In the past three posts, I’ve discussed four global trends, as identified by Vivian Stewart in her chapter “A Classroom as Wide as the World” in Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ Curriculum 21. Stewart’s argument is we teachers and educators need to think about how to prepare students so they are ready to thrive in a globally connected and diverse world. Speaking of which, here’s the last trend:
(If you’re discombobulated, get oriented and start from the beginning here.)
#Education Stewart gives one paragraph to education, and in 2010, that was a little naïve but acceptable. She noted the growing global talent pool and that other countries are catching up with America in academics. The big concern was that standardized tests do not measure “the thinking and complex communication skills” needed for the 21st century (101).
True then, and still true now.
But then 2012 happened: the year of the MOOC.
Although MOOCs did not rapidly disrupt global education, they did disrupt how educators, institutions, and corporations discuss, share, and sell education.
Distance and online learning became more feasible as MOOCs made more people aware of open courseware and open educational resources (OER). These are free to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute thereby giving underfunded schools and systems access to educational materials.
MOOCs also created a need for improved communication technology: better software and apps for video-conferencing and mobile learning. These are then accessed by an increasing number of smartphone users around the world. The Pew Research Center reported earlier this year, “Smartphone ownership rates have skyrocketed in many countries since 2013. This includes increases of over 25 percentage points among the total population in large emerging economies such as Turkey (+42 points), Malaysia (+34), Chile (+26) and Brazil (+26).” These new users are also using the internet more: “In a number of emerging and developing countries, more people have access to the internet and are also using it more frequently.” Now, teachers know that just having the access and the tools to educational resources does not create instant learners, but they do create new markets.
For instance, Anya Kamenetz’s article in Wired “Pearson’s Quest to Cover the Planet in Company-Run Schools” details how one education publisher/“conglomerate” is working to improve global education by offering students who may attend over-crowded and under-supported public schools into wired for-profit schools.
It’s pursuing this strategy through a venture called the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund. Pearson allocated the fund an initial $15 million in 2012 and another $50 million in January 2015.
One of Pearson’s 11 equity investments is Bridge International Academies, which announced in late March this year a partnership with Liberia’s government. Or as Mail & Guardian reports, “An Africa first! Liberia outsources entire education system to a private American firm.” Yes, such a partnership will certainly help educate students, but there is cause for concern when the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund’s Board of Trustees President Jay C. Rehak writes, “By supporting low-fee private schools in developing countries in Africa and Asia, Pearson is not only, again, putting itself at the forefront of profoundly controversial education practices, but is wrongly narrowing its potential market opportunities.”
For-profit companies are also targeting the global higher education market. Coursera’s president Daphne Koller believes online learning should expand beyond offering credentials and certifications to full undergraduate degrees. This would help countries whose populations desire greater access to higher education: “Authorities will have to use online universities, because there is insufficient capacity in bricks-and-mortar institutions.” And also refugees: “Coursera has announced a partnership with the US State Department to help refugees to access online courses to improve their job chances, such as English language lessons or computer coding.”
Global trends in education begin with and return to American education.
Back in the United States, the passage of ESSA, or the Every Student Succeeds Act, is trending in 2016. After years of No Child Left Behind backlash, ESSA works to ease the strain schools felt from national comparisons facilitated by standardized tests and one-size-fits all mandates. ESSA also includes incentives for schools to “develop, refine, and replicate innovative and ambitious reforms to close the achievement gap in America’s schools.” I began this post with two nationally recognized schools that offer two different models that offer their students a global context. ESSA seems to invite more and similar efforts. So what skills do students need to be global competitive, responsible, and open global citizens?