Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Multiculturalism/Global Context
|“||Education is one thing that nobody can extract from children and others.||”|
From a global perspective, education can be hard to describe. Structure, style, and purpose of education all vary from place to place. For instance, in Indonesia and Japan, formal education is compulsory for nine years (Indonesia Ministry of Education and Culture, 1999; Japan National Institute for Educational Research 1999). Only the five-year primary education program is required in Pakistan, and still about 50 % of students drop out before completing their primary education (Government of Pakistan Ministry of Education, 1999). According to a CBC news article, under the new education program in Afghanistan, the three goals of education are, “To make a good Muslim, to make a modern Afghan, and to make someone who loves peace,” while in the United States religion is strictly prohibited from being taught in schools (“Back to School,” 2004). Despite every major difference between schools around the world, there are several ways that education can be considered globally equal. The process of education, formal or informal, is a global constant, the concept of education is a global right, and the institution of education is a global need.
Education as a Global Constant
The idea that education is a "global constant" expresses that education happens in every country to every person, whether formally or informally. Each nation, people group, and family faces the same task: imparting the knowledge of the world to the next generation, with the intention of ensuring the society's survival (Suárez-Orozco, 2005). This process begins immediately at birth, when the mother teaches the newborn to nurse for the first time. The process continues as a child develops, education occurring all around him. Often, this knowledge is not attained by a process of formal education. Children first learn to speak, eat, behave through a process of observation and imitation. The child whose father taught him to plow, plant, and harvest without training him how to read still acquired an education. Similarly, the child who sat in a one-room school house practicing his multiplication tables also received an education. Education is simply the process of passing along knowledge, which happens in every society around the world.
Education as a Global Right
By seeing education as a means to personal development and freedom, it is understandable that education should be considered a “right.” Education is the process by which an individual comes to realize his or her condition of life and that he or she has the power to change it; this personal freedom is a fundamental human right (Pimentel, 2005). Consider the earlier example of father and child. Through showing the child how to provide food for himself, the father teaches the child the power to change his circumstances—without this training, the child’s circumstance is “hungry,” but his education now allows him to prevent his own hunger.
Embedded in the word “right” is the understanding of choice. Just as with the right to vote, some people choose not to exercise their right. When an informal education, such as learning to tend a crop with the intention of continuing in that field of labor, is all that is available to an individual, this right is rarely surrendered. In these cases, this education is required for survival. However, in countries where a free formal education is offered, many people do not choose the education provided. Ten-year-old Barak was enrolled in an Iraqi school, but dropped out to begin working; he learned to read and write, but has forgotten those skills since joining the work force in Iraq. Barak is not an education failure story. He chose to drop out of school because he believed on-the-job training (and being paid for it) was more important than a formal education in his situation (Banerjee, 2004).
Education as a Global Need
|“||Education would be much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every student should know how much they don't know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.||”|
—Sir William Haley
Anything necessary for the survival of a human being can be considered a “global need.” These needs include food, water, shelter, and also education. If education is a continuous modification process, in which an individual responds and adapts to the world around him, then education is vital to the survival of every individual (Terry, 1980). Without understanding and participation in the world around a person, he cannot function to support himself. This applies to both informal and formal education. For example, if a young child does not learn to bathe properly, she may be subjected to parasites and illnesses that will hinder her from living a “normal” healthy life. As another example, formal training in how to build wells in Northern Africa is essential to the survival of the people in that region of the world.
The typical context of “the global need for education” refers to the need for a system of formal education. Not all countries have an established formal education system open to all children. Even for those who do, education is not at a quality level. In many developing countries, education is in the same stage as American education before the Progressive Era. Children are dropping out of school to work in factories or fields just to help provide for their families. This type of education will produce a mass of semi-skilled workers, but few trained professionals. In the long run, this will hinder the development of the country. A formal education system is a global need to promote development and improvement as a society. As future educators, considering global education involves realizing that other countries are starving for quality formal education.
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- Back to school in Afghanistan. (2004, January 27). CBC News Online. Retrieved September 19, 2006, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/afghanistan/schools.html
- Banerjee, N. (2004, March 14). Poverty and turmoil cripple Iraq schools. The New York Times. Retrieved September 19, 2006, from 
- Government of Pakistan Ministry of Education. (1999) Education for all: The year 2000 assessment. Retrieved September 19, 2006 from http://www2.unesco.org/wef/countryreports/pakistan/contents.html
- Indonesia Ministry of Education and Culture. (1999). Education for all: The year 2000 assessment. Retrieved September 19, 2006 from http://www2.unesco.org/wef/countryreports/indonesia/contents.html
- Japan National Institute for Educational Research (1999). EFA 2000 assessment. Retrieved September 19, 2006 from http://www2.unesco.org/wef/countryreports/japan/contents.html
- Pimentel, Caetano. (Summer 2006)The Human Right to Education: freedom and empowerment. In Multicultural Education, 13, p2. Retrieved September 23, 2006, from InfoTrac OneFile via Thomson Gale: 
- Suarez-Orozco, Marcelo M. (Nov 2005)Rethinking education in the global era. In Phi Delta Kappan, 87, p209. Retrieved September 23, 2006, from InfoTrac OneFile via Thomson Gale: 
- Terry, J. D., Jr. (1980). Education principles: Philosophy of education. Unpublished essay, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.