services currently account for over 60% of global production
and employment, they represent only about 20% of total global
trade. However, the new generation of ICTs has the potential
to enhance this trade by imparting traditionally local services
an unprecedented international mobility. The recent success
of BPOs in banking, health and other sectors are testimony
to that prospect. The GATS, General Agreement on Trade
of Services (a companion to the GATT, General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), which was launched during the Uruguay round of talks,
and whose results came into force in 1995 is aimed precisely
at unbarring international trade of services; which inter
includes 'education'. Unlike with any other services, the annexation
of education in GATS has ushered in a fervent debate not only
amongst national policy-makers but within the academia as well.
Not unexpectedly, the opinion within the international academia
is a divided one. Those who are for liberalization of the
education sector argue that such
a move will allow greater accessibility of higher education by the global population.
Traditionally, however, the academia has perceived itself as very distinct
from trade, and rather as a 'disinterested' generator and
provider of knowledge. It
would not be inaccurate to say that this still remains the majority viewpoint
within the academia. It is pointed out that the key purposes of the academia
are securing wider social and cultural benefits. Thus, those skeptical of the
current WTO developments maintain that regulating education through trade frameworks
and a consequent 'commoditization' of knowledge can cause the academia to lose
its non-profit character, which is essential to its creative functioning.
the current world-order, both in terms of social and technological
parameters, is itself far too complex
for academia to remain isolated from.
On the one hand buoyed by rapid technological advances, higher education
sector has emerged as one of the most important components
of global strategy; on
other hand, the world today is in the grip of an unprecedented demographic
expansion, mainly in the developing economies. As a result of these twin
pressures the demand
for higher education, particularly professional courses and non-traditional delivery modes, is increasing in most countries. But while demand is growing,
of the public sector to satisfy the demand is diminishing. This is due to
budget limitations, the changing role of government, and
increased emphasis on market
economy and privatization.
A mimicry of business?
There is nothing new in academic mobility for students, scholars,
teachers and knowledge, as this has been part of higher
education for centuries. What
today is that academic programs and providers are also
moving across borders. Corporate and for-profit educational institutions
are emerging. Also, branch
campuses and franchise arrangements are being developed across nations.
Economic logic is increasingly driving this international
'supply' of education. Propelled
strongly as they are, by the emerging ICTs and of course, the economic
zeitgeist of globalization, these realities may
be irreversible. What then are the
likely further impacts of liberalization on higher education? How does
capitalize on the benefits of the ongoing transformation and minimize
the threats to its traditional strengths?.............more on next page