Changing Policy and Practice related to Compulsory Education

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Globalisation is a concept that everyone uses but is a difficult term to define. In general, globalisation refers to the trend toward countries joining together economically, through education, society and politics. Viewing themselves not only through their national identity but also as part of the world as a whole. Within the educational domain it is necessary to understand the effects globalisation may have in shaping policy and practice.

The aim of this essay is to examine the impact of globalisation on policy and practice within Post-Compulsory Education and Training (PCET) focusing on the lifelong learning subdivision within PCET. Initially the essay will focus on defining globalisation, once this is established it will be possible to critically analyse its effects on PCET policy and practice. The analysis will attempt to explore examples of change both past and present in order to determine to what degree they reflect an effect of globalisation.

The essay will then move to examine lifelong learning within Higher Education (HE) in further detail. It is within this subdivision of PCET that globalisation can be seen to influence the responsive issues of the marketisation and the internationalisation of HE coupled with the concept of a developing knowledge economy. This should provide the foundations for the aspiration of continued enhancement to the provision of lifelong learning in the latter part of the essay.

During the investigation it may be necessary to explore other perspectives in order to determine and explain the expanding influences of globalisation within the specific sphere of education.


As initially mentioned globalisation is a complex issue to categorise. Globalisation is regularly debated by scholars as to what is actually meant by the term. Globalisation is often presented as a late 20th centaury, early 21st century economic phenomenon, stimulated by innovations in communication and information technologies. This combined with increased air travel by the masses and the growing dominance of English as the common language of business, politics and science (Crystal, 1997). The World Bank defined globalisation as "the growing integration of economies and societies around the world" (World Bank 2001). However the Oxford English Dictionary defines globalisation as "the process by which businesses or other organisations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale." (Oxford English Dictionary 2010)

Anthony Giddens (1990) has described globalisation as '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'. The term can also be used to describe the changes in societies and the world economy that are the result of dramatically increased trade and cultural exchange. It is these changes to society within the context of the economy that can lead to changes with education (Spring 2009).

Taking the above into account why would globalisation increase the demand for education? Primarily considering economics, the rising payoffs of a higher education in a global, science based, knowledge focused economy makes university education more of a requisite to get "good" jobs. This in conjunction with socio-political demographics and democratic ideals have increased pressure on universities to provide opportunities for wider participation to groups that traditionally have not attended university (Castells & Himanen 2002).

Considering Giddens description, globalisation within education could be defined as worldwide discussions and processes impacting on local educational practices and policies. Very little of these working practices would remain static in this hypothesis as there would be a constant changing dynamic as advancing technologies and communications are integrated into curriculums making them more economically competitive within the world stage.

This can be viewed with respect to HE institutions as they become intertwined on a global level with student bodies becoming increasingly migratory in their search for knowledge with the purpose of promoting their personal social and economical development. This leads to the concept of a knowledge economy.

Knowledge Economy

A variety of observers depict today's global economy as one in evolution to a knowledge economy. This knowledge-based economy depends primarily upon the use of ideas rather than physical aptitude and on the application of technology rather than the transformation of resources or the utilisation of cheap labour (Therborn 1995). It is an economy in which knowledge is created, acquired, communicated, and used more effectively by individuals, enterprises, organisations, and communities to promote economic and social development (Giddens 2006).

The rise of this knowledge economy has meant that economists have been challenged to look beyond labour and capital as the central factors of production. Paul Romer (1995) (cited in Holsapple 2003) argued that technology, and the knowledge on which it is based, has to be viewed as a major factor in leading economies. The Dearing report of 1997 stated that higher education should sustain a learning society in order to serve the needs of an adaptable, sustainable, knowledge-based economy at local, regional and national levels (Dearing 1997).

Preparing workers to compete in the knowledge economy requires a new approach to education and training in the form of lifelong learning. This lifelong learning framework embraces learning throughout the entire life cycle, from early childhood to retirement. It should include formal, non-formal, and informal education and training. The implications and possible future of Lifelong Learning will be discussed later in this essay.

As the world transforms through globalisation, individual knowledge will also need to adjust. This will therefore initiate the need to modify the education provided to the individual so that they can remain current and therefore a viable commodity within the employment market. In order for the knowledge economy to develop further it requires the support of HE. This suggests a need to relate HE to the needs of employers, developing HE-market interaction. This could permit tailoring high level skills to the market but could also endanger the ethos of education.

Marketisation of Higher Education

Education is very much immersed in global transformations, with HE itself being altered by the cultural and economical aspects of globalisation. Peters, Marginson et al (2008) argue that "Higher education is swept up in global marketisation. It trains the executives and technicians of global businesses". Is this the case within the UK?

With the decline of the manufacturing industry in the UK (National Statistics Online 2010) this has given rise to the increased value placed upon the service sector, both in magnitude and profitability (Economic Outlook 2007). This has led to increased difficulty separating the influence of markets from the social and cultural aspects of globalisation in which education sits. This pressure to change education from a public service to a tradable service is remarkably compliant with the ideology of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) General Agreement on Trade and Services in an attempt to liberalise services within the global economy sector (cited in Robertson et al 2002).

This movement towards a tradable service could lead to an alteration in the character of universities roles within society by changing them from being a centre of learning into a business orientated establishment (Doring 2002). This arguably may lead to the shift of the educational focal point away from an academic focus, moving towards a commodity focus thus allowing the values of the commercial sector to be encoded into the centre of the university system.

Recent Government policy within the UK has encouraged the rapid growth of HE, in order to widen participation with the aim of creating a more educated and marketable labour force. This growth has led to the inevitable competition between HE institutions with students viewed more as consumers than learners. A view surmised by Willmott when he stated that students are openly viewed as customers (Willmott 1995). However, this rapid expansion may be under threat given the latest government funding cuts (Barker 2010) but still the most prevalent outlook within HE is one of business. Students view the opportunity to gain a degree, once selected, as a right and a service for which they have paid for. Maringe and Gibbs (2009) further ratify the issue when they stated "the idea of education and knowledge for its own sake - the intrinsic value of learning - is becoming subordinate to the tangible benefits associated with engaging with higher education". This leads to a requirement for greater choice and a demand for a return on the student's investment.

This ideal is developed further with the idea that a degree is a commodity that can, hopefully be exchanged for employment rather than an education that prepares a student for life (Willmott 1995). Smith (2002) argues that this concept of commodification of education has been occurring for a number of years. However he views the student as the commodity rather than the course of study when he stated that students were changing their orientation to Higher Education "away from that of participants towards being consumers."

The issue for this essay is not what is viewed as a commodity it is rather that either is viewed as a commodity. The marketisation of the HE system, with the pressure to export the intellectual merchandise in order to maintain financial support in a competitive market has lead to making academics' roles more complex. The result of this marketisation of education is probably more visible in the example of the growth of international students. Higher education has become increasingly international in the past decade as more and more students choose to study abroad. The issues and surrounding this internationalisation of education and the effects is the subject of the next section.

Internationalisation of Higher Education

The world of higher education is changing and the world in which higher education plays such a significant role in is also transforming. Whether it is driven by the movement of skilled labour in a globalised economy or the desire of the academic institutions to generate additional revenue or even the need to build a more educated workforce, the international dimension of higher education is becoming increasingly important, complex, and confusing. In order to become globally competitive universities are adopting an increasingly international approach to the provision of higher education. Internationalisation has become the catchword of these present times in higher education.

Knight (1994) defines internationalisation as "the process of integrating an international/ intercultural dimension into the teaching, research and service functions of the institution" Altbach (2004) simply states that "internationalisation is the process of institutions responding to globalisation" which implies that internationalisation of education is the answer to globalisation or at least a means of capitalising on the situation.

Is this a sudden phenomenon? Well not really. For a number of years students have traveled outside of their own countries in order to advance their higher education. High income countries have provided grants and additional rewards to both teachers and students. Within the UK the total number of non-UK students for 2008/09 was 368,970, compared with 325,985 in 2007/08, an increase of 8%. The strongest growth was in full-time taught postgraduate programmes, up 17% for non-UK students (UK Council for International Student Affairs, Statistics on Higher Education). Coupled with this increased mobility of students universities have taken steps to review their programs and specific institutional strategies in order to facilitate the implementation of an internationalised curriculum (Haigh, 2002).

In order for UK HE establishments to embrace internationalisation they appear to focus on increasing student quotas by deliberately recruiting greater numbers of international students. Other various activities are encouraged including diversifying delivery modes; 'internationalising' curricula; improving the quality of the student experience and intensifying international linkages and collaboration. Also the emergence of new types of providers such as international consortiums and for-profit universities in the education market form part of this dynamic picture.

However, as Harari (1992) stated in an article on internationalisation, "having many international students on a campus does not make that institution international"

Why is there such a drive towards internationalisation of education? With the rapid escalating demand for HE driven by an emerging global knowledge economy and the requirement for education to sustain development with the purpose of further enhancing global citizenship. This should result in a greater capacity of graduates with a high level of cultural understanding and possibly an enhanced perception of global and intercultural affairs, if Throsby (1998) is to be believed. Another issue with this rapid demand is that the domestic supply can exceed the capacity of many countries leading to intense competition for places within HE.

Internationalisation is not without its criticisms as increased student mobility can lead to a brain drain from the country of student origin and a brain gain for the receiving country. Recent World Bank publications progress the argument stating that brain circulation may be a more appropriate term than brain drain, intimating that this is what happens when HE students do not return to their country of origin but other skilled workers emigrate from the receiving country (Ozden and Schiff 2006).

Lifelong Learning

As change within the knowledge economy can be rapid, employers are unable to rely exclusively on new graduates as a principal source of new skills and knowledge. This requirement to maintain a current labour force gave rise to adult education policies of the 1980s. However since the 1990s this term seemed to disappear and Lifelong Learning assumed prominence. The emphasis, as the name suggests, is that everyone should be able to learn throughout their life span and that we need to continue the learning process in order to improve people's abilities and skill sets there by allowing them to function more efficiently in their respective areas. Education and training institutions need to be able to prepare workers for lifelong learning as it is crucial in enabling workers to increase social capital thus helping to build human capital, increasing economic growth and stimulating development.

Lifelong learning is widely considered to be a transformational process, both for the individual and for the wider community. For individuals the engagement with new learning can lead to improved well-being, possibly leading to fresh personal success. For our society the learning can be fundamental in unlocking economic success and a means to an invigorated national identity.

Policies and Practices - The official desire to expand learning can be traced back through educational policies, reports and white papers. The three foremost reports on HE and Lifelong Learning were Dearing, Kennedy and Fryer.

Dearing Report - Higher Education in a Learning Society: This report set out a vision for 20 years of creating "a society committed to learning throughout life." (Dearing Report 1997). This was a commitment that would require not only individuals to engage with, but also the state, employers and providers of education throughout the UK. The main aims of the report were to make recommendations on the future shape, size and funding of HE in order to meet the UK's educational needs. It also made recommendations in to widening participation within HE.

Kennedy Report - Learning Works: This report prepared by the Committee on Widening Participation chaired by Baroness Kennedy set out a radical vision to encourage a return to education adults who have few if any educational qualifications. The report contains some convincing testimony for the case that "learning is the key to economic affluence and social cohesion" (Kennedy 1997) . This report also makes recommendations on future funding and widening participation. The government responded to the report by stating they were committed to the establishment of a learning society in which all people have opportunities to succeed and that they were looking to increase access to learning (DfEE 1998).

Fryer Report - This report was compiled by Professor R.H Fryer and discussed similar topics to those raised in the Kennedy Report of the same year. The primary focus was to demonstrate a lack of Lifelong Learning culture observable within the British educational system at the time of compiling the report. Professor Fryer also argued that the UK could not be considered a learning society as it possessed neither a Lifelong Learning nor a training culture (Fryer 1997).

These three major reports argued for the importance of a widening of participation and lifelong learning. This was to have a bearing on a Green Paper by David Blunkett that placed greater emphasis on lifelong learning and requested that the educational system expand the learning age in order to consider adults as willing learners and individuals that were actually in need of further education. This brought changes to the national curriculum in order to provide for adult learners (Tight 1998).

Further responses from the Government were to announce a number of strategies to bring greater numbers into Further and Higher Education, a figure of 500,000 by 2002. Initiatives such as the University for Industry and Learning Accounts were designed to address skill deficiency issues by enhancing lifelong learning opportunities and the adoption of National Learning Targets was seen to demonstrate an official desire to expand learning. Policies to assist in achieving these targets included the basic skills program to improve adult literacy and numeracy and encouragement to employers to provide access to more training within the workplace.

Table 1 - Total Part Time Students within the United Kingdom 2002 -2009

(HESA 2010)

Since these reports and policies were implemented there has been a steady rise in the number of part time students within the United Kingdom, as shown in Table 1. The table shows a combined growth of 68% from 2002/3 academic year until 2008/9 academic year within part time student numbers, a marked increased in popularity of part time study. This would seem to correlate with the rapid growth highlighted within the internationalisation discussion earlier in this essay. Combine this with numbers of international students rising from 278,225 in the academic year 2002/3 to 368,970 in academic year 2008/9; a growth of 75% (HESA 2010) suggests that the commodification and marketisation of HE is showing signs of success.

The impact of globalisation and the aspirations of Lifelong Learning are prevalent in the rhetoric of the reports and policies. Each one discusses the importance of Lifelong Learning as a reflection of the realisation that learning must be more active, more structured and long term. All the pieces must interlock if UK PLC is to remain competitive. The providers and beneficiaries, including society at large, must rise to the challenge of creating and sustaining an environment which encourages and supports Lifelong Learning in order to ensure economic prosperity now and in the future.

So what may be the future aspirations of Lifelong Learning? The aims of Lifelong Learning UK set out in their 2008 -2011 Strategic Plan (LLUK 2009 update) include raising employer engagement, demand and investment in skills by offering free advice and literature for any one interested or involved in lifelong learning. In its eighth published paper the Inquiry into the Future of Lifelong Learning Commission articulated the need for a broad rationale for public and private investment in lifelong learning, but they also stated that the UK, by international education standards, has a very Lifelong Learning friendly environment (IFLL 2009). The Government's 2009 White Paper titled "The Learning Revolution" recognised the profound importance of increased participation and adult learning. It also discussed the benefits of further learning helping people to develop and possibly lead to gaining further qualifications. However all this was the rhetoric of the previous government and was published prior to the General Election.

The reports, policies and practices reviewed for this essay seems to have recurring themes running though them, specifically the case for increased learning particularly among less skilled adults. But this seems to be tempered by placing the burden on the individual to create and fund, to a certain extent, the opportunity to learn. Some of the report recommendations attempt to tackle deficiencies in employer provision. Employers should be encouraged to increase learning opportunities possibly by providing entitlements to learning during working hours or possible access to funding for learning and learning facilities being increased. This last suggestion does seem less likely in the light of the spending reviews that are currently on going.


The aim of this essay was to explore the extent of impact globalisation has had on the policies and practice of HE, focusing on lifelong learning. It is evident that globalisation has and is continuing to extensively effect the global learning society and economies. This is particularly evident in the expansion of the knowledge economy with employers placing greater demands on individuals to maintain a current and flexible knowledge base. In facilitating this continued learning the individual must engage in virtually constant skill enhancement through learning. This in turn leads to a greater demand for lifelong learning from academic institutions and an increased enthusiasm for the learning throughout workers careers. This has led to the realisation that the increased emphasis and hunger for lifelong learning can be viewed as a result of globalisation. Other key areas such as the continued marketisation and internationalisation of education have lead to seats of learning developing their educational product or, as argued by Smith (2002), the individual learner, as a saleable commodity that appeals to all potential students within the global village.

In order to analyse policies and practice within Lifelong Learning it has been necessary to review certain reports that were perceived as pivotal in the development of Lifelong Learning. This was necessary in order to understand the changes taking place within our own society that have influenced the increased participation in Lifelong Learning in order to maintain a foothold within a knowledge-based economy. If these areas were not explored then the initiatives that have sprung from recent government policies such as the aspiration for a "Learning Revolution" would not be realised.

Lifelong learning is not just a method but a culture that needs to be embraced if continued professional development within UK PLC's labour force is to persist. HE has a positive role to play in establishing the knowledge base during commencement of learning and acting as a provider of further learning opportunities such as distance and open learning throughout an individuals lifetime. HE also has a responsibility to widening participation in learning, by enticing lapsed learners and those who may not have engaged with learning earlier in their lifetimes back into the knowledge culture.

Despite the positive rhetoric conveyed within the reports and Government white papers there still remains an element of skepticism about the ability to achieve all that is pledged. Improved employer provision and support with individual funding could remain a stumbling block in the journey to the realisation of Lifelong Learning aspirations. As David Blunkett stated in the Government 1998 Green Paper "Learning is the key to prosperity - for each of us as individuals, as well as for the nation as a whole" So why should society only feel accountable for educating the young? Even with the increased pressures of marketisation and internationalisation the principal of education should focus on educating the young in order to prepare them to continue this learning process throughout their lives.