Archives for January 2013

The Globalization of Education

Global education

Globalization has had an uneven development in different areas of human knowledge. In some fields, globalization has advanced more thoroughly; like in commerce and trade,technology, sports, and art. Even in the education field, globalization has already made huge strides.

Standardizing education to fit global standards has been an age-old practice that has had spectacular developments in the recent decades; for example, the International Baccalaureate program at the high school level. This program has been increasingly popular and demanded among students and teachers around the planet. This is a most evident manifestation of a successful global effort. There are no losers here, only winners.

At the university level, the globalization of scholars and students is amazing. They come and go to and from all over the world. The political and the academic world have strong ties and continuous exchange both, of ideas and people. It is very common to find former Presidents and Prime Ministers in the academic world. The process also works in the other direction.

Universities have increasingly realized the great opportunity that a fairly open world represents; and in recent years, some of them have been developing upon this very welcome premise. Numerous major universities have been opening up campuses in different countries around the world.

Carnegie Mellon University opened its Qatar campus in 2004 and has been temporarily leasing part of its space to Northwestern University, while its own facilities are completed, in 2014. NYU opened its Abu Dhabi campus in september 2010.

Even relatively low-profile, public institutions have a campus abroad, like Miami University –from Oxford, Ohio– has a small, though vibrant campus in Luxembourg since the early 70s.

The University of Utah (U of U) has a partnership program with Zayed University, a national university of the United Arab Emirates with campuses in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Several faculty members from the U of U have been teaching courses in Zayed University’s Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) program and consulting on program development and curriculum. The U of U also has a partnership with Hainan Province China, Hainan University, and the China University of Political Science and Law.

In September 2006, the U of U Abu Dhabi-based EMPA program started to operate in conjunction with the U of U College of Social and Behavioral Science’s Institute of Public and International Affairs, the University of California, Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Those instances are only a small sample of the myriad of universities increasingly engaged in active global education efforts.

A few decades ago, universities from the Netherlands were the first non-native English speaking institutions that presciently decided to teach a majority of their courses in English, thereby substantially widening in a stroke the universe of foreign students interested in attending their universities. At present, well over one quarter of their students are from foreign countries.

Thunderbird, the prestigious Glendale Arizona graduate school of global management was one of the first universities to detect the incoming acceleration in global thinking and practice in the coming decades, changing its focus from  being “The American Institute for Foreign Trade” (the name it was born with, in 1946), to “Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management” in 1968. More recently, in 2007, it changed to its current name: “Thunderbird School of Global Management”.

Monash University, the largest public institution in Australia by enrollment, has been very active in its Asian expansion: Malaysia in 1998, South Africa (Johannesburg) in 2001. Also in 2001, Monash opened a research and teaching center in Prato, Italy, in an 18th Century Tuscan Palace.

Monash has just been granted a licence to operate in China, including the first graduate school. The University of Nottingham, the University of Liverpool, Duke University and New York University are likely to be granted licences soon.

The globalization process is not only unstoppable, it has continued to gain more traction than ever. The academic sphere is just another very visible manifestation of it.


Full-potential Economic Growth

Reaching Full PotentialThe concept of full-potential economic growth is essentially theoretical. It is a theoretical concept to the extent that the world, as a whole, has never achieved it. Moreover, it can also be argued that even during its brightest period, no individual nation has reached its full-potential economic growth.

A handful of countries around the globe have been able to achieve rates of growth averaging over 7% for extended, multi-annual periods. The Singapores of the world, and more recently China, New Zealand, and the Czech Republic, among others, are a living testimonial of it. However, not even during their brightest moments, have those nations been able to get close to their full-potential economic growth rate.

Knowing the exact level at which full-potential economic growth lies at any particular point in time is like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands. Mankind’s performance has been so far away from that potential that, for practical purposes, it is not that relevant to know where the full-potential level is at any particular point in time, given that the room for improvement is simply colossal.

It is axiomatic that, in order to consistently achieve turbo-charged economic growth rates for extended periods, say over 10 continuous years, it is indispensable to be a very poor nation, well below the world’s GDP per capita income level, or alternatively, to be a nation with a per capita income level substantially below the developed countries’.

In other words, provided that a virtuous and drastic change in governance is implemented, the poorer a country is, the higher its potential for a sustained and accelerated economic growth rate.

Another worthwhile notion in this fascinating topic is that the full-potential concept is not an immutable benchmark. Not at all. The full-potential concept is a dynamic objective, that moves up or down according to how some basic variables evolve along time: demographics, natural resource availability, technological progress, economic and political stability, etc. The world’s current economic system, the monetary economy, is easier to understand once we have a grasp of the most basic of economies: The Robinson Crusoe Economy.

Where do developed nations stand in all this?

economic growth

Well, it stands to reason that, given the multiple imperfections, limitations and deficiencies in public administration, even developed nations are far from growing at their full-potential.

Having established that fact, however, another quite different story is to conclude that because of that relative mismanagement, some developed nations are inevitably headed into chaos, as many analysts have been suggesting during the recent quarters, given the sizeable debt overload of the EU, the US and Japan. Granted, that enormous debt overload is a drag, a substantial negative factor on the world economy, and a significant risk, which truly is pushing the normal growth rate well below of what it otherwise would be. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be a clear connection between that relative (severe) mismanagement and the timing of the inevitable harmful critical consequences that severe imbalance will yield.

However regrettable the current situation is, specifically in the light of the humongous opportunity costs incurred, it does not necessarily have to lead to concluding that an imminent deep global synchronized recession is unavoidable and/or that the substantial, unbearable levels of unemployment among major developed nations are here to stay for long.

No single human being or group, however competent they happen to be, can rightfully pretend to have such an advanced insight as to know the precise timing of an event of that complexity.

It is truly important to understand the limits of knowledge and act accordingly. Unfortunately, such a mind frame has always been in short supply.

This reasoning does not pretend to suggest that heavily indebted developed nations are doing just fine. Not at all. The sooner the huge debt overload challenge is adequately confronted, the better. This means starting to grow at sufficient levels that consistently decrease the total debt/GDP ratio.


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