Globalisation and Growing Global Perspectives in Higher Education Curriculum: General Tendencies in India
This paper is concerned with ‘how globalisation influences increasing global perspectives in higher education (HE) curriculum. Specifically, it explores the global perspectives in HE curriculum in India. As informed by the available literature, it is understood that globalisation is an important factor that promotes global perspectives in HE curriculum. Countries with economic advantages generate and own most knowledge and that knowledge tends to define global perspectives. Building research capacities of the developing world could enhance and complement global perspectives. A north/west and south/east dialogue would expand the notion of global perspectives and be more inclusive of the standpoint of others, particularly those in developing countries.. Being critically realistic to changes in education and engaging in constant dialogues, negotiations and reflections can help to democratise education.
Globalisation has steadily and deeply influenced many aspects of life and education is no exception. We understand that Higher Education (HE) is very sensitive to this development. The basic assumption underlying the relationship between globalisation and educational changes is that knowledge is considered an important driving force for globalisation and therefore globalisation should have profound impact on knowledge and education (Carnoy 1999).
The forces of globalisation have introduced new discourses into curriculum planning. Curriculum in HE is undergoing severe changes that are predominantly influenced by global perspectives and market orientations. In this paper we to identify ‘how globalisation influences increasing global perspectives in higher education (HE) curriculum. Specifically general tendencies in India are explored.
New demands and challenges are posed to the curriculum in HE as the world outside the university is constantly undergoing dramatic changes. These new demands have brought in new contents, programs, methods and providers. One important aspect of this new demand on HE curriculum is the growth of a global perspective which is now more evident in academic planning than ever before. This has brought a shift in the goals and curricula of the universities from preparing better citizens for nation building to preparing active global citizens for growing global demands.
What is meant by a global perspective? Where does the term come from? Is this unidirectional, flowing from the west/north to the east/south? To what extent are eastern/southern perspectives part of this global perspective? Is diversity still possible in the growing homogenization trend? What do we learn from each other: independence, dependence or interdependence? And, how is this all reflected in the modern curricula in HE? These are of course very ambitious questions which should be made more concrete by linking them to the re-organisation of HE curriculum. Although other similar general questions to the above are also of interest, we choose to limit ourselves to three main specific research questions to help us identify how globalisation is influencing global perspectives in HE curriculum and how this is experienced in India. These questions are: 1.) What is globalisation and how does this affect HE?, 2.) How are globalisation and global perspectives reflected in HE curriculum?, 3.) What are the general tendencies of global perspectives in HE curriculum in India? The following sections address the three research questions. In the conclusion we support and recommend diversity in HE curriculum and reflect on further research.
In this paper we address the issue of how globalisation is influencing global perspectives in HE curriculum by reviewing pertinent literature in the area. We concede that we have not fully succeeded in identifying strong evidence, especially in our particular case, India. We plan in future to explore further specific evidence in general and in particular for the case of India.
Globalisation and the global perspectives in relation to higher education
The term globalisation is complex, confusing and increasingly elastic and could even be considered a contradictory concept. It has been defined and interpreted in many ways. It has become one of the most contested words in many tongues and disciplines. To some, globalisation is what happens when the movement of people, goods, capital and ideas among countries and regions accelerates (Coatsworth 2004). It is a social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people became increasingly aware of this phenomenon (Morrow & Torres 1999). Some understand globalisation simply as the global diffusion of western modernity (westernization)1; conversely some others such as Giddens (1990) identify a distinction between globalisation and westernization. Globalisation highlights the complex intersection between a multiplicity of driving forces, embracing economic, technological, cultural and political change (Giddens 1990; Robertson 1992; Scholte 1993; Axford 1995; Rosenau 1990, 1997) at global level (Yang 2003).
We have done an extensive literature review on the impacts of globalisation in our main study (David & Wildemeersch 2007) and here we highlight the important impacts of globalisation. Globalisation involves restructuring the global economy by creating avenues for free, borderless liberal trade demanding deregulation. The integration of countries in the global economy has diluted the notion of the nation-state and as a result, the power of the nation-state is diminished by globalisation. Neo-liberalism has become the dominant ideology in the discourses of politics and policies, making the state as an enterprise. The idea of the welfare state is under attack (Ibid).
Trans-national practice has induced the establishment of international/trans-national regulating bodies such as the WTO/WB/IMF and has led to the creation of regional political trade arrangement such as the EU/NAFTA/ASEAN. While globalisation encourages convergence/homogenization, localization movements create more divergence, while those focusing on glocalization are concerned with hetrogent (heteronomous) trends. There are many social implications of globalisation; mainly creating and/or reinforcing disparities between rich and poor (individuals / sectors / countries / regions). Those in an advantageous position,who are more competent on the world scene win, and others lose. This therefore creates social and economic polarization and furthers marginalization of those on the periphery (both physically and ideally). Globalisation also results in educational disparities, where the rich have access to quality education and the poor do not, or at most can access to low-quality education. Globalisation has also reconfigured the notion of time and space by technological and logistical advancements. It has also pushed scientific and technological advancements (Ibid).
Globalisation creates both opportunities and threats. Critics argue that globalisation is causing growing disparities between countries and between citizens of the same country (Tavenas 2003), while supporters point out the significant role of globalisation in poverty reduction and development among the countries that have been able to integrate with the world economy (IMF, 2000). However realists contend that globalisation could be beneficial to everyone. C. Peter MaGrath quotes Diana Oblinger, who points out that globalisation is irreversible and suggests integrating it in a meaningful way (Magrath 2000). However it is important to be critical of the developments of globalisation. The impact of globalisation on HE involves finance, performance, demand and trade. Global financial bodies recommend the reduction of public funds in the name of efficient fiscal management.. The decline of public funding for HE has resulted in the establishment of self financed colleges (for-profit HE) and self financed courses (in the public HE) and the downsizing of the public HE system. This tendency paves the way for decentralization in which the federal government delegates its responsibility to the provincial / local (government) authorities and to private partners. The reduction of public funding has made HE institutions mobilize market based resources in the name of cost-sharing (by means of tuition fees) and cost-recovery (by means of consultation and selling knowledge products) (David & Wildemeersch 2007).
The emphasis on performance, quality, excellence, relevance, competence and innovation reflect the characteristics of neo-liberal policies, which have been promoted by globalisation forces and agents. The convergence trend is setting global standards for global portability of credentials as there is a growing migration among the workforce around the world. The use of English as an academic language has become global. Globalisation of knowledge although initially viewed as homogeneous flowing from north/west to south/east, is presently perceived as heterogeneous as this has become the age of knowledge interdependence (Ibid).
The knowledge based economy demands meta-cognitive, higher knowledge and a highly skilled workforce or knowledge professionals. Therefore it has become very important for success in one’s career to engage in lifelong learning. Globalisation demands the expansion and massification of HE, as there is an increasing demand for trained citizens for the knowledge-related economy. Trade in HE is one of the important impacts of globalisation to HE. This has become very much explicit when cross-border HE was legitimized under the General Agreements in Trade and Services (GATS). One interesting observation with regard to the globalisation of HE is that the mobility of students is directed from the South to the North but the mobility of programmes is directed from the North to the South. HE emerges as an instrument of national globalisation policy as the ability of a country to generate new knowledge will help it to compete globally (Ibid).
The global perspective in line with global education is viewed as the ability to understand and accommodate all cultures, nationalities, religions, races, and any other characteristic of humanity (The Global Educator’s Guide to Internet, 2007). In an attempt to define the global perspective, Hanvey (1982) comments that it is not something one either has or has not. Instead, it is a blend of many things in which, one may be rich in certain elements and relatively lacking in others. He identifies five elements or dimensions of a global perspective. Those are: 1. Perspective Consciousness, 2. State of the Planet Awareness, 3. Cross-Cultural Awareness, 4. Knowledge of Global Dynamics, 5. Awareness of Human Choices. (Hanvey, 1982). The above mentioned definitions provide a general pedagogical understanding of a global perspective. But by global perspective in relation to globalisation and HE curriculum, we understand the increasing tendency and attempt to develop curricula that are globally relevant under the globalisation framework. We see two major features in this regard: One is the tendency to internationalise the HE curriculum, which will attract (foreign and foreign driven domestic students and scholars) towards knowledge centres. Another feature is to develop or adapt globally relevant curricula to make students global citizens and citizens who are globally competent.
The vision of the American Council of Education (1995) on the globalizing curriculum calls for the nation to provide a powerful, deep rooted understanding of other languages, diverse cultures, and global issues. And it further recommends that it be provided as an integral part of the educational experience rather than as something extra in the curriculum (ACE, 1995). The need for a global perspective in HE has been well defined in the Global perspectives in Higher Education Project summary from the UK. Some of the questions which were raised by the project: Are UK graduates globally aware? Do students engage with the most contemporary global issues and understand the contribution of their chosen discipline to addressing these issues? Does Higher Education teach a balanced view of the ‘developing’ world? Do young people leave university with the knowledge and skills for working in international and multicultural workplaces? And do their experiences in Higher Education allow students to develop the values and attitudes to be global citizens? (Lunn 2006). The knowledge commission of India, (which was set up in the year 2006 to advise the government regarding the development of education in India) in its recommendation for HE has suggested that local and global knowledge be included in HE curriculum to enable students to be globally competent and locally relevant (NKC, 2006). These are only some of the examples. Most recent educational policy documents articulate globalisation and global perspectives.
Globalisation and the global perspective in higher education curriculum
The basic assumption underlying the relationship between globalisation and educational changes is that knowledge is considered to be an important element for globalisation. Globalisation continues to reorganize the economy (as it does with politics, culture and all other social sub-systems) across the world. Knowledge and information are increasingly becoming the main resources for the modern economy (a result of globalisation) such that recent economic development relies more and more on knowledge. One such hypothesis by Wielemans is that “If knowledge is fundamental to globalisation, globalisation should also have a profound impact on the transmission of knowledge” (Wielemans 2002). In this section we would like to explore the second research question. “How are globalisation and global perspectives reflected in higher education curriculum?”
Curriculum in HE is understood as the structure of the courses offered for a particular program. In higher education, the meaning of curriculum is far less explicit. In some institutions, it covers all courses offered rather than referring to particular programs. Usually, however, a curriculum refers to a field of study or a course of study (Dressel 1976). To understand curriculum better, the following illustration might help. Curriculum content could be ‘knowledge’, curriculum process could be ‘knowing’ and curriculum context could be place, time and person involved in knowing (Ibid).
Some of the important implications of globalisation to HE curriculum are: growing demands for relevance and innovation, emphasis in knowledge application, importance of subject/course specification, competence based learning, regionally and globally comparable degrees, introduction of English taught Masters programs by non English countries, internationalised curriculum, advent of credit-based programmes, introduction of fluid programmes, inter- and trans-disciplinary development, demand for meta-cognitive skills, student centred teaching, self regulated learning, cultural sensibility, university-industry linkages, market driven degrees, vocationalization, changing and stratifying the values and importance of disciplines, challenges for universities in resource allocation for different disciplines (David & Wildemeersch 2007).
These above mentioned implications of globalisation to HE curriculum could either have positive or negative outcomes, but the significant educational challenge for HE is to integrate globalisation into the curriculum in a meaningful way so that we can capitalize on – rather than be constrained by – globalisation (Oblinger & Verville 1998, p. 61).
One of the important implications of globalisation to HE curriculum is that there is a growing global perspective (globally homogenous) in HE curriculum. The national and local identities are increasingly diluted and compromised in the construction of a globally relevant curriculum. The drive for global perspectives in curriculum to some extent influences curriculum designers to adapt globally homongenous curriculum.
One should also identify that some disciplines are much more aligned with global perspectives than others. Philip Altbach observes that disciplines and fields vary in terms of how globally homogenous they have become. Such fields as business studies, information technology and biotechnology are almost entirely dominated by the major academic centres. Other fields-such as history, language studies and many areas in the humanities, are largely nationally based, although foreign influences are felt in methodology and approach to research and interpretation (Altbach 2003). He adds that the internationalisation of the curriculum, like other aspects of globalisation, proceeds largely from North to South. Some might argue that it is easy for humanities and social science to be diverse, while physical science has to hold universal knowledge, but diversity must be welcomed in all spheres of knowledge.
We presume that the quest for a global perspective paves the way for converging trends. Convergence does not mean that all higher education systems are one and the same, but that they are increasingly governed by similar pressures, procedures and organizational patterns (Schugurensky 1999). There are different layers of convergence. These include national level convergence (mostly among pluralistic countries, such as India, USA); regional level convergence (ex: EU, Bologna Process); and global level convergence (language and educational tests, such as TOFEL and GRE). Convergence tendencies have some advantages, such as mutual understanding and comparability, while endangering diversity and local knowledge.
Knowing the key players who influence global perspectives is an important aspect of understanding these dynamics. National, regional and international organizations (such as UNESCO, OECD, EU) are major players who possess higher capacity to influence national, regional and global level educational policies. These organizations produce or stimulate more or less consensual definitions of problems and solutions in education (Schugurensky 1999).
Where does the notion of a global perspective come from? For different reasons, the U.S. system has constituted the dominant higher education paradigm for the past several decades. Altbach says that there is no question that higher education planners and others often look to the United States as the most relevant model for academic development in their countries (Altbach 1979). “It is also the case that all of the universities in the world today, with the exception of the Al-Azhar in Cairo, stem from the same historical roots—the medieval European university and, especially, the faculty-dominated University of Paris. Much of the non-Western world had European university models imposed on them by colonial masters. Even those countries not colonized by Western powers—such as Japan, Thailand, Ethiopia, and a few others—adopted the Western academic model” (Altbach and Selvaratnam, 1989).
It might be interesting to consider the major knowledge producers. Countries that invest more in research and development (R&D) generate more new knowledge. USA, UK and Japan have US$25,000 GDP and spend 2% of their GDP on research; Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia with US$ 5000 GDP, spend only 0.5% in R&D, India and China are spending 1% in R & D (Suwanwela 2006). Most developing countries spend less than 1%. Major universities and centres of excellence play a vital role in knowledge generation. Altbach illustrates this, as following: “The powerful universities have always dominated the production and distribution of knowledge, while weaker institutions and systems with fewer resources and lower academic standards have tended to follow to their wake” (Altbach 2003).
He adds that “The world of centres and peripheries grows ever more complex (Altbach, 1998c). The major international academic centres – namely the leading research oriented universities in the north, especially those that use one of the key world languages (particularly, English) – occupy the top-tier” (Ibid). Multinational knowledge corporations have become key players, the owners of many of the databases, journals and other sources of information and most of these companies are based in North America and Western Europe (Ibid).
Developing countries mostly are capable in the application part of the knowledge that has been generated by developed world. There are innovative countries, imitative countries and countries both innovative and imitative. The rigid regime of knowledge rights and knowledge piracy are two other key tensions one might find in this development. Knowledge economies and knowledge-based production are research driven. Their growth depends on the capacity of countries to invest in R&D activities (Sanyal & Varghese 2006).
The disparity between the developed and developing world in knowledge generation will not help complement mutual wealth of knowledge.. And it is not easy to develop to the level of the countries with higher knowledge advantage. “In many ways, it is now more difficult to become a major player in international higher education – to achieve “center” status (Altbach, 1998b). The price of entry has risen. Top-tier research universities require vast resources, and in many fields scientific research involves a large investment in laboratory facilities and equipment” (Altbach 2003). An interesting observation of Altbach is of relevance here: “Structural dependency is endemic in much of the world’s academic institutions. Any discussion of globalisation cannot thus avoid the deep inequalities that are part of the world system of higher education. Thus globalisation has added a new dimension to existing disparities in higher education” (Ibid).
Multinationalisation of higher education is one such dynamic which influences global perspectives in HE curriculum. The foreign HE providers (cross-border) often provide the same course as is provided in the home country. This influences the local institutions to radically (re-)design their programs to correspond to the ones in foreign institutions. Another important reason for growing global perspectives in HE curriculum is also that there is a big global marketplace for students and scholars. Students and scholars are increasingly expected to move around to gain knowledge resulting in “brain drain” for some, particularly developing countries.. “As academic systems become more similar and academic degrees more widely accepted internationally, as immigration rules are tailored to people with high skill levels, and as universities themselves are more open to hiring the best talent worldwide, the global marketplace will expand” (Altbach, 2003). Markets promise quality, diversity and efficiency, but in reality the market only pays attention to programs that are marketable. Michael W. Apple refers to the study by Gillborn & Youdell (2000) in which they found, in nearly all of the countries studied, that the market did not encourage diversity in curriculum, pedagogy, organization, clientele, or even image. Instead, it consistently devalued alternatives and increased the power of dominant models. Equally significant is the fact that in general this practice also consistently exacerbated differences in access and outcome based on race, ethnicity and class (Apple 2001).
It is also very interesting to notice that students move towards knowledge centres and the programmes (knowledge) flow to the receiving peripheries. The mobility of students is directed from south/east to the north/west but the mobility of programmes is directed from north/west to south/east (Yang 2003). As in the present age, English is central for communicating knowledge worldwide. Many countries have begun to introduce English-taught Masters’ programmes and internalized curriculum in order to attract international students (Christina V D M, 1996). She notes that the important pressure to internationalize the curricula for countries is to make their universities centres of excellence and to be attractive for foreign students (Ibid).
Most universities adapt quickly to global trends in order to stay competitive and relevant. The rapidly changing world demands that universities be current and up to date. This dynamic redefines the importance of various disciplines. “A perennial challenge for universities and colleges is to keep pace with knowledge change by reconsidering their structural and resource commitments to various knowledge areas” (Gumport , 2000). It is also very essential for universities to know, whether their graduates are capable enough to understand local and global problems and solutions.
General tendencies in India
In this section we will explore our third research question: “What are the general tendencies of global perspectives in HE curriculum in India?” Most recent policy documents emphasise the necessity of being globally competent and locally relevant. Unfortunatly, this has not been the experience in practice in India. Courses and curricula are a central concern for policy makers, but however strong the wish of policy makers and administrators to intervene in what goes on in the lecture room and laboratory; they remain dependent upon the voluntary cooperation of subject specialists (Taylor 2003).
India has done remarkably well in education since independence. Yet it still has to struggle to educate a huge uneducated mass of people and has to fulfil many other crucial issues in education, before addressing completely curriculum in a globalised world.. Moreover, issues such as access / equity, faculty, and infrastructure are more politically sensitive compared to curriculum regulations and reforms. The means are more important than the ends in the case of educational objectives in India. Most official documents on education seem to include curriculum discussion, but global perspectives have not been directly highlighted.
The national discussion paper on Higher Education in India: Vision and Action presented at the world conference on higher education held in the year 1998, noted the importance of curriculum restructuring in HE in India (Ministry of Education, India, 1998). There has been a gradual promotion of HE curriculum reform in policy documents in India. One of the recommendations that the 1986 national educational policy made is the diversification of courses. And the 1992 national educational policy includes a similar recommendation of dovetailing the education curriculum to the national culture, needs and aspirations. It has been observed that there has been a remarkable increase in the number of courses offered by the universities (Narkhede , 2001).
The model curriculum in India has been provided by the University Grants Commission (UGC). Universities have to design their curriculum in view of the standards set by UGC. The discussion paper on education for the inclusion in the 10th plan recommends relevant curriculum in HE through modernization of Syllabi (UGC, 2005). The national knowledge commission proposes a transition to a course credit system where degrees are granted on the basis of completing a requisite number of credits from different courses, which provides students with choices (NKC, 2006). It is important to notice that there are also national and regional perspectives in India that take precedence over global perspectives.
N.R. Narayana Murthy, the Chairman of Infosys said that government regulation resulted in India ‘failing to build truly world-class educational institutions’. He added that HE in India must be allowed to function as an industry in a free market environment. Universities should be allowed to form alliances with firms for research and funding. Businesses must be consulted in curriculum design and in the conducting of courses. Educational institutions, for their part, should stress innovation, research and development and the creation of new knowledge (Murthy 2005). Often the educationalists’ views are opposed to the views of such industrialists. Prof J. Shashidhara Prasad, the Vice Chancellor of Mysore University strongly advocates diverse curriculum instead of universal curriculum in Indian HE. He adds that India has been resisting universal curriculum for a long time…hence there is a need to focus on diverse curriculum rather than on universal curriculum (Prasad 2006).
Prof. Madhava Menon points out the reasons, why India is not a desired HE destination for foreign students. "The politics and economics of higher education coupled with unprincipled interventions from State agencies have eroded the dynamism and competitiveness of governing structures of educational institutions. For several decades the curriculum has not been revised. Teaching was geared more to examinations rather than to the acquisition of knowledge (Satyanarayanan 2006). Like any other developing nation, India as well aspires to develop centres of excellence, desiring something like Oxford or Stanford. One of recent government initiatives to fund premium institutions in India was in line with this desire. That the finance minister of India announced a grant of Rs 100 crores (1 crore is 10 millions) to the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, to help it raise its standards to the levels of Oxford and Cambridge. Will a fistful of crores help set up Oxbridge-level institutions of higher learning in our country? (Narlikar 2005).
There are several stakeholders and HE systems in India. Mostly the state owned HE institutions are less effective and less innovative compared with the entrepreneurial private for profit HE institutions that operate more and more by market rules. For-profit HE are quick to adapt to modern developments, integrate global perspectives and take advantage from such dynamics. Sanyal Bikas has identified several private HE institutions that have signed a moratorium of understanding (MOU) with one or more foreign partners to provide attractive and globally relevant and competent programs (Sanyal 2005). The National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) of India gives 131 examples of programs imported in 13 states from different universities abroad. They could be classified in four categories: Twinning, Joint Degrees, Franchise and others (NIEPA, 2004).
Some realists such as Azad advocate benefiting from the globalisation process. They contend that in a market oriented competitive world, unleashed by the forces of globalisation, education has to assume a somewhat different role. It cannot afford to be conventional, rigid and impervious to change. It has to keep abreast of the latest developments in various fields and be capable of creating, absorbing and transacting neo-technology and information systems that are sweeping across the countries of the world. There has to be also a paradigm shift in the contents of education with substantial emphasis on the productivity aspect of the curriculum (Azad 2004).
We have been informed by the available literature that globalisation is an important force that influences global perspectives in HE curriculum. This is a global phenomenon and countries differ according to their capacity to respond to this dynamic. We have identified some of the major indicators, which essentially show the relationship between globalisation and growing global perspectives in HE curriculum. We have also outlined different arguments of authors belonging to different orientations such as (neo-liberal, critical and socio-democratic). Being informed and having reflected on this research issue, we understand that it would be interesting to integrate global perspectives in HE curriculum as this might help everyone benefit from this development. But it would be necessary to be constantly critical about this dynamic, all the while continuing to foster local knowledge and helping curriculum to be diverse. We have arrived at this position given our understanding that we have not succeeded in finding strong alternatives for globalisation and this challenges us to explore for the possibilities for potential and meaningful alternatives.
India, being a country in transition, is under severe confrontation with this dynamic. India has the third largest number of people in HE after China and the USA with nearly 250 million youth (something like the size of the population of USA). Being one of the attractive destinations for foreign investment and multinational companies and sending a large number of highly skilled work-force (ICT) to every corner of the world, it would be important for India to integrate global perspectives in HE curriculum. At the same time, it should remain very critical about this development and continue to protect and foster its local knowledge and diversity. Rabindranath Tagore (the first Indian Nobel laureate) objects to the artificial arrangements of foreign knowledge but invites us to consider it as food for thought and not as our burden in order to learn about other cultures and the wisdom and knowledge from other countries (IFIH, 2006).
It is important to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of those who generate new knowledge and disseminate it for all to benefit from it. Building research capacities in developing countries would further advance research in the world. This will provide necessary confidence for developing countries to be competent and complement knowledge produced n the developed world, and be part of the global perspectives. Moreover, a diversified curriculum should support both local knowledge and will also provide opportunities to foster global perspectives. Engagement in north/west and south/east dialogues would help to make global perspective part of everyone’s perspective and bridge the knowledge divide among nations and regions. It is also important to democratise new knowledge, relaxing rigid pattern paradigms, while setting clear international codes to prevent knowledge/information theft.
In this humble understanding we would like to raise further reflections to take this research further. They are: How can we ensure that globalisation favours not only the privileged? Should we not engage in searching for potential alternatives for globalisation? Should we leave education to be restructured by globalisation processes? How can global perspectives become part of everyone’s perspective? How can global perspectives be effectively integrated without endangering local perspectives? How can we foster diversity into the curriculum? Would dialogue help us to be interdependent? And how should pluralistic countries such as India foster diverse curriculum in HE rather than just focusing on national, global perspectives?
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