Globalization - to be Welcomed or Feared?

The convergence of telecommunications, publishing, television and computing, is creating a media environment with enormous implications for distance education, flexible learning, and mass higher education. As the price of electronic equipment falls, access to these knowledge media will increase and the globalization of communication will permit the globalization of higher education. Many developing countries perceive danger in this globalization. Guy (1995) writes of his concern about the intrusive effects of Western curricula and pedagogies which have been imported into Papua New Guinea with little accommodation to indigenous culture and learning. All too often, existing cultural values have been replaced by ones of the dominant ideology, and many indigenous languages are under threat from the spread of English, which is seen to provide social mobility and improvement in employment prospects in the formal sector. Renck (1990) comments on the prevalence of this cargo cult attitude towards the learning of English in Papua New Guinea. But like so many other cargo cults, the learning of English and the education system generally have failed to deliver the desired goods to most Papua New Guineans (Swatridge, 1985). Instead, it is the death of the indigenous languages which is delivered. Dixon (1991, p.247) suggests that

as schooling, radio, television and other trappings of Western-style civilisation advance through New Guinea as they are likely to ... so perhaps 90 per cent of the languages will be threatened with extinction.

It is feared that the globalization of communication and education will both speed-up the advance and reduce the tolerance of difference. As Evans (1995, p.266) points out:

many new forms of open education which are mediated via the Internet, or through satellite broadcasting, cannot be achieved with any substantial accommodation to local conditions ..... there is little likelihood of a myriad of small, local, traditional cultures being nurtured within globalization

Can distance/online education accommodate difference?


Dixon, R.M.W. 1991. The endangered languages of Australia, Indonesia and Oceania. In Robins, R.H. and Uhlenbeck, E.M. (eds) Endangered Languages. Berg Publishers, Providence, RI.

Evans, T.D. 1995a. globalization, post-Fordism and open and distance education, Distance Education, 16(2): 256-269.

Guy, R. 1995. Contesting borders: knowledge, power and pedagogy in distance education in Papua New Guinea. In Nouwens, F. (ed) (1995) Distance education: Crossing frontiers. Papers for the 12th Biennial Forum of the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia, Vanuatu, September. Central Queensland University, Australia. 79-83.

Renck, G. 1990. Contextualisation of Christianity. Evangelisch-Lutherische Mission, Erlangen.

Swatridge, C. 1985. Delivering the goods: Education as cargo in Papua New Guinea. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, Australia.