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Globalization and Cultural Research Essay

by Suleman


The drive toward globalisation has been unrelenting in recent decades. Seen primarily as a way by which countries could boost the productivity in the global market for goods and services, nations of the world embarked on an all-out race to follow the foreign (read: Western) manner of speaking, dressing, and developing a taste for music on the MTV, merchandise available on eBay, or movie stars on HBO.

On the economic front, globalisation has ceased to be limited. At the primary school, it has now now entered schools, and has been integrated into several curricula for children of tender age. While the advantages of globalisation are celebrated by textbooks, some caution against the eventual loss of the distinct national cultures of countries, which is seen as an outcome of globalisation. Globalization is perceived with scepticism in many developed nations as a power that “colonises” a country by stripping it of its way of life.

This debate would therefore aim to answer the question: Does the push for globalisation in education erode the distinctive cultural identification of a country and make it a mere remnant of the history of the nation? The most effective instrument for propagating (or suppressing) national identification, a philosophy, or a value framework is schooling. Children are extremely fragile, and their minds for someone to write in are just like a blank book, so they are unguarded in discerning right from wrong. Therefore it is a legitimate issue for politicians to assess if the educational stress on globalisation, at the detriment of its distinctive cultural heritage, helps a nation economically. In response, institutionalised instruction about how to cope with unfolding changes in this region will have guidance.

Globalization Defined

            Jeyaraj (2006) defined globalization in three levels. First he saw it as a “process by which the economies of the world become increasingly integrated, leading to a global economy and, increasingly, global economic policymaking through international agencies such as the World Trade Organization” (p. 11).  Aside from the economic stress, the term “globalization” is also taken to mean the emerging global culture wherein people progressively consumer more often and more similar goods and services across several countries and use a common language in the transaction of business (i.e., English).  Thirdly, Jevaraj theorized that in its core, globalization pertains increased economies’ access to international exchange, capital transactions and foreign direct investments.

            While Jevaraj stressed the economic nature of globalization, Neyestani and McInturff  (2006) see the universal aspect of globalization. They define globalization as a complex concept encompassing the political, economic and socio-cultural orders, and in the process of development has created new global technologies. It is characterized by a systematic integration of commercial, cultural and technological advances, particular information and communication digital transmission which has largely fueled accelerated global integration.

The Constructs of Culture

Christoph Wulf, Professor of General and Comparative Educational Sciences at Freie Universität, Germany, outlined some of the key points of intangible heritage transfer and learning. Focusing, for example, on the cultural component of rituals and practises, Wulf believes that the performative nature of the body is what makes rituals and other practises socially and culturally effective. Valuable social functions are rituals. They help to organise the transition from one social status to another at moments such as marriage, birth and death that are socially and existentially central.  Rituals include conventions (liturgies, ceremonies and festivals), are related to different times of the year, and create a sense of belonging together in a group.  These elements of culture are essential for the constitution of culture and community.

While Wulf’s perception of cultural transmission is largely anthropological, Portella (2000) takes a real-world view. Portella believes that in modern life, culture can only be developed in the context of basic, existential, and vital tension between the universal, the regional, the national, and the local. Cultures will still continue to be anchored in the context of their national attachments, but it will increasingly become more difficult to conceive of the construct of traditional concepts of identity, people, and nation as inviolable. What people should ask themselves, Portella says, is whether modern trends faulted for diluting national cultures are not actually wellsprings by which culture may indeed by enriched, in the sense of being favourable to the coexistence of diversity. In effect, Portella presents the paradigm shift where culture is viewed no longer in the context of cohesion and artificial uniformity, fixed and immutable, but rather growing and developing towards greater diversity and tolerance for such diversity.

Held and McGrew go even further. For them globalization denotes the expanding scale, magnitude, and acceleration of the increasingly profound impact of interregional flows and patterns of social interaction. Globalization is seen as a phenomenon that transforms human social organization in linking distance communities and broadens the reach of power relations across the world’s regions and continents. This point of view appears to depart from previously cited definitions of globalization in that it stresses the unifying social dynamics among distance communities rather than the limits and boundaries of the national-versus-foreign construct.

The Threat to Intangible Cultural Heritage

            In the UNESCO conference in 2004, the following threats posed by globalization to intangible cultural heritage were specifically identified and articulated:

  1. Loss of diversity in languages or uniformization of languages due to colonisation or globalisation
  2.  of the economy.
  3. Due to the standardisation of values among the young: triggered by the impact of globalised media material, centralised schooling, penetration of unregulated mass tourism, lack of confidence in and appreciation for local and traditional cultures.
  4. Reduction of the possibilities of transmission as a consequence of the dismantling of cultures that are mutual stewards of intangible cultural assets. The unprecedented mobility of populations and urbanisation are the cause of this process.
  5. Lack of technical and financial capacity to take protective measures and to provide incentives to the successors of this heritage in most developing countries. The widening economic and technical gap between the haves and the have-nots is causing this.
  6. Rampant commercialization and commodification of intangible cultural heritage; for instance, the staging of religious rituals for shows caused by the growth of the market economy , so-called “folklorization” al degradation.
  7. Reduction of the climate and the resources required for the practise of intangible cultural heritage, in particular the traditional experience of nature-related indigenous people. This is triggered by the forced relocation of international firms trying to extract timber and underground natural resources or environment
  8. Reduction of the resources necessary for the production of traditional crafts.
  9. Due to the conflicts caused by extreme nationalism or ethnocentrism that have arisen as a counter reaction to globalsation, the interruption of continuity in the practise of cultural heritage.

Noriko Aikawa, Speaker of the UNESCO Report, also provided some answers, considered to be realistic and concrete, capable of combating, or at least diminishing, the perceived threats to cultural heritage and of restoring and promoting, in the course of its application, a sense of respect for endangered heritage, by:

  1. Production of relevant material for the national media and education
  2. Revisiting national policies and plans for the preservation of intangible cultural heritage
  3. Promoting universal solidarity to motivate the societies of intangible cultural heritage producers and custodians, as well as the governments concerned
  4. Land studies and archiving, inventory development, teaching of both researchers and practitioners
  5. Setting up mechanisms of civil defence for both history and professionals
  6. Setting up regulatory structures in charge of intangible cultural heritage.

The agenda for the restoration of intangible cultural heritage referred to above has been circulated and is included in the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In addition, Neyestani and McInturff (2006) underscores the important role played by modern communication and information technologies in the globalization of cultures and religious identities. They aver that these technologies accelerate the social and political structures which influence the power relations that are at play in nations’ interactions with each other, thereby advancing the destruction of existing cultures and religious identities.

Cultural Globalization and Education

            While theorists may speculate on the long-term effects of globalization to a nation’s culture, there are studies that examine how the incorporation of globalization in present day curricula have impacted on the youth. One such study is that of Schultz, Guevara, Ratnam, Wieranga, Wyn and Sowerby (2009).  The study looked at global connections among the young as an instrument for developing active global citizenship.  Due to rapidly changing technologies and globalization, young people are increasingly compelled to engage with the broader, virtual, world that extends beyond their local and national communities.  There is thus a need to inquire in what ways young people are called to carry out the duties of active global citizenship, and the skills, tools and resources they should be equipped with to carry out this challenge.  To answer the imperative of this direction, a youth-led global learning initiative called the Global Connections Program has been developed to identify these needs.  The program aims to create opportunities for learning and interaction among students in Australia and Indonesia. Schultz et al. explored the challenges faced by the program and achievements it has attained in advancing the goals of global citizenship.

            In another study, Pandit (2009) explored the growing imperative faced by American universities to internationalize their academic programs. The push to internationalize intends to prepare students in the tertiary program to live and function in a globalized setting, enhance discovery and scholarship, and forge economic links between their respective communities and the world. Comprehensive strategies towards this end include integration of international content in their program of studies,  heighten participation in study abroad and exchange student programs, actively recruiting international students to foster interaction between them and the local studentry, and ultimately building strong and effective partherships and networks with the international academic community. The traditions of regional study, fieldwork, and synthesis provide students an opportunity to establish themselves as institutional leaders in defining what internationalization signifies, to exploit its potentials. The study urges pursuit of this direction, to build on stronger curricular foundations for globalization and expand the breadth of international practices. Pandit believes that campus internationalization presents a unique perspective and opportunity for the students to be active catalysts in fostering global change.

            A microcosm of the broader cultural diversity situation is explored in the case of US Korean citizens in a high school setting in Sohyun (2009).  In this study, insights and perspectives gathered through indepth interviews of 42 US Korean high school youths on American history is found to be influenced significantly by their sociocultural backgrounds, especially their migration status. The study delves into the cultural diversity within an ethnic group in the American milieu, and addresses the lack of research on Asian American students and their historical perspectives. It calls attention to global migration patterns as a key influence in students’ perception of history.

            While the above-mentioned studies were initiative pioneered in by students, there have also been inquiries into the directions taken or desired to be taken by school administrators and academicians. Mendoza, Basham, Campbell, O’Daniels, Malcolm, Felton, Lebesch and Douma (2009) presents an investigation into critical issues that are seen to confront community colleges from now until 2019. A focus group of 36 comprised of board of trustee members, community college presidents, senior administrators, administrators, and faculty members from various US community colleges, developed what they perceived to be the six most critical issues that confront the colleges, with regard to instructional planning and services, administrative planning, finance, and workforce development. The findings of the discussion of the focus group were submitted to a peer group of more than 100 to vote on the issues they felt were most urgent. The findings indicated a shift away from the pragmatic issues of K-20, alignment, retention, and economic sustainability, towards broader initiatives such as life-long learning, globalization, innovation and partnerships.

            Finally, a study by Bradmore and Smyrnios (2009) examined the case of Australian public universities and their struggle to adapt and maintain parity with their international counterparts. In an environment that has increasingly become globally competitive, the study pointed to an apparent lack of initiative and impetus among Australian public universities to meet headlong the global challenge. A systematic content analysis of published strategic plans of Australian public universities for the years 2005-2007 scored a failure of these strategic plans to anticipate the threat of entry of foreign competitors into their markets. Deregulation and new communication technologies have spawned rivals in many forms. The study concluded that all Australian public universities need to re-examine their strategic planning processes to determine: (1) whether adequate attention is given to the rapid intensification of competition; (2) whether strategies already being implemented in response to the growing competition are appropriately directed; and (3) whether efforts could be improved towards developing more responsive models to guide competitive behaviour in a university sector with unique characteristics.

Dialogue, Reassessment, and Responses to Challenges

            In view of the seemingly disparate, diametrically opposite yet equally passionate advocacies concerning globalization in education, there have been not a few conferences and dialogues held to thresh out the sentiments and ideas across the broad continuum of opinions. A speech delivered by Antonio Arantes, President of the National Institute for Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) in Brazil, presents a surprisingly open view for one who heads an institution for the preservation of a nation’s cultural heritage. Arantes takes the position of advancing global opportunities for enhancing intangible heritage, and that these imperatives present new challenges for local communities. Arantes observes that finance and business have developed as autonomous spheres of social activity, easily extending beyond political and social boundaries by the operation of the money market. As such, their social organization and structure dynamically and spontaneously reconstructs through relationships with distant partners. In such environments, the cultural elements of values and attitudes no long control “simply as present echoes of living traditions. They became highly reflective and now their legitimization demands solid arguments” that require validation and publicly support (Arante, 2004 in UNESCO, 2004). 

            It is thus that global realities influence both our common daily lives as well as the complexities of a world far beyond national borders. By their very nature, they call for institution building and access to efficient communication technologies and networks. There is a need to holistically grasp these global realities as systemic objects before we may discern and speculate on their advantages and disadvantages. Constructs will have to be devised, such as the ability to accomplish a change of scale between general guidelines formulated by distant policy-making institutions, on the one hand, and the local circumstance of social life on the other. The intersection between the domestic and global environments pits the small, local settlements with the regional, provincial, national or global demands, and in this sense becomes vulnerable to them. On the other hand, the interface and subsequent interaction are inevitable, and what is left is to deal with the challenge and manage it. The central issue remains: what redounds to the welfare of people, their legal rights, and the knowledge and forms of expression they have collectively developed.

            The importance of dialogue and discourse appears to be a salient point raised in most literature that express willingness to explore viable common grounds between total cultural isolation and indiscriminate globalization. Glukhanyuk (2008) presents the model below in the interest of developing cultural mobility in the Russian education system.

Model for Cultural Mobility (Glukhanyuk, 2008)

Globalization and Cultural Research Essay

            Central to the model in the role of conversation and interaction (i.e., dialogue) among individuals of various cultures, and through such dialogue arrive at a renovation or common ground, while maintaining self-identification and at the same time achieving globalization.  This model is significant in that it departs from the concept that local culture and globalization are mutually exclusive propositions, that the espousal of one necessarily means the annihilation or rejection of the other. In this model, the two are conceived as complementary and simultaneous.


            The foregoing survey of academic literature on the impact of globalization in education has presented a broad continuum of perceptions, from viewing it as a phenomenon that threatens cultural annihilation, to a significant positive opportunity by which to foster cultural diversity, to the view that globalization is but in the natural progression of the next stage in cultural evolution.

            It appears that there is underway a gradual shift towards a new perception of what used to be commonly held significations of culture, globalization, local identity, and assimilation. Whereas globalization used to mean the adoption in toto of the dominant Western culture, today what it signifies is the co-existence and celebration, as against mere tolerance, of the diversities of culture that are brought to fore by the modern means of information and communication – the Internet, virtual communities, cable and satellite television, mobile communication. The move  towards globalization has long ceased to be a coordinated institutional effort, and instead assumed an immersion, through sight, sound and voice, and interaction among individuals of different nations.  Whether or not globalization is fostered in the academe formally is no longer a prerogative of policy, because the reality is that globalization occurs in increments everyday, in ways that are beyond the control of any state, institution or aggrupation.

            In this paper, it is the academic policy makers that push aggressively towards the incorporation of globalization in the formal curricula. Proactive wisdom supports this, because doing so will provide guidance and understanding for the onset of what, in any case, is an inevitability. We can choose to deal with globalization in a way that preserves the good and the best in our diverse cultures, or we could choose to ignore it and in the future lament the loss of intangible heritage that could have been avoided had we chosen to timely meet the challenge.

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