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Educational Change in Globalization Times by Yong Zhao Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jan 14th, 2022

In the era of globalization, tremendous changes have been observed in all aspects of human life, including education sector. In his article “Students as change partners: A proposal for educational change in the age of globalization” Zhao reinforces an argument that was previously echoed by Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley (2009) that students should be regarded as partners rather than consumers of educational changes in the era of globalization. Zhao expounds on Hargreaves and Shirley (2009) concepts that were explored in their book “The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future for Educational Change” and utilizes them as a foundation to expound his own ideas that students should be regarded as active participants in educational changes in this era of globalization. The latter authors underscored that the recent move toward educational curriculum standardization and homogenization changes around the world are not effective in preparing students to be well aligned in the globalised workforce. Similarly, Zhao (2011) is against educational changes that are so evident in this age of globalization. This is because the entire process isolates students from decision making, even though the resolutions directly impacts on their future lives. On the same note, Zhao (2011) agrees with Hargreaves and Shirley (2009) proposition that students should be regarded as global entrepreneurs; thus education stakeholders should involve them in decision making to ensure that they acquire relevant skills suitable to meet the challenges of globalised world.

Correspondingly, a similar view is echoed by Armando & Arthur (2009) who underscore that the current mindset that perceives students as passive consumers is not effective in the 21st century. Apparently, the move towards curriculum standardization might effectively prepare students to pass standardized tests, but it is not relevant in preparing students to face the workforce challenges in the globalization era (Tapscott & Williams, 2010). The above claim further supports Zhao (2011) worries that the current education system has remained irrelevant amidst globalization because students are ill prepared for the changing world. Furthermore, he concurs with Hargreaves and Shirley (2009) proposal that educational changes should accord students the power to decide their own destiny to ensure that they remain relevant in the globalized workplace environment. Zhao (2011) further exemplify that the current educational system gives students little or no choice at all in deciding the kind of knowledge and skills at their disposal; instead it forces them to acquire whatever is availed to them by the government. The fact that Zhao views are echoed by other authors elevates the credibility of his article.

Against this background, Hargreaves and Shirley (2009) and Zhao (2011) presents a solution to this problem by proposing that education institutions should only provide resources that students can utilize to shape their future life. However, although the above argument is quite credible, the authors fail to recognize the fact that some students join educational institutions with no idea of the role of education in their future lives. Whereas I tend to agree with the above authors argument that students should be part and parcel of educational curriculum development, Zhao would have done justice to his paper by raising or answering the above question; instead of agreeing with Hargreaves and Shirley (2009) arguments blindly. Nonetheless, my question does not refute the fact that formal learning is greatly disconnected from the outside world.

Accordingly, Zhao (2011) supports his key concept by emphasizing that educational institutions should recognize student’s diversities based on their interests, strengths, interests, social class, cultural and educational backgrounds. Furthermore, the above diversities should be taken into consideration while designing educational curriculums and that the learning process should perceive students as active participants contrary to the current perception that students are passive dummies that are ready to accept any form of input subjected to them (Tapscott & Williams, 2010). He also exemplifies that globalization has paved way for several technological changes and henceforth the demand for diversity of talents have heightened in the 21st century. On this note, Zhao (2011) and Hargreaves and Shirley (2009) are of the opinion that the current homogenization process of educational curriculum around the world seems to have lost direction because it fails to capture levels of students diversity explained above. Apparently, the above author seems to be dissatisfied with the current educational trends towards a narrower curriculum. They underscore that the traditional curriculums availed students more room for choice from the diverse and broad curriculum for change.

However, although the argument about students’ diversity is credible and authentic, Zhao seems to have mixed his ideas to a point of bringing confusion. His observations that educational changes in the age of globalization are pushing for a narrowed and decentralized system are clearly explained by (Armando & Arthur, 2009). In his article Waks (2003) explains that most governments are moving towards centralization of national education curricula in order to harmonize what their students should learn in alignment wit students from other nations. On this note, students’ learning process is controlled in terms of core subjects, standardized tests and curriculum homogeneity. Consequently, whereas I support Zhao concept that standardization of curricula ignores students’ diversity, I do not fully agree with his opinion that regarding students as partners in the process of change is the best possible solution to ensure students do not become redundant amidst heightened globalization. Perhaps, the solution to the above problem does not have to treat students as change partners rather the curriculum should take into consideration the changing workplace environment in the era of globalization. This is because most of the students are not fully informed and more often than not rely on the educational system to guide them and prepare them for future beyond academics. This implies that the decisions about what students ought to learn in educational institutions should rest with higher authorities who are obviously more informed than the learners themselves. As epitomized above, governments and curriculum developers should take into consideration the changing environment and students’ diversity and try to bring the two together for them to be able to develop effective curriculums (Schmidt & Cogan, 2009).

In an attempt to decentralize traditional education systems, most governments have either indirectly or directly adopted structural changes towards centralized learning processes (Armando & Arthur, 2009). For instance, the No Child Left Behind act has brought tremendous changes in US educational system in an attempt to bring equity, quality, efficiency and global competitiveness among educational institutional (Zhao, 2011). However, this move by the US and other global governments to enhance standardized learning process does not sit well with the latter author. He exemplify that enforced standardization kills creativity and fails to recognized students diversity which is very crucial in the age of globalization (Zhao, 2011). This is because standardization compels students to adapt a similar line of thinking failure to which they will be deemed to have failed in their respective courses. A similar view is also echoed by Armando & Arthur (2009). They underscore that standardized curriculum stifles creativity and the students are always ill-prepared to solve numerous problems that are prevalent in the age of globalization. Furthermore, Posner (2004) highlights that individuals behind standardized curriculum development are motivated by personal agendas and biasness. This implies that the end product is unlikely to address the students’ needs and thus the programs will be irrelevance in the changing world of globalization. Against this background, Zhao’s and Posner’s ideas seem to merge because they are both of the opinion that standardization stifles creativity and diversity. Consequently, I wish to concur with the above argument by observing that a curriculum that calls for uniformity might be somehow discriminating because it means if one fails to record good marks in the presented tests, he/she is deemed to be inadequate. This is regardless of whether such a student is talented in other areas which are not tested by the present curriculum. In such a situation, I would also call for decentralized curriculum that would be incorporate the needs of each and every student.

Zhao fears about a standardized curriculum are founded on the notion that governments are gambling on an idea which may or maybe not succeed. He calls this notion a ‘wrong bet’ and he exemplifies that adopting such a strategy is a bad bet that is likely to harm future citizens if the targeted goals are not realized (Zhao 2011). Most importantly, he is against the idea of global competitiveness upon which most centralized curriculum are founded on, simply because if the prescribed knowledge and skills might fail to achieve the targeted level of competitiveness. Furthermore, Zhao (2011) explains that even if the movement towards national and global curriculum succeeds, it is likely to attract undue disadvantage to some students who do not excel or have no interest in the prescribed set of skills. Interestingly, his ideas seem to make sense when he equates the current move with a situation whereby every athlete was forced to train as a swimmer. If the above hypothesis was to be true, it implies that all athletes would be competing for the same sport even though some would be unable to swim because of one reason or another. On this note, it is clearly evident that there is something wrong with centralized curriculum that forces students to acquire similar set of skills without regard of human diversity. This observation is also echoed by Steyn (1999) in their book “What’s wrong with our schools and how we can fix them?”. The latter authors accentuate that curriculum designers should be blamed for the numerous shortcomings ailing our schools today. This is because, whereas is clearly evident that individuals exhibit unique disparities, educational curriculums are trying to force students into thinking along similar lines with little regard of the consequences of such a move. Steyn (1999), therefore, offers a solution to Zhao’s problem by recommending that educational changes should be geared towards diversity and flexibility. Although, the latter authors are not of the idea that students be viewed as partners of change as accentuate by Zhao (2011) the implication or their argument can be interpreted along the same line. Against this background, I support Zhao’s argument that by forcing students to excel in certain core subjects mostly math’s and science, our education curriculums ignores the fact that some students can be geniuses in other areas beside the one stipulated in the curriculum.

In a nutshell, Zhao’s article clearly indicates that educational systems are in dire need of a complete overhaul to amend their numerous shortcomings. Apparently, the current move by governments towards a centralized and homogenized curriculum fails to recognize the creative diversity among students. As a result, they end up producing students who are ill prepared to face the challenges presented by globalization.


  1. Armando, L. & Arthur, P. (2009). Necessary Educational Reform for the 2lst Century: The Future of Public Schools in our Democracy. Urban Review, 41(4):352-368.
  2. Hargreaves, A., & Shirley, D. (2009). The fourth way: The inspiring future for educational change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  3. Posner, D. (2004). What’s wrong with Teaching to the Test? Phi Delta Kappan, 85(10): 749- 751.
  4. Schmidt, W. H., & Cogan, L. S. (2009). The myth of equal content. Educational Leadership, 67(3): 44–47.
  5. Steyn, D. (1999).The value of using students as participants in educational software development: differentiated outcomes within an open learning environment. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 16(5):179 – 185.
  6. Tapscott, D. & Williams, A. D. (2010). Innovating the 21st-Century University: It’s Time!. EDUCAUSE Review, 45 (1): 16-29
  7. Waks, L. J. (2003). How globalization can cause fundamental curriculum change: an American perspective. Journal of Educational Change, 4: 383–418.
  8. Zhao, Y. (2011). Students as change partners: A proposal for educational change in the age of globalization. Journal of Educational Change, 12:267–279.
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