalism can be and often has been successfully regulated to diminish rather than increase inequality generally across countries. 57 ) As education has been effectively conceived as a human right in the era of globalization, societies with historically uneven access to education are on track to systematically enhance educational quality and access.

Changes to the way knowledge and the learner have been conceived, particularly with the rise of ubiquitous technology, are also often regarded as positive overall. People around the world have more access to information than ever before with the mass use of the Internet, and students of all ages can access massive open online courses (MOOCs); dynamic, data-rich online encyclopedias; and communities of like-minded scholars through social networks and forums. 58 In brick-and-mortar classrooms, educators and students are more diverse than ever due to enhanced educational mobility, and both are exposed to a greater variety of ideas and perspectives that can enhance learning for all participants. Credentials can be earned from reputable universities online, with supervision systems organized by leading scholars in global studies in education in many cases. Students have more choices when it comes to learning independently or alongside peers, mentors, or experts, in a range of disciplines, vocations, and fields.

The truth regarding how globalization processes and practices are impacting contemporary education no doubt lies in focusing somewhere in between the promises and the risks, depending on the context in question: the society, the educational level, the particular community, and so on. Particularly with regard to the proposed benefits of interconnectivity and networked ubiquitous knowledge spurred by technology, critics contend that the promise of globalization for enhancing education has been severely overrated. Elites remain most able to utilize online courses and use technologies due to remaining inequalities in material and human resources. 59 At local levels, globalization in education (more typically discussed as internationalization) remains contentious in many societies, as local values, local students and educators, and local educational trends can at times be positioned as at odds with the priorities of globalization, of internationalizing curricula, faculty, and student bodies. As part of the social imaginary of globalization, international diversity can become a buzzword, while cultural differences across communities can result in international students and faculty members becoming ghettoized on campus. 60 International exchanges of youth and educators for global citizenship education can reflect political and economic differences between communities, not merely harmonious interconnection and mutual appreciation. 61 In this context of growing ambivalence, education and educators are seen increasingly as part of the solution to the problems and challenges of the contemporary world that are associated with globalization, as educators can respond to such issues in a proactive rather than a passive way, to ensure globalization’s challenges do not exceed its benefits to individuals and communities.

Education’s Potential Impact on Globalization

As globalization is increasingly regarded with ambivalence in relation to the perceived impact of global and transnational actors and processes on local educational systems, educators are increasingly asked not to respond passively to globalization, through enacting internationalization and global economic agendas or echoing simplistic conceptualizations or evaluations of globalization via their curriculum. Instead, education has been reframed in the global era as something youth needs, not just to accept globalization but to interact with it in a critical and autonomous fashion. Two major trends have occurred in curriculum and pedagogy research, wherein education is identified as an important potential shaper of globalization. These are global citizenship education (also intersecting with what are called 21st-century learning and competencies) and education for sustainable development.

Global citizenship education: Global citizenship education has been conceived by political theorists and educational philosophers as a way to speak back to globalization processes seen as harmful to individuals and communities. As Martha Nussbaum has argued, educators should work to develop in students feelings of compassion, altruism, and empathy that extend beyond national borders. 62 Kathy Hytten has likewise written that students need to learn today as part of global citizenship education not just feelings of sympathy for people around the world, but critical skills to identify root causes of problems that intersect the distinction of local and global, as local problems can be recognized as interconnected with globalization processes. 63 In relation to this, UNESCO and nongovernmental organizations and foundations such as Oxfam and the Asia Society have focused on exploring current practices and elaborating best practices from a global comparative standpoint for the dissemination of noncognitive, affective, “transversal” 21st-century competencies, to extend civic education in the future in the service of social justice and peace, locally and globally. 64

Questions remain in this area in connection with implementation within curriculum and pedagogy. A first question is whether concepts of altruism, empathy, and even harmony, peace, and justice, are translatable, with equivalent meanings across cultural contexts. There is evidence that global citizenship education aimed at educating for values to face the potential harms of globalization is converging around the world on such aims as instilling empathy and compassion, respect and appreciation of diversity, and personal habits or virtues of open-mindedness, curiosity, and creativity. However, what these values, virtues, and dispositions look like, how they are demonstrated, and their appropriate expressions remain divergent as regards Western versus Eastern and African societies (for example). 65 By implication, pedagogical or curriculum borrowing or transferral in this area may be problematic, even if some basic concepts are shared and even when best practices can be established within a cultural context.

Additionally, how these skills, competencies, and dispositions intersect with the cognitive skills and political views of education across societies with different cultures of teaching and learning also remains contentious. In line with the controversies over normative views of globalization, whether the curriculum should echo globalist or skeptical positions remains contested by educators and researchers in the field. Some argue that a focus on feelings can be overrated or even harmful in such education, given the immediacy and evidence of global social justice issues that can be approached rationally and constructively. 66 Thus, token expressions of cultural appreciation can be seen to preclude a deeper engagement with social justice issues if the former becomes a goal in itself. On the other hand, the appropriate focus on the local versus the global, and on the goods versus the harms of globalization, weighs differently across and within societies, from one individual educator to the next. Thus, a lack of evidence of best practices in relation to the contestation over ultimate goals creates ambivalence at the local level among many educators about what and how to teach global citizenship or 21st-century skills, apart from standardized knowledge in math, science, and language.

Education for sustainable development: Education for sustainable development is a second strand of curriculum and pedagogy that speaks back to globalization and that is broadly promoted by UNESCO and related intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations. Education for sustainable development is, like global citizenship education, rooted in globalization’s impact upon individuals in terms of global consciousness. Like global citizenship, education for sustainable development also emphasizes global interconnection in relation to development and sustainability challenges. It is also a broad umbrella term that reflects an increasingly wide array of practices, policies, and programs, formal and informal, for instilling virtues and knowledge and skills seen to enable effective responses to challenges brought about by globalization. 67 In particular, education for sustainable development has seen global progress, like globalization, as enmeshed in intersecting cultural, social, and economic and political values and priorities. Education for All is an interrelated complementary thread of UNESCO work, which sees access to education as a key to social justice and development, and the improvement of human quality of life broadly. In developed societies, environmental sustainability has come to be seen as a pressing global issue worth curricular focus, as behaviors with regard to consumption of natural resources impact others around the world, as well as future generations. 68

A diversity of practices and views also marks this area of education, resulting in general ambiguity about overall aims and best means. Controversies over which attitudes of sustainability are most important to inculcate, and whether it is important to inculcate them, intertwine with debates over what crises are most pertinent and what skills and competencies students should develop. Measures are in place for standardizing sustainability knowledge in higher education worldwide, as well as for comparing the development of prosustainability attitudes. 69 However, some scholars argue that both emphases miss the point, and that education for sustainable development should first be about changing cultures to become more democratic, creative, and critical, developing interpersonal and prosocial capabilities first, as the challenges of environmental sustainability and global development are highly complex and dynamic. 70 Thus, as globalization remains contested in its impacts, challenges, and promise at local levels, so too does the best education that connects positively with globalization to enhance local and global life. In this rich and diverse field, as processes of convergence and hybridity of glocalization continue to occur, the promise of globalization and the significance of education in relation to it will no doubt remain lively areas of debate in the future, as globalization continues to impact communities in diverse ways.

Research Considerations

There is no shortage of normative and explanatory theories about globalization, each of which points to particular instances and evidence about domains and contexts of globalization. However, when it comes to understanding the interconnections of globalization and education, some consensus regarding best practices for research has emerged. In fields of comparative and international education and global studies in education, scholars are increasingly calling today for theories and empirical investigations that are oriented toward specificity, particularity, and locality, in contrast with the grand theories of globalization elaborated by political scholars. However, a challenge is that such scholarship should not be reduced artificially to one local level in such a way as to exclude understanding of international interactions, in what has been called in the research community “methodological nationalism.” 71 Such reductive localism or nationalism can arise particularly in comparative education research, as nation-states have been traditional units for comparative analysis, but are today recognized as being too diverse from one to the next to be presumed similar (while global processes impact them in disparate ways). 72 Thus, Rizvi has articulated global ethnography as a focused approach to the analysis of international educational projects that traces interconnections and interactions of local and global actors. 73 In comparative educational research, units of analysis must be critically pondered and selected, and it is also possible to make comparisons across levels within one context (for instance, from local educational interactions to higher-level policy-making processes in one society). 74

Qualitative and quantitative analyses can be undertaken to measure global educational achievements, values, policy statements, and more; yet researcher reflexivity and positionality, what is traditionally conceived of as research ethics, is increasingly seen as vital for researchers in this politically and ethically contentious field. Although quantitative research remains important for highlighting convergences in data in global educational studies, such research cannot tell us what we should do, as it does not systematically express peoples’ values and beliefs about the aims of education, or their experiences of globalization, and so on, particularly effectively. On the other hand, normative questions about how people’s values intersect with globalization and related educational processes can give an in-depth view of one location or case, but should be complemented by consideration of generalizable trends. 75

In either case, cultural assumptions can interfere or interact in problematic or unintentional ways with methodologies of data gathering and analysis, for instance, when questions or codes (related to race, ethnicity, or class, for example) are applied across diverse sites by researchers, who may not be very familiar and experienced across divergent cultural contexts. 76 Thus, beyond positionality, the use of collaborative research teams has become popular in global and comparative educational research, to ensure inevitable cultural and related differences across research domains are sufficiently addressed in the research process. 77 In this context, researchers must also contend with the challenges of collaborating across educational settings, as new methods of engaging, saving, and sharing data at distance through technology continue to unfold in response to ongoing challenges with data storage, data security, and privacy.

Among recent strands of educational research fueled by appreciation for globalization is the exploration of the global economy of knowledge. Such research may consider the practices and patterns of movement, collaboration, research production and publication, and authorship of researchers, and examine data from cultural, political, and economic perspectives, asking whose knowledge is regarded as valid and most prized, and what voices dominate in conversations and discourse around globalization and education, such as in classrooms studying global studies in education, or in leading research journals. 78 Related research emerging includes questions such as who produces knowledge, who is the subject of knowledge, and where are data gathered, as recurring historical patterns may appear to be reproduced in contemporary scholarship, wherein those from the global North are more active in investigating and elaborating knowledge in the field, while those from the global South appear most often as subjects of research. As globalization of education entails the globalization of knowledge itself, such inquiries can be directed to various sites and disciplines outside of education, in considering how communication, values, and knowledge are being dynamically revised today on a global scale through processes of globalization.

Research that focuses on globalization and education uses a wide array of approaches and methods, topics, and orientations, as well as diverse theoretical perspectives and normative assumptions. The foregoing sections have explored this general field, major debates, and topics; the relationships have been traced between globalization and education; and there have been brief comments on considerations for research. One key point of the analysis has been that the way globalization is conceived has implications for how its relationship with education is understood. This is important, for as is illustrated here, the ways of conceptualizing globalization are diverse, in terms of how the era of globalization is framed chronologically (as essential to the human condition, to modernity, or as a late 20th-century phenomena), what its chief characteristics are from cultural, political-economic, and technological views, and whether its impact on human life and history is seen as good or bad. A broad consideration of viewpoints has highlighted the emergence of a middle position within research literature: there is most certainly an intertwined meeting and movement of peoples, things, and ideas around the globe; and clearly, processes associated with globalization have good and bad aspects. However, these processes are uneven, and they can be seen to impact different communities in various ways, which are clearly not, on the whole, simply all good or all bad.

That the processes associated with globalization are interrelated with the history and future of education is undeniable. In many ways global convergence around educational policies, practices, and values can be observed in the early 21st century. Yet educational borrowing and transferral remain unstraightforward in practice, as educational and cultural differences across social contexts remain, while the ultimate ends of education (such as math competencies versus moral cultivation) are essentially contested. Thus, specificity is important to understand globalization in relation to education. As with globalization generally, globalization in education cannot be merely described as harmful or beneficial, but depends on one’s position in power relations, and on one’s values and priorities for local and global well-being.

Education and educators’ impact on globalization also remains an important area of research and theorization. Educators are no longer expected merely to react to globalization, they must purposefully interact with it, preparing students around the world to respond to globalization’s challenges. As cultural and political-economic considerations remain crucial in understanding major aspects of both globalization and education, positionality and research ethics and reflexivity remain important research concerns, to understand globalization not just as homogeneity or oppressive top-down features, but as complex and dynamic local, global, and transnational intersections of people, ideas, and goods, with unclear impacts in the future.

  • Besley, T. , & Peters, M. A. (Eds.). (2012). Interculturalism: Education and dialogue . New York: Peter Lang.
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1. W. I. Robinson (2007), Theories of globalization, in G. Ritzer (Ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Globalization (pp. 125–143) (Malden, MA: Blackwell).

2. R. Robertson (1992), Globalization: Social theory and global culture (Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 1992).

3. Robertson, Globalization .

4. Robertson, Globalization.

5. For an historical example of how negative cultural comparison has interconnected with international political relations, see H. Kotef (2015), Little Chinese feet encased in iron shoes: Freedom, movement, gender, and empire in Western political thought, Political Theory, 43 , 334–355.

6. B. Anderson (1983), Imagined communities (London: Verso).

7. Anderson, Imagined communities.

8. M. Nussbaum (1996), For love of country? (Boston: Boston Press).

9. I. Wallerstein (1974), The modern world system (New York: Academic Press).

10. I. Wallerstein (2000), Globalization or the age of transition? International Sociology, 15 , 249–265.

11. Wallerstein, Globalization.

12. Robinson, Theories.

13. F. Rizvi and B. Lingard (2010), Globalizing educational policy (London: Routledge).

14. L. Sklair (2002), Globalization: Capitalism and its alternatives (New York: Oxford University Press).

15. W. I. Robinson (2003), Transnational conflicts: Central America, social change, and globalization (London: Verso)

16. Robinson, Theories.

17. M. Castells (1996), The rise of the network society (Oxford: Blackwell).

18. A. Giddens (1990), The consequences of modernity (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity), 64 ; see also D. Harvey (1990), The condition of post-modernity (London: Blackwell).

19. A. Appadurai (1997), Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).

20. See also D. Held , A. G. McGrew , D. Goldblatt , and J. Perraton (1999), Global transformations: Politics, economics, and culture (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press) ; M. Waters (1995), Globalization (London: Routledge).

21. Rizvi and Lingard, Globalizing.

22. M. P. Smith (2001), Transnational urbanism: Locating globalization (Oxford: Blackwell).

23. G. Ritzer (1993), The McDonaldization of society (Boston: Pine Forge).

24. G. Mathews (2011), Ghetto at the center of the world (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press).

25. B. Barber (1995), Jihad versus McWorld (New York: Random House).

26. S. Huntington (1993), The clash of civilizations? Foreign Affairs, 72 (3), 22–49.

27. F. Fukuyama (1992), The end of history and the last man (London: Free Press).

28. U. Beck (1992), The risk society: Toward a new modernity (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity).

29. M. Hardt and A. Negri (2000), Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press) ; Hardt and Negri (2004), Multitude: War and democracy in the age of empire (New York: Penguin).

30. W. Bello (2004), Deglobalization: Ideas for a new world economy (London: New York University Press) ; Bello (2013), Capitalism’s last stand? Deglobalization in the age of austerity (London: Zed Books).

31. C. Hines (2000), Localization: A global manifesto (New York: Routledge).

32. See D. Harvey (1989), The condition of post-modernity: An enquiry into the conditions of cultural change (Oxford: Blackwell).

33. A. Giddens (1990), The consequences of modernity (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity).

34. S. Burchill (2009), Liberalism, in S. Burchill , A. Linklater , R. Devetak , J. Donnelly , T. Nardin , M. Paterson , C. Reus-Smit , and J. True (Eds.) (pp. 57–85), Theories of international relations (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).

35. See, for instance, J. Stiglitz (2006), Making globalization work (New York: W. W. Norton).

36. D. Held and A. McGrew (Eds.) (2000), The global transformation reader: An introduction to the globalization debate (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity).

37. Rizvi and Lingard, Globalizing.

38. Rizvi and Lingard, Globalizing , 24.

39. T. Reagan (2000), Non-Western educational traditions: Alternative approaches to educational thought (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum). Of course, scholars such as Michael P. Smith would reject describing these processes as belonging to globalization, as people, nations, and communities played significant roles.

40. P. Freire (1972), Pedagogy of the oppressed (Victoria: Penguin).

41. B. Ashcroft , G. Griffiths , and H. Tiffin (Eds.) (1995), The post-colonial studies reader (London: Routledge).

42. R. E. Wanner (2015), UNESCO’s origins, achievements, problems and promise: An inside/outside perspective from the US (Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre/University of Hong Kong).

43. M. Manzon (2011), Comparative education: The construction of a field (Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre/University of Hong Kong).

44. S. Walby (2009), Globalization and inequalities (London: SAGE).

45. See for instance J. Stier (2004), Taking a critical stance toward internationalization ideologies in higher education: idealism, instrumentalism and educationalism, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 2 , 1–28.

46. Rizvi and Lingard, Globalizing .

47. Rizvi and Lingard, Globalizing .

48. Rizvi and Lingard, Globalizing .

49. Rizvi and Lingard, Globalizing .

50. See for instance M. S. Tucker and L. Darling-Hammond (2011), Surpassing Shanghai: An agenda for American education built on the world’s leading systems (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

51. See for instance P. Sahlberg (2014), Finnish lessons 2.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? (New York: Teachers College Press).

52. A. Darder (2015), Paulo Freire and the continuing struggle to decolonize education, in M. A Peters and T. Besley (Eds.), Paulo Freire: The global legacy (pp. 55–78) (New York: Peter Lang).

53. S. J. Shin (2009), Bilingualism in schools and society (London: Routledge) ; H. Norberg-Hodge (2009), Ancient futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a globalizing world (San Francisco: Sierra Club).

54. L. Jackson (2015), Challenges to the global concept of student-centered learning with special reference to the United Arab Emirates: “Never Fail a Nahayan,” Educational Philosophy and Theory, 47 , 760–773.

55. T. Besley (2012), Narratives of intercultural and international education: Aspirational values and economic imperatives, in T. Besley and M. A. Peters (Eds.), Interculturalism: Education and dialogue (pp. 87–112) (New York: Peter Lang).

56. W. J. Jacob and D. B. Holsinger (2008), Inequality in education: A critical analysis, in D. B. Holsinger and W. J. Jacob (Eds.), Inequality in education: Comparative and international perspectives (pp. 1–33) (Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre/University of Hong Kong).

57. D. Hill , N. M. Greaves , and A. Maisuria (2008), Does capitalism inevitably increase inequality? in D. B. Holsinger and W. J. Jacob (Eds.), Inequality in education: Comparative and international perspectives (pp. 59–85) (Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre/University of Hong Kong).

58. D. M. West (2013), Digital schools : How technology can transform education (Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press) ; N. Burbules and T. Callister (2000), Watch IT: The risks and promises of technologies for education (Boulder, CO: Westview).

59. Burbules and Callister, Watch IT.

60. Stier, Critical Stance.

61. See for example, S. K. Gallwey and G. Wilgus (2014), Equitable partnerships for mutual learning or perpetuator of North-South power imbalances? Ireland–South Africa school links, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 44 , 522–544.

62. M. C. Nussbaum (2001), Upheavals of thought: The intelligence of emotions (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press).

63. K. Hytten (2009), Education for critical democracy and compassionate globalization, in R. Glass (Ed.), Philosophy of Education 2008 (pp. 330–332) (Urbana, IL: Philosophy of Education Society).

64. See for example, Report to the UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century (1996), Learning: The treasure within (Paris: UNESCO) ; Asia Society (2015), A Rosetta Stone for noncognitive skills: Understanding, assessing, and enhancing noncognitive skills in primary and secondary education (New York: Asia Society).

65. See S. Y. Kang (2006), Identity-centered multicultural care theory: White, Black, and Korean caring, Educational Foundations, 20 (3–4), 35–49 ; L. Jackson (2016), Altruism, non-relational caring, and global citizenship education, in M. Moses (Ed.), Philosophy of Education 2014 (Urbana, IL: Philosophy of Education).

66. Jackson, Altruism.

67. L. Jackson (2016), Education for sustainable development: From environmental education to broader view, in E. Railean , G. Walker , A. Elçi , and L. Jackson (Eds.), Handbook of research on applied learning theory and design in modern education (pp. 41–64) (Hershey, PA: IGI Press).

68. Jackson, Education for Sustainable Development.

69. Jackson, Education for Sustainable Development.

70. P. Vare and W. Scott (2007), Learning for change: Exploring the relationship between education and sustainable development, Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 1 , 191–198.

71. P. Kennedy (2011), Local lives and global transformations: Towards a world society (London: Palgrave).

72. M. Manzon (2015), Comparing places, in M. Bray , B. Adamson , and M. Mason (Eds.), Comparative education research: Approaches and methods (pp. 85–121) (Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre/University of Hong Kong).

73. F. Rizvi (2009), Global mobility and the challenges of educational policy and research, in T. S. Popkewitz and F. Rizvi (Eds.), Globalization and the study of education (pp. 268–289) (Oxford: Blackwell).

74. Manzon, Comparing places.

75. G. P. Fairbrother , Qualitative and quantitative approaches to comparative education, in Bray , Adamson , and Mason (Eds.), Comparative education research (pp. 39–62).

76. L. Jackson (2015), Comparing race, class, and gender, in Bray , Adamson , and Mason (Eds.), Comparative education research (pp. 195–220).

77. M. Bray , B. Adamson , and M. Mason (2015), Different models, different emphases, different insights, in Bray , Adamson , and Mason (Eds.), Comparative education research , 421.

78. See, for instance, H. Tange and S. Miller (2015), Opening the mind? Geographies of knowledge and curricular practices, Higher Education , 1–15.

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Reimagining Globalisation and Education

Opinion: Fazal Rizvi, Professor of Global Studies in Education at the University of Melbourne

The past few years have witnessed the rise of a strident form of nationalism around the world. This has clearly been evident in the unexpected electoral victory of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote; but also in the nationalist political tides in countries as diverse as Philippines, Turkey and India.

To explain the global rise of this nationalism, many commentators have pointed to the idea of globalisation itself. They have argued that this historical shift represents a major backlash against the various forms and effects of globalisation, and that ordinary people no longer believe in what they now regard as its false promises.

What implications does this anti-globalisation sentiment have for the internationalisation agenda to which many systems of education are now committed? In what ways do they now need to re-imagine the relationship between globalisation and education? How might we now need to rethink the ideas of global learning and global citizenship education?

It is of course no longer possible to deny the contention that recent global transformations have resulted in much economic anxiety, social unrest and political angst. Recent economic shifts are at least in part responsible for unsustainable and unacceptable levels of inequality, both within and across national borders.

Politically, globalisation has spawned a new world order in which power is in the hands of a transnational elite. The rise of transnational corporations and the influence of intergovernmental organisations have squeezed out the democratic voices of citizens within their own communities. It has led to a democratic deficit.

And, culturally, a growing number of people believe that cross-border migration, encouraged by global economic processes, has unsettled the deeply held values and traditions that had given them and their communities a sense of meaning and purpose. Distrust of migrants and refugees has increased markedly.

These voices of discontent are clearly linked to the uneven distribution of opportunities resulting from globalisation. While in some countries, such as China and Korea, it has created new opportunities in others it has exasperated social inequalities. Even in those countries that have benefitted from it, gaps in people’s life chances have widened.

In Europe and the United States, both the industrial cities and rural areas have carried much of the burden of global economic transformations. Job security has vanished, forcing people to move to places where the new jobs might be, away from their communities. They have had to retrain for new jobs, but lifelong learning is often privatised and requires an investment that many are not able to afford.

There is a growing realisation that the issues of environmental sustainability and global peace cannot be adequately addressed without acknowledging the ontological realities of  ‘one world’

At the same time, welfare provisions have been cut. Governments have increasingly objected to them on ideological grounds. They have argued that state subsidies and programmes encourage inefficiencies, making people dependent on handouts. A relentless ideological campaign has celebrated the logic of the markets, suggesting that each individual should be, responsible for his or her own future.

It is these sentiments – some justified others exaggerated or false – that have arguably given rise to a class of people whom the sociologist Guy Standing aptly calls the ‘precariat’, an agglomerate of several different social groups that include young educated but underemployed people, those who fear losing their cultural privileges, and those who have fallen out of the old-style industrial working class.

This new class of people is not only worried about job insecurity but is also concerned about loss of cultural identity, and especially its long-established cultural privileges. Not surprisingly therefore it is susceptible to the siren calls of political extremism, including those enunciated by expedient politicians who are not reluctant to stoke the fear of immigrants, refugees, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups.

In the context of these developments, ethno-nationalism’s appeal is perfectly understandable. But is it justified? To what extent is globalisation responsible for the economic, political and cultural conditions that have exasperated social inequalities? And is it possible to abandon globalisation in favour of a nationalism that can bring back prosperity and cultural certainties?

These are profound questions, of deep relevance to educational policy and practice. This is so because education is simultaneously about the present and the future: about how things are and should be. In a world characterised increasingly by cynicism, distrust and pessimism, educators face the challenging task of helping young people to understand the sources of their confusions and discontents, and imagine the possibilities of a better future.

This pedagogic task clearly demands an appreciation of how global interconnectivity may not in fact be the main source of the contemporary problems, but the ways in which it is interpreted and articulated; how a particular way of thinking about it has been grounded into our popular imaginary; and how many of our major institutions have been re-shaped in line with its ideological assumptions.

Collectively these assumptions are widely referred to as ‘neoliberalism’. Neoliberalism assumes that a society is best imagined as a sum of individuals, each pursuing their own self-interest. It rests on a belief that the public sector is necessarily inefficient and presents a barrier to individual freedom, economic productivity and national development. It suggests therefore transferring the control of public institutions to the private sector, opening them up to global competition.

Most communities have already been transformed by the global flows of people. Cultural diversity, exchange and hybridity have become a fact of life . . . and cannot simply be wished away.

In this way, the ideas of globalisation and neoliberalism are viewed as inextricably linked. However, recent nationalist movements do not view globalisation in economic terms only, but more seriously as a major source of cultural concerns. They thus present a most diffused and often contradictory account of globalisation. Perhaps their success lies in their ability to bring under one ideological umbrella a range of conflicting ideas, political interests and cultural prejudices.

What they fail to consider however is that it is the automation of work and the privatisation and corporatisation of institutions that might have arguably contributed more to the economic distress of the precariat than the facts of global mobility and exchange. If social inequalities are not inherently an outcome of the global flows of people then it is perfectly possible that their causes lie in the excesses of the global corporations and the transnational elite.

In recent decades, the neoliberal reading of globalisation has involved the contention that globalisation is a force to which there are no alternatives. Accepting the neoliberal logic, nations around the world have accordingly reconstituted their major institutions, including education. In the process however they have failed to manage the contradictions of the neoliberal logic of the markets, and also redistribute the benefits of global trade in a more inclusive manner.

Yet what is intriguing now is that while recent anti-globalisation rhetoric has been strong among the new nationalists around the world, they have not abandoned a commitment to neoliberalism. Indeed, under the Trump Presidency, neoliberal policies have been promoted with even greater vigour. In India, its neoliberal assumptions have driven the Modi Government to further open the Indian economy to global competition, even as its nationalist rhetoric has become stronger.

In the United States, private and charter schools have never been supported with greater conviction. The notion of public higher education has been undermined by the withdrawal of a great deal of state funding, especially for programmes that promote the equality of educational opportunity. The idea of individual self-reliance has become the key driver underpinning policy shifts.

These contradictions will of course play themselves out over the next decade or so. But it is hard to imagine national systems anywhere once again separating themselves totally from global forces and opportunities. There are some aspects of global interconnectivity that now appear ontologically fixed. Developments in information and communications technologies have, for example, rendered inevitable the global flows of ideas, images and ideologies. They have intensified transnational connectedness.

write an essay about education in the midst of globalization

. . . the challenge facing education is not to reject the facts of global interconnectivity and exchange, but to redefine globalisation, beyond its neoliberal imaginary; to re-articulate the meaning of global interdependence

Most communities have already been transformed by the global flows of people. Cultural diversity, exchange and hybridity have become a fact of life in both America and Europe, and cannot simply be wished away. Economies have increasingly become service-oriented, with a growing recognition that such industries as tourism, education and retail rely invariably on global mobility and cultural exchange.

At the same time, there is now a deep awareness, especially among the young, that many of the most serious problems facing humanity are global, requiring collective action. Indeed there is a growing realisation that the issues of environmental sustainability and global peace cannot be adequately addressed without acknowledging the ontological realities of ‘one world’. In these and other ways, many aspects of globalisation are thus here to stay.

If this is so then the challenge facing education is not to reject the facts of global interconnectivity and exchange, but to redefine globalisation, beyond its neoliberal imaginary; to re-articulate the meaning of global interdependence. This meaning should not only refer to economic exchange but should also view interdependency as an opportunity to build a more just global community. This should be seen as a moral and political issue. It is also an educational issue, for it involves young people imagining their future, beyond the neoliberal terms in which economic, political and cultural exchange is currently defined.

Globalisation is not only about the material structures of power, but it also constitutes, and is constituted by, a particular way of interpreting and representing the world, a ‘common sense’. One of the unexpected benefits inherent in the rise of nationalism might yet be its unmasking of the ‘common sense’ generated by neoliberal social imaginary,  in which education clearly has a role to play.

This unmasking should show students how the benefits of neoliberal globalisation are unevenly distributed and how it has disempowered many communities. Students need to recognise that in order to empower themselves and their communities, they need to develop a new common sense of globalisation that does not ignore the ontological realities of globalisation but interrogates further the neoliberal assumptions upon which its hegemonic understanding has been framed, as a way of better understanding the effects and discontents it has produced.

They need to explore ways of rescuing globalisation from the clutches of neoliberalism, and imagining a conception that is not wedded to its deeply ideological structures. At the same time, they need to be alerted to the risks associated with nativism, the dangerous form of ethno-nationalism that has in recent years been promoted widely by the popular media and is often exploited by expedient politicians.

The task of education is to show students how economic and cultural nationalisms are unlikely to deliver the economic and social benefits they promise. Instead they will intensify a cultural politics based on a permanent state of fear, resentment and conflict. The future of young people cannot be well served by such a politics.

write an essay about education in the midst of globalization

Fazal Rizvi  is a Professor of Global Studies in Education at the University of Melbourne, as well as an Emeritus Professor at the University of Illinois  at Urbana-Champaign. Fazal has written extensively on issues of  identity and culture in transnational contexts, globalisation and education policy and Australia-Asia relations.  A collection of his essays is published in: Encountering Education in the Global: Selected Writings of Fazal Rizvi (Routledge 2014). Fazal is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Social Sciences, a past Editor of the journal, Discourse: Studies in Cultural Politics of Education, and past President of the Australian Association of Research in Education. He is a co-author of Class Choreographies: Elite Schools and Globalization (Palgrave 2017), and of a major report, Australia’s Asian Diaspora Advantage, produced for the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA 2016).

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Home / Essay Samples / Education / Issues in Education / Globalization in Education: An Evolving Landscape of Learning

Globalization in Education: An Evolving Landscape of Learning

  • Category: Education
  • Topic: Education System , Issues in Education , Personal Statement

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