Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

FUTA - Over a 1000 academics join hand to protect state education

Over 1000 academics joined hands on the 26th of April 2012 to launch a campaign to protect state funded education in Sri Lanks by taking part in theFUTA initiated protest march from University of Colombo to the Public Library


FUTA protests again

DailyMirror, THURSDAY, 26 APRIL 2012 17:28

Federation of University Teacher’s Association (FUTA) today staged a protest march from Colombo University to the Public library to express objection to the Government’s failure to grants their demands. Pix by Pradeep Dilrukshana

Increase Education Spending - FUTA

The presentation by Prof. Amal Kumarage on the decline of government spending on education can be downloaded from google docs by following this link.

2012 04 26 FUTA Amal Kumaarge

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Save our State Education - FUTA

Abhijit Banerjee: 'The poor, probably rightly, see that their chances of getting somewhere different are minimal'

The author of Poor Economics on why aid that assumes the poor will do the right thing is misguided – and why political corruption does not necessarily mean economic stagnation

Abhijit Banerjee.
Abhijit Banerjee. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
On first impressions, you probably wouldn't take Abhijit Banerjee for the author of a gripping international bestseller. Then again, a page-turner about the micro-economics of aid policy might not sound too probable either. But that's what the mild-mannered Indian economist and his French co-author, Esther Duflo, have written, and it is a truly remarkable book, best described as Freakonomics for the billion people on earth who live on less than a dollar a day.
  1. Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than $1 a Day
  2. by Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo
  3. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop
  1. Tell us what you think:Star-rate and review this book
Until Poor Economics appeared last year, the debate about aid had been broadly polarised into two positions. On the left was Jeffrey Sachs, arguing that the single biggest factor keeping poor people poor is poverty. If foreign aid can lift them out of the poverty trap long enough to free them from the disease, ignorance and debt that thwart their potential, then pretty soon they will be able to solve their own problems for themselves. On the right,William Easterly argued that the real problem isn't a poverty trap but aid itself, which creates a dependency culture that keeps the poor poor, and distorts their only real roadmap to prosperity – the free market.
As Banerjee saw it, both positions owed more to polemic and conjecture than empirical evidence. Aid budgets run into billions, yet very little work had been done to analyse their outcomes. He and Duflo, both economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, thought a better approach would be to appropriate the methodology of the pharmaceutical industry, and subject different types of aid to randomised controlled trials. In 2003 they established a Poverty Action Lab, and by 2010 its researchers had conducted more than 240 experiments in 40 countries, in a Herculean attempt to find out what actually works.
The results are fascinating. Recipients of free or subsidised mosquito nets, say, or water chlorination tablets, or schooling, or contraception, often prove bafflingly disinclined to use them. Such apparent indifference to life-saving gifts seems puzzling to the point of perverse. Evenmicrocredit, widely lauded as the panacea to world poverty, turns out to be less revolutionary than previously thought. But Poor Economics doesn't vindicate Easterly, because the authors discovered that tiny adjustments to the delivery mechanism of aid can radically transform its efficacy. For example, offering Kenyan farmers half-price fertiliser at sowing time didn't work, because they hadn't saved enough money from harvest time to buy it. But selling farmers a full-price voucher directly after the harvest, when they could afford it, to be exchanged for fertiliser at sowing time when they needed it, increased fertiliser use by 50%. When aid is carefully designed to navigate the specific socio-cultural landscape of its recipients' lives, it begins to deliver the sort of results Sachs claims.
"This book will not tell you whether aid is good or bad," its authors write, "but it will say whether particular instances of aid did some good or not." Their overwhelming message is that there is no Big Idea or golden bullet, so we should stop thinking about "Aid", and start thinking about "aid". Poor Economics makes this case so persuasively that I can't honestly see how anyone could disagree after reading it. The surprise for me was the book's striking parallels between poverty in the developing world and in the UK, and its relevance to our attempts to help the poor in Hartlepool or Glasgow. When studied closely, it becomes clear that people who live on less than a dollar a day are not uniquely mysterious, but subject to the very same psychological and behavioural patterns as the rest of us.
"I think the real single biggest difference," Banerjee agrees, "is that the state has delivered a whole bunch of stuff for us, and we forget how much is enforced and sustained by the state. The poorest person in the UK drinks extremely high-quality water, and this is not something that is just God-given; water in the UK in the 17th century was horrible. It's not that there was some pure fountain of water that exists in the UK that doesn't exist in Mali; it's just the water has been cleaned by a system that has been set up for it." If we had to remember to laboriously sterilise everything we drank, we would probably get careless too.
Likewise, British parents may do better than many in India at getting their children immunised – but we shouldn't infer that they are somehow intrinsically more conscientious. "If you don't get your children immunised, they probably can't go to school and they probably can't use the NHS. The fact that the state delivers these services, and therefore earns the right to restrain, is very important. Weaker states cannot deliver, nor can they expect therefore to have the right to restrain, because if you are not giving me anything, why would I listen to you?"
There is little evidence, Banerjee argues, that in the absence of compulsion, or at the very least pressure, any of us would always do the sensible thing. "This is where I think the American penchant for ultra-libertarian solutions to a lot of these problems is really hard to justify, precisely for the reason that we just don't seem to be good at taking any of these decisions."
The poor's resistance to measures that could improve their lot is often due to a universal truth of human nature known as "time inconsistency", he explains. "It means something very simple. It means there are lots of decisions that you think today you'd like to implement and stick to, but which – once you get to the sticking-to part – you don't want to stick to any more. I think most of your readers, and certainly including me, have the problem with candy. I'm very convinced that I should not have as many sweet things as I do, but then when it comes down to when I see one, I really feel like having one. There's an inconsistency in time between your self in repose and your self in action, and that's a permanent tension we live in all the time." Aid that presumes the poor will always do the right thing, in other words, will probably be as much of a waste as the gym memberships we sign up to on 1 January.
The book cites one aggravating factor in time inconsistency: the disproportionately high levels of cortisol – the hormone produced by stress – which is found among the poor and impairs impulse control. "But I also think it's worth emphasising that part of impulse control is will," Banerjee clarifies. The problem may be partly neurological, but it is also circumstantial.
Banerjee in India on work projects for Poverty Action Lab.Banerjee in India on work projects for Poverty Action Lab.
"If you happen to be mostly depressed about the state of your life, I don't know whether you feel like doing impulse control. If you are like me and you see that you have a bunch of ambitions that you actually think you have a reasonable chance of realising in life, you may be very different in terms of your willingness to give up the almond croissant. But if I feel that everything I've hoped for never worked, then what am I restraining myself for? That's a completely legitimate way to think. And I think that it may well be that a substantial part of the reason why the poor look as if they're taking worse decisions is because they don't care enough, and they don't care enough because they really, probably rightly, see that their chances of getting somewhere very different are minimal. If you're never going to climb up that hill towards attainment, then you might as well not try. There's no point pushing the rock up the hill and having it roll down on you."
Banerjee himself is a walking testament to the power of hope and belief, although in his case not a lack of it. Born in Calcutta in 1961, he grew up next door to a slum, envying his neighbours' freedom to play out all the time when he had to stay inside studying. He was a decidedly unpromising student: his school complained that he was falling behind. But his parents – both academic economists – simply refused to accept this, and insisted the problem must be that the work was too easy, so they moved him up a grade. Eventually he began to take an interest in his studies, and went on to gain a doctorate from Harvard.
He has the classically measured, understated manner of a traditional academic, and thinks for so long before answering some questions that I wonder if his mind has wandered off, until he delivers a very precise and cautiously qualified reply. But his book is unmistakably contemporary, and he acknowledges its debt to other recent bestsellers – Freakonomics, Malcom Gladwell's Outliers or The Tipping Point – that have popularised complex subjects without simplifying them. Poor Economics is written beautifully, with a gently conversational voice that seems too true to be jointly authored – and indeed turns out to be Banerjee's alone. Duflo, he explains, "has an amazing ability to just put together everything kind of slapdash on to the page. My job is to take that and go sentence by sentence to give it a shape."
Banerjee writes like neither an economics geek, nor an anti-poverty campaigner, and I find myself wondering what motivates him. Temperamentally he seems far too self-effacing for flashy academic showmanship, and too agnostic for activism, so I ask if he was drawn to this work by the abstract intellectual challenge, or by a vocation to help the poor.
He considers this in silence for 15 seconds, before smiling. "I think both of those sound grander than how I function. I come from fairly pure theory and mathematical theories – so my background is very much that of someone who is trained to pose and solve puzzles. But it's not that I don't want the poor to have better lives – quite the contrary. But it would be dishonest to say that that's where it came out of, rather than out of a sense that I know all this economics, so why isn't it helping me understand stuff that I see next to me?"
He admits that it would have been lovely to come up with one answer that would solve world poverty. "Surely, yes. If we had one big idea then that would be easier to get traction on, that's for sure. Nobody wants to be told that there's actually just a thousand small problems, and you'd better figure out how to solve all of them. That's not a good message to deliver to anyone." Nonetheless, Poor Economics won the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs business book of the year award. In the current financial crisis, is it possible that governments will want to know if their aid budget is doing any good before handing it over, and therefore be more receptive to Poor Economics' message, leading to more effective aid? After another lengthy pause Banerjee offers a polite "maybe", but doesn't look at all convinced.
"I think the real value of aid is in promoting and digging deep into something, and committing to generate innovations," he explains. "And that's what a national government has a hard time doing. Why? Because it's something that requires the willingness to fail, many times. Everybody wants to be able to claim: 'I saved two million lives yesterday,' and I'm a bit worried that if the political pressures get more intense, that's what would survive. Whereas I think where the aid really has value added – which is what national governments can't do – is to promote a sudden kind of innovation. And that's what's going to be much harder to sustain."
A less political animal than Banerjee would be hard to imagine, but if objectivity is the great strength of Poor Economics, its political detachment is also arguably its flaw. Its authors dispute the widely held belief that the single greatest cause of entrenched poverty is poorgovernance and corruption, and that until democracy and transparency reach the world's poorest nations, their people will remain trapped in poverty. Banerjee argues that aid can have a significant impact without waiting for political reform first – and has been accused of underestimating the importance of power.
"I think people slightly misread what we were trying to say," he responds. "I don't think we were saying that politics is unimportant. You know, if you're in North Korea, we don't have anything to tell them and that's just how it is. They have a crazy dictator who has completely maniacal preferences, and we don't pretend that that's not a problem. For North Korea, I would say they shouldn't read our book, it's a complete waste of time for them. They need to somehow get rid of their dictator – and that's just how it is. And I'm sure that's true of 20 other countries in the world.
"I think what we are trying to say is that there are another 180 countries or something where politics is still messed up, but the people who are political players still have some idea that they want some legitimacy. The fact that people are corrupt doesn't mean that they don't want legitimacy. They want legitimacy because, for example, they want to stay in power so that they can steal more." He cites the example of 19th-century America, which despite being "extraordinarily corrupt" still managed to become an economic superpower. Similarly, China today is rife with corruption, but nevertheless achieving growth rates most democracies can only dream of.
"So we shouldn't get too fixated on the idea that bad politics – and China certainly has that in droves – is inevitably linked to stagnation. We need to learn to work with political systems that are not perfect instead of taking the view: let's first fix the politics, then we'll fix the rest. I don't believe the history of the last 200 years tells us that that's how things work. So in that sense I don't think we were saying politics is unimportant. We were saying: don't assume that bad politics is the end of the story."
Banerjee conveys such an air of patient forbearance that I get the impression he has had to accommodate himself to hearing a great deal of nonsense talked about the subject he has made his life's work. I suspect he is still having to get used to the success of his book, and to the attention it has attracted; at the end of the interview he admits that he had just assumed I wouldn't even have bothered to read it. So I ask him how he feels about populist feelgood slogans of the "Make Poverty History" variety. Are they helpful, or inane?
"No," he says after another great long pause. "I think that it's a good objective. The world is a rich enough place – but a tranche of the world's population lives in conditions thatshould be completely unacceptable. People who live inside garbage piles – that should not be happening. So we should not give up on the objective.
"Will we make all poverty history? No. But can we solve some of these extreme and egregious forms of poverty? I think yes, and we should."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

globalization and the incorporation of education

Here we draw out some of the profound implications of globalization for education and the work of educators. As part of this we also look at some of the issues surrounding the increased presence of corporations and branding in education.

contents:  introduction · globalization, commodification and the corporate takeover of education  ·globalization and the governance of education · de-localization and changing technologies and orientations in education · branding, globalization and learning to be consumers · conclusion · further reading and references · links · how to cite this article
see, also, globalization
Photograph - 'Globalization' is by Frederic Poirot - reproduced under a Creative Copmmons - Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic licence
To allow the market mechanism to be the sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment, indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society... Robbed on the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighbourhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed. (Karl Polanyi 1957: 73, quoted in Leys 2001: 4)
Such is the nature and complexity of the forces involved in globalization that any discussion of its impact upon education raises fundamental issues and is a matter of considerable debate Scholte 2000). The term itself is subject to dispute - whether we take a narrower, economic, focus on the removal of barriers to free trade and the integration of national economies (see for example Stiglitz 2002), or the broader view of a growing interdependence of social processes. However, what is clear is that there has been a significant shift in terms of the 'processes, interconnections and exchanges that are global'(MacGillivray 2006: 6 - emphasis in original) and in motive (the 'ization' of globalization).  As MacGillivray (2006: 7) again comments, reserving 'globalization' 'for players and events that deliberately embraced the globe invests the terms with meaning'.  
The forces associated with such globalization (whether economic or social) have conditioned the context in which educators operate, and profoundly altered people's experience of both formal and informal education. Schools and colleges have, for example, become sites for branding and the targets of corporate expansion. Many policymakers automatically look to market 'solutions'. The impact and pervasiveness of these forces of globalization also means that they should be a fundamental focus for education and learning - but there are powerful currents running against honest work in this area. In this article we will explore some of what we believe to be the more significant aspects with regard to the practice and experience of education. These include:
  • Commodification and the corporate takeover of education.
  • The threat to the autonomy of national educational systems by globalization.
  • De-localization and changing technologies and orientations in education.
  • Branding, globalization and learning to be consumers.
This is not an exhaustive listing of issues - but it does bring out some of the key dynamics and highlights some important areas of action (and reaction) for educators and learners with respect to globalization. 

Commodification and the corporate takeover of education

To begin it is helpful to distinguish between the rise of the market, 'with its insidious consumer-based appropriations of freedom and choice' (Giroux 2000: 6) and its impact on education, and globalization. As we have already seen, they are wrapped up - one with another - but it has been possible to talk of the marketization of education without having to refer to delocalization and the activities of multinationals (classic features of globalization). Now, that is increasingly difficult. As we know, commercial concerns look constantly for new markets and areas of activity. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, and particularly in those states where neo-liberal economic policies dominated, there was strong pressure to 'roll-back' state regulation, and to transform non-market and 'social' spheres such as public health and education services into arenas of commercial activity. According to Colin Leys, such a transformation - the making of a market - entailed the meeting of four requirements:
The reconfiguration of the goods and services in question so that they can be priced and sold.
The inducing of people to want to buy them.
The transformation of the workforce from one working for collective aims with a service ethic to one working to produce profits for owners of capital and subject to market discipline.
The underwriting of the risks to capital by the state. (2001: 4)  
What we have here is a process of commodification - and the development of attempts to standardize 'products' and to find economies of scale. The expansion of higher education in Britain and Northern Ireland during this period, for instance, involved a the restructuring of courses and programmes so that they could be marketed. This included marketing new courses such as MBAs, modulization (to achieve economies of scale), and the increased use of part-time and distance learning programmes (to target those already in work). The introduction of student loans and course fees has raised, significantly, the direct cost placed upon students - and helped to change people's orientation to higher education away from that of participants towards being consumers. The massive increase in university enrolment was, however, less a consequence of government policy, than the impact of changing perceptions of the labour market. The surge in student numbers occurred because it became clear to large numbers of people that not having a degree disadvantaged them in the labour market.
At a certain point in what had been a steady, slow expansion, large numbers of people started to feel they really had better get a degree, because not doing so would be such a bad move. The first wave set off another and so on. (Wolf 2002: 178)
There has also been a transformation of the labour force in UK higher education - and a growing orientation to profit generation. Salary levels have decreased significant relative to other key groupings; increased bureaucratization and pressures on universities to reduce costs have reduced the time for 'scholarship and disinterested learning' and the doubling in the numbers of students per lecturer has led to a progressive decline in the quality of teaching and the satisfaction it gives to learners and teachers (see Wolf 2002: 200-43). Similar pressures can be found at work in other areas of education.
We have also seen some very significant movements towards corporatization in schooling and non-formal education. In the 1980s and early 1990s this was initially carried forward by the rise of managerialism in many 'western' education systems. Those in authority were encouraged and trained to see themselves as managers, and to reframe the problems of education as exercises in delivering the right outcomes. The language and disposition of management also quickly moved into the classroom via initiatives such as the UK national curriculum. There has also been the wholesale strengthening of the market in many education systems. Schools have to compete for students in order to sustain and extend their funding. This, in turn, has meant that they have had to market their activities and to develop their own 'brands'. They have had to sell 'the learning experience' and the particular qualities of their institution. To do this complex processes have to be reduced to easily identified packages; philosophies to sound bites; and students and their parents become 'consumers'.  As Stewart demonstrated some time ago there is a fundamental problem with the way that such business models have been applied to educational and welfare agencies.
The real danger is that unthinking adoption of the private sector model prevents the development of an approach to management in the public services in general or to the social services in particular based on their distinctive purposes, conditions and tasks. (Stewart 1992: 27)
The result has been a drive towards to the achievement of specified outcomes and the adoption of  standardized teaching models. The emphasis is less on community and equity, and rather more on individual advancement and the need to satisfy investors and influential consumers. Education has come to resemble a private, rather than public, good.
As might be expected, such marketization and commodification has led to a significant privatization of education in a number of countries. In the United States, for example, schooling, higher education and training have been seen as lucrative markets to be in. Giroux (2000: 85) reports that the for-profit education market represented around $600 billion in revenue for corporate interests. Over 1000 state schools have been contracted out to private companies (Monbiot 2001: 336). In Britain education management, 'looks like it is about to become big business' (op. cit.). Educational Action Zones (beginning in 1998) have had significant corporate involvement. The Lambeth Zone is run by Shell, for example, not the local education authority. In Southwark, the education service has been contracted out to Haskins, and Kings Manor School, Guildford became the first state school to have its administration has been handed to a private company (in  1999). Kenway and Bullen (2001) have charted similar shifts in the marketization of Australian schooling. Classically, policymakers have looked to experience in other countries when framing these efforts. Furthermore, a significant number of the companies moving into this area have been trans-national corporations.
Seeking to turn education into a commodity, framing it in market terms, and encouraging the entry of commercial concerns could be seen as simply an expression of neo-liberal politics in a particular state or area. However, we need to understand the nature of the forces that have pushed (or seduced) governments into adopting such policies - and it is here that we can see the process of globalization directly at work.

Globalization and the governance of education

Globalization has impacted upon the nature of the agencies that 'school' children, young people and adults.
The question we are facing now is, To what extent is the educational endeavor affected by processes of globalization that are threatening the autonomy of national educational systems and the sovereignty of the nation-state as the ultimate ruler in democratic societies? At the same time, how is globalization changing the fundamental conditions of an educational system premised on fitting into a community, a community characterized by proximity and familiarity? (Burbules and Torres 2000)
At first glance it would seem that national governments still have considerable freedom to intervene in education systems. UK government (in its various forms), for example, has significantly increased the scale of central direction and intervention through the use of national curriculum requirements, special initiatives (involving direct funding) and other, institutional means.  However, as soon as we examine the nature of this expansion of intervention we can see that the overriding concern is with economic growth and international competitiveness - and that the efforts of politicians have been deeply flawed and their record dismal. 
The more overtly and the more directly politicians attempt to organize education for economic ends, the higher the likelihood of waste and disappointment... What marks (British politicians) from their international counterparts is simply the speed with which, in our hugely centralized system, they launch one educational broadside after another.
In the process we have almost forgotten that education ever had any purpose other than to promote growth. (Wolf 2002: xiii) 
While there is some direct intervention in the governance of national educational systems by trans-national agencies such as the IMF and World Bank, the impact of globalization is most felt through the extent to which politics everywhere are now essentially market-driven. 'It is not just that governments can no longer "manage" their national economies', he comments, 'to survive in office they must increasingly "manage" national politics in such a ways as to adapt them to the pressures of trans-national market forces' (Leys 2001: 1). 
The initiation, or acceleration, of the commodification of public services was... a logical result of government's increasingly deferential attitude towards market forces in the era of the globalized economy... A good deal of what was needed [for the conversion of non-market spheres into profitable fields for investment] was accomplished by market forces themselves, with only periodic interventions by the state, which then appeared as rational responses to previous changes. (Leys 2001: 214)
In other words, the impact of globalization is less about the direct way in which specific policy choices are made, as the shaping and reshaping of social relations within all countries.

De-localization and changing technologies and orientations in education

As well as conditioning the political context, globalization has found expression in some very direct ways - via , for example, the de-localization of schooling.  Since the 1980s, there has been a degree of 'parental choice; within state schooling. It has been possible to choose which schools to apply to at both primary and secondary levels. While much primary school application is local, a significant proportion of secondary school application is not.  This has both severed the link between locality and schooling and undermined the idea of community schooling. A further degree of delocalization has occurred as a result of scares around child protection and truancy. While schools might be local, access to the neighbourhood and of neighbours to the school has been restricted. The most visible signs are the security gates and fences that are part of the perimeter of schooling. Such measures inevitably strengthen the idea that the school is somehow separate from the community where it is located - and this is further intensified by the regime of testing and centralized curriculum construction that has been the hallmark of the UK education system since the early 1980s. There has been significantly less room for more local community-oriented explorations and student projects. As we have seen, the main forces framing the centralized curriculum are economic and directly linked to globalization.
To these developments must be added changes in educational technology - especially the use of the internet and other computer forms, and the growth of distance learning. At one level these can be seen as an instrument of localization. They allow people to study at home or at work. However, they usually involve highly individualized forms of learning and may not lead to any additional interaction with neighbours or with local shops, agencies and groups. They also allow people from very different parts of the world to engage in the same programme - and student contact can be across great physical distance. 
The term adult learning has been substituted for adult education in many policy and academic discussions in recognition of these sorts of shifts (Courtney 1979: 19) and more recently there has been a major growth in attention to notions of lifelong learning. The shift may, as Courtney suggests, reflect a growing interest in learning, 'however unorganized, episodic or experiential' (ibid.), beyond the classroom. In Britain, this has been seized upon by New Labour thinkers like Tom Bentley (1998) (head of Demos and a former special advisor to David Blunkett). He describes 'Labour's learning revolution' as follows:
It requires a shift in our thinking about the fundamental organizational unit of education, from the school, an institution where learning is organized, defined and contained, to the learner, an intelligent agent with the potential to learn from any and all of her encounters with the world around her. (Reported in The Economist, October 9, 1999, page 42)
The problem, as we have seen,  is that the sort of learning concerned is highly individualized and often oriented to employer or consumer interests.  
Field (2000: 35) has argued that there has been a fundamental shift in the behaviour of 'ordinary citizens', 'who increasingly regard the day-to-day practice of adult learning as routine, perhaps so routine that they give it little explicit attention'. Economic, social and cultural changes mean that many now live in 'knowledge' or 'informational societies' that have strong individualizing tendencies and a requirement for permanent learning (reflexivity) (after  Ulrich Beck [1992] and Anthony Giddens [1990, 1991]). As a result, Field goes on to suggest, many adults now take part in organized learning throughout their lifespan; that the post-school system is populated by adults as well as by young people; and that 'non-formal' learning permeates daily life and is valued (ibid.: 38-49). Typical of the last of these has been a substantial increase in activities such as short residential courses, study tours, fitness centres, sports clubs, heritage centres, self-help therapy manuals, management gurus, electronic networks and self-instructional videos (ibid.: 45). In these latter examples we can see an important aspect of the growing trans-national corporate presence in education and learning - and the extent to which profits are dependent on people continuing and extending their self-directed learning projects and activities.

Branding, globalization and learning to be consumers

It is time to recognize that the true tutors of our children are not schoolteachers or university professors but filmmakers, advertising executives and pop culture purveyors. Disney does more than Duke, Spielberg outweighs Stanford, MTV trumps MIT. (Benjamin R. Barber quoted by Giroux 2000: 15)
As George Monbiot (2001: 331) put it, there are many ways of making money from formal education, 'but the most widespread is the use of the school as an advertising medium'. The attraction is obvious - schools represent a captive market. Through the use of teaching packs, sponsored videos, advertisements on school computer screen savers and the like, large companies are able to bring their brand directly into the classroom. In so doing they are looking to gain a certain legitimacy (after all the use of their materials etc. has been 'approved' by the school) as well as the raising general brand awareness. Schools also have the distinct advantage for corporates of organizing their students along key demographics such as age and supposed academic ability - so it is possible to target advertising and marketing. The shortfall of funding for key aspects of schooling such as computing, sport and recreational and eating facilities: fast-food, athletic gear and computing companies have stepped in. However:
... they carry with them an educational agenda of their own. As with all branding projects, it is never enough to tag the school with a few logos. Having gained a foothold, the brand managers are now doing what they have done in music, sports and journalism outside the schools: trying to overwhelm their host, to grab the spotlight. They are fighting for their brands to become not the add-on but the subject of education, not an elective but the curriculum. (Klein 2001: 89)
Many teachers and their managers remain 'deeply ambivalent' about the movement of commerce and advertising into schools (Kenway and Bullen 2001: 102). There is a belief that children need at least one 'commercial-free zone'. Commenting on the Australian situation, Kenway and Bullen argue that schools have found themselves in a problematic situation.
High ideals tend to fade away as State-provided finances decline and as the State 'encourages' closer partnerships between education and industry. Educationally sound and attractively packaged curriculum materials fill the hole in the resources budget of schools and offer technologically sophisticated 'solutions' to the pedagogical problems of overworked teachers. These pressures have created a conflict of interest between schools' mandate to educate, and their moral and ethical duties to protect children from exploitation by consumer culture. Corporations have recognized and taken advantage of this dilemma. (op. cit.)
Students in many northern counties are, generally, 'intense consumers'. They are prepared to and/or want to 'spend large amounts of money on brand names and fashionable and popular items' (Kenway and Bullen 2001: 120). However, while many may be critical of certain aspects of consumer culture, they are far less likely to be critical of consumption itself.
As educational systems become more marketized, colleges, schools and non-formal education agencies seeks to build relationships based more on viewing learners as customers rather than participants
The main role of the teacher-turned-classroom manager is to legitimate through mandated subject matter and educational practices a market-based conception of the learner as simply a consumer of information. (Giroux 2000: 92)
The result of this incursion by commerce, and the widespread seeping of managerialism, market-thinking and consumerism into the orientation of educators is a basic inability within many schooling systems and agencies of informal education to address critically questions around globalization, branding and consumption.


The perversion of education and the exploitation of learners that we have catalogued here is a matter of profound concern. We have witnessed a fundamental attack on the notion of public goods, and upon more liberal ideas of education. Learning has increasingly been seen as a commodity or as an investment rather than as a way of exploring what might make for the good life or human flourishing. Teachers' and educators' ability to ask critical questions about the world in which live has been deeply compromised. The market ideologies they have assimilated, the direction of the curricula they are required to 'deliver', and the readiness of the colleges, schools and agencies in which they operate to embrace corporate sponsorship and intervention have combined to degrade their work to such an extent as to question whether what they are engaged in can be rightfully be called education. In a very real sense they are engaged in furthering what Erich Frommdescribed as alienation:
Modern man is alienated from himself, from his fellow men, and from nature. He has been transformed into a commodity, experiences his life forces as an investment which must bring him the maximum profit obtainable under existing market conditions. (Fromm 1957: 67)
It is a form of education that looks to 'having' rather than 'being' (Fromm 1976). 
Just what is needed to push back and undermine this pernicious process is fairly clear. We need, for example, to adopt ways of thinking about, and acting in, the world that have at their core an informed commitment to human flourishing in its fullest sense. It is necessary to reassert the public domain and to police the boundaries between it and the market sector with some vigilance (Leys 2001: 222). Furthermore, we need, as educators, to be able to do what is right rather than what is 'correct'. But how is all this to be achieved within societies and systems conditioned by globalization and neo-liberalism and in which there are asymmetrical relations of power? The answer, of course, is that cannot. But we can, at least, seek to undermine the narrowing and demeaning processes that pass under the name of education in many systems. Alternative ways of educating that look to well-being and participation in the common life have been well articulated. Whether they can be realized is is down in significant part to our courage as educators, and our ability to work with others with a similar vision.

Further reading and references

Burbules, N. C. and Torres, C. A. (2000) Globalization and Education: Critical Perspectives, London: Routledge. The introduction available on the web:
Frank, T. (2002) One Market Under God. Extreme capitalism, market populism, and the end of economic democracy, London: Vintage. 434 + xviii pages. Frank argues that 'market populism' - the notion that markets are, in some transcendent way, identifiable with democracy and the will of the people - has become a dominant doctrine. Riven with contributions it has, nevertheless, remained vital and durable. He questions many of the schemes to challenge globalization and the global corporate order, and argues that it must be challenged from outside.
Giroux, H. A. (2000) Stealing Innocence. Corporate culture's war on children, New York: Palgrave. 197 + x pages. The first half of the book explores the development and impact of three myths: that the triumph of democracy is related to the rise of the market; that children are unaffected by power and politics; and that teaching and learning are no longer linked to improving the world. The second part turns to the contribution that Gramsci, Freire and Hall can make to the development of a more public (rather than corporate) pedagogy.
Gray, J. (1999) False Dawn. The delusions of global capitalism, London: Granta. 262 pages. A spirited and well argued polemic against the effort to create a global free market. Includes a very useful overview of debates around globalization. Highly recommended.
Green, A. (1997) Education, Globalization and the Nation State, London: Macmillan. 206 pages. A development of Green's influential earlier work Education and State Formation(1990), this book offers a useful exploration of the impact of globalization on education systems. He begins with a refreshing and necessary critique of postmodernism and then moves on to explore education and state formation in Europe and Asia; technical education and state formation; vocational education; education and cultural identity in the UK; educational achievement in centralized and decentralized systems; and education, globalization and the nation state.
Hutton, W. and Giddens, A. (eds.) (2001) On The Edge. Living with global capitalism, London: Vintage. 241 + xi pages. Useful collection of articles from some key contributors to the globalization debate such as Castells, Soros and Beck.
Kenway, J. and Bullen, E. (2001) Consuming Children. Education-entertainment-advertising, Buckingham: Open University Press. 212 + ix pages. Fascinating exploration of the changing relationships between childhood, schooling and consumer culture based on case studies and research in Australia.
Klein, N. (2000) No Logo, London: Flamingo. 490 + xxi pages. An exposure of the rise of the brand and consumer capitalism - and the violations of human rights it has entailed. A modern classic.
Landes, D. (1999) The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Why some are so rich and some are so poor, London: Abacus. 650 + xxi pages.  
Leys, C. (2001) Market-Driven Politics. Neoliberal democracy and the public interest, London: Verso Books. 280 + viii pages. Exploration of the extent to which politics and policy are conditioned by global economic forces. Using health and broadcasting as examples, Colin Leys argues that there has been a fundamental shift in the relationship between politics and economics.
MacGillivray, A. (2006) A Brief History of Globalization. London: Constable and Robinson. 338 + xiv pages. Highly readbale - and one of the few historical treatments.
Mishra, R. (1999) Globalization and the Welfare State, London: Edward Elgar.168 pages. Mishra argues that social standards have declined far more in English-speaking countries than in continental Europe and Japan, and that globalization is as much a political and ideological phenomenon as it is an economic one. He makes a case for a transnational approach to social policy to ensure that social standards rise in line with economic growth. 
Monbiot, G. (2000) Captive State. The corporate takeover of Britain, London: Pan. 430 + viii pages. A committed and well argued account of the spread of corporate power and the extent to which the foundations of democratic government are threatened by corporate expansion and globalization.
Scholte, J. A. (2000) Globalization. A critical introduction, London: Palgrave. 361 + xx pages. This is a comprehensive and accessible overview of globalization. Part one develops a framework for analysis; part two discusses change and continuity (in production, governance, community and knowledge); and part three explores some key policy issues around security, justice, democracy and humane global futures. Highly recommended. Some elements of the argument can be found in an earlier article by Scholte (1997) 'Global capitalism and the state', International Affairs, 73(3) pp. 427-52,
Walters, S. (ed.) (1997) Globalization, Adult Education and Training, London: Zed Books. Part one examines the impact of globalization on adult education and training; part two, adult education and training strategies; part three, participation: problems and possibilities; and part four, lifelong learning reconsidered.
Wolf, A. (2002) Does Education Matter? Myths about education and economic growth, London: Penguin. 332 + xiv pages. Fascinating review of the evidence concerning the relationship of education to economic development and critique of UK government initiatives. Far too much, she argues, is decided by wishful thinking and received wisdom.


Beck, U. (1992) Risk Society, London: Sage.
Beck, U. (1999) What is Globalization?, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Beck, U. (2001) 'Living your life in a runaway world: individualization, globalization and politics', in W. Hutton and A. Giddens. (eds.) On The Edge. Living with global capitalism, London: Vintage. 
Bentley, T. (1998) Learning beyond the Classroom: Education for a changing world, London: Routledge.
Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Networked Society, Oxford: Blackwell.
Castells, M. (2001) 'Information technology and global capitalism' in W. Hutton and A. Giddens. (eds.) On The Edge. Living with global capitalism, London: Vintage. 
Chossudovsky, M. (1997) The Globalization of Poverty. Impacts of the IMF and World Bank reforms, London: Zed Books.
Cogburn, D. L. (1998) 'Globalization, knowledge, education and training in the global world', Conference paper for the InfoEthics98, UNESCO
Courtney, S. (1989) 'Defining adult and continuing education' in S. B. Merriam and P. M. Cunningham (eds.) Handbook of Adult and Continuing Education, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Field, J. (2000) Lifelong Learning and the New Educational Order, Stoke of Trent: Trentham Books.
Foreign Policy (2002) 'Globalization's last hurrah?', Foreign Policy, January/February,
Fox, J. (2001) Chomsky and Globalization, London: Icon Books.
Fromm, E. (1957) The Art of Loving 1995 edn. London: Thorsons.
Fromm, E. (1976) To Have or to Be, 1979 edn. London: Abacus.
Gee, J. P., Hull, L. and Lankshear, C. (1996) The New Work Order. Behind the language of the new capitalism, St. Leonards, Aus.: Allen and Unwin.
Giddens, A. (1990) Consequences of Modernity, Cambridge: Polity.
Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self Identity, Cambridge: Polity.
Held, D., McGrew, A., Goldblatt, D. and Perraton, J. (1999) Global Transformations - politics, economics and culture, Cambridge: Polity Press.
International Monetary Fund (2000) Globalization: threat or opportunity, International Monetary Fund, corrected January 2002,
Kellner, D. (1997) 'Globalization and the postmodern turn', UCLA , 
Kuehn, L (1999) 'Responding to Globalization of Education in the Americas -- Strategies to Support Public Education', Civil Society Network for Public Education in the Americas - CSNPEA,
Kuttner, R. (2002) 'Globalization and poverty', The American Prospect Online,
Mulgan, G. (1998) Connexity: Responsibility, freedom, business and power in the new century (revised edn.), London: Viking.
Polanyi, K. (1957 [1944]) The Great Transformation: The political and economic origins of our time, New York: Beacon Press.
Ritzer, G. (1993) The McDonaldization of Society, Thousand Oaks, CA.: Forge Press.
Romer, Paul M. (1986) 'Increasing Returns and Long-Run Growth', Journal of Political Economy 94(5), pp.1002-37.
Romer, Paul M. (1990) 'Endogenous Technological Change', Journal of Political Economy 98(5), pp. 71-102.
Sen, A. (2002) 'How to judge globalization', The American Prospect Online, 
Shaw, M. (2001) 'Review - Jan Aart Scholte: Globalization. A critical introduction',Milleneum. A journal of international studies,
Stewart, J. (1992) ‘Guidelines for public service management: lessons not to be learnt from the private sector’, in P. Carter el. al. (eds.) Changing Social Work and Welfare, Buckingham: Open University Press.
Stiglitz, J. (2002) Globalization and its Discontents. London: Allen Lane.
Torin, M. (2005) Globalization, Technological Change, and Public Education, New York: Routledge.
World Bank. (1999) World Development Report 1998/99: Knowledge for Development. Washington: World Bank. [1999, 9 August].
World Bank Research (2002) 'Globalization, Growth and Poverty: Building an Inclusive World Economy', The World Bank Group


The American Prospect - special segment on globalization: helpful collection of articles and links.
Development Gateway Foundation: Useful set of pages on the knowledge economy + plenty of other resources.
Global Policy Forum. Useful set of resources and links that explore the nature of globalization.
No Logo: website linked to Klein's book with bulletin board and various resources. 
World Bank Research on Globalization. Collection of topic papers and reports. 
Acknowledgement: Photograph - 'Globalization' is by Frederic Poirot - reproduced under a Creative Copmmons - Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic licence []
To cite this article: Smith, M. K. (2002) 'Globalization and the incorporation of education' the encyclopedia of informal education,
© Mark K. Smith 2002