Imagining A Global Education Standard

by Ed Forteau /
Ed Forteau's picture
Sep 27, 2014 / 0 comments

Dreaming big means imagining possibilities not accessible to our current reality. A big dream, when spoken aloud, sounds bonkers to the average person. Our big dream of the day is a global education standard.

A global education standard makes so much sense, it is difficult to understand why it has not yet happened. It is difficult, that is, until you take a look at some of the barriers to making this dream come true. Here are just a few:


Local Laws and Customs

Within the U.S., there are dramatic differences in local laws and customs from one state to the next. Within the state, that is true from one county to the next. Within the county, the differences are still apparent from one city to the next. Whether or not you get a speeding ticket will vary from one neighborhood to the next. If laws and customs cannot scale across neighborhoods, there is no way they can scale globally.

Now, think about a popular course of study like criminal justice. One would be hard pressed to visualize how that would be standardized globally. The best way to teach the subject is a mix of classroom study and field training done by experts in the industry. That is how criminal justice at Gwynedd Mercy is handled. 

But not every criminal justice program in the country is going to be administered that way. Globally, there are probably some countries that do not have anything like a criminal justice program. And that is not the biggest challenge.

From country to country, the very notion of criminal justice differs broadly. A perfectly qualified police officer in Iraq is not necessarily qualified to patrol the streets in Alabama. The same is true for every office holder of the criminal justice system. What is a criminal? What is justice? These are not universally agreed upon concepts. That is just one aspect of global education that feels like a distant dream. The next one is even worse:


Religion and Science

Despite Stephen Jay Gould’s attempt to harmonize the relationship between science and religion through his non-overlapping magisteria, the two camps remain at odds, especially in education. Setting aside secular education for the moment, religious schools do not agree on such foundational issues like evolution vs. creation. Some teach creation as the best explanation. Some teach evolution as the true, scientific explanation. Yet others teach both as equally valid theories. Even that does not cover all of the possibilities.

Some countries are more religious than other countries. Then there is the challenge of competing religious traditions to consider. They all have different origin stories that effect education. This is not a problem of who is right and who is wrong. It is a problem of choosing a system for standardization. 


Unequal Distribution of Resources

Even if we were to achieve a global education standard, at least on paper, it would still fail to the reality of unequal resources. We only have to study the education system in the U.S. for a clear illustration. 

We have a national standard of education overseen by a department of the federal government. However, not all schools and education opportunities in this country are created equally. To put it bluntly, some schools are better than others. That is true for a number of reasons that we cannot get into at this time. Suffice it to say that one of those reasons is that some school districts have more money and talent than others. That is not an issue that can be easily resolved.

The global challenge is an order of magnitude bigger.


And Yet, We Dream...

Despite the seemingly intractable nature of the challenge, the benefits of solving the problem are still greater than the problems themselves. Like it or not, globalization is coming. National autonomy is less a reality than it was a century ago, and will be an insignificant reality a century from now. We are already in transition. Globalization is already a reality for financial institutions.

Education may not be next, but it cannot be that far behind. It will serve us well to consider the challenges and solutions now.