Globalization and Education

Authors

Darim Albassam

Abstract

The Arab Summit meeting in Riyadh established that educational systems in Arab countries share common concerns that should be addressed regionally and that this reform should cover all aspects of the education system. The directions and possibilities for Arab education in the 21st century revolve around the defining characteristics of the age: globalization, knowledge and information. We should address the challenges of globalization to education in the Arab region, not only to chart the future of the field, but to study the relation in the broadest societal context possible. One of the greatest challenges is developing “strategic imagination”: the willingness and ability to envision new possibilities for the development of new potentials and, in parallel, to conceive, explore, test and demonstrate innovative strategies that can contribute toward making these possibilities reality.

Assumptions

This paper considers the central role of knowledge, education and learning as factors of production.

The global system of production and distribution is now progressing from the Fordist-Taylorist development model to one based on Innovation-Mediated Production.

A number of assumptions continue to survive in education systems, despite our move into the information age, rendering many aspects of today's schooling systems irrelevant to the world we live in. An example of an old assumption is the one that views the student's mind as a container and teachers as wise "sages on the stage", delivering data, information, knowledge and wisdom, to the eagerly awaiting students, whose minds were empty vessels waiting to be filled.

An emerging view, at all levels of the educational systems, is that there is a need to develop “new habits of the mind” for a “new world”. Part of this appreciation entails a moving away from recipes and algorithmic thinking toward complexities and complex thinking.

An example of this movement toward non-algorithmic thinking and an embracing of complexity is clearly evident in what has come to be called problem-based-learning (PBL), and the formation of students with problem-solving capabilities and critical minds.

PBL, an approach that is being applied to all levels of education and professional training has, at its organizing center, the ill-structured problem which is messy and complex in nature; requires inquiry, information gathering and reflection; changing and tentative; and has no simple, fixed, formulaic or right solution.

Likewise, Today there are increasingly fewer things have clear-cut boundaries and the multiplicity of connections, which makes for greater uncertainty and speed of change. This condition demands adaptability, rather than dogged pursuit of efficiency. And, we live in a relational world with increasing connectedness and that symbiosis is strength. The increasing connectedness of the world also brought to the fore growing awareness of interdependence of existence. The modern world is increasingly shaped, in its essence, as a dynamic system. In such closely connected world, many more things interact and shape each other and many more domains of activity take on the properties of a complex system.

Many of the concepts that used in the curricula of schools to understand societies and conditions, however, are pre-systematic and flow from an image of the world as a self-contained static machine. New “habits of mind” that require toleration for, and understanding of, ambiguity; complexity; interrelatedness, change, uncertainty, and flow, will be needed.


Conclusions

Policy makers in our region should wake up to the call that with increasing intensity today, information scarcity is being replaced by information abundance, a process that inevitably should force our educational planners and policy makers to coin new definition of the role of formal learning institutions. Accordingly, the school should alter its function from being a primary provider of information and knowledge, to serving as a context in which one can learn how to organize, manage, analyze, verify, apply, interpret and give meaning to information. As we can see, the learning paradigm over here will shift from information acquisition to information management on part of the learner.

This is indeed a profound shift in the core function of formal learning institution, the implications of which extend to all dimensions of the educational enterprise in the countries of the region: curriculum, teaching, assessment, credentializing, organizational structure, as well as their relationship to time and space.

Students usually are smarter than we think. They have a very clear, sometimes critical and demanding but also stimulating opinion of what they regard as quality education and what should be done to attain it. They like schools to teach them how to think, not only teaching them facts. Young people are not interested in learning experiences that simply lead them to reproduce information –which moreover, will soon be outdated- mainly because they are aware that they can find that information for themselves, provided that they have been taught to do so. They want to shift away from education for conformity to education for creativity.

It is the sheer evidence of recent research that tells us how schools were increasingly observed to fail to produce self-motivated individuals who can live in the complexities and ambiguities of today's world. The new organizations of today need people with high cognitive and affective skills, creative and adaptable. More specifically, today's world requires individuals who possess: (1) an inner appreciation of inter-connectedness; (2) a strong identity of sense of being; (3) a sufficiently large vision and imagination to see how specifics relate to each other; (4) the capacity to "go with the flow" and to deal with paradox and uncertainty; and (5) a capacity to build community and live in relationship with others.

The stronger source of curriculum and instruction capable of harvesting those objectives is, in my opinion, through involving students in projects. More specifically, student's exploration and experience can be the essence of any course of study. Everything in life is in constant process of discovery and creation. Hence sources of the curriculum should be diversified and not confined to text books. They could be national, communal and, thanks to the multi-media and to the abundance and easy accessibility of information, it could be international.

This normative outlook will help us reach the conclusion that in the information age, children do not learn in boxes, thus the strict division of curriculum into subject matters does not lead to effective learning. Thinking-based curricula, which encourage and allow children to think, if handled in a integrated fashion, yield the best results. Bearing this in mind, the sources for a relevant update curriculum in a fast- moving age will rely far less on standardized textbooks.

Moreover, with regard to learning objectives, considerable emphasis should be placed on collaboration and teamwork in classroom interaction. Management experts worldwide have noted that behind the Japanese technological, economic, and educational success story has been ability to work in groups and develop group loyalty. The ability to work in groups is now being recognized as an educational objective, as important as literacy and numeracy.

Also important to group formation and on a par with literacy and numeracy are communication skills that are not necessarily reducible to reading and writing, such as planning, presentation, critical and logical thinking, and non- verbal communication.

In a knowledge- based organization and economy, another learning objective is not just clear access to and use of knowledge, but the processing of that knowledge: verification, analysis and interpretation, utilization and attaching deep meaning to it in daily life activities of learners. To close, I would like to review a few lessons these conclusions teach us about what is required for Arab countries to reform their educational system in order to meet the sweeping changes introduced by globalization and by radical shifts in the new systems of production and distribution based on knowledge in the first place.

Let us agree that all societies evidence a learning architecture, that is through their conscious intentions, they establish the boundaries and rules of who learns what, with whom, where, when, how and for what purpose. The existence of a learning architecture is, thus, common among societies and nations. In the global and dynamic world of today, the pressures as of such force and significance as to cause us examine our learning architecture and engage in an equally serious process of redesign.

One of our greatest needs, now, is for what can be described as “strategic imagination”: the willingness and ability to envision new possibilities for the development of the new potential and, in parallel, to conceive, explore, test and demonstrate innovative strategies that can contribute toward making these possibilities a realty.

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