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3 August, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Higher education in the age of globalisation : The perspectives of South Asia

The most visible impact of globalisation could be found in the recent growth of privatisation of higher education in South Asia
Professor Dr. Arun Kumar Goswami
Higher education in the age of globalisation : The perspectives of South Asia

Education achievements of eight South Asian countries have been depicted in  an earlier article of mine published in this newspaper. As mentioned earlier Sri Lanka and Maldives have high human development scores with HDI rank of 73 and 105 respectively. Other six countries of South Asia in medium and low level of human development rank are India HDI rank 131, Bhutan 132, Bangladesh 139, Nepal 144, Pakistan 147 and Afghanistan 169. The most striking scenario is found in the gross enrolment ratio of different levels of education, pre-primary, primary, secondary and higher or tertiary education from 2005-2015. Seven countries are high achievers in primary level having above 100 percent enrolment ratio and only Pakistan is lagging behind with 94 percent. However, this high ratio of enrolment in primary level has come down in secondary level. In secondary level only Sri Lanka has 100 percent ratio of enrolment, followed by Bhutan with 84per cent, then according to serial India 69per cent, Nepal 67per cent, Bangladesh 58per cent, Afghanistan 56per cent, and Pakistan in the lowest stage with only 42per cent enrolment in secondary education.

However, in tertiary level the ratio of enrolment has strikingly come down with India having highest 24per cent of enrolment in tertiary education, followed by SriLanka 21per cent, Nepal 16per cent, Bangladesh13per cent, Bhutan11per cent, Pakistan 10per cent, and Afghanistan lowest 9per cent enrolment ratio in tertiary education.  

Privatisation of higher education

The most visible impact of globalisation could be found in the recent growth of privatization of higher education in South Asia. Privatisation is one of the hottest issues currently being debated in the education sector. It is fast becoming a widespread trend when considering education reform, as it eases the pressure on governments to meet increasing demand and relieves them of excessive costs. The different needs present in developed and developing countries mean that the motives for privatization vary and that the form of privatization adopted is also specific to the country and its economic and demographic situation. Privatization programmes are diverse and can be designed to meet several objectives. Private education may promote equity, while not all public funding is equitable.

In addition, the international environment, characterised by the emergence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) as a strong force in education and the structural adjustment loans provided by multi‐lateral organisations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, is also contributing to the rapid growth of private education. Because of these national and international forces, public policies are formulated in favour of private higher education either out of compulsion, or, rarely, out of conviction. While some countries in Asia have adopted policies that are strongly supportive of the public sector and are anti‐private, some adopted policies in favour of the private sector, some intend to regulate (and also deregulate) the growth of the private sector, and policies in many countries can be described as laissez‐faire policies, which, in effect, work as pro‐private (Tilak, 2005a). Yet, one may note that very few governments in Asian countries have been active initiators of private emergence in education. The private sector entered the education arena and grew; and governments very often responded to it as a fait accompli. In most countries, the wave of privatisation is so strong and sweeping that governments appear to be losing the ideological and political and fiscal wherewithal to be the primary custodian of higher education and/or withstand the private wave. The private sector is complementary to the public sector in this case.

Different players in higher education are conceptualizing globalisation in different ways. Most higher education institutions were created in response to local needs, typically with funding either from individuals of the area or local (or state) government. They initially served students from their surrounding regions. Thus, they responded to the special contexts of their regions—they were place-based both physically through their focus on response to local conditions and needs. As time went on, the contexts of regions changed and became more complicated, and successful institutions responded to those changes, keeping in step with those changing regional contexts. In addition, some institutions began to view themselves as national, not regional, institutions and so the context to which they were responding became much larger and national in scope. For most higher education institutions, globalisation efforts are simply a response to another change in regional or national context. The forces of globalisation have impacted conditions in every region of the globe, and educational institutions must respond accordingly in order to continue to serve their traditional constituencies.    

The writer is Chairman, Department of Political Science and Director, South Asian Study Circle, Jagannath University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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