Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Preparing Globally Competent Teachers: A New Imperative for Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Preparing Globally Competent Teachers: A New Imperative for Teacher Education

Article excerpt

Education is a future-oriented business because it aims to prepare today's children for the future. In this sense, teacher education is an even more future-oriented business for it aims to prepare teachers for future educational institutions. Thus, discussing teacher education cannot afford to ignore the forces that will shape education in the future, which will prepare our children to live in an even more distant future world.

The last part of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century have already seen dramatic changes brought about by globalization. Our schools have also been struggling to deal with the impact of globalization. But the implications of this powerful force have yet to be fully recognized and realized in education and teacher education. In this article, I discuss the challenges globalization may bring to teacher education.

The Death of Distance: Defining Globalization

Globalization has become a catchphrase to refer to both the process and consequences of shrinking distances between places on this planet (e.g., Friedman, 2005). Thanks to advances in transportation and communication technologies as well as massive political changes, the effectual distance, that is, the time and cost required to get from Point A to Point B on earth, has been dramatically reduced. For example, it took Christopher Columbus almost three months to cross the Atlantic about 400 years ago, whereas one can fly over the same distance in a matter of hours today and the cost is much lower. The first transatlantic telegraph message, "Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will toward men," took over 17 hours to transmit in 1758, which, compared to the previous medium, was already a historical improvement. Today, the same message takes just seconds to cross the ocean. As Ben Bernanke (2006), chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, observes, "By almost any economically relevant metric, distances have shrunk considerably in recent decades." In some respects, we can say that distance has died or disappeared for certain human activities.

When global distances shrink, human activities are no longer confined by geographical locations or bounded by political entities. The result is then what we call "globalization." Almost half a century ago, the Canadian media theorist and communication professor Marshall McLuhan (1964) coined the phrase global village to highlight his observation that, thanks to "electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned" (p. 19). Events in one part of the world could be experienced in real time in other parts of the world--just like when people lived in small villages. McLuhan's insights were revolutionary yet astonishingly correct, as attested by subsequent developments in communication and information technologies. Today, the all-encompassing information and communication technology the Internet has penetrated more than 25% of the world's population (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2010). Mobile phones, nonexistent at McLuhan's time, are used by more than two billion people today. Television has now entered 90% of households in the world, with news and other programming running 24 hours a day.

What McLuhan did not anticipate is that the technologies that enable people to experience vicariously what happens in distant places have also enabled physical movement of goods, services, and people, with the help of new transportation technologies and political and cultural changes. The increased flow of goods, services, money, and information across national borders led Thomas Friedman (2005) to declare the arrival of "the flat world," in which more people on the planet are now participating and experiencing economic, cultural, and political activities on a global scale. In 2004, worldwide trade in merchandise and services contributed to 55% of the world gross domestic product (GDP). …

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