In this modern era, the term Globalisation is used, accepted and treated famously in most part of the world. Even though the word may not be a particularly sophisticated or attractive word, but there are massive numbers of debates happening around the world relating to the ‘globalisation’ issue. According to Giddens (1999, p. 7), “I have not been to a single country recently where globalisation is not being intensively discussed”. Referring to his comment on the ‘popularity’ of the term ‘globalisation’ that is made in 1999, I think I could imagine and assume logically of how famous the term would be now. Hence, in this essay, I will discuss the effects of globalisation on education in which specifically focusing on the question whether globalisation really helps to improve education or it actually hinders the true meaning of education. To answer this question, this essay will be divided into a few sections starting from a brief explanation of globalisation’s and education’s background follow by the effects of education and conclusion. In this essay I will first point out the effects of globalisation on education both positively and negatively not only for industrialised countries but also for underdeveloped countries around the world. This essay also will show the variation of my point of view as I have different perceptions for each aspect.
1. What is globalisation and education?
Globalisation has actually existed since long time ago. Based on the Human Development Reports 1990 – 2000 by Peace Child International, globalisation has existed since the sixteenth century when Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands started to colonise other countries around the world by conquering, occupying and exploiting them in order to gain profit for themselves (2002, p. 42). However, even when those colonial empires broke down during the twentieth century, the inequality and injustice of colonialism have set the stage for the on-going disparities in the world today. The globalisation that is happening today is actually interrelated with the colonisation that happened before. Some people also said that globalisation is the incarnation of colonisation.
“The globalisation happening now is very different from the colonial era because, as HDR 1999 explains, it is shaped by new actors, new rules, new markets and new tools – each of which creates opportunities but also new challenges” (Peace Child International, 2002, p. 42).
As the ‘new’ globalisation is one of the most debated issues nowadays, it is mentioned and discussed everywhere by nations’ leaders, educators, bloggers, businessman, reporters and even by blue collar workers and any people on the streets. Remarkably, for being so widely used, it is hardly to find a precisely agreed definition. Globalisation as defined in Collins English Dictionary is a trend towards the existence of a single world market dominated by multinational companies (2008). Another brief definition of globalisation that brings similar meaning suggests by Porter (1999, in Mortimore, 2001, p. 230), which is “the process by which the peoples and nations of the world are increasingly drawn together into a single entity”. Both definitions mentioned above show that globalisation is something that attracts people and nations towards something that is new and in ‘trend’. However, these two are among the sources that define ‘globalisation’ as positive and as general as they are. In fact, there are still a lot more definitions of globalisation being discussed around the world. This is because different definitions would come from different point of views. As being mentioned before of how famous the term is, it would not be a surprise if the meaning of the term is hardly to be determined (Giddens, 1999). Fortunately, apart from the general definitions mentioned previously, there is one definition of globalisation that attracts me and helps me to understand the term better. The definition is taken from Waks (2006, as cited in Parjanadze, 2009, p. 84).
Waks defines globalisation as:
“The process whereby market exchange relationships and multimedia telecommunications capabilities spread from the core of economically and technologically developed nations to other regions of the world, facilitating the flow of goods, services, and people across national borders, this process being stimulated by, while in turn reinforcing, an image of the world as a unified whole and humanity, despite its cultural diversity and continuing differentiation, as a single global society, while also generating resistance and violent opposition from those excluded from this imagined global society” (2006, as cited in Parjanadze, 2009, p. 84).
On the other hand, according to Collins English Dictionary, education is defined as the way of gaining knowledge and understanding which is through the process of learning (2008). Collins English Dictionary also defines education as the system of teaching people at school or university (2008). In general, when we hear or come to think of the word ‘education’, automatically it reminds us of our school, teachers, friends and other memories that happened and related to our learning phase.
Globalisation: Threats or Opportunities for education?
As mentioned before, the term ‘globalisation’ has been defined to a variety of interpretations by different people. Similarly, the judgement of the effects of globalisation has been made differently too. Some people may think that globalisation is like a new wave of modernisation that helps everyone to live a better life. On the other hand, there are also people who aware that not everything from globalisation will benefit them. Though globalisation may simply mean global interconnectedness, but it includes a number of intertwined and complex technological, economic, environmental, cultural and political processes. Hence, there is no definite agreement about the nature of the phenomenon because the perceptions on the effects of globalisation may vary from person to person depending on their worldview and personal experience.
According to Parjanadze (2009, p. 79), “The concepts of globalisation, nation state and education are closely intertwined”. Hence, both globalisation and education will actually affecting each other whether be it positively or negatively. So, I have come to a good question, ‘Does globalisation really helps to improve education or it actually hinders the true meaning of education?’
The effects of globalisation on education: Smaller globe of education
Throughout the ‘globalisation’ era, globalisation has somehow helped to change the whole world’s perceptions of education. Once, it was not only difficult to get an opportunity to study abroad, but it was close to impossible for one to get out from their village to learn something out of their community’s and society’s norm. Our great ancestors, they were educated at home where they learned basic living skills as a preparation for them to live their life well. Years after years, as the world has transformed dynamically, schools and other learning centres are built in order to cater for a better education purpose. Now, not only there are massive numbers of education centres, but also we have been exposed to a lot easier and conducive ways to learn something whether be it new or old knowledge. If once, it was close to impossible for one to earn knowledge because of lack of exposure and location, fortunately now globalisation has helped to reverse the situation. ‘Now everyone can learn’ is one of my teacher famous phrases when he would like to lift our spirit in learning something new. He used to use that phrase repeatedly to show how everyone will get the opportunity to earn knowledge easily, to appreciate the chances that we have nowadays compare to our parents’ and ancestors’ times. To explain this further, the aspects that will be enlightened in order to show the effect of globalisation on education are in term of the revolution of technology as well as the ‘shortcut’ of education. I chose to emphasis on these two aspects as I find both are important aspects and they are closely related to each other in defining globalisation as well as in presenting of how they have affected education.
4.1 The revolution of technology
As the result of globalisation, the world nowadays has faced the dramatic revolution of technology. In the shortest amount of time, lots of high technology or also known as ‘high tech’ stuff and services are being invented and developed. High tech means the most advanced technology currently obtainable, the technology that is at the cutting edge. The introduction of computers, television, internets, radios, notebooks, e-books, email and a lot more high tech stuff has made learning process more convenient. The invention and evolvement of the high tech stuff and services are especially useful for educators. It is easier for the educators to teach, transfer and share the knowledge with their learners not only in their specific classroom, but with any learners in the world. The emergence of this leads to the smaller globe of education where everyone from any part of the world could access the knowledge provided from another part of the world easily. Based on Giddens who points out that “instantaneous electronic communication is not just a way in which news or information is conveyed more quickly” (1999, p. 11). Giddens further adds that the existence of the electronic communication modifies and gives a lot of impacts to both rich and poor people’s life. As result of instantaneous communication, education is now can be easily accessible and transferrable as the famous saying goes ‘education is now at the tips of everyone’s fingers’. This is supported by Abdul Razak (2011, p. 62) in which he mentions that “The emergence of technology-mediated learning has revolutionised the teaching and learning process”. According to him, the technology-mediated learning by using the high tech stuff has helped in the distribution of information and knowledge to millions around the world (2011).
On the other hand, although Abdul Razak agrees that with the help of technology has enhanced the learning processes, he also disagrees as he feels that when people rely too much on technology throughout their learning process, the downside of it is that the person will eventually lose the true essence of learning which is via interactive communication with the knowledge source as well as with other learners. This is because, when learning via technology medium such as websites, emails or any virtual learning system, the interaction between people/society/community will be cut off as the learning process will be more personalised between the learners and the technology medium only. The idea of how lack of interaction can be a downside for a person has been anticipated long time ago by a well-known psychologist named Fromm (Abdul Razak, 2011, p.62).
The idea is:
“Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow men, and from nature. He has been transformed into a commodity, experiences his life forces as an investment in which must bring him the maximum profit obtainable under existing market conditions” (Fromm, 1995, as cited in Abdul Razak, 2011, p. 62).
Referring to Abdul Razak disagreement’s point and Fromm’s idea on modern man’s alienation, I admit that their points are true. With tremendous developments in network access worldwide and progress in communication and information technologies generally, to learn from distance is like a ‘current’ phenomenon being practised around the world. Programmes that support students to learn from far are becoming one of the main ways to offer educational opportunities to students. In my opinion, this kind of learning programme would be great for adult learners who would like to work and study at the same time. However, if it were to use by younger students, it would affect their social skills as it reduce their opportunity to mix and interact with the real society rather than just being a technology’s kingdom citizen. This kind of people who love to spend time on internet has been labelled as ‘netizen’ which means “an active participant in the online community of the Internet” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/netizen).
4.2 The ‘shortcut’ for education
In spite of the disadvantages mentioned above, I would personally prefer to look at how globalisation has revolved the technology which then leads to a few more steps in helping us to earn more knowledge conveniently. It is true that we cannot neglect or abandon the fact that globalisation is mostly benefited the rich or industrialised countries only. This is because there is a famous Malay old saying that is ‘not to always critic the lacks but to appreciate the goodness we have in the racks’. Looking at the bright side, there are still noble steps that has been done with the help of technology that comes as the result of globalisation. One of the noble steps that I would like to emphasis is something that I personally symbolises it as the ‘shortcut’ of education. It is basically about how globalisation eases the ‘journey’ of education.
With the advancement of technology, as being mentioned before, it has helped people around the world to study conveniently. As the world has become smaller and almost borderless, apart from being able to learn from distance and to be able to communicate with the person from other places, globalisation has also helped to ease the ‘journey’ of the education. Globalisation is like a ‘shortcut’ towards the finding of ways to education or knowledge. It is said as to ease the journey of education because nowadays it is easier for educators as well as for students to go to anywhere in order to share and to search for education. A lot of foreign universities are offering more interesting and skilful courses locally and internationally.
According to Abdul Razak (2011, p. 63),
“Along with the wave of globalisation, western universities realised that a great opportunity was available in the third world countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, which were once the colonies of the west, to open campuses there”.
Referring to his point, it is true that in most third world countries, especially Asian countries, there are a lot of universities being established as the branches of some big universities from the western countries. Vice versa, there are also branches of Asian universities being opened in western countries. For instance, the Lim Kok Wing University in Cyberjaya in Malaysia has opened its’ branch located in London, in the United Kingdom.
Abdul Razak further adds that a lot of foreign universities and colleges sell and promote their education, their degrees as well as diplomas to the third world countries’ local students. This is because by doing that, they are generating huge amount of profit for their educational enterprise (2011, p. 63). As the western universities offer courses to generate profit, the charge for each course is tremendously high. This causes students who are from the lower income family, especially in third world countries suffer and find it difficult to get a tertiary education.
5 The effects of globalisation on education: Education as a tool of commodity
As globalisation has helped the enhancement of technology for communications throughout the whole world, it has eventually altered and changed the way educators educate. Paralleling with the technology enhancement and economic revolution, educations nowadays serve more for preparation for work rather than for individual holistic values. Hence, schools, colleges and universities have started to work hard in promoting the courses that are needed for the current job demands. For example in Britain and Northern Ireland, courses and programs were restructured and more new courses are introduced in order to upsurge the marketing for courses such as MBAs and distance learning programme (Smith, 2002). The distance learning programme are being promoted to target those who already in work but would like to further study usually for the upgrading of salary or position purposes.
On top of that, the current demand in the labour market has raised the awareness of how important a degree would be in order to confirm them a ‘safe’ position in their work field. This is because, the perception that people have on the current economy plays a major impact on how they view the effect of globalization on education. Regardless of the higher costs that they have to pay, students still find that it is necessary to stay in school and to further study in higher education in order to gain as many accreditation as they can before entering the job market. As mentions by Wolf (2002, in Smith, 2002),
“At a certain point in what had been a steady, slow expansion, large numbers of people started to feel they really had better get a degree, because not doing so would be such a bad move. The first wave set off another and so on”.
Looking at this phenomenon, it is assumed that in the next coming years, the enrolment numbers to higher education will increase as they believe that not having a degree in current economical demands will be an obstacle to their success (Smith, 2002).
Another form of how education has been change into commodification is the privatisation and corporatisation of schools and national policies. Nowadays, education field has become an arena where corporations and universities from around the world compete with each other for students in order to sustain and extend their funding (Smith, 2002). Students and parents are acknowledged and treated as ‘customers’ when they are given choices to choose which school has promoted their qualities the best and which learning experience’s ‘brands’ sounds more promising. This kind of promotion is related to the labour market demands mentioned previously too. As parents and students both want to get the best educations to promise a better job future, they seem not to be bothered by this kind of selling the learning experience trend.
“The real danger is that unthinking adoption of the private sector model prevents the development of an approach to management in the public services in general or to the social services in particular based on their distinctive purposes, conditions and tasks” (Stewart, 1992, as cited in Smith, 2002).
Referring to Stewart’s comment, he believes that by implementing such business strategies on promoting education has come to resemble a private, rather than for public good. This is because, by adopting standardised teaching models and striving for specified outcomes achievement, less emphasis is put on community and equity. More emphasis is put on individual enhancement and the need to fulfil influential customers as well as to satisfy customers (Smith, 2002).
Hence, in this case, does commodification help education or does it hinder education? In my opinion, it is true that it does not look noble when we see the current phenomenon of selling education. However, I believe that to survive in this revolutionary world, we have to keep moving forward as this is the only that we can do in order to make sure that we are not being left behind. I view this as if we are running on the treadmill. Once the button start is pushed, we need to keep on running whether be it to run slowly or to keep with the pace set to keep us from falling down. It is true too that after a while, we will feel tired and that is when we started to feel to stop running or to just walk on the treadmill. Same goes with globalisation and especially towards the idea of commodification. To look at the bright side, when education is changed into commodification, at least it raises the awareness among youngsters that they need to keep moving, to keep catching the opportunities in order to achieve their aims. As the effect of globalisation too that it triggers them to be more competitive in their study as well as in their working field in future. Thus, I think, despite the negative impacts of commodification mentioned around, we can still gain something beneficial from them.
6 The effects of globalisation on education: English as a dominant language, English as a lingua franca
According to Kelly (2004) through globalisation, English has achieved the status to be declared as a lingua franca. Based on the British Council’s report (as cited in Kelly, 2004), “The speakers of English as a second language probably outnumber those who speak it as a first language, and around 750 million people are believed to speak English as a foreign language”. English has been declared as a dominant language, as a lingua franca, for it has about two billion people in at least 75 countries who speaks in it .Furthermore, English is the most common language to be used as a medium of communication for scientific, technological, and academic field as well as for international trade information.
On top of that, the establishment of foreign universities and the revolution of technology have helped the people in developing and underdeveloped countries to learn and master the English language effectively. The trend of learning and mastering of English has been an inevitable thing in most of the non-English-spoken countries. For example, from my point of view as a Malaysian student, I could see that Malaysian has been benefited a lot as the result of globalisation as well as colonisation. Malaysia, as a developing country, was once being labelled as underdeveloped. However, after being colonialized by a few countries, the education system in Malaysia has undergone a lot of changes. Like in any places, some changes are effectively implemented while some are not. The most obvious example of positive effect that Malaysian has gained is the exposure and opportunity to learn English as our second language. In 2003, in order to meet the challenges of globalisation, the government has taken a brilliant step in introducing the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English. Unfortunately, even though the programme has been implemented successfully, the Malaysian government decided to revert to the teaching by using Bahasa Melayu again by the year 2012. This is because the programme had been criticized by the Malay linguist and political activist (Abdul Razak, 2011, p. 63). Besides the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English programme, I think the decision of teaching English as a second language in the curriculum alone has made a big impact on Malaysia education’s future. As English is a dominant language in the world, by acquiring and mastering it proficiently would be a great point that could elevate a person’s educational level higher from others. This will help them to portray a good professional image when applying for a job.
In analysing the impact of globalization on education, I find that globalisation seems to be a pretty beneficial movement in terms of education, although there are still several obstacles in its way. Looking at how to find the origin and the definition of the term globalisation as well as to identify the effects of globalisation on education, it is undeniable that globalisation is a challenging concept to perceive. As Parjanadze (2009, p. 86) says that globalisation is difficult to perceive because “globalisation is based on notions of time and space and a shift in the dimensions cause reinterpretation and re-structuring of the reality around us”. As previously I have mentioned how I see commodification as something like treadmill, it is the same with the whole idea of globalisation. Despite the valid points made regarding how the advancement of technology and the commodification of education hinder the true essence of education, we should not totally reject the globalisation of the world.
This is because in my opinion, it is apparent that the revolution of technology has given and still giving us a lot of conveniences especially in term of communication, transportation and entertainment. Technology has particularly help to create a smaller globe of education which then leads to a lot more advantages. Thus, it is essential for each of us to understand that throughout the process of globalisation, we need to be able to accept, to adapt and keep on track with the current pace of the revolution in order to make sure that we will be left behind.