Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Education and Globalization

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What the term globalization basically means is ever close economic intermeshing of all the world’s countries through increasing transfer of goods and services, explains Thieß Petersen.

Education is a key factor in dealing with the impact of global megatrends. This is not the least of the reasons that have motivated Europe’s biggest circulation newspapers, BILD and Hürriyet to join forces with management consultants Roland Berger and the Bertelsmann Stiftung in initiating a major survey which should give the maximum number of people a direct opportunity to tell political decision-makers what they think of the current education situation in Germany. Over the next three weeks FC_org will be publishing blogposts which shed light on various aspects of the education system and illuminate the important role it plays in determining people’s attitudes and interactions with planet earth. We cordially invite you to add your own voice to our discussions and to take part in the survey on

What the term globalization basically means is ever close economic intermeshing of all the world’s countries through increasing transfer of goods and services, capital, technologies and manpower. The pace of this kind of globalization has increased rapidly over the course of the past decades. And in all probability this rapid pace will continue in the coming decades too.

When it comes to evaluating such change, there is an extremely wide array of conflicting opinions. Advocates of globalization point to the benefits it brings: higher levels of material prosper-ity and associated improvements in non-material life conditions (such as lower child mortality rates, increased life expectancy, and better education levels) together with a reduction of absolute poverty, particularly in developing and emerging threshold countries.

Critics, on the other hand, tend to emphasize the disadvantages. These include increasing pressure for ongoing cost reduction (such as lower wages and a reduction of minimum social standards), heavier workloads and more compressed work processes, the shifting of costs over to the public (costs, for instance, for increasing environmental pollution) but above all the relentlessly onslaught of the low wages sector (particularly in developed industrial countries) and an increase in social inequality.

The main reason why economic globalization comes in for such a broad variety of judgments is that its benefits and disadvantages are unequally distributed. For threshold countries, globalization offers a unique opportunity to escape from underdevelopment, reach the living standard of the west and thus enjoy a better way of life. For the developed economies of the west on the other hand, first and foremost globalization brings with it the danger of decline – particularly in terms of standards of living and employment – with all its negative social effects.

So what can developed economies like Germany do to counteract the negative consequences of the ongoing march of globalization? Two considerations are critical here:

  • In the long term we must expect increasing tension on labor markets (with increasing pressure on wages, falling job security, and rising demands for flexibility) which will im-pact most severely on low skilled and unskilled workers. In the next few years this pressure is bound to increase with the huge masses of extra workers India and China will be pouring into the international labor market. This will led to a rise in unemployment particularly in the low skilled segment. To prevent higher unemployment we must reduce the number of low skilled workers.
  • Even though ongoing globalization brings with it a general rise in income levels, the way such higher income is distributed is markedly uneven. The main beneficiaries will be those highly skilled workers favorized by labor markets where high skills are at a premium. This means that the income gap between highly skilled and non-skilled workers will further widen. Thus to reduce the income gap, we must reduce the number of low skilled people.

What both these considerations indicate is that it is essential that we step up our efforts in the education sector. Societies which save on education, save at the wrong end.

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