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Article

Gerardo del Cerro Santamaría

Neoliberalism—the prevailing model of capitalist thinking based on the Washington Consensus—has conveyed the idea that a new educational and university model must emerge in order to meet the demands of a global productive system that is radically different from that of just a few decades ago. The overall argument put forward is that the requirements, particularly the managerial and labor force needs of a new economy—already developing within the parameters of globalization and the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs)—cannot be adequately satisfied under the approaches and methods used by a traditional university. Neoliberalism affects the telos of higher education by redefining the very meaning of higher education. It dislocates education by commodifying its intrinsic value and emphasizing directly transferable skills and competencies. Nonmonetary values are marginalized and, with them, the nonmonetary ethos that is essential in sustaining a healthy democratic society.

Article

The global expansion of higher education since the last quarter of the 20th century reflects political and socioeconomic developments, including opening up economic opportunities and addressing neoliberal agendas such as corporatization, digitization, individualization, and marketization. This process of the so-called massification of higher education has also been called academic capitalism, whereby business models predominate what was once considered a public good and a form of liberal arts education. These transformations have implications for questions of equal opportunity and social justice in regard to gender and sexuality linked to diversity, race, and social class, or intersectionality. Transformations include involvement and participation for students, academics, faculty, and researchers. From a feminist perspective, the various transformations have not increased equality or equity but have instead reinforced notions of male power, misogyny and patriarchy, and social class and privilege, despite the massive increase in involvement of women as students and academics through policies of widening access or participation. The new models of global higher education exacerbate rather than erode inequalities of power and prestige between regions, institutions, and gendered, classed, and raced individuals.

Article

Martin Scanlan, Francesca López, Maria Baez-Cruz, and Tsuru Bailey-Jones

The United States has a rich history of migration, from involuntary immigration resulting from the slave trade to the waves of immigrants who sought a new life on its shores. Partly due to the legislative changes in immigration policy in the last quarter of the 20th century, the cultural and linguistic diversity of the immigrant population has made the country more diverse. These demographic shifts affect schools across sectors in the United States—public and private, secular and religious—and across all geographical settings from urban to suburban to rural. Different immigrant groups have faced prejudice and marginalization, which have cemented cycles of socioeconomic disadvantage and persistent barriers to integration. Immigrant students tend to be disproportionately distributed across schools and are highly concentrated in schools with large numbers of students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. In tandem, educational policy prioritizes social efficiency (moving immigrant students into the workforce) instead of social mobility (advancing to higher education). The growing knowledge base that is centered on effective approaches to providing equitable opportunities to learn has identified three axes for action: (a) promoting students’ sociocultural integration, (b) cultivating their language proficiency, and (c) supporting their academic achievement. School reforms supporting these axes include the promotion of bilingual education, integration of immigrant students into schools, and advancement of authentic partnerships with families and communities.

Article

Hannu Simola, Jaakko Kauko, Janne Varjo, Mira Kalalahti, and Fritjof Sahlström

The international debate on Finnish educational “success” had made relevant a cultural and historical analysis of Finnish education, with a focus on the effects of the ongoing preoccupation with the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results on basic education. Such international comparisons demand a strong theoretical approach, in part because the contrastive analysis of empirical “facts” and “realities” requires that they be situated in relation to their local and, in this case, national systems and contexts. It may be assumed that the quantitative indicators agreed on in intergovernmental negotiations between senior bureaucrats do indeed provide valid comparisons of education systems, as is the conventional wisdom in the field of economics. Nevertheless, these remain value-loaded collections of indicators of development that offer at best parallel lines of comparative analysis. The Finnish case argues for strong theory-based conceptualizations as the basis for, first, complex comparison and, second, shared models of policy action and intervention. The comparative education field faces four interlinked challenges. First, there is a lack of theory building and development in the field, where politically and ideologically motivated investigative large-scale assessment practices are defining the state of the art. Second, the focus of the studies tends to be on empirically measurable end products instead of documented processes, which makes it possible to generate competitive rankings but reveals little about specific and shared developmental processes in educational systems. Third, although complexity and contingency are widely accepted in the social world on the general level, they appear to seldom reach empirical studies; the vast majority of standard approaches still advocate simple explanatory models. Finally, and paradoxically enough, there is a form of intellectual nationalism that inhibits the conceptualization and understanding of the relationship between, for example, transnational processes and nation-states. In this regard, comparative education needs a strong and ambitious theory-based framework with the potential to incorporate sociohistorical complexity, cultural relationality, and sociological contingency. Without a strong theory-driven approach, it is hard to go beyond merely listing the similarities and differences that facilitate the rankings but blur the processes. At the research unit for Sociology and Politics in Education (KUPOLI) at the University of Helsinki, a new conceptualization was formulated in early 2010s and an ambitious research plan, Comparative Analytics of Dynamics in Education Politics (CADEP), was launched. The thesis was that to progress beyond the state of the art and arrive at a comparative understanding of educational systems, it would be necessary to focus on dynamics, with a view to grasping the fluid and mobile nature of the subject. This heuristic starting point echoed relativistic dynamics in physics, characterized as a combination of relativistic and quantum theories to describe the relationships between the principal elements of a relativistic system and the forces acting on it. It is curious that, though on the conceptual level the dynamics of a system are constantly referred to as being among its key attributes, there has been little progress on the analytical level in the social sciences since the seminal work of Pitirim Sorokin in the 1950s. The CADEP develops conceptually the theoretical understanding of dynamics to resubmit a specific social field of education to scrutiny by analyzing the relations between the main actors and institutions and essential discursive formations and practices. It is assumed that given its connection with relations and movement, the concept of dynamics will not reduce a mobile and fluid subject of study to a stagnant and inanimate object. There are four constitutive dynamics that make the Finnish educational success story understandable. Success and failure in basic education seem to be relative, and to reflect intertwined dynamics in policymaking, governance, families’ educational strategies, and classroom cultures. The emphasis of the understanding is on the contingent, relational, and complex character of political history.

Article

Thanks to the concerted effort of the international community to promote basic education, driven by the Education for All (EFA) goals and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), indices of education in Africa have improved dramatically since the 1990s. Although the access to schooling has improved, there are still issues of quality related to teachers, facilities, teaching and learning materials, and relevance of educational contents. Recently, under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the focuses of educational policies of African countries have been diversified, to concentrate not only on quantitative and qualitative improvement of basic education, but also on secondary, tertiary, and technical and vocational education and training (TVET). One of the problems which critics point out is that, regardless of the massive expansion of basic education, learning outcomes of school leavers in Africa have not improved. It has also been remarked that school enrolment has not directly led to poverty-reduction or decent employment. Another side-effect of the expansion of basic education has been an increased dependency on aid. So, although there is a constant demand for higher and more education among the general public, aid-dependent expansion of the system is unsustainable. Before colonization by European powers, many groups in Africa had a tradition of oral transmission of knowledge, although there were some significant exceptions of societies which had formal educational institutions. With or without formal institutions, African traditional societies had their own mechanisms of transmitting knowledge across generations. However, Europeans overwrote such existing modes of education by introducing Western school systems. With the paternalistic conviction of their civilizing mission, they refined traditional cultures and practices which could be maintained and taught in school, while replacing other “barbarous superstitions” with teaching of European subjects. Resistance to such impositions of European education eventually led to nationalism, which accompanied the desire to find a uniquely African epistemology and teaching method. At the same time, the mechanism of recruiting African white-collar workers through schooling, which started during the colonial period, planted a strong hope for social advancement through gaining school certificates deeply in the mind of African people.

Article

Irrespective of the stages of economic development, most governments around the world are facing income inequality problems and are searching for a fix. There is a general perception that the provision of education opportunities to the younger generation can reduce income inequality. However, this general perception does not receive strong support by scholars. In the literature, empirical evidence collected by numerous researchers is mixed. Hong Kong, a culturally diverse and economically well-developed city economy, has undergone rapid economic development in the last few decades. It underwent structural change from an entrepôt to a labor-intensive manufacturing economy and finally became a service-oriented city economy. The Hong Kong story does not support the view that that making higher education more accessible to youngsters can help narrow income disparity. In fact, the evidence from the Hong Kong population census and by-census samples shows that well-educated workers experienced higher income dispersion than those workers with a lower educational level. Policymakers are advised not to rely on expanding higher education opportunities to alleviate income inequality problems.

Article

Serge Ebersold, Edda Óskarsdóttir, and Amanda Watkins

Financing plays a critical role in achieving more inclusive education systems, and most European countries are considering how the way they fund education impacts the policy goal of more inclusive practice in schools. The way financing is determined in laws and regulations has a direct impact on decision-making and implementation in relation to identifying learners’ educational needs, diagnostic and assessment procedures that might be used. Crucially it impacts on the placement of learners in different types of provision, including separate special classes or special schools. Financing inclusive education systems differs from financing special needs education in several important ways. In addition to providing shared educational opportunities for learners with recognised additional needs with their peers in mainstream settings, financing inclusive education systems aims to enable all learners to gain access to the educational support they are legally entitled to. Financing inclusive education systems is also far more complex than financing general education as it relates to a multilevel and multi-stakeholder framework of policy and provision that includes non-educational aspects of educational provision that are needed to ensure all learners access to high-quality inclusive education. These non-educational aspects may cover factors such as accessibility of the physical environment, specialist support, different resources for reducing the functional consequences of different disabilities, as well as financial support for families in meeting the direct and indirect costs of education. Effective mechanisms for financing inclusive education systems entail the provision of additional funding and resources that encourage mainstream schools to develop inclusive education policies, as well as innovative and flexible learning environments that meet a wider range of learners’ academic and social needs and requirements. A higher amount of funding does not in itself guarantee better learning conditions; the successful implementation of inclusive education policies depends on how funds are allocated and to whom the funds are addressed, rather than solely on how much money is available. Effective inclusive education systems build upon funding mechanisms and strategies that consider and manage the deployment and manipulation of resources at the school level, governance mechanisms, capacity building, and school development approaches. All these strategies must be targeted at achieving the policy goal of more inclusive practice in all schools.

Article

Since the 1990s gender has become a prominent priority in global education policy. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000–2015) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, which replaced the MDGs) influence the educational planning of most low- and middle-income countries, along with the work of the various actors in the field. The historical antecedents to this era of gender and education policy include international development research beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, the Women’s Conferences in Mexico City (1985) and Beijing (1995), and increasingly nuanced academic research on gender and international development in the early decades of the 2000s. What began as calls to include girls in schooling and women in international development programs has become a much more complex attempt to ensure gender equity in education and in life. A wide variety of key policy actors are involved in these processes and in shaping policy, including the World Bank, the UN agencies (primarily UNICEF and UNESCO), governments (both donors and recipients of international assistance), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), corporations and private entities, and consultants. Partnerships among various actors have been common in the late 20th century and early 21st century. Persistent issues in the early 21st century include (a) the tension between striving to attend to quality concerns while increasing efforts to measure progress, (b) gender-based violence (GBV), and (c) education for adolescents and adolescence. These challenges are closely linked to how key concepts are conceptualized. How “gender” is understood (distinct from or conflated with sex categories) leads to particular ways of thinking about policy and practice, from counting girls and boys in classrooms (prioritizing sex categories and numerical patterns), toward a more complex understanding of gender as a social construction (and so presents options for curricular strategies to influence gendered social norms). Men and boys are acknowledged, mostly when they are perceived to be disadvantaged, and less often to challenge hypermasculinity or male privilege. Sexuality and gender identity are just beginning to emerge in formal policy in the early 21st century. Gender relations and patriarchy remain on the periphery of official policy language. Equity (fairness) is often reduced to equality (equal treatment despite differences in needs or interests). Although empowerment is theorized in research, in policy it is used inconsistently, sometimes falling short of the theoretical framings. Two broader concepts are also important to consider in global education policy, namely, intersectionality and neoliberalism. Engaging intersectionality more robustly could make policy more relevant locally; as of 2020, this concept has not made its way into global policy discourses. Neoliberalism, on the other hand, is a strong influence in shaping policy in gender and education globally, yet it is seldom made explicit. Building policy on a stronger conceptual foundation would enrich gender and education policy.

Article

Any analysis of inclusive and special education in Asia, past and present, must account for the immense variation in what constitutes Asia and recognize that finding patterns in the development of inclusive and special education across this vast continent is difficult. The variations relate to geographic topography, historical experiences, and cultural values, as well as to contemporary socio-economic and political conditions. For example, although both Oman and Timor Leste struggle with issues of accessibility and providing services in remote areas, Timor Leste’s mountainous terrain presents very different challenges from Oman’s desert conditions. Similarly, the different cultural influences of, say, Hinduism in Nepal, Islam in Jordan, and Buddhism in Cambodia have significant implications for attitudes towards disability, while differences in economic development between Japan and Bangladesh, for instance, have rendered the former a donor of international aid that sets the inclusive education agenda and the latter a recipient of both aid and agenda. While efforts to identify patterns in inclusive education globally have also attempted to define the nature of development in Asia, these analyses do not always account for the unique intra-continental variations. Overlooking these variations in socio-political and economic contexts becomes problematic when attempting to find solutions towards providing culturally responsive and culturally specific services appropriate to these unique circumstances. Additionally troubling is the more recent development of a geopolitical climate which assumes that inclusive and special education could and should, in fact, be the same, whether in Bangladesh or in Japan. Embodied by international aid agencies, such as the World Bank, the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), these expectations have been captured within global policies, such as the 1994 Salamanca Statement on Inclusive Education, the 2008 UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and more recently, the 2015 Millennium Sustainable Goals, and furthered through UNICEF’s and UNESCO’s curriculum packages and professional development training on inclusive education. There is a nascent body of scholars in some Asian countries that is beginning to identify indigenous alternatives, which, if allowed to thrive, could contribute to the development of an amalgamated structure of services that would be more appropriate to the individual contexts.

Article

Roseli R. Mello, Marcondy M. de Souza, and Thaís J. Palomino

Self-determination of the original peoples of any nation, preservation of their territories, preservation of traditions, and negotiation of customs facing national cultures are central themes in the debate about and among indigenous peoples in the world. School education is directly linked to such themes as an instrument of acculturation or self-determination and emancipation. As in other countries of the globe, throughout history, what happened and is happening in Brazil is not isolated fact. Current conditions are the product of colonization processes, the development of industrial society, and more recently of globalization. Such historical processes bring struggles, confrontations, transformations, and solidarity. In the legal sphere, international conventions, declarations, and treaties have influenced more or less directly the norms and laws on the subject: from the papal bull and treaties between colonizing kingdoms, to the Declaration of Human Rights, to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, the Brazilian indigenous issue, like that of many other countries, is also based on, supported by, or held back by actions, debates, and international interests. But what makes the case of Brazil worthy of relevance for thinking about indigenous education? Two elements make up an answer: the specific way the governors establish relations with the original peoples, and the fact that Brazil has the greatest diversity of indigenous communities.

Article

Matt Hastings

Neoliberalism is a political project carried out by the capitalist class to consolidate their ability to generate profits by exercising influence in political processes, such as elections, in order to privatize or direct state institutions and regulatory powers in ways favorable to their interests. These efforts coincide the propagation of a neoliberal common sense that is grounded in an understanding of all aspects of society in economic terms of competition in markets and return on investment. However, in practice, neoliberalism does not promote competitive markets as much as it results in the privatization of public institutions and creation of new sites for private investment through state policies. The field of education, traditionally a site of local democratic control, is increasingly subject to neoliberal governance, as elected school boards are consolidated under appointed leadership, district schools are replaced by charter schools, and school resources, such as curriculum, testing, and even the training of teachers, are provided by private companies. Neoliberalism frames the purpose of education in terms of investments made in the development of students’ human capital. What students should learn and the value of education is relative to their individual prospects for future earnings. This narrowed conception of education raises important questions about the purpose of education and the relationship between schools, democratic life, and state governance. Developing a critical relationship with neoliberal common sense is necessary in order to recognize both how actually existing neoliberal policies primarily serve the interests of capitalists and that there are other, democratic, sources of value and purpose that can ground debates and efforts in the field of education.

Article

A theoretical model of positioned, positioning, and repositioning is used to conceptualize the evolving process of the internationalization of Chinese higher education and answer the following three questions: (a) How have the quantitative trends of Chinese students studying abroad and international students studying in China changed over the past 30 years? (b) What are the differences between Chinese students studying abroad and international students studying in China in recent years, in terms of the host and sending countries, the level of study, and the fields of study, and what do the differences mean when compared to those in other countries? (c) What are the challenges, opportunities, and strategies in the years to come? To answer the first question, a compilation of descriptive quantitative data is used from numerous large national and international data sources, which reports a long-term upward trend (with some fluctuations) of inbound international students in China and outbound Chinese international students around the world over the past 30 years. To answer the second question, using general international mobile student profiles for context, data were compared of inbound international students in China and the United States in terms of both level of study and field of study. These revealed imbalanced patterns: Chinese outbound students are more likely to be in certain fields (e.g., STEM, business) and at graduate levels, but international students in China are more likely to be undergraduate students and non-degreed students in the humanities and language studies. Based on the data for the first two questions, the issues are synthesized in order to present the opportunities and challenges regarding the continuation of China’s internationalization of its higher education, especially with respect to inbound international students. In terms of issues and opportunities, economic and other impacts (such as political, financial, and pandemic related) are highlighted and call China’s attention to maintaining and expanding the strengths of its higher education system while considering competition from neighboring countries. Six major challenges are identified in this area, and suggestions are provided.

Article

Disha Nawani and Shinjini Sanyal

School education in independent India was recognized as an important priority for state support, as it was neglected under the colonial regime. However, due to perceived financial challenges, it was placed in the newly (1950) drafted Constitution under Directive Principles of State Policy, which were nonjusticiable. Although the state provided for school education for the majority of Indian children, there remained several limitations in terms of access, equity, and equality for children belonging to disadvantaged communities. As a result, in India, the private sector, both for profit and nonprofit, played an important role in providing educational access to children. Between 1950 and the 1990s, the government school system struggled, and several learning surveys reported poor learning of school children, especially those studying in government schools. Concurrently, the private sector spread its influence and work in spaces not just for the rich but for the poor as well, and profit became a legitimate central concern. In the mid-1990s, the state initiated a rather aggressive policy of structural economic reform, leading to liberalization, privatization, and globalization. All this was justified in a neoliberal environment where the state started to withdraw from social sectors like health and education, on one hand, and private sector participation was hailed, on the other, in the name of efficiency, accountability, and performance. Public–private partnership became the new buzzword justifying any kind of relationship between the state and private actors.

Article

The study of undocumented students in the United States is critical and growing. As scholars increasingly employ qualitative methodologies and methods in studying undocumented students, it is important to consider the specific challenges, nuances, and benefits of doing so. Undocumented students have a right to a public elementary and secondary education regardless of immigration status, per the 1982 court case Plyler v. Doe. While the stress that undocumented students face during their K-12 years are real and consequential, this stress becomes particularly acute in their postsecondary lives when education is neither guaranteed nor readily accessible. Qualitative research gives insight into the complex obstacles undocumented students face and advocates for the institutional and social change necessary to best support them. Existing qualitative research on undocumented students employs various methodologies and methods including but not limited to narrative inquiry, testimonio, phenomenology, case studies, ethnography, discourse analysis, and grounded theory. Among the salient issues that scholars must take into account when engaging in such research are the ethical, logistical, and relational problems that arise when working with undocumented people; the politicization of researching undocumented students; and the power and privilege that researchers possess in the researcher–participant relationship. Within every stage of the research process, researchers need to take special care when working with undocumented students to ensure their anonymity, respect their lived experiences, and advocate for their human rights. Undocumented research participants are in need of extra protection due to their undocumented status, and this need should not be conflated with weakness. Often, undocumented participants are framed as illegal, powerless, vulnerable, fearful, and in the shadows. While it is true that undocumented people face intense, life-altering, and consequential struggles relative to their undocumented status, it is also true that their intelligence, resilience, and persistence are equally intense. Researchers have an obligation to bring undocumented students’ authentic experiences to the fore in ways that acknowledge their undocumented status and the related struggles while affirming their agency and resistance. How they employ methodological practices is central to this goal.

Article

Regionalization of higher education in Asia is a multidisciplinary project that complements the ongoing Association of Southeast Asian Nations–centered regionalism that is prevalent in the Asian region. It is part of the ongoing global regionalism and regionalization of higher education projects and is significantly influenced by European higher education developments, especially the Bologna Process and the establishment of the European Higher Education Area. It is anchored on the discourse of higher education for sustainable economic, social, and cultural development and on regional integration projects, and it is built on existing (and changing) Asian regional frameworks. Regionalization of higher education in Asia is a complex project given its multiple stakeholders, frameworks, and power asymmetries within the region and the various regional and international organizations that influence global and regional higher education developments not limited to Asia. This complexity is further enhanced by the diversity of cultures, religion, socioeconomic development, politics, colonial heritage, and the systems and development of Asian higher education. Regionalization of higher education projects, not limited to Asia, can be adequately presented using functional, operational, and political approaches. Furthermore, the contribution of mobility and mutual recognition, which are core components of regionalization of higher education, to sustainable Asian regional integration should also be considered. Despite its development during the past decade, regionalization of Asian higher education faces significant challenges related to, but not limited to, quality assurance, mutual recognition, relevance and governance of higher education programs/systems, international relations, and even access and mobility opportunities to higher education.

Article

Peter McLaren and Petar Jandrić

Revolutionary critical rage pedagogy was first introduced in Peter McLaren’s 2015 book Pedagogy of insurrection: From resurrection to revolution. It is aimed at development of heightened recognition of the deception perpetrated by those who write history “from above,” that is from the standpoint of the victors who have camouflaged or naturalized genocidal acts of war, patriarchy, settler colonialism, and other forms of oppression as necessary conditions for the maintenance of democracy. Revolutionary critical rage pedagogy is carried out not only in educational institutions but throughout the public sphere. Its broader social aim is both a relational and structural transformation of society that cultivates pluriversal and decolonizing modes of democratization built upon a socialist alternative to capitalist accumulation and value production.

Article

Curt Dudley-Marling

The reform of public education through the application of principles of free-market capitalism, particularly notions of competition and choice, has long enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States, reflecting trends in other industrialized countries. The basic assumption is that the competitive pressures of the market, instantiated through various forms of school choice and high-stakes accountability, will necessarily lead to more efficient and effective schools while honoring parents’ right to determine what is best for their children. Concurrently, another group of educational reformers, advocating for the rights of students with disabilities, have pushed for the transformation of schools, with the goal of creating spaces congenial to the range of human differences, including disability. The problem is that the basic assumptions that underpin free-market reforms and the principles of inclusion are incompatible. One of the requirements of school choice, for example, is the production and marketing of data based on standardized assessment practices and standardized curricula. This tendency toward standardization in market-oriented schools, saturated with the ideology of normality, is antithetical to the conception of diversity that informs the desire for inclusive schools.

Article

Traditionally, the Norwegian education system has been built on equality and democracy as core values, but the disappointing results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) introduced the perception of a “crisis in education” and increased the occurrence of national reform initiatives. New assessment policies with an emphasis on performance measurement and emerging accountability practices have characterized the transition processes over the last decade. With increasing focus on monitoring based on performance indicators, there is a risk that the purpose of promoting democracy in schools will be downplayed by instrumental and managerial regulations. However, the Norwegian school reform of curriculum renewal in 2020 also highlights democracy and participation as separate interdisciplinary themes and includes a concrete elaboration of this topic, which strongly emphasizes that schools should promote democratic values and attitudes as a counterweight to prejudice and discrimination. To obtain more knowledge about how school professionals deal with possible tensions and dilemmas in their work with the contemporary reform, it is important to unpack the interplay between managerial accountability based on performance indicators and identify how educators legitimize their work on promoting democracy in schools. To capture the dynamic nature of educational leadership and the daily subtle negotiation, a micropolitical perspective and theory on democratic agency were used to analyze theoretical and empirical material from two larger studies focusing on certain aspects of school reforms in Norwegian lower secondary schools. The findings suggest that educational professionals respond to the policy of inclusion through negotiating and translating tensions between equalizing students’ life chances and being subjected to collective monitoring and control. The findings also illuminate stories characterized by a predominantly individualistic interpretation of the democratic purpose of education and the challenges and opportunities involved in balancing academic achievement with students’ well-being.

Article

Satoshi P. Watanabe, Machi Sato, and Masataka Murasawa

The aim of internationalization for Japan during the early postwar period, still emerging from being an ODA (Official Development Assistance) recipient nation, was to promote student exchanges and mutual understanding across nations. Japan then successfully shifted its role to that of an ODA provider in the 1970s, engaging as a responsible citizen in the international community. However, the nation’s competitive edge has slipped with a long-stagnating economy from the mid-1990s onward, the national target has shifted from the ODA provider role towards desperate attempts to regain the lost edge through public investment in research and development as well as promoting internationalization of the nation. As the notions of world-class universities and global university rankings have prevailed worldwide over the last decade or so, the recent policies established by the Japanese government in response to an increasingly competitive and globalizing environment of higher education have transformed to leveraging domestic universities to compete for placement in the global university rankings. Balancing the reputation demonstrated in the global university rankings and generated inequalities in the service and quality of education provided among these institutions seems to be critically lacking in the current debate and hasty movement toward internationalization by the Japanese government. These hastily made policies do have some strong potential to build Japan’s universities into stronger institutions for learning, research, and producing globally competitive graduates. However, thorough long-range planning, keen insight into the overall impact of the policies, and clear long-term goals will be critical in attaining success.

Article

Gunn Elisabeth Søreide, Hanne Riese, and Line Torbjørnsen Hilt

Twenty-first-century skills are a global network of corporate and governmental influences that promote competences suited to fit the future knowledge economy. The competences described as 21st-century skills vary across frameworks and initiatives, but the emphasis is predominantly on metacognitive, social, and emotional skills. Some of the most prevalent capabilities are learning to learn, self-regulation, in-depth learning, creativity, innovation, problem solving, critical thinking, ethical and emotional awareness, communication, and collaboration. Research tends to portray 21st-century skills initiatives either as evidence-based knowledge based on the latest research or as part of an economization of the learner to the interests of the market economy in line with neoliberal ideology. The ideas associated with the 21st-century skills movement have nevertheless become part of educational reforms worldwide and are currently also translated into a Nordic education policy context. When global ideas such as 21st-century skills are taken up and used, they are colored by national concerns and consequently change as they travel across contexts. The Norwegian LK-20 reform for compulsory and upper secondary school is an example of how policymakers include global educational ideas in the national curriculum and educational policy, by balancing core 21st-century skills elements with national cultural sentiments about assessment, childhood, educational purposes, and schools’ responsibilities. The balancing of global and national educational ideas can be done by promoting 21st-century skills as a solution to specific national challenges and thus urgent for pupils’ and the nation’s future. A more sophisticated technique is when policymakers frame 21st-century skills by familiar concepts and language associated with existing traditional national educational values, thus seemingly promoting change and continuation simultaneously. In such an intersection between global educational ideas and national educational sentiments, both core elements of the 21st-century skills as well as the more traditional educational concepts and values can be adjusted and altered.