First Course: Introduction to Globalizations and Learning

Professor Richard Desjardins and Carlos Alberto Torres

Proposal of a Concentration on Globalization and Learning for GSEIS Undergraduate Minor.


First Course:

Introduction to Globalizations and Learning

This first course of the concentration on Globalization and Learning introduces the student to the multiple phenomena signified under the term ‘globalizations processes’ and focuses on how globalization has affected schooling and adult learning. This introduction offers substantial theoretical and methodological bases to understand the dialectics of the global and the local in learning processes, and highlights the importance of Global Citizenship Education which constitutes the subject of the second and third courses of this concentration on Globalization and Learning. The course is designed for juniors and seniors taking courses in our Education Minor.

There are many different definitions of globalization, and some of them have been aptly discussed in standard texts on the questions (Burbules and Torres, 2000; Torres, 1998; Giddens, 1990; Bauman, 1998; Sen, 2002; Latouche, 1989; Sassen, 1998; Ritzer, 1993; Beck, 2000; Stiglitz, 2002). Globalization is the buzzword of the day and provides the backdrop for this section. There are many definitions of globalization, as there are many faces of globalization (Torres, 2009b). For example, globalization has been defined as ‘the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa’ (Held, 1991: 9 ). Another view sees globalization as ‘a feature of late capitalism, or the condition of postmodernity, and, more important . . . the emergence of a world system driven in large part by a global capitalist economy’ (Luke and Luke, 2000: 287). Others see globalization as the transformation of time and space in which complex interactions and exchanges once impossible become everyday activities (Urry, 1998). And still others see globalization as an assault on traditional notions of society and nation-state, whereby the very nature of citizenship and social change are dramatically altered (Castells, 1996, 1997; Touraine, 1968; Rhoads and Torres, 2006: 4).

Globalization takes different forms and we really should talk about globalization processes in the plural (Torres, 2009a, 2009b). Here we would like to call attention to the predominant forms of globalization. One form, often seen as ‘globalization from above’, is framed by an ideology of neoliberalism and calls for an opening of borders, the creation of multiple regional markets, the proliferation of fast-paced economic and financial exchanges, and the presence of governing systems other than nation-states.

Another form represents the antithesis of the first. This form of globalization is often described as ‘globalization from below’, or anti-globalization. Globalization from below is largely manifested in individuals, institutions and social movements actively opposed to that which is perceived as corporate globalization. For these individuals and groups, ‘no globalization without representation’ is the motto.

There is a third form of globalization, which pertains more to rights than to markets – the globalization of human rights. With the growing ideology of human rights taking hold in the international system and in international law, many traditional practices endemic to the fabric of particular societies or cultures (from religious to esoteric practices) are now being called into question, challenged, forbidden, or even outlawed. The advancement of cosmopolitan democracies and plural citizenship is the theme of this version of globalization.

There is a fourth manifestation of globalization. This form extends beyond markets, and to some extent is against human rights. It is globalization of the international war against terrorism. This new form of globalization has been prompted in large part by the events of September 11 and other subsequent attacks in Europe – which were interpreted as the globalization of the terrorist threat – and the reaction of the Western world to the events. This form of globalization is represented by the anti-terrorist response which has been militaristic in nature, resulting in two coalition wars led by the USA against Muslim regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, under the auspices of the Global War on Terror (GWAT). Islamophobia is also a theme of this globalization. Terrorism and the terrorist threat were made synonymous with Islam and Muslims, and became a global norm. Yet, the overall theme of this process was not only its military flavour, but also the emphasis on security and control of borders, people, capital and commodities – that is, the reverse of open markets and high-paced commodity exchanges. Security as a precondition of freedom is the theme of this form of globalization.

There is a fifth form of globalization that is the growing hybridity that crisscrosses the world. The world is changing, cultures are intersecting, and borders are more permeable than ever. We are facing hybrid cultures as the quintessential nature of globalizations. Hybridity is everywhere – in music and youth cultures, taste, dress and speech codes, culinary delights and aesthetic expressions. Starbucks is a global US corporation set up in Vienna so we can enjoy a cup of American coffee in one of the world’s coffee cathedrals. Hybridity is also changing identities. Migration and interracial marriage make nationality less tied to particular race or ethnicity (Rhoads and Szelényi, 2011).

There is a sixth form of globalization: The Global Media. Global networks such as CNN, BBC International News or Al-Jazeera launch the same media representation of an event in all four corners of the planet, squeezing the same news into the same format everywhere, but also stimulating similar feelings, fears and hopes. On the other hand the same satellites, the same technological platforms and global net also reinforce other independent or alternative media that conquer independent information or counter-information spaces surfing across the Internet.


It is worthwhile to emphasize the implications of these forms of globalizations for education. Without any doubt, the dominant form of neoliberal globalization has affected ‘competition-based reforms’ transforming educational policy in K-12 and higher education. These reforms are characterized by efforts to create measurable performance standards through extensive standardized testing (the new standards and accountability movement), introduction of new teaching and learning methods leading to the expectation of better performance at low cost (e.g., universalization of textbooks), and improvements in the selection and training of teachers. Competition-based reforms in higher education tend to adopt a vocational orientation and to reflect the point of view that colleges and universities exist largely to serve the economic wellbeing of a society. Privatization is the final major reform effort linked to neoliberal globalization and perhaps the most dominant (Torres, 2013b)

Dealing with the theories and methodologies that have emerged to discuss citizenship beyond borders, and how globalization has affected learning this first introductory course will outlined an agenda for GCE. Our claim is that a democratic global perspective should be based on human rights and universal values, but it should also incorporate diversity and a critical analysis of power relations and global inequalities. Critical thinking at GCE about the unsolved dilemmas of inter- and multiculturalism means, first of all, providing a critical lens through which to look at the education policies and practices in the public sphere as well as at the purposes and processes of GCE, not being reduced to a mere paternalistic unexamined rhetoric.


The course will be offered in a lecture format with discussion sessions in smaller groups lead by teaching assistants.



A letter grade will be awarded on the following basis:

Readings/participation in TA sessions: 30%

Project 1 paper: 30%

Project 2 paper: 40%


A reader will be made available which includes most of the readings to be assigned. Readings are derived from various sources. The instructor may disseminate additional readings and materials throughout the course as needed to cover the topics.

Participation in class

Students are expected to complete readings before lectures and be prepared to engage in discussion on issues related to the assigned readings and the topic more generally during TA sessions. Active participation in teaching assistant sessions is essential and attendance of a minimum of 80 percent of TA sessions is required.

Project 1

The preparation of a substantive review (approx. 6-8 pages, 1.5 spacing) of a scholarly book, article or policy report. Books, articles or reports should be related to a topic that is to be covered in the course. Write ups should be submitted directly to TAs as per their instruction.

Project 2

The preparation of a research paper (15 pages maximum, 1.5 spacing, 12 point font) on a topic relevant to the course. Themes should be discussed with teaching assistants. Deadline for the project 2 paper is the Friday of exam week. Written abstracts for this research paper should be submitted to teaching assistants prior to Session 5. Students are expected to present and discuss their abstracts during the TA sessions.


Policy on late assignments

Project 1 assignments may be submitted up to and including the end of exam week but with penalty if submitted beyond the specified date.

Session plan (sample)

Session 1 – Introduction and overview


1. Forces of change affecting educational systems

2. Demography (age, migration and diversity)

3. Technology

4. Globalization

5. The properties of knowledge and information

6. The rising significance of education

7. Social policy, education and deliberate social change

Part I. The new setting for educational systems

Session 2 – Globalization and the knowledge society


1. Network society

2. Reflexivity

3. High skill vs low skill work

4. Active citizenship

[extract from] BROWN, P. (2001). Globalization and the political economy of high skills. In: P. Brown, A. Green, H. Lauder, High Skills. Globalization, Competitive, and Skills Formation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 235-262.

[extract from] GIDDENS, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity. Cambridge: Polity.

Session 3 – Globalization and risk


1. Spatial borders, contagion, and social hierarchies

2. Liberalization, economic risk and cultural risk

3. Green social policies

4. Externalities and the commons

[extract from] BECK, U. (1995). Ecological politics in an age of risk. Cambridge: Polity. DESJARDINS, R. (2013). Considerations of the impact of neoliberalism and alternative regimes on learning and its outcomes: With an empirical example based on the level and distribution of adult learning, International Studies in Sociology of Education, Volume 23, Number 2, pp.182-203.

Session 4 – Globalization and social disadvantage


1. Modernization hypothesis, reproduction hypothesis, and transformation hypothesis

2. Tensions between liberty and equality

3. Competition and the invisble hand

4. Structural inequality

[extract from] SEN, A. (2009) The Idea of Justice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. [extract from] PIKETTY, T. (2014) Capital in the Twenty-first Century (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press).

Session 5 – Globalization and democracy


1. Inclusion and exclusion

2. Democratization and modernism

3. Democratization and the global market

4. Democratization and post-modernism

INGLEHART, R. & WELZEL, C. (2010) Changing mass priorities: the link between modernization and democracy, Perspectives on Politics, 8, pp. 551-567.

Session 6 – Globalization and citizenship


1. Cultural citizenship

2. Ecological citizenship

3. Global citizenship

TORRES, C.A. (2015). Global citizenship and global universities. The age of global interdependence and cosmopolitanism, European Journal of Education, 50(3), pp. 262-289.


Part II. Reform dynamics in educational systems

Session 7 – Globalization and lifelong learning


1. Policy concepts in education reform

2. Lifelong learning concepts and models

3. Lifelong learning and the economy

RUBENSON, K. (2006). Contructing the lifelong learning paradigm: Competing vision from the OECD and UNESCO. In S. Ehlers (ed.), Milestones towards lifelong learning systems (pp. 151-170). Copenhagen: The Danish University of Education Press.

GREEN, A. (2006). Models of lifelong learning and the knowledge society: Education for competitiveness and social cohesion. Chapter 6 in Green, A. Preston, J. and Janmaat, J-G, (eds) Education, Equality and Social Cohesion, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Session 8 – Globalization and K-12 educational reform


1. Outdated institutional frameworks

2. PISA and its impact

3. New public management and neoliberalism

4. The politics of identity

DESJARDINS, R. and GEIBEL, W. (in progress). A critique of the economic logic embedded in NCLB.

CARNOY, M. (1999). Globalisation and educational reform: what planners need to know. UNESCO-IIEP. Paris [Chapter III and V].

BREAKSPEAR, S. (2012), “The Policy Impact of PISA: An Exploration of the Normative Effects of International Benchmarking in School System Performance”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 71, OECD Publishing.

Session 9 – Globalization and higher education reform


1. Higher education and the economy

2. Is Higher education the Engine or the Anchor?

3. Global research universities

4. Diversity and flexibility

5. Adult learning systems

[extract from] DESJARDINS, R. (2016). The political economy of adult learning systems. Bloomsbury: London.

For the bibliography of the course, see References.

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