A new paradigm for Global Education is needed.
The current model of Global Education, where elite students from developing countries go to developed countries, predominantly UK, US and Australia, to seek out either a new life abroad or prestige and premium at home. This model has worked for more than hundred years. However, the changes in the economy, jobs and careers have challenged this model now.
For a start, more people are seeking global education now than ever before. The model that the elite followed to get to the best universities in the world does not apply to the masses: They are often condemned to lesser institutions studying things not relevant to their job markets in the false hope of attaining the life and dreams of the bright eyed boys and girls adorning the prospectuses of various institutions.
The life abroad that this global education implicitly promises often fails to materialise, as countries are tightening their immigration regulations trying to keep these workers away. And, salary premiums for global education has also proved to be illusive: A recent study by Parthenon, a consultancy, shows that while global degrees may create a preference for a candidate in the job market, in most trades (with some exceptions such as hospitality, digital media etc) the salary premium for an overseas degree is at best 10% to 15%. This slim salary premium does not indeed justify the amount of debt a student will incur pursuing a degree abroad, usually 10 to 20 times of what s/he will spend if s/he stayed home.
Besides, better jobs and opportunities for these students may actually exist in the developing markets than the developed ones. What's the point of doing an MBA for a poor university in the UK and be condemned, primarily because of one's nationality, religion and visa status, to driving taxis in London, when one can build a successful life back home in South Asia? The developed countries may appear to present opportunities of social mobility, but often these are constrained by role expectations for immigrants. On the other hand, exciting entrepreneurial opportunities wait in these developing countries for those who can invest £50,000 (that's the minimal cost of getting an Undergraduate degree from UK, over three years; that's 5 million Indian rupees, and considering purchasing power parity, is roughly equivalent to what £300,000 would be in Britain) and put in the hard work. Except for the illusive quest to follow the elite, it is hard to understand why anyone would ever want to do this.
Except a very sound reason, though it is hardly ever considered in making the decisions for overseas education: A global perspective is needed even for jobs and opportunities in small town emerging markets. The son of a grocer in small town India needs to understand how Tesco operates to understand the challenges of keeping his family business alive; the daughter of the Government employee in Islamabad will need global savvy to land her dream job in the new software company. The same changes in the global economy that is making it hard to immigrate and diminishing the premium for global degrees, is making global education an imperative and global savvy an essential career survival skill.
This means a new paradigm for global education is needed. One that's affordable: Not one which is selling the dreams of luxury to an unsuspecting teenager at an inflated cost, but one which comes to him/her at a meaningful cost, something that s/he can afford paying back with a job in the local town. One that's relevant: Not one which teaches them how to go walking on Yorkshire moors (however enjoyable it may be) but how to sell Refrigerators in small town Malaysia. A global education is needed to enable innovation, connected thinking and global trade and negotiation, but to acquire colonial pretension and a supersize ego for speaking Queen's English.
This is not to undermine global education: It is needed. It is needed even if one's not going into business: 'To be wise, read 10,000 books and walk 10,000 miles', said Gu Yanwu, the famous seventeenth century Chinese scholar. There is no alternative to meeting people, seeing places and experiencing different things (including walking in Yorkshire moors). But all this must be meaningful, if you are a middle class boy desperate to find a better life than your parents. Your global education must come at an affordable cost, with a clear relevance factor and must work for you.
This means building an alternative ecosystem for global education, perhaps parallel to the existing networks of universities. This means connecting educators, students, employees, financing organisations and technologies, creating the possibility of travel, exchange, work and enterprise in global context. And, to create this not for the elite, who do this anyway, but for those aspirational individuals who seek to change their lives is the magical, disruptive, possibility. Once that's done, that will break the back of the current Global Education system, which runs, basically, on the colonial legacy, now almost quarter of a century old.
Global Education, so far, has been about power and privileges; time has come to make this about the possibilities.
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