Ian Stronach and the globalized nature of education

StronachIt’s fun to pick up a book with an opening paragraph that sounds a bit like a war cry!

This book is about the globalized and globalizing nature of education in the postmodern. It considers how ‘hypernarratives’ have emerged. These are international, test-based comparative accounts of outcomes, like the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) or the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). They constitute the first global language of Education and enable politicians the world over to talk nonsense about educational outcomes, while all singing from the same hymn sheet. Thus the collapse of the meta-narrative (those Enlightenment discourses prefaced on an educational philosophy based on Kant, or Habermas and the like) have not been followed by mini-narratives, or extremely localized appeals, but by even larger hypernarratives, which spectacularize education, making it into a kind of Olympic Games. These hypernarratives make the same assumptions about the purposes of education. They posit an education for the economic, an education that fits the needs of a global capitalism, and the ‘need’ for international competitiveness. Such links are invariably poorly established in empirical terms and it is a ‘mythic economic instrumentalism’ that they offer, mimicking capitalist needs but not in any convincing sense meeting those ‘needs’, if indeed, they can sanely be dubbed ‘needs’. These discourses are here described as ‘paracapitalist’ for these mimetic reasons. The book approaches these phenomena, and the ways in which they re-write other educational discourses and identities from the point of view of a postmodernist anthropology, addressing the elements of cargo cult that they express. They are also the only game in town (or the global village, perhaps), reducing national education systems to the same status as national capitalisms, an eroded entity ‘hollowed out’ in the postmodern. The book calls for a ‘re-located’ education and educational research to break away from the globalizing discourses that both policy and research conventionally put forward, and instead seek to ‘educate the local’ in relation to its counter-educational impacts. That appeal is carried not just in the substantive argument about the various faces of the postmodern, and the need to break them up into more transformative narratives, but also the need to revolutionize qualitative inquiry, particularly in addressing a more performative rather than representational ideal.

Globalizing Education, Educating the Local: How Method Made us Mad by Ian Stronach

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