Transnational flows of educational knowledge and research are fundamentally guided by the global geopolitics of knowledge—the historically constituted relations of power born out of the continuing legacy of modernity/coloniality. In the early nation-building stage of the 19th century, state-funded education was at the core of states’ pursuit for economic and social progress. Newly formed nation states actively sought new educational knowledge from countries considered more advanced in the global race toward modernity and industrialization. The transnational lesson drawing in education at the time was guided by the view of modernity as originating in and diffusing from the West. This created the unidirectional flow of educational influence from advanced economies of the West to the rest of the world. Central to the rise of modernity in Western state formation is the use of education as a technology of social regulations. Through the expansion of state-funded education, people were turned into the people, self-governing citizens, and then the population that was amenable to a state’s social and economic calculation and military deployment. But this development was embedded in the geopolitical context of the time, in which Western modernity was deeply entangled with its underside, coloniality in the rest of the world. Various uses of education as a social control were tested out first in colonial peripheries and then brought back to the imperial centers. Today, the use of education for the modernist pursuit of perfecting society has been intensified through the constitution of the globalized education policy space. International organizations such as the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) act as the nodes through which transnational networks of education policy actors are formed, where the power of statistics for social and educational progress is widely shared. Both developed and developing countries are increasingly incorporated into this shared epistemological space, albeit through different channels and due to different factors. The rise of international academic testing such as OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has certainly changed the traditional pattern of education research and knowledge flows, and more lesson drawing from countries and regions outside the Anglo-European context is pursued. And yet, the challenges that PISA poses to the Eurocentric pattern of educational knowledge and research flows are curtailed by the persistence of the colonial legacy. This most clearly crystalizes in the dismissive and derogatory characterization of East Asian PISA high achievers in the recent PISA debate. Hence, the current globalization of education knowledge and research remains entangled with the active legacy of coloniality, the uneven global knowledge structure.
There exists today a critical discourse on educational policy, as it has evolved alongside dominant notions of development and its critique. This dominant notion of development emerged following the Second World War. At that time, the global order was characterized by a cold war, with its bipolar division of a “First World” and a “Second World,” based on ideological grounds. There emerged simultaneously, a conglomerate of countries referred to as the “Third World,” sharing a common colonial past, located mostly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and viewed to be in need of development. Underdevelopment in these countries was a construct—understood as descriptive structural features of poverty, illiteracy, traditional orientation, among others. Economic growth and modernization were the prescribed measures for development—as if the “Third World” would progress by following the structural features of more “evolved” Western countries. Education was an important tool in this project, responsible for creating the appropriate civic attitudes both for modernization and for stimulating economic growth. The human capital theory was an economic variant of the ideas of modernization—it underscored the notion that investments in education were akin to physical capital; these would yield future benefits to society. There was an abundant desire amongst the political elites of these newly independent countries to provide for mass education as a way of liberation and progress. National education policies, and systems to implement them, were set up incorporating these ideas. Leading international organizations—such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Development Programme (UNDP), later the World Bank, and now the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), helped translate these ideas into policy choices and influence agenda setting for educational policy. By the 1990s, there was abundant critique of modernization as development and of national systems of education as systems of power bereft of normative ideas about the intrinsic value of education. This gap was filled by the capabilities approach enunciated by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. The capabilities approach argues that the ends of development are not simply economic growth, but the expansion of opportunities and substantive freedoms. Education is intrinsic to the development of capabilities and for substantive freedoms. Since the 1990s, the capabilities approach and the human development paradigm have been guiding influences in development policy and education. Education policies influenced by the human development paradigm recognize the complex challenges poor people face and do not advance a fixed template of policy prescriptions in the name of development. Following the Education For All conference in 1990 and, a decade later, the adoption of Millennium Development Goals in 2000, there have been significant efforts, on a global scale, toward converging the educational policy ideas and actions of international agencies and national governments. Simultaneously, the expansion of globalization on an unprecedented scale now influences education policy in unanticipated ways, as the nation-state declines in importance. In an era of global governance, transnational policies on education that emphasize learning achievements, benchmarking, and testing are gaining currency. National education systems may no longer matter. Globalization, especially its alliance with neo-liberalism, also finds strong criticism from social movements and from scholars who question development, argue in favor of post-development, and call for respect and recognition of diversity of competing epistemes of learning.
Sergio Andres Cabello and Joaquín Giró Miranda
Education is one of the pillars of the welfare state in Spain, and one of the main ways of reducing inequalities and, potentially, integrating members of the immigrant population. Schools serve to promote social and cultural integration of foreign students and their families. Spain, although its history as a country of immigration has been short, has been quite efficient in integrating the emigrant population, especially at school. It is important to bear in mind that schools and the school environment are the main point of encounter between families of different cultures. There were significant difficulties incorporating foreign students in schools in the first decade of this century. The importance of integration in the process of normalizing relations between immigrant families and schools has been indisputable. However, one of the main difficulties with this integration has been the poorer performance and academic achievement of foreign students in the Spanish education system. Foreign students’ performance is significantly different. For example, they achieve significantly lower grades in the different standardized tests (Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)), e.g., and higher rates of dropout, academic failure, and grade repetition. However, it is also true that these differences are significantly smaller for second-generation students born in Spain of immigrant parents. Faced with these facts, there have been numerous theoretical analyses and research projects that have tried to determine which variables affect this situation and which of them can be attributed to immigration, excluding any other socioeconomic factors. The results and the academic attainment of foreign- and immigrant-origin students in the Spanish education system are associated with some factors attributed to immigration. One of the most important is school segregation processes and their consequences for the educational and social integration of this group. Likewise, the financial crisis that has affected public policy and the Spanish welfare system, with the resulting budget cuts in education, has conditioned compensatory measures and attention to diversity.