Among some in the educational establishment in Northwest Africa, the idea is spreading that the new skills-based educational pedagogy is actually an “anti-immigration” plot hatched by first-world countries to “keep third-world workers in their own countries.” I even heard of a college professor of education who is teaching this to prospective teachers, who are asked to implement the new pedagogy.
What is actually happening with the new pedagogy, however, is the result of the new global communication revolution of internet penetration into third-world countries.
In the past, as explained in The Globalization Paradox (2011), the Industrial Revolution spread from England, to the European countries, and to some of the New World (North America, Australia, and New Zealand), but not much further. These parts of the world had two distinct advantages (which up-and-coming third-world countries are now trying to do something about): 1.) they had enough educated and skilled workers to run the new factories, and 2.) they had good institutions–well functioning legal systems, stable politics, restraints on expropriations by the state–to generate incentives for private investment and market expansion.
Other countries had to depend on “importing” skills and institutions, and they used intercontinental labor mobility to do so.
This era is now coming to an end. Internet communication and improved transport of goods via supertankers enables companies to move operations elsewhere, because it is more cost-effective, rather than the more expensive alternative of importing labor. Therefore, any country who wants those jobs must prepare its labor force.
This revolution is NOT happening because of a first-world PLOT designed by governments. It is an unanticipated effect of internet communications. Many, many individual companies are making these decisions on their own. Many are now forced to in order to compete with those who have already done so.
Forward-thinking third-world governments are now realizing this, and are beginning to create the conditions which will enable some of their citizens to obtain jobs in the new world marketplace, or to become entrepreneurs and create their own businesses.
For example, in North Africa, in just one decade, schools have been built all over the country, and for the first time, the majority of children are in school. Those who are graduating from college, having succeeded in their education, are now clamoring for jobs.
Two problems exist. First, the countries are small, and the market size served by businesses is small (except in textiles, tourism, and agriculture). Therefore, the profitability of acquiring new equipment and technologies is small for the average business, which still remains family-based, and therefore provides limited opportunities for employment to average workers without family connections.
Second, most local college graduates are not from the elite classes (the elite usually send their sons and daughters to foreign universities). Many of these graduates feel that the elites are in cahoots with the local governments, and that these elites block improvements in others’ economic positions that would threaten their own power. This is a great part of what the Arab Spring movement is about. The newly-educated middle classes want a democratic meritocracy, rather than an oligarchy of the elites.
By implementing the new skills-based pedagogy, they are actually attempting to insure that what is being taught has some usefulness in the real world, as well. However, it is not only in the third-world where these pedagogies are being implemented; they are now de rigueur in much of the first world, too.
This trend has now been taken to an extreme, however, as was illustrated to me recently by a friend in England, “I was amazed to see how rigidly it is implemented these days in my daughter’s school. When you go to parents’ evenings, the teachers actually do have enormous A3-size spreadsheets with hundreds of tiny squares on a grid. Teachers find the student’s name, and move along the row, saying things like, ‘Uses adjectives to express emotion in a third party – level 4A;’ or in history, ‘deducing a specific social condition from a contemporary artwork – level 5B.’ It is all incredibly mechanical, and if you ask how they are doing overall, there is no such thing.”
What is happening in third-world North African education is now no different that what is happening in Europe. It is not a plot. However, this trend in Europe appears to have gone much too far, into uselessness!
Is it something new that first-world countries are against importation of unskilled labor? Yes, and no. First-world countries are mostly interested in protecting the middle-tier of jobs, rather than those at the very top or the very bottom. These are the jobs that every country wants to reserve for their own workers, and that they do not want immigrants filling. This is nothing new.
No country minds importing workers at the very high skill end, where those skills don’t exist, and where they may benefit by learning those skills from the imported workers. Also, most countries continue to import workers for the very lowest level of jobs, such as migrant farm labor, or office cleaning at night.
What is new is that both Islamic terrorism has been increasing in Europe, and migrating groups have been attempting to impose ideological change on their host societies. This has definitely had a backlash effect on the general willingness to accept immigrants, both in Europe and in America, especially from Muslim countries.
This restriction on jobs is even true for me as a first-world immigrant to a third-world country, where I find most jobs are reserved for people who are citizens. As a non-citizen immigrant, I am only permitted to do for which it can be “proved” by the company I work for that a citizen cannot fill the position, or else I must be self-employed. I want to point out that third-world countries have equally strong anti-immigration policies as do first-world countries.
Northwest Africa has been implementing a new educational pedagogy the past few years, which requires teachers to mark each student on specific skills mastered (similar to my English friend’s experience, described above), as well as to use modern group activities and other interesting delivery methods.
One of the reasons teachers have been striking for several years is that most teachers feel this is too difficult and requires too much work when each teacher has over 300 students each week ( compared with typical American teachers having up to 180 students per week). One middle school teacher I know says, “I teach 13 classes of 45 students each, with each class lasting once a week for two hours.” An incredible amount of material has to be covered. This teacher felt that if he had three classes of 15 students each, or even his own classroom (he has to move from room-to-room) he might be able to fully implement the new educational pedagogy.
Educational trends swing with the pendulum as much as other social trends do. We are still clearly in the upswing of this trend toward skill boxes. I predict that the current trend will continue for another twenty years before it is scrapped in Europe, and educational trends head in another direction.