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Tamar Hoffman

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Is it beneficial to world sustainability for non-for-profit organizations to promote internationalizing “western education"?

Most people agree that increasing globalization often is synonymous with increasing westernization in the developing world. This statement is often supported with the trend of internationalizing "western education," often through the efforts of non-for-profit organizations bringing schooling to places where such practices are unpopular. Until now, I have been mostly exposed to evidence that this is positive. People are becoming more educated, they will be able to bring progress to their underdeveloped region, and the rest is happily ever after. However, I have recently begun to understand the controversy that plagues the relationship between globalization, westernization, and education. Is western education even important or useful in those areas that it is being brought to? Should people from the western world be the ones to initiate such reforms, or do we not properly understand the culture to intervene? With the growing power of "the east," is it wise to educate in a "western" manner? What about culture loss? I hope that through interesting debate I will be able to better understand these ideas. Please write also if you wish for clarification on the topic at hand. Thank you in advance for your interest in the subject.

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    Mar 9 2011: When I first read this I thought of the old British colonial empire teaching the primitives how to make and drink tea properly.

    No I don’t think it’s beneficial to promote western education as it isn’t the best. East Asian students typically excel above the worlds education standards so if not-for-profit organisations wanted to start promoting any education system I would start there. In developing a 'best standards' there must be a good idea in all education systems from all corners of the earth.
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    Mar 9 2011: If you are referring to western-secular education, then yes it is beneficial. In a nutshell, it comes down to making a distinction between the natural and super-natural. Western education is supposed to be about clearing away our fog of illusions and seeing the world as it is. Only then will we be able to see each other as we truly are, not as we imagine ourselves or others to be.

    However this doesn't mean that people need to throw out their cultures. Each nation can still determine its own cultural mythos. But at least with western education, they realize that its a mythos and don't take it literally.
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    Mar 1 2011: I agree with you that education should be viewed as a way to liberate people rather than impose another culture. But I am curious as to what happens in reality. While in theory education should always be positive, is the type of education "exported" into the developing world necessarily beneficial? I feel like sometimes we have the good intentions of providing aid through education, but don't understand the culture of the developing world well enough to do good. Could this type of aid be seen as a kind of indirect colonization and a force for culture loss? I am curious as to see what others think about this idea.
  • Feb 27 2011: This is a great topic.

    Is there such a thing as "western education"? Does the West own ideas and the way we educate? Should we think in terms of the West vs. the rest? I think many people around the world share many common beliefs such as freedom of expression, thirst for education, freedom of choice, intellectual openess, freedom to pursue own interests etc. Many of these ideas came from the West but also from people living Asia and other parts of the world.

    I think for various reason the West was the most successfull in implementing those ideas in its government institutions and in its educational system. However we can see that the world is catching up. We see great reforms and progress in education and governing of societies in South America, Africa and Asia. Nowadays people in North Africa and Middle East are displaying need for openness, access to education and freedom of expression.

    Interestingly, Asia and even countries like Iran are becoming dominant in scientific research and discoveries. Saudi Arabia and Quatar are rebuilding their educational systems to allow for greater flexibility and freedom access to education. These initiatives were launched by their leaders to ensure their people can compete in the global world of knowledge and trade.

    I think we should not worry about the origin of educational perspectives or cultural influences. I think it is important to focus on whether people can access and choose education their desire and express themselves whichever way they prefer. I don't think we should impose on people a culture just because they were born in a certain country. I hope the Internet will allow people, through web sites like Khan Academy, TED.com and youtube, to access education and culture of their choice even if it differs from their original cultural background.