We read a great deal about the internationalization of higher education—which, in many contexts, is simply a catchphrase for the corporate provision of digitalized higher education through conglomerates such as Laureate, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill.
But if this one-size-fits-all approach to education has created all sorts of issues in North America and Europe, it is inevitably going to cause more significant problems in regions of the world in which higher education has a much less firmly established history and tradition.
Indeed, it is very hard to see how this globalization of corporatized digital education will not become a major impediment to the development of national systems of higher education rooted in and enriching the cultural traditions of each of those nations.
Even the most informed Westerners have only a very superficial knowledge of the cultures, socio-economic conditions, and political realities in many, if not most of these nations. But occasionally, a somewhat innocuous news item will provoke a profound sense of a cultural distance as real as any geographical distance.
BBC Worldwide monitoring has provided a Russian-to-English translation of the following item from Tajikistan:
“University Students in Tajik North Saved from Picking Cotton”
Text of report by privately-owned Tajik Avesta website on 15 September:
Students at higher education institutions in the [northern Tajik] region of Sughd are not going to be involved in the cotton harvest campaign, a representative of Sughd Region’s main agricultural directorate has told Avesta.
He said that students did not have to join the [cotton] campaign. Farming communities are going to handle the harvest the way they did last year.
The source noted that, several years ago, the country’s education minister forbade students to go out into cotton fields [to harvest it], saying that they had to be sitting in classrooms.
The source also said that all university students in Khujand [the region’s administrative town] used to join the campaign and stay in the regions from early September till the beginning of December.
According to data from the region’s main agricultural directorate, about 25,000 people are currently involved in the campaign in seven areas of the region that produce cotton.