Date: Wed, 22 Nov 1995 05:23:07 GMT
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/* ---------- "EDUCATION FOR WHOSE DEVELOPMENT?" ---------- */

Education for Whose Development?

By Marcos Arruda, in The Irish Times, Dublin, November,1995

Globalization, telecommunications, privatization, flexible labor, third technological revolution, managed markets. These are just some words that identify the rhetoric of the media about global development. Let us ask first a few crucial questions about development:

WHOSE DEVELOPMENT? Between 1965 and 1990 world wealth (GNP) grew ten times, while world population merely doubled. That part of world income appropriated by the wealthy countries increased from 68% to 72% while their population fell from 30% to a mere 23% of world population (based on World Bank figures). 99% of technical research and development occur in the 24 richest countries. They also concentrate the use of 80% of world resources. The ten largest banks in 1994 had $ 4.8 trillion in assets, or 355% the GDP of Latin America and the Caribbean.

WHO BENEFITS? 358 individuals in the world in 1994 owned more than $ 1 billion. Their fortune reached a total $ 762 billion, or the equivalent to the income of 2.4 billion people (45% of the world population). Thirty years ago, the income of the richest 20% was 30 times that of the poorest 20%; today it is 60 times (UNDP).

WHO ARE THE LEADING AGENTS OF GLOBALIZATION? In 1994, the number of transnational corporations reached 37,000 with more than 200,000 affiliates around the world. Together they controlled one third of global productive assets while employing less than five percent of the world labor force. Along with the governments of the USA, Germany and Japan, and in association with the multilateral agencies, they are the leading forces of competitive globalization.

A few basic characteristics of competitive globalization are:

1. It follows the strategic guidelines and behaviors of transnational enterprises. Its reference is essentially corporatist and micro- economic. Instead of being oriented to the development of the world's peoples, nations and regions, its targets are increasing corporate gains, productivity and competitiveness. The parameter of progress and civilization is the corporate growth, wealth accumulation and enhanced consumption. The eco-social develop- ment of communities and nations is subordinate to the corporate, fragmented interests of individual corporations, above all those operating on a global scale. And their concern is essentially monopolistic. They seek total control of their market and of the propensity to consume of their current and potential buyers.

2. This tendency to a unity that excludes diversity is a latent contradiction of the "free" market system which negates its apparent openness. It is a totalitarian tendency expressed in the abolition of every development project that is not market- and capital-centered.

3. It opposes the self-development of peoples and nations. It promotes exogenous development, which is alienating to the extent that it drives individuals, peoples and nations away from their deeper potentialities. It sacrifices diversity and sovereignty and globalizes at the expense of the national and the local, the different and the singular.

4. It affects communities and nations both in the South and in the North. A climate of uncertainty grows over the rich world as technical and organizational progress in production and the growing tide of consumer goods and services, above all the explosion of speculative finance, go hand in hand with a chronic financial and fiscal crisis of the State, "jobless economic growth" and environmental deterioration. The Southern countries, led by wealthy elites, are called to adopt the same modernization recipe and to open their borders to those who have global financial and technical strength. Debt, privatization and deregulation are weakening their States and impoverishing their peoples. Export-oriented policies are pushing one against the other, devaluing their product prices in global markets and weakening their industrial base. Any perspective of self-development and of a sovereign form of integration in the world economy is removed by persuasion or by force.

Education, in this context, is one thing for the elites and a very different one for those who live on the sale of their labor force. For the former, a universal and comprehensive education is a right. For the latter, education is reduced to the transmission of abilities to fulfill specific, "lower" functions in the economy. Capacity building is how it is called and it has little concern for the physical, social, cultural, psychological, ethical and spiritual development of the student beyond the function she/he is aimed to fulfill.

Innovations in technology and the organization of production are demanding better qualified workers, better informed and capable of sharing the management of the shopfloor. A better education is being designed for them, and this is good. But not enough. Nor does this improvement reach a growing number of workers whose jobs are being eliminated and who are not offered alternative occupations and proper education to face the transition. For the unemployed, the forces of globalization are satisfied to promote "basic education", hoping that automatically it will translate into new forms of occupation and survival for the growing number of the excluded.

In sum, for development conceived merely as economic growth, high quality education is limited to the elite while functional capacity building is aimed at the working majority. Privatization and the wild rush for competitiveness is depriving the excluded not only from access to a job but also from even lower quality training.

If development is centered on the human being -- individual and collective -- and is redefined as a process of building a society of subjects as opposed to objects, then education can be envisaged as a dialogical process of development of each and every person's, community's, people's potential to become full subjects of their own life, history, community, nation, and the human Species.

Marcos Arruda: Economist and educator, coordinator of PACS (Rio de Janeiro), Chair of the ICVA Commission on Sustainable Development (Geneva) and fellow of the Transnational Institute (Amsterdam).

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