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Category Archive • Globalisation
December 09, 2004
Clarke versus Reich

I'm not sure myself what I think of it, especially when governments are so heavily involved, but one of the biggest education stories that has emerged while I've been writing this blog has been educational globalisation.

The BBC presents two contrasting views of this process. Our Education Minister Mr Clarke is for it, and wants only to encourage it, although politicians encouraging something doesn't necessarily mean that it will actually be very encouraged. Here is a BBC report of his globalisation thoughts yesterday:

The UK must be a serious player in the global market for students if it is to prosper, says the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke.

He told a British Council-organised UK International Education Conference in Edinburgh that this was worth £10.4bn a year to the economy.

However, as a result of this report, I found myself following a link back to a warning given by Robert Reich to British higher education:


Britain has been warned of the dangers of following America in the "marketisation" of higher education.

The warning came from Robert Reich, a professor of social and economic policy at Brandeis University and a labour secretary in President Clinton's administration.

I've had a busy day and am still studying Reich's thoughts, but a cursory look-through suggests that this is a particularly important point:

There is also along with the marketisation of higher education there's a greater and greater emphasis on vocational and pre-career university courses and the advertising and marketing of vocational and pre-career - accounting, law, economics, finance, engineering, applied sciences - these are becoming very, very popular, undergraduate curricula in these areas are expanding dramatically, a faculty who are teaching in these areas are paid better and better. And so more seriously the classics – literature, history, some of the basic sciences - have become poor stepchildren. Because you see it follows that as you envision higher education as a system of private investment for private return and as that sinks into the public's mind it naturally follows that the concept of a liberal arts education or an education in humanities or the education in broad-based social sciences or in classics or whatever has less and less justification in the public's mind.

But is there not also another explanation for the decline of the humanities, which is that the potential consumers of these services are distressed by the nature of the product. "Liberal arts education" is surely the bit of US higher education that has degenerated most spectacularly in recent years. This is where bias, ignorance, and hostility to all the kinds of values of the kind that such an education used to promote has run riot most riotously. Vocational courses have a built-in mechanism to enable their quality to be assessed. How well to the products of such courses then do in their careers? This, I submit, has kept them up to the mark and created meaningful competition, in a way that relates to what those customers want from such courses. No such mechanism is built into humanities courses.

And there is also the simple fact that only a few are drawn towards the academic life. The recent trend towards marketisation has accompanied something which might have happened anyway, without such marketisation, which is simply: expansion. Do more higher education, and you are not going to churn out the exact same proportion of historians and literary critics, unless you are very foolish. Could Reich be blaming marketisation for something which is actually just plain common sense, and if he is right to blame marketisation, would it not make more sense to praise marketisation for registering the wisdom of such an alteration of educational emphasis? Would America really be a better country had the universities unleashed a million more humanists, or whatever they are called?

Just a couple of thoughts, which are of course related. I have more homework to do about this piece, but that's no reason for me not to link to it in the meantime, as I hope you agree.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:17 PM
Category: GlobalisationHigher education
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November 05, 2004
Turkey and Kazakhstan cooperate on education

It would be easy to dismiss this as a load of old politicised garbage …

Astana. November 5. KAZINFORM. 5-9 November Turkey Minister of National Education Hussein Chelik will visit the Republic of Kazakhstan, our correspondent has been told in the press service of the Education Ministry of Kazakhstan.

In the course of the visit it is planned to sign the Agreement on cooperation and in the sphere of education between the ministries of the two states. In Astana the Turkish Minister will visit some educational institutions, such as the Kazakh-Turkish High School, Kazakh Gymnasium # 38 and the Gumilyev Eurasian National University.

Besides, in Turkistan the guest will study the activity of the International Kazakh-Turkish University named after Yassavi.

… and I'm sure that a lot of it is just that. This could, of course, just be a taxpayer funded holiday for a bunch of parasites. At best it is an accurately recycled government press release.

However, we live in a world where the cooperation being suggested here is now a lot easier for actual people, as opposed to politicians, to do for real and to make good use of. So if there are people at both ends of this deal who want this stuff to work, then it might. I wish them luck. And if the politicians are merely trying to get the process of them not interrupting organised, then well done them too.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:49 PM
Category: Globalisation
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October 29, 2004
Cheats from China

I don't really know what to say about this, other than that it is interesting:

Midland universities are being targeted by fraudsters who falsify application forms to get foreign students on to courses in return for cash.

At least seven overseas students have already been expelled so far this term in the region after their applications were found to claim they had qualifications they did not possess.

Nationally 1,000 students have been caught during 2004 using false addresses, names and faked qualifications to get into prestigious British universities – twice the normal rate, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

Yesterday, it was reported that an agent for Chinese students had claimed to have fixed places for hundreds of unqualified students over the past three years at universities including Birmingham.

Candidates were reported to be paying thousands of pounds to agents operating in China and Pakistan to cheat their way to a highly-prized UK university education.

Well, maybe there's this to say. How well would these cheats have done if they had been allowed to continue with their studies? How well do they do, if not caught? They sound rather highly motivated to me. Or would they have just tried (do they just try?) to make further educational progress with yet more payments?

The end of the article does supply an answer:

Warwick University described people who tried to falsify qualifications to get in "idiots".

I guess they meant "as" idiots there.

"There is a demand for British higher education around the world. It is one of the things we do well. In a sense it is the jewel in our crown," said Peter Dunn, head of communications.

"We occasionally get idiots who try to forge qualifications but 99 per cent of the time they are easy to spot."

But what if these fraudsters are only easy to spot if they are, you know, easy to spot? Is Warwick University behaving like those dumbos who say, with perfect confidence: "I can always spot a hairpiece."

It is hardly surprising that they've never yet spotted a fraudulent student that they couldn't spot.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:05 PM
Category: Examinations and qualificationsGlobalisation
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October 25, 2004
Arabs looking to India

More Arabs are getting educated in India:

Kerala, India]: Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 25 : Arabs in the Middle East are increasingly looking towards India instead of just the US and Europe for education and tourism, said P.V. Vivekanand, editor of the Dubai-based daily Gulf Today.

The first Malayali editor of an English daily published from the Middle East was here to receive the Kerala Kalakendram Golden Honours Award instituted to honour internationally acclaimed members of the community.

"If the most favoured destination of many Arabs was the US and Europe till recently, they are today more attracted to India and Kerala. Thailand and Indonesia are also important destinations, but they are now looking towards India especially in sectors like education and tourism," Vivekanand told reporters.

He said a delegation of businessmen from Saudi Arabia was expected to arrive in Kerala shortly and the authorities should see what could be done to get more Arabs into Kerala.

I'm not sure whether this is because India is getting more attractive, while still offering good value for money, which it is; or Arabs getting less stupid at spending their money (or maybe that a new sort of not-so-stupid-with-money Arab is at last coming on stream in enough numbers to make a difference). Any of those trends would be welcome ones.

The bad news would be if the Indian end was simply idiot Indian Muslims teaching idiot Muslimism and nothing but (the nothing-but bit being the idiocy).

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:57 PM
Category: Globalisation
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September 20, 2004
University unrest

There's trouble a't' uni':

The row over performance related pay between Nottingham University and its lecturers reached a new deadlock today as the Association of University Teachers fulfilled its promise to stage an academic boycott of the university.

Later they quote AUT assistant general secretary, Matt Waddup, and my guess would be that the key paragraph in this story is this one:

"We believe that the university is placing its international reputation in serious danger," he added.

Universities in Britain are morphing from (exaggerating only somewhat) places where locals tread water to places where foreigners race through the water and do not want to be interrupted. They are going global, and doing global business. Thus, I classify this story under "globalisation" as well as just "higher education".

Result: a world in which universities demand actual performance, as opposed to mere charming eccentricity, but also one in which unions have a whole new kind of economic success to threaten and to want in on. Guess: there'll be more of this kind of thing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:37 PM
Category: GlobalisationHigher education
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September 16, 2004
How a special talent can get you a good general education – Chetham's and Real Madrid

Last time I was in touch with her family, the news of Goddaughter II was that she is hoping to get to Chetham's School of Music, on the back of her cello playing, which is apparently improving fast.

The great thing about Chetham's is that (a) it produces lots of excellent musicians, and,(b) just as vital, it produces lots of excellent non-musicians, people who excelled at music when they were kids, but who then went on to do other things in later life, with equal enthusiasm and distinction. Chetham's supplies great music education, and great non-music education. No wonder Goddaughter II's family are so keen on her to try to get there. Hope she does it. Even if she doesn't, the attempt will stretch her in all the right ways, I think. (I hope.)

And now here is another story, this time culled from googling about strangers, of a kid with one great talent, who is about to have his education built around that.

Spanish football giants Real Madrid have added a seven-year-old boy from Brighton to their ranks of superstars.

Niall Mason impressed Real at a two-week summer course at the club so much that they asked him to join their prestigious Escuela Deportivo de Futbol Federation Madrid.

He becomes the latest English player on Real's books following the signings of David Beckham, Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate.

Niall will train twice a week for eight months at the academy with his schooling continuing at a local English school.

The Mason family, including his mother Mimosa, father Russell and three-year-old sister Maya, are all moving to Madrid where they will live in a flat close to Real's Bernabeu stadium.

Sounds like a somewhat Spanish family already, doesn't it? Well, good luck to them all.

Everything depends, with a story like this, on the way that the adults handle things. Do they bet everything on Niall becoming a soccer star, and then treat him, and make him treat himself, like a total failure if that doesn't work out? Or do they teach him soccer, and teach him the kind of things that a star institution like Real Madrid can teach him about life in general, and thereby prepare him well for whatever life may bring him.

I'm optimistic about Niall's chances. I don't think that Real would have gone to all this bother for Niall if they didn't like the look of his family background as well as his soccer skills. And I have enough respect for Real as educators ("Escuela Deportivo de Futbol Federation Madrid" sounds like they take all this pretty seriously), not only to hope that things will go well for Niall, but actually to think it, regardless of whether he ever makes it in big time soccer. Sorry: "Futbol".

Besides which, the Real futbol team may find themselves needing him quite soon.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:35 PM
Category: GlobalisationHow to teachSport
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September 13, 2004
More educational exporting

Education as a global industry proceeds inexorably.

Singapore is selling education to Indians:

NEW DELHI – Affordable fees. Global curricula and world-class faculties. Close to home. A 'safe mix' of the best from the West and the East.

These are among the advantages Singapore offers Indian students as it positions itself to be Asia's education hub.

With these advantages, Singapore is a better option than even the United States, according to some parents and students who visited a two-day roadshow that ended here yesterday.

And Dubai is selling education to Scotland (although in this case "Dubai" sounds more like a flag of convenience):

A DUBAI-based company that claims to provide "no frills" private education is to open its first school in Scotland next year.

Global Education Management Systems (Gems) charges fees of £5,000 a year, up to half the cost of a traditional private school. It already has acquired 13 schools south of the border and is now carrying out market research with a view to expanding into Scotland. Its aim is to become the biggest provider of private education in the UK within the next five years.

In the Gulf states, about 40,000 children are currently educated in Gems schools, which are geared to providing high teaching standards rather than luxurious surroundings and facilities.

Sunny Varkey, an Indian entrepreneur who recently signed a deal to take his chain into Afghanistan, heads the Gems group. He plans to use Gems’ position as a limited company to invest in school facilities, claiming it will give him an edge over most independent schools, which find it difficult to raise money for new buildings due to their charitable status.

A spokeswoman for Gems said it had conducted market research and found that there was demand in Scotland for their schools. She added: "It's our intention to expand right across the whole of the UK. We are moving north of the border. I would say, realistically, it will be about a year but if a plot of land came up, it could be much sooner than that."

There's no business like global ed-business.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:30 PM
Category: GlobalisationThe private sector
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