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Globalisation today is an international trend, apparent not only in the economic sector where it started but also apparent in the expansion of the Internet, student exchange programmes, international media, popular culture, international tourism and so on. But how is globalisation perceived in the social sciences, and more specifically, in the educational sciences? The purpose of this essay is twofold. The first is to identify the major characteristics of our present-day society that are or might potentially be influenced by Globalisation. The second is to point out the impact of those characteristics on the nature and purpose of comparative education research.
Since globalisation is itself a wide topic, this essay focuses on two of its major aspects: the correlation between globalisation and education and that between globalisation and culture. The latter choice, that is "culture", is made because culture is so broad that it relates and integrates with so many topics and thus covers several characteristics at once. The second choice, that is "education", is because the role of education is often at the heart of political, economic and socio-cultural agendas. Indeed, Green points out that a commonly used method in the social sciences and humanities disciplines is to understand the relationship between education and society (Green, 2009). Each national government has its own priority and approach to education and this differs from one region to the next, from one country to another, and sometimes within a country. Comparative education research examines the differences and the similarities of education across units.
For this essay, a literature review was made. It reviews past and current understanding of culture and education as well as some theoretical approaches to assessing and discussing the impact of globalisation on these. The review also cites discussions on definitions, methods and tools related to comparative research on these issues; and discusses and evaluates the work of some educational scholars who have established conclusions on the impact of globalisation on comparative research in education.
This essay continues in three sections. Section 2 highlights and defines the key terms used in this essay, together with an introduction to the debates discussed around such key terms. Section 3 points out the debates on which main areas of interest in the social science studies (Education, Culture and Changes in the Methodology of Comparative Research) have been impacted by globalisation and how. Section 3 also presents opposite views on the impact of globalisation on society and the corresponding impact on comparative education research. Finally, Section 4 draws some conclusions based on the findings discussed in the previous sections, discusses some related challenges within comparative education research, and proposes some future work in comparative education research.
2. EXPLORING THE KEY TERMS
2.1 Defining 'Globalisation':
Since the beginning of the 1990s, there has been a sharp rise in discussing globalisation - its meaning, causes and effects - in various fields including the social sciences. Globalisation can be viewed and explained in different ways, and it is associated with various consequences at political, cultural and economic levels (Vulliamy, 2004).
In economic perspectives, globalisation is understood as a process that has intensified the spread of capital, goods, labour and services across borders (Green, 2002). This is the result of increasing financial and trade liberalisation (Green, 2002) as well as the development of global economic networks and the diffusion of global policies (Graziano, 2003).
In political perspectives, there is a belief that globalisation is a process that can potentially weaken the power of national political systems and instead strengthen them to supranational levels (Graziano, 2003).
In cultural perspectives, globalisation is often viewed as the becoming of a world culture in which we are increasingly conscious of the world as a whole (Vulliamy, 2004). The appreciation of the 'world as a whole' is encouraged and facilitated by the increased availability, access to and uses of information and communication technologies (ICT), which enables a worldwide transfer of knowledge (Zajda, 2009). The concept of the 'world as a whole' is increasingly shared. As expressed by Zajda, globalisation is, first, "the spread of common world culture, or the homogenisation of culture and even language" (2009, p.13), and then Zajda argues that globalisation facilitates the spread of democracy, of human rights and of environmental concerns, thus bringing the world closer together (Zajda, 2009).
2.2 Why is there a lack of a unique definition for 'globalisation'?
As it can be observed from the previous section, a single definition for globalisation, that would apply to any and all sectors, is difficult because it can be interpreted in multiple ways and according to multiple concepts. In the social sciences, there are several reasons to explain why it has not been possible to agree on one definition for 'globalisation'.
A useful explanation proposed by Van Der Bly is that, while we might be in a situation where we are now sharing global experiences, a shared global language has not yet developed. There is no unique concept in approaching globalisation and that is what divides views on globalisation (Van Der Bly, 2005). Reviews carried out by Van Der Bly have shown that some argue that globalisation is only a temporary condition, while others argue that it is a reality - one that is affecting the present and will affect the future of our society. There are also opposing attitudes adopted towards globalisation, some described as one-dimensional and others as multidimensional (Van Der Bly, 2005).
According to Green, another suggestion for explaining the multiple concepts in understanding globalisation is that there is still no definite agreement between social and political scientists on "how far economic trends will converge around a single world economic model and how far they will change the political and cultural landscape" (2002, p.7). Scholars participating in the globalisation debate are still uncertain about whether globalisation can have a significant impact on political and social organisations and if it will ever degrade cultural differences and convert them instead into one homogeneous world culture (Green, 2002).
2.3 Defining 'Comparative Research':
The main objective in comparative research is to describe and compare societies, cultures, systems, institutions and social structures against time and space (Hantrais, 2009). Comparative research is a widely used method in the humanities, the social and the political sciences, and most importantly in the field of education. Analysis in comparative research can be carried out using two differing methods - quantitative and qualitative - to explain the relationships between different sets of variables (Green, 2009). Quantitative analysis uses measurable data, for example statistics, and qualitative analysis depends more on interpretations or empirical evidence.
The main emphasis of international comparative researchers is to describe, understand and explain social phenomena in different socioeconomic, political and cultural settings so as to gain a higher international knowledge and understanding (Hantrais, 2009). As discussed in section (3) below, comparative research methods were used by the cited authors to identify and describe the correlation between globalisation and societal characteristics.
3. THE IMPACT OF GLOBALISATION
3.1 Impact on Education:
A challenging and possibly a most important current debate between scholars of educational studies is whether globalisation has had an impact on the role and the structure of education and education systems worldwide (Vulliamy, 2004). Some views express that globalisation has had a deep impact on education, especially in the Higher Education sector, as a direct result of the trends taking place in the global economy. Those same views predict that globalisation will diminish the power of nation-states and of their decision-makers on national education policies. However, some other views express contrary opinions and suggest that although some educational policies may have changed because of globalisation, national control over education has remained strong (Green, 2009).
One aspect of globalisation which asserts that it has had an impact on education is the emergence and uses of new terms in the language of education and which relate to globalisation, such as the 'Knowledge Industry' and 'Lifelong Learning'. The World Bank defines the 'Knowledge Industry' as "the manner in which various high-technology businesses, especially computer software, telecommunications and virtual services, as well as educational and research institutions, can contribute to a country's economy" (World Bank, 2010).
It has been increasingly discussed that the knowledge industry, as one of the instruments for globalising, is having a profound impact on educational institutions. For instance, it is argued that as a result of globalisation, universities and other educational institutions are now expected to include certain skills training considered desirable for employment and for success in the knowledge industry (Zajda, 2009). A majority of the developed countries and, progressively, a few developing countries have, as a consequence of globalisation, reformed some aspects of their national school and university curricula. An example of such educational reform is the priority given to teaching certain subjects that can provide skills desired by the knowledge economy, for example Mathematics, Sciences, English as a Foreign Language and Communications Skills (Carnoy, 1999). These reforms require, in many cases, particularly in developing countries, key adjustments in educational policies to ascertain that government spending in higher education is cut for the benefit of improved standards (and therefore expenditures) at the primary and secondary schooling levels (Carnoy, 1999). Some scholars believe that, due to these economic changes/trends, nation-states' control over their economic and educational systems will decline (Ohmae, 1994) and the role of the private sector, even in education, will increase to fill the needs.
However, there are scholars who disagree with Ohmae's view. They state that it is a 'hyperglobalist' way of looking at the relation between globalisation and nation-states and, contrary to such hyperglobalists' predictions, they reckon that national control over education has remained strong (Vulliamy, 2004). Green (2009) supports Vulliamy's view by pointing out that governments and their national systems are still controlling education to ensure the nation's ability to compete at a global economic level whilst maintaining a national cohesion in the country.
An important question raised by some scholars of educational studies is, now that education is increasingly seen as responsible for producing goods and services for students and workers to compete in the knowledge industry, what happens to the traditional role of education? Will there be more educational systems around the world shifting their national curriculum from a learning-centred to an economy-centred ideology (Zajda, 2009)? According to results taken from a qualitative analysis carried out in comparative studies, countries such as China, Japan, the United States, Great Britain, Russia and the Scandinavian countries, despite their socio-political differences, have made some similar modifications in their national curriculum to pursue international competition in the global market (Zajda, 2009). This race for competence in the global economy has led to an increasing use of educational indicators to measure and compare academic performances on an international level. One example of an educational indicator is the WEI programme, which is a joint UNESCO Institute of Statistics and OECD collaboration and which aims to analyse the resources invested in education and their corresponding rate of return (Zajda, 2009). Since the introduction and uses of international educational indicators, more ideas on education content and methods are getting transferred from country to country. It is appropriate to recall here the concern raised by Green (2002), which was pointed out in section (2) of this essay, whereby he expresses uncertainty on whether political and social organisations across countries will continue to differ or will they converge into one world culture.
Even so, it has been noted by Green, Leney & Wolf (1999) that global concepts such as 'Lifelong Learning' can be interpreted and applied in different ways across different countries, thus still showing variations in cultural practices and understanding and not yet a homogenisation of culture. On the subject of 'Lifelong Learning', Dale and Robertson (2009) highlight that it has both positive and negative results. On the positive side, its concept promises education for citizens at all levels of education, supported by public authorities, the EU and other international organisations. On the negative side however, lifelong learning policies developed by these latter organisations may be affected by the powerful neo-liberal actors of globalisation, whose economic interests may sometimes clash with the skills that some citizens possess. Neo-liberal actors of economic globalisation are increasingly reinforcing the need for global skills so as to speed up the rate of modernity, of competitiveness and of innovativeness (Dale and Robertson, 2009). A solution, suggested by Dale and Robertson (2009), for these countries to successfully face this challenge is that these countries should limit their state intervening and funding the public sector (including education) and instead should open their market to private competition.
Considering these different views on how globalisation impacts education, it is clear that globalisation has not completely changed how educational systems are managed. It is true to say that in some countries, for example the United States, globalisation has had a deep impact on their education sector. However, it is equally evident that globalisation affects countries differently and at a different pace. And, with new concepts such as the 'Knowledge Industry' and 'Lifelong Learning', education is no more limited to schools, colleges and other educational institutions (Green, 2002) because these concepts stress an 'education for all'. Dale and Robertson (2009) similarly argue that one of the challenges in the education sector is the transformation of knowledge as central for learning to being central for moneymaking. Dale and Robertson (2009) have made an observation similar to Green (2002), where they point out that a movement of knowledge from a school level to a local community has taken place. They believe this change is a result of economic and cultural globalisation along with developments of new information and communication technologies, causing tensions between managing 'knowledge' for individualistic achievements or for demands by the labour market (Dale and Robertson, 2009). Although, a well-argued viewpoint, made by Dale and Robertson (2009), is that knowledge for individualistic education and knowledge for industrial skills are not entirely opposite. This is because an individual's development in education is not exclusively for economic reasons nor for cultural reasons. Additionally, the present formation of knowledge is now produced at both local and global levels. This means that due to the economic development of networks, what is produced locally is being or can be shared globally, and what is produced globally can be controlled locally (Dale and Robertson, 2009).
Consequently, comparative researchers have to acknowledge that learning activities can now also occur in informal settings, which may marginalise the idea of an educational system (Green, 2002). These new settings may be interesting units of comparison for both national and transnational researchers. Additionally, the uses of "educational indicators" may be a useful tool for comparative researchers seeking to carry out quantitative analysis and, with today's and near-future advanced technology, useful facts and figures may become even easier collected, analysed and shared between comparativists.
3.2 Impact on Culture:
In this section we will look at how some scholars of cultural and social studies suggest that, as the global society is expanding, people's way of looking at the world is changing. This change in perspective is reinforced by how fast economic and cultural activities can now take place across the globe, deepening worldwide connections in different aspects of the social life (Vulliamy, 2004). The powerful exchange in culture and information through networks may also diminish the role of the nation-states since people can "now have social relations irrespective of the territory to which they belong" (Castells, 1996, p.275). Others on the other hand argue that cultural values are still important for keeping a sense of a national pedagogy and for undertaking qualitative research in comparative studies (Vulliamy, 2004).
Zajda (2009) establishes that globalisation has intensified worldwide social relations and encouraged the notion of a 'global mobility'. Zajda believes that some aspects of culture are now mobile and shared around the world, creating the concept of a 'transnational culture'. Those who are involved in a transnational culture, whom Zajda refers to as the 'cosmopolitans', are a new class of citizens capable of participating and working in cultures outside their home country (Zajda, 2009). Based on Zajda's observations, it is argued that the notions of national identity, language, national politics and citizenship, all relevant to the interests of national policies, are changing because of globalisation (Zajda, 2009).
Anthropologist Friedman (2004) seems to back-up Zajda's observations when he argues that transnational migrants are now having a central part in the ongoing processes of globalisation. According to Friedman (2004), transnationalism has become a key term in migration studies and is discussed in the globalisation debate. Friedman (2004) stresses that patterns of transnational migration and emerging social networks need to be understood as an indication for the decentralisation and the weakening power of nation-states.
If the argument that the notions of language, policy and national identity is valid and that these are indeed changing, perhaps nation-states may lose their power in directing their national interests (Zajda, 2009). Nation-states may be directly affected by this new form of global culture as current educational policies reflect a changing society in which its citizens are starting to question their sense of identity (Zajda, 2009).
It has been noted that there is an unresolved tension between preserving a heterogeneous culture and a change towards a homogeneous culture (Zajda, 2009). Moreover, there is an ongoing dialectic between opposite forces such as globalism and localism, and tradition and modernity (Zajda, 2009). Planel (1997) argues that although notions of culture are changing, cultural values are still important for learning as they give meaning and style to education and to the structures of pedagogy. Another argument by Planel (1997) is that, even if educational policies can now be transferred globally, styles of teaching will be modified from one country to another due to their differences in culture and national context.
A similar argument voiced by Vulliamy (2004) is that an increasing homogenisation of culture and educational policies will not diminish the validity of qualitative research. This is because in qualitative research there is a requirement to focus on both the local and the global values and on the actors playing a key role in educational processes.
Globalisation has brought a worldwide growing social diversity, making nationally-based studies starting to be obsolete (Green, 2002). With the globalisation of culture and the expanding transnational cultural spaces, studies should turn to supranational levels, setting out to study skills formation, for example (Green, 2002). However, these changes in comparative research will not happen immediately. Green (2002) argues that this is because countries still vary in terms of demography, economy and culture, and much of the data is still collected at a national level.
3.3 Impact on the state of Comparative Education Research:
Crossley (2003) remarks that the dramatic changes in geopolitical relations, advances in communication technology, educational policies - to name but a few - are significant challenges to comparative and international education research. These challenges, Crossley (2003) argues, indicate the need for a critical reflection on how comparative and international educationalists can address these modern changes and how to meet their needs in the years to come. Crossley (2003) further argues that improvements in comparative research should be made to better engage with these changes and to lead to evidence-based research and policy-making.
Vulliamy (2004) points out that the advancement in computer technology and the uses of the Internet have facilitated the exchange of research findings worldwide, an advantage for researchers in comparative research. Due to increasing economic and educational competition between countries happening on a global scale, more governments are promoting researched evidence to support their 'evidence-based' policy-making (Vulliamy, 2004). It is believed that this will reinforce positivistic research in educational and in cross-cultural policy transfers. Furthermore, it is also believed that international organisations, such as UNESCO and OECD, will be internationally influential in promoting methods of educational research, which has the potential of creating a homogenisation in approaches to research.
Crossley (2003) concludes that globalisation has already brought some benefits to the work carried out in the area of comparative and international education. For instance, cross-cultural studies can be material for international collaboration and there may be a strengthening of partnerships for comparative research across national borders. According to Crossley (2003), a review of changes in comparative education research approaches reveal improvements in understanding many current educational problems as globalisation has led to more insightful interpretation and critical thinking. Byrne (2002) identifies that the availability of IT resources mean that comparativists have access to more variables, ideal for both quantitative and qualitative methods. This better access to variables could mean new aspects to study in comparative education research and an evolution in the methodology of comparative studies.
3.4 Impact on the validity of Comparative Education Research:
In one of his works on the relation between globalisation and comparative research, Green raised a pertinent question; "Comparative education has traditionally meant the study of national education systems. But how far is this approach valid today?" (2002, p. 7). Similarly, Jarvis asked "Why should we undertake comparative analysis at all in this 'Global Village'?" (2000, p.353). It is important for one who carries out comparative research to question whether the notion of a nation-state is truly weakening and if it is, does it make cross-national comparisons obsolete (Green, 2002)? In this era of globalisation, is there a need for comparativists to search for and analyse units of comparison other than nation-states? And if we do all live in a 'Global Village', does it make everyone a comparativist (Green, 2002)?
Globalisation certainly helps to better describe and compare societal aspects across national borders. Comparative researchers are more conscious of the 'world as a whole' and appreciate more the differences and similarities between educational systems, cultures and societies. But the validity of comparative research does not cease here. There are still cases left to look at and to learn from by doing comparative research across countries and other units. Green (2009) seeks to explain that comparative research is not about what we consider 'foreign systems' but it is a form of analysis to examine macro-causal relationships. Macro-causal relationships do not necessarily take place on a global scale, they could also be in smaller social spaces such as a locality. And most importantly, according to Green (2009), comparative research remains the most powerful means of understanding the societal characteristics of education.
The purpose of this essay was, first, to identify the societal characteristics that are or will be most influenced by globalisation and, second, to evaluate how the impact on these societal characteristics affects comparative education research, including its theories, methods and findings. This essay discussed the impact of globalisation on two major societal characteristics, Education and Culture, and on related relationships. This essay then evaluated how global changes in educational and cultural structures can intervene and modify the methodology and the justification for conducting comparative education research. Here, section (4.1) summarises the findings and expresses my personal views on some findings; and section (4.2) suggests some issues that require further study.
4.1 Summary of and Reflections on the Findings:
In discussing the impact of globalisation on education, a summary of opposing arguments was presented. It was observed that some scholars, such as Carnoy (1999) and Zajda (2009), argue that globalisation has brought changes in the role and the structure of education. For instance, in some educational institutions there is now more emphasis on subjects to teach to provide necessary skills to strive in the knowledge industry. These educational reforms are more present in institutions which are privately funded, reflecting lesser spending on public education. Ohmae (1994) believes these educational reforms are happening on a global scale and that could be one of the causes for the weakening of nation-states. In comparison, scholars such as Green (2009) argue that nation-states still have control over their national educational systems since it is one of their ways of ensuring national cohesion. Besides, Green, Leney & Wolf (1999) have noted that even global concepts such as 'Lifelong Learning' have different cultural meanings across boundaries. What is then agreed between these opposite views is that globalisation affects educational systems of countries differently and that learning has moved beyond formal schooling. Learning is now also accessible in informal settings, meaning that comparative researchers should not restrict analysis to educational systems and should consider informal settings as new units of comparison. This does move comparative education research away from its origins which was traditionally the study of national educational systems (Green, 2002). However, it is important to bear in mind that comparative research is also about making comparisons against time and space (Hantrais, 2009). Therefore, comparative researchers also have to follow the current trends occurring in a society, one of which is the globalisation of certain societal characteristics. Moreover, globalisation has helped to strengthen international partnerships in comparative research (Crossley, 2003). This means that the comparative researchers' search for higher international knowledge and understanding (Hantrais, 2009) is more likely to be achieved because of the inherent higher cultural exchange between units.
On the impact of globalisation on culture, Friedman (2004) and Zajda (2009) explore how globalisation has spread and diversified cultural aspects including language, national identities and policies, and both scholars believe that globalisation led to a change in population movement and migration patterns, making more people cross national borders and work outside their home country. They also both suggest that, as more people leave their home countries and integrate in the global culture, the power of nation-states weakens. Even though Planel (1997) accepts that notions of culture will change in time, he argues that globalisation has not quite erased the importance of cultural values in education since they are what distinguish a national pedagogy from another. Vulliamy (2004) backs up Planel's argument, believing qualitative research still requires local values in understanding the role of key players in educational processes. Based on these arguments, it can be concluded that much of the data used in comparative education research relies on data collected at national level. But a totally different view stresses that, sometime in the future, nationally-based comparisons will be obsolete (Green, 2002). Perhaps, with evolving methods in comparative research such as those pointed out by Vulliamy (2004), the means for collecting data needed in comparative research will at some point be easier provided at a supranational level. It is my view that nationally and locally collected data will continue to be vital, whether it is for national or international comparisons. It is also my view that what is required are better and more internationally agreed definitions and standards that would make data, when collected, serve first and foremost a national requirements and then the purposes of international comparisons. The pre-requisite agreed data standards would lead to more readily accepted findings and conclusions by differing forms of comparative studies and research.
As for the impact of globalisation on the methodology and the validity of comparative education research, advances in the uses and skills of ICT may facilitate quantitative analysis carried out in comparative studies. Due to global competition for economic and educational achievements, national governments may increasingly turn to international organisations, such as UNESCO and OECD, for the use of quantitative analysis in measuring and comparing educational results. As globalisation brings more international collaboration to comparative studies, improvements in qualitative analysis may be achievable through more insight and interpretations of other countries' national educational systems. I wish to add two personal views. First, the specialised international organisations (e.g. WHO on health, FAO on food & agriculture, UNEP on environment protection) have a significant role in educational content in their respective fields and in the formal (via schools) and informal (via the media) delivery of such content; the importance of their involvement in comparative education research must not be under-estimated and should be actively sought. Second, the "indicators" for qualitative measurements and comparisons are much more difficult to conceive and internationally agree upon because of the broad diversity of socio-cultural traits and values (and therefore variables) which influence such indicators. Nonetheless, the qualitative indicators are worthy of greater depth of research and international collaboration aimed at reaching consensus on their adoption.
Even if nation-states are really weakening and the conduct of comparative research at supranational levels will, in the years to come, be more desirable than at national levels, the role of comparative education research should not end here. Comparative education researchers may presently not have all the applicable approaches to understanding these new phenomena such as 'Transnational Culture' or concepts like 'Cosmopolitans'. But, as long as they build on the techniques they have already developed in the last few decades, and with the help of global tools such as the Internet, Educational Indicator Programmes and International Collaboration, the necessary evaluations and conclusions may be achieved. It is my view that, whereas globalisation and its imposing economic influences on the content of education are already recognised realities in many parts of the world - so much so that together with other considerations are used to explain the emergence of a world or transnational culture - local traits will not be so easily wiped by globalisation. It must be understood that 'local' habits and values are often not 'national' traits. I think that ours will be a better world if our educational curricula and methods teach, and are based upon, a co-habitation of local cultures and the economics-Internet driven world culture. Local cultures should not be lost and, to maintain and protect that, it should be a part of the core primary education curricula (funded as a priority by public resources). The world culture and all that is necessary for economic competition and survival in the "global village" could be covered as a part of higher education which, even in developing countries, is increasingly funded by private venture.
4.2 Recommendations for future Comparative Education Research:
A few suggestions for future work in comparative education research stem with this essay.
As Crossley (2003) suggests, the traditional analysis of nation-states limits exploring new themes in comparative education research and comparative researchers should therefore consider examining the new transnational formations and its implications on class, race, gender and education. These changes may become crucial considerations for future work in comparative education research. It is believed by some scholars, one of whom is Crossley (2003), that globalisation has marginalised the people who have not benefited from it. The media, particularly TV, is full of spectacular coverage of these issues. But, I also believe, what is required is a qualitative analysis of the social space occupied by those people including their classrooms, their culture and their indigenous languages, and comparing these with the class of people who are benefiting from globalisation.
Green (2002) believes comparative research carried out at a national level is still relevant because indicators show that countries still vary in terms of demography, economy and culture. Green (2002) also implies that societal structures such as political systems and cultural traits are still controlled nationally and therefore comparative researchers will anyway need to start their data collection at national levels. Thus Green (2002) argues that globalisation does not remove country differences so much as to make comparisons impossible. I agree that as long as units of comparisons do contrast, comparing is justified and should be facilitated. But, it would be necessary to investigate and agree on the applicable research criteria. Are they appropriate to the theory that is examined? Are the causes related to the phenomenon being studied? And, is the data sufficiently available at the level which the comparativist targets? As Green puts it, and I share that view, "the challenge for comparativists is not about the level of analysis but rather it is about the nature of the comparative analysis per se and whether they should do it at all" (2002, p. 92).