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Global education in Japan
Tuesday, 29 November 2011 02:42

In my four semesters from 2009 to 2011 teaching at Sophia University in Tokyo, I endeavoured to provide my students with a "global education".  What does the term global education mean?  The "Global Education Project" has offered the following definition: "Global education teaches students the values, skills, attitudes and knowledge which will enable them to be aware and empowered global citizens of the future, able to work for a peaceful, just and sustainable world for all" (1).

How can one translate these lofty ideals into practice?

In my experience, this was to a large extent natural since the courses I taught in the Faculty of Liberal Arts all dealt with various aspects of "globalization".  These courses included Issues in Economic Development, International Trade, International Finance, Economic Development, and Development Issues: Asia and the World.  However, I sought to go beyond the narrow confines of these subjects with the objective of providing a global education.  There are two main reasons for this.  First, a global education is a key element of Sophia's mission; and second, I believe that a global education is critical for students who preparing for a career and a life in the world of today and tomorrow.

In this paper I would like to highlight three "global aspects" which I emphasized in my classes with a view to globalizing my students' education.  These aspects are the role of the new globally integrated enterprise, the need for a multidisciplinary approach, and the importance of global citizenship.  My specific goal was to help students think and analyse in a truly global manner, and to help them become globally functional.

Before going into these issues, it is important to examine the notion of a global education in the framework of globalization.

Globalization and global education

The growing recognition of the importance of a global education is both a response to the phenomenon of globalization, as well as being one dimension of globalization itself.  While there are a vast array of definitions of globalization, they all embody notions of the growing and close connections across the globe, and the trend towards one world (2).

Economic globalization refers to the integration of the world economy through trade, investment, and finance (3).  This is increasingly driven by globally integrated enterprises which, though they may have been created in one country, no longer have a nationality.  Economic globalization can have many impacts on the global environment (climate, biodiversity, fish stocks etc), our societies and cultures, and the way we govern ourselves.

At the same time, many observers also talk of the existence of a global society and global citizens.  The growing person-to-person contacts associated with economic globalization are one factor driving this.  But there are many other factors like the boom in international tourism, growing international migration and electronic communications through the Internet, especially through social media.  In this context, we live in a world where growing numbers of citizens have multiple identities, namely as national, regional (eg European or Asian) or global citizens.

In a similar vein, we also see the emergence of a global culture.  Critics of globalization are wont to say that national cultures are being devastated by "Americanization", the invasion of American culture.  In reality, national cultures have always been influenced by others, and in our open world of today, this may be happening more quickly than in the past.  But in any particular country we can see not only evidence of American fast food, but also Asian spiritual values and aesthetics, European cuisine, and African and Latin American music, to give just a few examples.  But signs of a global culture can be seen in globally shared norms, values and ethics, such as the growing acceptance of values like pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and market economy.

As globalization accelerates, many of the world's major challenges and opportunities such as climate change, financial stability, peace and security, fighting poverty, international economic crime etc are no longer national or local, but global.  Thus, the roles of international organizations like the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and World Trade Organisation are increasing in importance.

In today's world, other stakeholders are also involved in addressing global challenges and opportunities through what is called "multi-stakeholder diplomacy" (4).  Businesses can increasingly see that it is in their interest to behave responsibly, and there are growing programs of corporate social responsibility.  In a similar vein, some businesses have created foundations to conduct philanthropic activities such as the Gates Foundation.  There is a growing array of civil society organizations which undertake advocacy activities to lobby governments on their topics of interest or undertake operational activities especially for disaster relief or economic development.

This quick overview of globalization brings me back to education, and especially university education, which is now part and parcel of the globalization phenomenon.  A growing number of students study abroad, be it for one semester on an exchange program, or for an entire undergraduate program, or more often for postgraduate studies.  Some three million students worldwide now study outside their home countries, an almost 60 per cent increase in just a decade (5).  By the same token, many universities have established bases in foreign countries where they deliver education programs to local students.  The globalization of education is also reflected in the growing use of English, the "global language", as a language of instruction in non-Anglophone countries.  Universities and other educational institutions are also responding to globalization by delivering courses on globalization itself in liberal arts and other programs.

The globalization of science and research is also reshaping the way research is done.  Cross-border university research collaborations have more than doubled in 20 years and will surely grow.  Today, such collaboration occurs not only leading Western universities, but also with rapidly improving institutions in Asia and elsewhere.

Overall, universities have become instruments of national competitiveness as they are important producers of human capital and are the locus of scientific discoveries that move the economy forward.  At the same time, they are instruments of peace as they are a force for cross-cultural mutual understanding and tolerance (6).

Global education at Sophia University

Sophia University's Faculty of Liberal Arts (FLA) is unique in the sense that courses are delivered in the English language, roughly half the full-time professors are non-Japanese, and the student body is also multicultural and international (7) (8).  The FLA mission of providing a "global education" is clear from Dean Okada's message to students on the University's Internet site: "In this globalized world, we are increasingly facing a sea of uncertainty, fluctuations and changes ... You have to develop not only basic capacities to live in this complex environment, but also the ability to understand what is actually going on around you, and what you can do in this new world" (9).  This is also highlighted by the FLA mission which emphasizes that "The cultural diversity of our student body and faculty provides unique opportunities to widen your perspectives and stimulate your thinking and creativity", and the "curriculum, faculty members and diverse campus activities will ... prepare you to fully participate and succeed in today's complex and exciting world" (10).

These principles were my guiding light in teaching several courses in the International Business and Economics major.  Most of my students were preparing for a career in either international business, civil society, government or international organization.

At one level, delivering a global education for students taking these courses should be easy given that they all deal with different aspects of globalization.  I did however always seek to go beyond the narrow confines of these subjects by emphasizing other global dimensions, three of which I will highlight below:

(i) the role of the globally integrated enterprise as a new actor in trade, finance and development, and as an organization in which many students might work (11);

(ii) the need for a multidisplinary approach by introducing global policy issues which are related to trade, finance and devlopment, such as climate change, international economic crime, and multi-stakeholder cooperation; and

(iii) the importance of global citizenship to which all students should aspire to do their future job effectively, be it in business, government or civil society, and to live with fulfillment in the world of tomorrow.

The remainder of this paper will explore in greater detail how I wove these three points into my course material.

1.   The Globally Integrated Enterprise

International trade, finance and development are now increasingly driven by the globally integrated enterprise (GIE), a concept developed by Samuel J. Palmisano, President and CEO of IBM.  The GIE is superceding the role of the multinational enterprise which generally chose to produce goods close to where it sold them, by locating subsidiaries or business units in targeted specific foreign markets.  By contrast, the GIE organizes its strategy, management and operations with a view to the integration of production globally.  Each stage in the supply chain -- design, high-tech components, assembly, marketing and branding -- is sourced from the most cost-efficient location according to its comparative advantage.  For example, the i-Phone was designed in the US, its high-tech components are produced in Japan, Germany, Korea and the US, and it is assembled in China by a Taiwanese company (12).  Increasingly, back-office functions are outsourced to English-speaking countries like India or the Philippines.

This trend has many implications for the study of international development, trade and finance.  International trade is increasingly a phenomenon of "trade in tasks" (eg. components or assembly) within supply chains rather than trade in final goods and services.  For example, much of China's dynamic trade growth in recent years has been "processing trade", whereby China merely assembles components imported from other higher-tech countries.  In other words, China has a comparative advantage in the task of product assembly, rather than in producing any particular final product.

And while foreign direct investment rarely gets a mention in international trade textbooks, we now live in a world where perhaps the most important driver of international trade is indeed such investment undertaken by GIEs.  Thus an important aspect of supply chain management is movements in exchange rates between the different countries in the one supply chain.

The emergence of trade in tasks has also arguably opened new opportunities for economic development.  A country or city need only be capable of producing one part of the supply chain.  It does not have to be able to produce a whole product.  For example, it has been reported that the Chinese town of Qiaotou, which was a village 20 years ago, today produces two-thirds of the world's buttons (13).  It has not needed to produce entire clothes.

Palmisano highlights a number of implications of the GIE which are relevant for IBE students at Sophia University.  First, is the importance of high-value skills, and new kinds of managerial skills.  "Hierarchical, command-and-control approaches simply do not work anymore".  A second challenge is maintaining trust and governance standards when products and operations are handled by many organizations in many countries.  And third, intellectual property regulation must protect the rights and incentives of individual inventors, while at the same time encouraging collaboration between corporations and their partners, suppliers and customers.

2.   Multidisciplinary Approaches and Global Policy Issues

When I was a student, courses on development, trade, and finance issues were taught as narrowly confined disciplines.  In the 21st century, all of these issues have become closely linked to many other global policy issues, and a multidisciplinary approach is necessary to provide a truly global education on these topics.  Regrettably, most standard textbooks do not as yet take a sufficiently multidisciplinary approach.

In this section, I will highlight the importance of the following global issues -- climate change, international economic crime and multistakeholder cooperation -- which are three of the many global issues relevant to the study of international development, trade and finance.

Climate change is now widely accepted as being perhaps the most important and urgent issue on the global agenda.  The global community is currently negotiating possible agreements for the "mitigation" of carbon emissions, as well as providing assistance to countries for "adaptation" to the climate change already underway.  In this context, climate change is highly relevant to the international development, trade and finance agenda.

--  The countries which are the most exposed to the effects of climate change are poor developing countries, many of which are in the Asia-Pacific (14).  These are countries which already have high rates of poverty, and are struggling to make progress in the war against poverty.  And yet their development prospects are being adversely affected by the effects of global warming, which has been caused by the developed Western world.

--  International trade can bring many benefits to countries as they specialize in production based on their comparative advantage.  Much research has also highlighted the fact that liberalizing trade in environmental goods and services can be very helpful in addressing climate change.  In other words, existing trade barriers prevent countries from using the best climate-friendly technologies.  In recognition of this, at their recent summit meeting APEC leaders committed to reducing import tariffs on environmental goods that contribute to our green growth and sustainable development (15).

-- As some countries move to reduce carbon emissions by carbon taxes or cap-and-trade schemes, many businesses are lobbying their governments about the effects on their international competitiveness.  They argue that they should be exempt and/or that tariffs should be applied to imports from countries that do not have carbon taxes or cap-and-trade schemes.  This has given rise to concerns from developing countries that they are facing a new "murky" protectionism from developed countries.

--  Climate change is also having effects on international finance.  The Clean Development Mechanism allows signatories to the the Kyoto Protocol to implement an emission-reduction project in a developing country which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets, and earn carbon revenues for the developing country (16).

International economic crime is now emerging as one of the greatest challenges on the global agenda.  It seems that the combination of open markets, information and communications technology, and weak governance in many countries is creating an explosion of international economic crime (17).  While this is central to international organizations like Interpol and the Financial Action Task Force, it is also closely related international development, trade and finance.

International trade in drugs, arms and counterfeited goods is a booming element of international trade, as highlighted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (18).  Struggling developing countries are the most adversely affected by this criminal trade, which is also associated with large flows of money laundering, other illicit financial flows and other forms of corruption.

Another area of illegal trading, which greatly affects developing countries, is human trafficking, as documented by the US State Department (19) as well as the UNODC.

Multistakeholder solutions to global problems Just a few decades ago, global governance was mainly the purview of intergovernmental organizations and national governments.  Today, it is widely recognized that public goods cannot be delivered by public authorities alone.  The solutions for global problems are increasingly found through multistakeholder processes involving cooperation between intergovernmental organizations, national governments, business, labor and civil society.

In the area of development, agencies of developed countries (like the Japan International Cooperation Agency or USAID) still play an important role, as do multilateral organizations like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank.  But today major contributions are made through philanthropic private foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other civil society organizations (CSOs).  A vast array of CSOs like Oxfam or Red Cross are also involved in development cooperation, and natural disaster or post-conflict relief.

While international trade has been a great motor for development, there are also a growing number of labor rights abuses and environmental problems arising from production for international trade.  The International Trade Union Confederation and other parts of the union movement are active in promoting the protection of labor rights, as are CSOs like China Labor Watch, while an array of environmental CSOs like the World Wildlife Fund active in efforts to protect the environment.

Turning to international finance, CSOs such as Transparency International work very closely with the OECD and United Nations in the fight against bribery and corruption.

3.   Global citizenship

The importance of global citizenship was highlighlighted by the then Senator Barack Obama in a 2008 speech in Berlin (20).  In speaking of the differences between Europe and America, he said "But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together".  He is not the first person to speak on this issue.  For example, in the year AD 220 Greek philosopher Diogenes Laertius said "I am a citizen of the world".  Definitions of global citizenship usually highlight the notion of membership to global society, as well as a sense of global responsibility.

In teaching at Sophia University I always tried to impress on students the importance of global citizenship.  As Barack Obama said "Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity".  And more specifically, a sense of global citizenship is absolutely necessary for today's students to function successfully in their careers, be it in an enterprise, national government, international organization or civil society organization.

In his book, "Global Citizens", Mark Gerzon argues that we human beings are now challenged to realize that we are something more than citizens of separate nations, members of different races, and followers of different religions (21).  As Gerzon says we are already global citizens in the sense that our genes are global, our bodies are global, our societies are global, our economies are global, our environment is global, and even our religions are global.

But as separate nations, separate tribes and clans, separate faiths and ideologies, we have created the problems the world now faces.  The real problem we face today in solving these problems is the need for a global mindset to become truly global citizens.  It is only through education that global mindsets can be developed, in particular by investing in students' global intelligence.

4.   Some concluding comments

In our rapidly changing and globalizing world, we must acknowledge several obvious points about higher education.  First, education is a lifelong endeavor that does not finish at graduation.  Second, the world for which we are preparing students is in a constant state of evolution, if not revolution -- we are always chasing a moving target.  Third, with technology now providing free access to information, it is more important to train the faculty of critical analysis rather than just imparting information.  Fourth, some of the most important things that a professor can do is to arouse curiosity and to stimulate a passion for knowledge -- with these attributes, students will be motivated to learn by themselves.

The lofty ideal of a global education is something which should be aimed for, even if it is perhaps a goal which is impossible to realize perfectly.  Nevertheless, professors must always be experimenting, and trying new ideas and methods.  To quote the great English poet of the Victorian age Robert Browning, “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?” (22).


(1) Global Education Project.  Activity 1 - what is global education?


(2) Globalization -- origin of the word.  MrGlobalization.com


(3) Globalization.  MrGlobalization.com


(4) West, John.  Multistakeholder Diplomacy at the OECD.  Chapter in "Multistakeholder Diplomacy: Challenges and Opportunities".  Diplo.  Malta and Geneva.  2006


(5) Wildavsky, Ben.  University globalization is here to stay.  The Chronicle of Higher Education.


(6) Levin, Richard C.  Globalization and the University.  Yale University.


(7) McKinley, Jim and Mathew Thompson.  The Globalization of Japanese Higher Education and the FLA Core.  Sophia International Review.  Volume 33 (2011).


(8) Gardner, Richard A.  Sophia University's Faculty of Liberal Arts.  Sophia International Review.  Volume 30 (2008).


(9) Okada, Yoshitaka.  Dean's Welcome.  Sophia University, Faculty of Liberal Arts.


(10) Sophia University.  Faculty of Liberal Arts website.


(11) Palmisano, Samuel J.  Globally Integrated Enterprise.  Foreign Affairs.  Volume 85. No.3


(12) Xing, Yuqing and Neal Detert.  How the i-Phone widens the United States' trade deficit with the People's Republic of China.  Asian Development Bank Institute Working Paper No. 257.


(13) United Nations Industrial Development Organisation.  Industrial Development Report 2009.


(14) Asian Development Bank.  The Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia.  A Regional Review.


(15) APEC.  2011 Leaders' Declaration


(16) United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Clean Development Mechanism.


(17) Naim, Moises.  Illicit.  How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy


(18) United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.


(19) United States State Department.  Trafficking in Persons Report 2011.


(20) Obama, Barack.  The Burdens of Global Citizenship Continue to Bind Us Together.  Speech by Senator Obama in Berlin, July 2008.


(21) Global Citizens: How Our Vision of the World is Outdated, and What We Can Do About it by Mark Gerzon


(22) Robert Browning quotes


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