Posted by: Principal/Editor | November 2, 2009

Globalization: Impact on Education and Teacher Development

Globalization: Impact on Education and Teacher Development

In the most recent Teachers’ Day address of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, he underscored the vital importance of education – teacher development – in the continuing march of Singapore towards the 21st century. Specifically, he implicated education as an “effective strategy which will enable us to survive and to thrive in a changing world.”[1] This importance stressed upon by PM Lee is consistent with the Teaching Schools Learning Nation (TSLN) initiative that ushered an accelerated era of educational investment for the nation’s future exemplified as a centrepiece of the Singapore government in the late 1990s.[2]

As the year 2007 progresses, the imperatives of TSLN and the exhortations of PM Lee are even more urgent. Globalization and its implications on an ever changing and fluid educational landscape create ripples into the stripling Singapore education system in general and to the fledgling NIE in particular. Burbules and Torres have acknowledged similar imperatives when they discuss globalization and the consequent paradigm shift in “educational aims that have more to do with flexibility and adaptability.”[3]

It has been argued that with rampant globalization several overriding threats would steadily increase and require flexibility and adaptation in education. Some of these are (1) the impact of ubiquitous Information Communication and Technology (ICT) and the threat of information overload; the effects of dissipating borders and the perils of multiculturalism and citizenship; (3) the consequence of highly mobile and ageing populations and repercussions to lifelong learning; and (4) the increased recognition of new economic and social capitals and its significance to innovative meritocracy.

[1] Lee Hsien Loong. 2006. Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Teachers’ Day Rally, the Max Pavillion, Singapore Expo. Singapore: Ministry of Education.

[2] Diane K Mauzny and R.S. Milne 2002. Singapore politics under the People’s Action Party. Edited by Michael Leifer. Politics in Asia series. Singapore: Routledge. p.105.

[3] Nicholas Burbules and Carlos Alberto Torres. 2000. Globalization and education – Critical perspectives. Carlos Alberto Torres and Raymond A. Morrow (eds.). Social Theory Education & Cultural Change. New York: Routledge. p. 22.



  1. Globalization impacts a lot on education and teacher development. In the era of globalization, students of today are the main force to develop the future of the country. As teacher, we should try our best to make the students ready for the challenge they will face in future. It isn’t exaggerated to say that the world changes with each passing day. Teachers are the key to everything that we do in the education system. To keep up with the changes of the world, teachers should have a lifelong learning. Teacher should teach the students not only the knowledge but also the consciousness of competition. Students of today will face more competition from all over the world but not their own world. To avoid being washed out in the era of globalization, education and teachers’ development are cruxes.

  2. As technology has improved drastically over the decades, technology based gadgets are becoming more commonly used. Children are more accessible to the cyber world with the use of the internet. Although internet may be a place where all the information are gathered, but it may also be a place where dangers and traps are hidden. What we need in education is transforming the way people learn through innovative technoloy and practice. All innovation and experimentation start small. A teacher might experiment with an unconventional way of teaching. As a teacher, we need to challenge ourselves to develop flexible, creative and critical thinking skills and apply the knowlegde we gain from different subjects and experiences to solve challenges in and outside classroom. This allowed children to explore their talents and develop their potential through both innovative and effective and teaching and learning strategies.

  3. The impact of globalization has never been as apparent as it is today. It made its mark slowly but surely in the education sector. Today, we have new policies working to reverse or at least manage its marks. Re-strategising availability of tertiary education for Singaporeans is one such example. The increase in competition and the raised standards against which Singaporeans have been pitted against serves to be another. At some time, globalisation was the driving force to make Singapore an education hub. While external changes pushed all institutions in that direction little was thought about diversity management in classes. For obvious reasons as recruiting foreign students adds volume to institutional profits and at the same time serves as a boast to the local economy. However the use of various new channels in education and the allowance that globalization gives to private players in the education industry makes the role of the local policy setters fuzzy. Is there then a dilution of the initial purpose of education as a tool in Singapore? A strong hold loosens at tertiary level where options are now so abundant in the home country itself and as students divert into streams that share different value systems and philosophies with them. In the future perhaps this could become a cause of brain drain and or be a catalyst to reform currently held ideologies on work, family and politics.
    It is worthwhile to note that Singapore has

    • Supportive legal framework for foreign students and scholars
    • English as the language of instruction
    • Socially stable environment that makes marketing higher degree programs even easier
    • In addition to local options there are wide array of programs ( from UK, USA, Australia etc) that are available through private education providers.
    Where some countries have to try hard, Singapore serves to be a natural magnet remaining true to Globalisation.

    Brief Comparison to Germany which has made exhausting attempts to internationalize its education industry (RIHE International Publication Series No.9, Globalization and higher education, Research Institute for Higher Education Hiroshima University)
    • unfriendly frame conditions for foreign students and scholars (restrictive and inflexible legal frameworks), lack of a tutoring, supervising and support-culture at the faculties and the central administration, the German language as the exclusive language of instruction, the lack of scholarships for international students and scholars granted by the university

  4. It is important that countries take into account the impact the globalization in developing its education policies. Globalization could provide opportunities for countries to use it education policies to achieve its strategic goals. Yet, it could be a threat to countries that are not able to cope with the pressures of globalization. Below are some of the impacts of globalization in education:

    1. Demand for new skill set for the global economy.

    According to Cleveland (1999), education for the “Global Century”, as he describes globalization must help individual people to think critically and holistically. The skills needed in the working life are critical thinking, consultation, negotiation and collaboration skills (Cleveland 1999). According to Reich & Goleman (1999), when the work gets more complex and collaborative, the emotional and social skills become more important success factors for individuals.

    2. Impact of ICT on teaching and learning
    With ICT, teaching and learning are no more limited to the boundaries of the classroom and the knowledge of the teacher. With the proliferation of the Internet, students and teachers have instantaneous access to enormous amount of information. Education is no more about how much knowledge one has but more importantly how one manages information. Traditional teacher-centered teachings have given way to more student-centered approach where teacher acts as facilitator rather than disseminator of knowledge. Unfortunately, many students in developing countries do not have access to basic education, not to mention ICT. Even within developed countries, this ‘digital divide’ exists with students of different socio-economic levels with regards to their opportunities to access ICT and use of the Internet.

    3. Continuous life-long learning
    Globalization has resulted in the breakdown of geographic boundaries facilitating global competition. With the rapid advancement of technologies, today’s knowledge may be obsolete tomorrow. The learners have to continually acquire new competencies and align their knowledge to the emerging new economy. Education systems therefore have to be flexible enough to adapt to the rapid changes in the environment and able to encourage school leavers to return to schools to acquire advance qualifications or new skills that are relevant. Schools and educators have to promote the idea of continuous life-long learning to students by equipping them with skills such as independent learning and critical thinking.

  5. With globalisation, the world has slowly become a borderless world, thanks to ICT. With ICT, anyone in the world can communicate with another person in another part of the world, regardless of time zone. So what does this imply for the teachers?

    1. Competencies
    With the increase demand in the use of ICT, teachers have to constantly upgrade themselves in the area of ICT. Without the skills, teachers would not be able to prepare lessons using ICT. With the advance in technology, students of the next generation would have to be competent in ICT. Hence if the teachers are not competent themselves, they would not be able to tranfer the skills to the students.

    2. Life-long learning
    With the ever changing technology, teachers would have to keep on learning to keep themselves updated of the latest technology. Teachers will also be able to take up courses that may not be available in the past. With the world becoming ‘borderless’, it is easier for the teachers to search for courses that would help with their professional development.

    3. Understanding multiculturism
    With globalisation, students could also easily get enrolled in schools in another country. In the case of Singapore, more foreign students are coming to Singapore to study. Hence it is important that the teachers understand the different culture and help these students understand the culture in Singapore

  6. In the rising tide of change, one cannot ignore the rift between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’. I would like to share with you the ST article about ‘Poor kids need Aspiration’. Certainly we do not want to see the emergence of a ‘permanent underclass’ where the people there are resigned to their ‘fate’. As educators, I strongly believe that we must give our students hope to aspire and achieve. For some of them who currently cannot muster enough hope in themselves and their situations, we need to get them to believe in us, to do it for our sake first, and slowly, but surely, when they taste the sweet fruits of success, inspire them to believe in themselves. I know many of us are doing that. Because of our rapport/relationship with them, they do it for us, and in so doing, they are doing it for themselves. To quote from the article, let us be the ‘beacon of hope, to a child in the midst of deprivation and dysfunction, that the way to a better life is theirs to reach out for’.

  7. Globalization brings about a widening income gap, especially in many third-world countries today. There is much that governments can do to intervene, specifically within the education sector, to alleviate the effects of this widening gap. However, there are many problem that exist within education systems that have nothing to do with globalization but rather, more inherent fundamental issues. I wish to hi-light some of the challenges that these countries face.

    In many countries, teachers are lowly paid. This forces many of them to take on different jobs just to supplement pay. Remedial classes are conducted for those who can afford it. As such, those that can afford the education have access to it and this gives rise to inequity in the system. One teacher I spoke to recently was complaining that the state government is sometimes late in delivering the pay package, one one occasion, the bonus that the teachers were supposed to received was “lost” somewhere down the line; this increases the level of stress and unhappiness for the teachers.

    In some contexts, a university certificate can be easily bought. There is therefore not much quality control to ensure the quality of human resource. Without a steady pool of human resource, businesses are not keen to invest in the country. Students are also less keen to really study hard, since achievement can be so easily “bought”.

    Often, there is a lack of alignment between economic development and education. The result is that individuals can go through the entire education system and end up jobless. Rising unemployment can lead to many other problems, which could be avoided had measures to align economy and education been undertaken.

    Scholarships and leadership opportunities are based on some sort of meritocracy, often however, meritocracy of based on relationships and who-knows-you rather than pure academic achievement or talent.

    These are serious issues crippling the education systems of many countries today. Though occurring within the context of globalization, I do believe these problems are fundamental and can be solved, and if they be, lead to a transformed education system.

  8. A quote from the speech by Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State in 2010, “Globalisation and new technologies require new teacher roles and new pedagogies. For one, technology has radically changed the way the younger generation thinks, assimilates and processes information. This creates several challenges for educators.”
    We know very well that our world has become increasingly globalised day by day and because of that we have the opportunities to improve cross-cultural understanding with people of different races and nationalities. And due to globalisation, technological developments have also opened up exciting and new possibilities for the customising of teaching practices to engage and excite our students. Being constantly exposed to the new technology around them, the younger generation are no doubt becoming more IT-savvy than their predecessors.
    Our students today are very IT-savvy, some even much more so than their teachers. I remembered consulting a very IT-savvy colleague to help download the WhatsApp application to my Nokia phone (I still use a Nokia in the Apple and Samsung era). She in turn approached her student for help and I use WhatApps in my Nokia phone now, all thanks to that student.
    So how best can we prepare our students for the future in this globalised world? Unlike the 20th century, we know very well that teachers now can no longer teach contents and skills for specific jobs as industries are rapidly changing. Teachers need to keep abreast of the current education landscape and continuously upgrade themselves with new technological skills and pedagogical skills. In short, it means honing our craft as teachers. Teachers can also interact with their students to learn from them.
    But most importantly, let us also not forget to strive to develop our students into morally upright citizens in the midst of this new technological and globalised age.

    • Hi Vincent,

      I agree with your last statement on not forgetting to develop our students into morally upright citizens.

      I would like to highlight a noteworthy paper by Alfie Kohn, which was published in 1997 – How Not to Teach Values – A Critical Look at Character Education (www, The title itself, raises eyebrows (How Not to Teach Values) but what he had pointed out resonates to what schools here in this century, are in fact trying to do – ie. teach values. Though the paper was written more than a decade ago, but, some of the examples he cited on how different schools across the US are trying to teach values to their students by designing programmes are still close to our heart, as these more–than-a-decade-ago methods are still in existence in our schools in this 21st Century. Kohn interrogates the effectiveness of programme designs in teaching values and whether these are just short term measures in imparting values to students.

      Values are important in the development of not just a child, but adults too. But how do we go about ‘teaching’ values to them? Does having a period set aside to specifically teach a certain value in the month or having some forms of reward and recognition system in the schools on the display of values by the students work in the long run? Will these long term measures that had been put in place be a lifetime lessons for our students? The examples I cited above are structures that we see and are already in place in our schools. I have nothing against structures for I believe that they are important, but sometimes we get too defined by the structures that it constricts what we ought to be doing.

      Kohn also mentioned that ‘The techniques of character education may succeed in temporarily buying a particular behaviour. But they are unlikely to leave children with a commitment to that behavior, a reason to continue acting that way in the future”. This brings back to the recent announcement made by MOE on introducing the Edusave Character Award for students. Discussions are already forming in the forum pages both within the education fraternity and the public with some, championing the good move and others questioning if the moe of the award is right in the first place ie. monetary rewards for good Character.

      Nevertheless, I feel that it is not a bad move. Afterall, it is to recognize students’ good character. However, the process and method on the basis of how students will be awarded and what they will be awarded with will need greater scrutiny. Schools will continue to design programmes and re-look at existing programmes and re-vamp them to meet the criteria set out by the Ministry. But at the same time, we, educators have to ask ourselves if what we are or will be doing will have a positive or negative long term effects on the students.

      In his concluding statement, Kohn said that perhaps we would also need to look at ‘transforming the educational structures’. Until some things change…otherwise everything will remain as status quo. These are important considerations that we have to analyse.

      • Typo error…
        “championing the good move and others questioning if the MODE of the award is right in the first place ie. monetary rewards for good Character.

  9. Globalisation has led to a whole change not just in the education sector butin all sectors. The students of today need to be prepared to meet the new world and be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills. Knowing how quickly the world is changing, leaders face a challenge today to continously keep up to date with needs of a fast changing world. We therefore need to analyse decisions, impact, sustainability etc before we just jump on new projects. Teachers, students, society needs to understand the changes and move together. As a leader therefore quite often we need to be able to allign what we are doing to the greater needs of society while taking into account teachers, students and what other challenges faced by the education service… 🙂

  10. I believe that the 4 principles of the new open world, described by Dan Tapscott from TED conference, are the characteristics that the new educational landscape may need to have in order to be successful: – collaboration, transparency, sharing and empowerment, because they describe the world that our students come from. We are coming to terms with new educational landscape which is no longer to develop and produce people working in the manufacturing, the industrial, the service industry. We have to prepare a new generation that are comfortable with the new economies: social entrepreneurship and knowledge economy.

    The world is flat and the sooner we learn from one another’s journey, from our education compatriots from the other parts of the world. Take a look at the current debate about the misgivings of the NCLB and the review of the National Curriculum. We can pick up salient points from their experiences and use it to help guide our curriculum design to better teach our students.

  11. While we have adopted TSLN quite a number of years ago and this was to ensure that the students we educate are prepared for the 21st century, even as recent as 2012/13, we still read in papers that employers are complaining that students who graduate in Singapore are not good enough or ready for the job. Has TSLN failed us? The world is changing so fast and the skills which future employees need change so quickly; it seems teachers are not fast enough to keep pace with these changes. The Ministry of Education needs to talk to more employers in future and there should be a think-tank to foresee what skills are needed 20 years down the road. Singapore’s system of drill and practice (still done in many schools even up to pre-universities) must definitely go in order for Singaporeans to do well internationally. Yet one of the obstacles which MOE faces is parents. Even when the PSLE Math paper is slightly different from the norm, parents (and the press adds fire to the problem) would write to the Ministry and complain about the difficulty of the paper. I am glad that the Ministry stands by its decision and continues to set difficult Math questions yearly. The same cannot be said of the ‘O’ Level. Many students who have aced the O’levels said that they merely practised very hard and memorised stuff well. Thankfully the A’level is moving away from this, albeit at a snail’s pace. The education system needs to move more quickly if we want our students to survive in the World. While we know the constraints that policy makers face, we can only hope that the next change we make will be one that is bold and definitive.

  12. TSLN hopes to develop a nation of thinking and committed citizens capable of meeting the challenges of the future and prepares our young for the challenges of the 21st century. So how far have we come in this TSLN journey?

    As educators, and most of us having little or no experiences working in the industries, we

  13. TSLN hopes to develop a nation of thinking and committed citizens capable of meeting the challenges of the future and prepares our young for the challenges of the 21st century. So how far have we come in this TSLN journey?

    As educators, and most of us having little or no experiences working in the industries, we wonder if we know ourselves what the future holds or the challenges of the 21st century. Sometimes, as teachers, we feel incapacitated by the uncertainty of whether our curriculum is relevant to the real industry knowledge. Some will, of course, argue that this is beyond a teacher’s jobscope to know what is needed in the industries. And what is needed in the industries may not be suitable to our curriculum. They say teachers should just leave this research to MOE or Curriculum Planning Unit. We know, for sure, MOE conduct regular meetings and talks with industries partners, Ministry of Manpower and Economic Development Board officers. We want to ascertain the future skills required by the industries, so that we can incorporate some of these skills in our curriculum.

    Herein lies the challenge. While MOE knows what some of these 21st century skills are, how can we convince our teachers that we should prepare our young for these skills? If we are not able to convince our teachers, how can we be sure that they will implement the curriculum plans well? So MOE plays an important role – bridging teachers’ knowledge about the industries’ needs or future skills – to translate industries’ input into classroom teaching. If TSLN is really a crucial piece for both our education system and economy, then we cannot leave this to chance and for schools to define for themselves the true meaning of TSLN. Perhaps, more guidance and support from MOE will help in ensuring TSLN’s successful implementation in schools. The guidance could come in the form of explicitly outlining specific skills to teach in certain subjects, demonstrating to teachers what TSLN lessons look like or allowing more (both beginning and experienced) teachers to go for short work attachments. If not, education and industries will also run parallel to each other – often disjointed, and TSLN is at most a weak link to connect these two parallel lines.

  14. How do we help our students make sense of an increasingly globalised world where new skills and attitudes have to be taught? Wait a minute. Why would the 21st century competencies be new to them when they were born into this globalised era as opposed to the 20 something and above who need to make greater sense of it having been born into a pre globalised world. Then again, if some of us 20 something and above are struggling to adpat to a globalised world, then what rights do we have to teach them the ‘correct attitude and skills? As an educator, I see my role as that of a moderator of the impact of globalisation on our students. One of the impact of globalisation is the increased volume of global trade which has benefited the consumers in terms of cheaper prices and greater variety of choices available. So based on this evidence do we then herald globalisation as the champion of the masses or do we caution a study of the flip side of globalisation before passing judgment. It is challenging for educators to try and shape their students’ attitudes and behavour towards a more critical understanding of the impacts of globalisation.

  15. I agree with you Guo Vei on the disparity of mindsets and competencies most our teachers possess as a result of being taught and teacher-trained in the 20th century as opposed to that of what is required of our 21st century children of today to survive. Globalisation has brought in new waves of expectations and standards in our way of life and in education, we teachers all face the need to use ICT competently and to relook at how we teach values and citizenship as part of the holistic curriculum to attain 21 century competencies. Yet, while we have gained considerable success in doing so over the last decade, teacher development in Singapore still lags far behind the speed at which globalisation impacts the world today. One key issue lies with the general mindset that ICT for example is an add on tool rather than an essential for the classrooms for tomorrow hence resistance for change. Before we can be facilitators of our students to achieve what is expected of the new century, perhaps more needs to be done at the teacher level, to ensure a good majority to be at the acceptance and adoption stage for success.

  16. I would like to pick up on the point that with rampant globalization several overriding threats would steadily increase and require flexibility and adaptation in education with respect to the first two points on (1) ICT and (2) multiculturalism and citizenship.

    (1) ICT is here to stay and the push for mp1, 2, and 3 over more than a decade is evident of the deep belief that information technology can serve education which we use as a leverage to prepare learners of the 21st century on the premise of lifelong learning in an economic and social Singapore setting. While we focus on the role of the educators and how we may facilitate in in the learning process, it is assumed that our learners today have no issues about its usage or its technological know-how. Therefore, even if the educator may not be as IT savvy as their learners, educators serve as an important function to guide what kind of information goes into the learning process. What substantiates learning in a TSLN is the quality and not quantity which is now easily accessible with the internet. If we could expound on the hypothesis that critical thinking does not happen by chance, it is imperative that educators know exactly the intent of this in tandem with Systems Thinking (ST) and Learning Organization (LO) as fundamental structures in our ministry. If we could further narrow down on the perspective of teaching and learning, critical thinking does not happen by chance because for effective critical thinking to take place there must be at least a sound pedagogy that draws out that mental model. What goes on in the process requires a skillful facilitator to draw out that learning given the vast information available on the internet.

    (2) Given the Singapore context of a multi-ethnic society, educators must also constantly keep in mind that we have a duty to help our students make sense of a diverse community and backgrounds for individuals to share views and learn from one another in a nurturing and receptive environment. – Encouraging such openness to ideas and a sense of imagination allows a young nation like ours to thrive and drive creative changes for our future. The new CCE comes in neatly here.

    Globalization has its role to play in making an affluent Singapore today, once again, educators may stumble as “guardians” of our value system. If moral values are defined as universal values, it becomes increasingly complex and perplex when educators deal with issues that are no longer black and white such as dealing with homosexuality and cohabitation before marriage. If CCE is to address the needs of our current generation, is building a sense of social connection and community living sufficient enough to deal with such ambiguities? If I can boldly address this dilemma by using critical thinking as part of the process of understanding the world around us, does this mean we are able to resolve such moral ambiguities?
    TSLN helps to develop individuals who are critical thinkers who are not afraid to share views to lead to improvements in a diverse community such as a multi-ethnic society as Singapore yet bearing in mind a sense of moral reasoning and nurturing an environment with diverse pathways for our learners to self-explore and discover, in the process find and develop what they are seeking for so as to make reasonable interpretations and forming world views that may benefit their community and the nation. This cannot be left to chance but engineered and facilitated by discerning educators who are sincere and sensitive to the nature and needs of our multi-ethnicity backgrounds.

    It is therefore not how much you teach but how you teach that makes a huge difference. Critical thinking does not happen by chance because as educators we are inseparable to the sense of agency and ownership we have for our students under our charge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: