Globalization Alert

A Case for Regionalization in Education.

This is a counter-post to Arsalan Bashir’s call for globalization (in education). Let me just state for the record that I’m not against it, yet simply pointing out some possible flaws.

While “open borders” in education should prove a boon to the entire field, exchanging ideas and resources with little to no hindrance of bureaucracy and politics, between demographics and geographics, a “global education system” can become a nightmare scenario. It’s hard enough to promote change in existing national and regional education systems, how can we hope to find any flexibility in an uber-committee whose organization cannot be anything else but sluggish and indecisive, with contrasting agendas, administration blockage and echo-chamber mentality to name a few of its potential plagues. A teacher can modify a lesson from one day to the next. A school has to call for a staff meeting, or seek approval with the district supervisor, to make adjustments to a curriculum. On a state level it gets even more complicated and convoluted. To think what it would take to consider a new teaching approach on a global scale. No room for experimentation, long adoption cycles, deadlocks. It can stifle any progress by cementing a status quo simply due to the gravity of procedures. It would suppress diversity, not allowing for miracles such as the Finland and Singapore educational systems, or the Thayer High School (see Dennis Littky) and Carlmont High School (see LouAnne Johnson) success stories, to ever grow out of personal or collective initiatives.

Of course, this doesn’t have to be the case. Such a system would have to make allowances for individual teachers, regions and even states to explore their own unique approach to education. It is where variety and innovations can come from. But that’s not a guarantee either. Considering the case of the Common Core standards, that attempt to provide universal guidelines that aren’t strict instructions, we can see how good intentions can fall prey to bad execution, partly because of its nationwide mandate. Dropped down from a higher authority, it was never tested on the local scale and therefore brought about much confusion and backlash from the actual practitioners of education — teachers as well as parents.

Which leads us to another issue that globalization in education is susceptible to comes from the fact that the world is not globalized. Sadly, there’s inequality on the macro, between countries and even continents, and on the micro, between cities and even neighbourhoods. How can the same framework be applied to religious agricultural communities as well as the urban liberal elite? How can you set the same bar for starving students in the Congo as well as privileged pupils of Orange County in California?

On the other hand — they all deserve the best. Everyone should receive an equal opportunity that comes from education. Equal — yes, just not necessarily the same. I propose that globalization in education is not a black or white, 1 or 0, all or nothing debate. Some elements of it can be agents of improvement, of development. Some can overshadow distinctiveness and block change.