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The principal objective of education has been the development of the whole individual. The minimum level of education that was necessary to achieve this goal in the previous generations were basic or primary and in the industrial age, secondary. In the present borderless information society, education needs to be able to respond to additional demands of a rapidly globalizing world by raising awareness of environment, cultural, and social diversity, increased competitiveness, and the concept of a global village. Such education is to a knowledge or information society what secondary education was to an industrial economy. Education prepares the individual to connect - and live in harmony - with the environment around him. Globalization has changed the size, nature and quality of that environment. The challenge for higher education, therefore, is to reform, create and develop systems that prepare the individual to work in a borderless economy and live in a global society. In other words, our educational institutions need to produce global citizens.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 allowed liberal democracies to claim victory for the capitalist system and contributed to increasing the pace of globalization that was already under way. As globalization gained momentum, market substituted political ideology as the dominant force guiding national and global policies. What followed next, therefore, does not seem so illogical. National governments everwhere - partly in deference to the ascendancy of the market and partly in response to pressure from the private sector to expand their sphere of activities - began to relinquish control over the delivery of social goods. Everything began to be viewed as a commodity that could be produced and delivered by the private sector in line with market forces and according to the principles of suppy and demand. One by one - water, electricity, postal services, health, and now education, have been turned into a commodity.

Effects on Education


The withdrawal of state from higher education has also been helped by economists, who have had an overly simple way of assessing the return on investments in higher education.  The basic problem is that they have measured the return on education exclusively through wage differentials.  With reference to someone who has no education, someone who has been to primary school, someone who has completed secondary school, and someone with a university degree, one can ask how much more each earns than the previous.  These differences are then compared to the incremental amounts invested in their education to find the return.  The results generally suggest that higher education yields a lower return than primary or secondary education - and they have been used to justify the skewing of government budgets and development funds away from higher education institutions.

The rate of return calculations are flawed because they do not take account of the full range of benefits to those who receive higher education.  For example, higher education can enhance health, openness, social development, and at the same time reduce disease, bigoHigher education confers benefits above and beyond enhancing the incomes of those who receive it.  And many of these benefits take the form of public goods, such as the contribution of higher education to enterprise, leadership, governance, culture, and participatory democracy, and its potential for lifting the disadvantaged out of poverty.  These are all vital building blocks for stronger economies and societies and all routes by which the benefit of investment in higher education multiplies throughout society.

Liberal democracies have traditionally operated on the principle of separation of activities in the social sphere just as they have on the principle of separation of powers in the political sphere.  The private sector had been given a relatively free hand
in the production and delivery of economic goods while the state concentrated on the provision of healthcare, education and other infrastructure goods, also known as public goods.

Return to Globalization Index

Globalization has changed all that.  The rapid expansion of the influence of the private sector at the global level necessitated a corresponding expansion in their sphere of activities by diversifying into the production and delivery of public goods that had always been within the purview of the state.  The takeover was swift and remarkable in the sense that the effort did not meet much resistance.

One of the major consequences of the globalization of education has been commodification and the corporatization of institutions of higher learning.  It is said that the for-profit education market in the States is worth more than $500 billion in revenue for the involved corporates.  More than 1000 state schools have been handed over to corporations to be run as businesses.  But there is a fundamental problem with the way business models have been applied to the delivery of education and other public goods.  Unthinking adoption of the private sector model prevents the development of a meaningful approach to management in the public services in general or to the social services in particular based on their distinctive purposes, conditions and objectives.

There is another problem with corporatization of education.  Corporations operate on the principles of cost reduction and profit maximization.  These require introducing standardization and the packaging of product in compact, measurable, byte-like, configuration.  Applied to education, these approaches would possibly negate its basic fabric and purpose.  Education has always encouraged openness, inquiry, diversity, research and limitless learning.  Corporatization of education would make it elitist for the rich and affluent.