In their article, National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the the Future of Schooling, David Baker and Gerald LeTendre argue that globalization has transformed education into a global institution. They point out how, despite some differences, the educational systems of the world’s nations share a similar infrastructure, such as mass schooling and standardized tests.
I agree with Baker and LeTendre’s assessment. When I moved to the U.S. in the second grade, I noticed many similarities between my school in India and the one I was currently enrolled in. In fact, the similarities between these educational systems helped ease my transition between these two separate cultural spheres.
But, I find that, in higher education, the differences between the Indian and American educational approaches widen. Both India and America have equivalents of the Bachelor’s, Masters’s and PhD degrees. But, in India, medicine begins at the Bachelor level, with medical students entering the program right after graduating from high school. Students then go on to become doctors in just five short years. Also, India, there is no concept of the liberal arts. Finally, although Indian colleges have majors in the humanities, their programs tend to be limited in number and size/depth. Preprofessional majors are highly preferred, and the majority of students end up in these programs.
Therefore, I would like to modify Baker and LeTendre’s initial argument. Education is a global institution in its early stages. Primary education often adopts similar forms across nations. However, as educational level increases, the differences between national approaches begins to widen. Even though nations continue to use the same broad framework, each national educational system becomes increasingly situated within its own local context.
Of course, if we decide to take this view on global education, our opinion on the strength of state power changes. Before, we would be forced to assume that the state has relatively little power in the world today, and simply works to satisfy the demands of the larger world culture. However, in the new model, we see that states have a considerable amount of power (although not complete power). They shape the lives of their citizens and determine how they interface with world culture.
From the state’s perspective, this approach makes a lot of sense. At the preliminary level, by enrolling all of its youngest citizens in a global educational system, the state is ensuring that all citizens are have a baseline understanding of global standards and are able to navigate the global system. This skill is important for survival in the world today. However, during higher education, as the state prepares to train its most intelligent and specialized citizens, it takes on a more unique approach- one that it thinks is the best. In this way, the state hopes that its best citizens are equipped with the best tools and are able to conquer their peers in the global environment that everyone is familiar with.