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Globalisation, Educational Transformation and Societies in Transition

reviewed by Patti McGill Peterson - 2002

coverTitle: Globalisation, Educational Transformation and Societies in Transition
Author(s): Teame Mebrahtu, Michael Crossley & David Johnson
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Oxford
ISBN: 1873927789, Pages: 234, Year: 2000
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While globalisation figures prominently in this volume’s title, the book begins with a caution that the concept of globalisation is a slippery one. Indeed, it is a term used frequently to describe a variety of contemporary phenomena, but it is rarely defined. In this case, there is a need not only to be explicit about what constitutes globalisation, but also what its impact is upon education.

In short order, Hallak takes on this charge in his chapter which provides a broad, interpretive view of the subject by describing the dimensions of globalisation and discussing its consequences. The Weltanschauung that is presented divides the world into globalisers, those who are globalised and those left on the fringes of globalisation. These categorizations hinge primarily upon degrees of possession of capital, resources, knowledge and the control of information. The categories may blur a bit at the edges, but they provide a model for looking at the nature and direction of globalisation.

Even with this attempt to define the term, we are again reminded that we are on slippery slopes with regard to understanding the impact of globalisation, the ways societies and institutions respond to it and how it transforms education. This point serves as a prelude for the remaining chapters of the volume and sets the scene for the complex interaction between the forces of globalisation and national as well as local moorings.

The chapters that follow are widely divergent in terms of the themes and countries they represent. All of them deal with some aspect of the book’s title, but not all engage the topic of globalisation as a force in societal change and the transformation of education. This is somewhat regrettable given the substantive approach to the topic at the beginning of the book.

Two succeeding chapters give attention to the impact of global influences on national educational developments. The first focuses on the weakening influence of the nation state, the growing use of English and a range of educational issues sweeping across many countries, including quality control, private v. public involvement and the impact of global trends on teaching materials. A subsequent chapter focuses upon Poland and a discussion of Western Megatrends and their relevance to the educational changes underway in a post-Communist society. Both underscore the international current of ideas about how schools should be organized and led as well as how students should be taught and the need to critically evaluate their relevance and adaptability to national and local settings.

A majority of the remaining chapters of the book relate to educational developments in either post-Communist or neocolonial societies. Rather than focusing significantly on the forces of globalisation, most of these articles deal with the issues and difficulties of the transition to different educational systems. In the case of Estonia, the focus is on how adult education is developing in response to economic liberalization. In Germany, the pros and cons of the G.D.R. system of education are analyzed as it makes its transition into a reunified country.

The book’s treatment of post-colonial societies does not engage a common set of themes. There is a thoughtful and well documented chapter by N’Zimande & Mathieson on the economic challenges posed to South Africa’s progress in educational transformation. So little is written about post-colonial Eritrean education that a chapter on that subject, which highlights the country’s educational challenges, is a short but welcome addition. A comparative account of the decolonisation processes in Hong Kong and Macau by Bray focuses upon the different impacts that British and Portuguese rule had on those educational systems. His treatment of globalisation and decolonisation provides a wider lens to consider the dynamic between the old and the new in post-colonial societies and ties this article more comprehensively to the book’s title than a number of other contributors.

The editors’ inclusion of three chapters on the role of donors in educational transformation engages the principal themes announced in the volume’s title. Educational assistance given by such donors as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank often comes with requirements that bring global influences to local educational systems. Understanding what kind of impact these requirements have, the role of local communities in adopting or rejecting them and developing realistic expectations about the power of outside assistance to transform schools are very important topics for educators around the world to consider. These topics are addressed and add an important dimension of analysis to issues that relate to both globalisation and educational transformation.

In general, the thematic issues that the book addresses are both timely and important. However, the articles which constitute the book vary significantly in quality and in their approach to the edition’s rather ambitious and all encompassing title. One might have wished that the editors had supplied a template for the contributors in order to tie the chapters more closely to the book’s major themes and to create more synergy among them. These concerns notwithstanding, for anyone interested in comparative education issues or the framework for educational change in different political and socio-econimic settings, this is a volume worth reading.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 1, 2002, p. 20-22
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10748, Date Accessed: 11/27/2021 6:05:57 PM

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