Building a Global Schoolhouse: International Education in Singapore

By Sidhu, Ravinder | Australian Journal of Education, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Building a Global Schoolhouse: International Education in Singapore


Sidhu, Ravinder, Australian Journal of Education


This paper takes Singapore and the field of international education as focal points for exploring state-market relations under conditions of globalisation. It examines Singapore's ambitions to become an education hub and a provider of international education through the Global Schoolhouse Project. Using an analytical approach from the governmentality school, the paper explores the types of hybrid formations and cosmopolitanism sensibilities arising from both the production and consumption of international education. These cosmopolitanisms and hybridities are read against the geopolitical rationalities that have shaped the Singaporean nation-state. An argument is made for further empirical work into understanding how notions of hybridity are deployed in governance under conditions of globalisation. The Global Schoolhouse Project illustrates the creative and imaginative ways in which the Singaporean nation-state is re-modelling itself in response to the new iterations of global capitalism. The paper highlights the importance of moving beyond zero-sum thinking about the effect of globalisation on the nation-state.

Keywords

developing countries

educational marketing

global approach

globalisation

international education

knowledge economy

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Many arguments made in favour of the global trade in education services are predicated on a well-accepted discursive trope--that of global cultural flows. The fluid nature of global flows implies that movements of students, money, information, technology and ideas are an outcome of globalisation and mediated by individual choice without the intervention of nation-states. Writings on global cultural flows and transnational education exchanges are also noted for celebrating the transformative potential of hybrid practices and formations.

Taking Singapore as a focal point, this paper seeks to unsettle the assumptions surrounding the notion of global cultural flows by examining how international education is assembled and ordered by the Singaporean nation-state. Long regarded as a source of international students ('priority market') by Australian and British universities, the city-state is now building itself to become an exporter of international education through the Global Schoolhouse Project. Singapore is therefore an appealing case from which to explore the links between discourses of globalisation and the policy responses adopted by the nation-state, which drive both the production and consumption of international education. The paper also discusses the spatial mobility of tropes such as globalisation, knowledge-based economy, innovation and cosmopolitanism, their re-workings into political, cultural and economic regimes at the local-national level, and the emergent hybrid formations (1) of place and identity that are arising.

Although globalisation is often represented as the enlistment of places, regions and countries into large-scale networks thought to be replacing boundaries, what remains under-examined is the emergence of new boundaries within these 'new' networks. It is potentially fruitful, then, to inquire about the areas where boundaries emerge and disappear, and the measures taken to keep particular boundaries stable ahead of others. To this end, the paper also discusses the boundary-maintaining processes which Singaporeans encounter and engage with, while studying overseas. It reveals some of the tensions arising from double-movements of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation, and their influences on the social subjectification of Singaporeans.

This paper uses analytical approaches from the 'governmentality' (the art of governing) school to understand the Singaporean government's policies to reengineer the state as a knowledge-based economy (KBE) through the Global Schoolhouse Project. At its simplest, governmentality describes a framework for understanding how governmental mechanisms elicit the cooperation of individuals by creating conditions for their productive potential to be unleashed. …

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