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Impact of Globalization on Early Childhood Education

Info: 7042 words (28 pages) Dissertation
Published: 3rd Dec 2021

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The aim of this report is to consider globalisation and its meaning, and to identify the areas designated as Global North and Global South. Early childhood education will be the emphasis of the report, and it will look at the differences and similarities between the North and South. In order to achieve an understanding of the differences, the report will include the attitudes and expectations of the child in the North and compare this to that of the South. This will identify cultural differences, the disparity between educational achievements and some of the problem causing the disparity. The discussion on the approaches to early childhood education will identify different achievements between countries and offer some idea of where improvements could be made. There will be many obstacles arising from these discussions and no definitive answer for the way forward. The report will however raise issues for consideration and should identify some ways which could influence the future of the early childhood education globally.


This report will consider the implications of the similarities and differences between approaches to early childhood education and care in the Global North and the Global South looking specifically at the schooled or educated child. The topic of the schooled child has been chosen because the value of early childhood education is becoming more and more relevant (Moylett, 2014). The provision of high quality education at a young age, either up to the age of seven or eight or up to five is very positive and helps to develop social and cognitive skills (National Education Union, 2013). These skills prepare young children for school and provide the basis for continued learning and progression (Gambaro et al, 2014).

There will be three main sections within the report. The aim of section one is to consider the meaning of globalisation and the implications for worldwide countries. It will define the Global North and the Global South, comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences.

The second section will introduce childhood in the Global North and Global South, look at the varying cultures and explain how culture affects children in both areas.

Section three will look at early childhood education in both the Global North and Global South again looking at the differences and similarities.

Both nationally and internationally the literature supports the fact that the early childhood years cover the age range from birth to eight years and that children within this age range are typically different from children at older ages (National Education Union, 2013). Childhood is the period of being a child, it is the time for children to grow and develop with encouragement, love and care into adulthood (UNICEF, 2005). This however, can vary depending on where you live, for example, childhood in Britain is completely different to that of Africa due to the different cultures (Montgomery, 2013).

Most societies agree that individual children are physically and psychologically different. They are dependent for a range of needs, are vulnerable and not able to run their own lives or be held responsible (Eastrenfrewshire, 2002). A crucial aspect of this however, is the interpretation of childhood. It differs from place to place, between cultures and at different times as thinking changes (Montgomery, 2013). There is huge discrepancy in what people in different societies believe about what a child should or should not be doing at a certain age and about the age at which they become adults. Wagg argued that although all humans go through the same stages of physical development, different cultures and societies see the stages in different ways (1992).

Some societies do not see a huge difference between children and adults. In third world countries, recognised today as the Global South, education and society is not child centred but their approach is different (Kehily, 2004). Benedict argued that children in the Global North are treated very differently from those in the Global South (1934). Childhood is different all over the world and has changed massively over the last 300 years and even today childhood varies within societies (Barrow, 2008). Approximately one in five families in the Global North live in poverty and would therefore not have the luxuries and schooling for example that children from middle class families would have (Oxfam. 2015).

In contrast far more children in the Global South live in poverty and access to education is limited (Gordan et al, 2002). Aries however, believed that in medieval society, the idea of childhood did not exist (1962). He used secondary sources and paintings to study childhood and believed that children, before industrialisation, were seen as mini adults who worked as soon as they were seen as no longer needing their mothers (1962). Children therefore, socialised with adults and were actively involved with the adult world which meant that often they would not be protected from activities which today would be inappropriate for children to see or hear (Kolucki & Lemish 2011).

Children had no education, everything they learnt was from their families. Hartley sums it up well ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’ (1953, p. 1). Whereas the Global North has founded its attitude to problems and concerns relating to children such as schooling within the dominant paradigm of childhood where children are seen as becomings and future adults, in the Global South there are other influences that make their opinions of children and childhood dissimilar (Beier, 2011).


There are many different and varied opinions of what globalisation means. Stiglitz outlines that globalization is ‘the removal of barriers to free trade and the closer integration of national economies’ (p,53. 2003), Mukherjee defines globalisation as the growing integration of economies and societies around the world (2008) and the meaning of globalisation in the Cambridge dictionary is stated as ‘a situation in which available goods and services, or social and cultural influences, gradually become similar in all parts of the world’ (1995).

Globalisation is a process, it is not new, but has developed more rapidly in the last 20 years (Czaika and Hass, 2014). The older aspect of globalisation focused on finance, trade, foreign investment and economic growth, in recent years however thinking has developed, and the meaning of globalisation has expanded to include culture, technology, media and even biological facts as climate changes (Financial times, 2018). Globalisation has meant that international trade has improved, and many large companies have expanded and extended branches of their expertise to many countries worldwide (Stiglitz,2006).

In many respects this has been positive, providing employment in areas where work opportunities were limited. It has also meant developing new skills and giving many other people new information (Suarez-Orozco and Qin-Hilliard 2004). Links between countries have improved because of easier and cheaper modes of transport and the latest technological developments have given opportunities for closer communication, on the other hand, some countries have lost valuable staff, expertise, knowledge and experience which takes years to develop (Dutta and Bilbao-Osorio, 2012). Furthermore, some work has been transferred to less developed countries moving from the Global North to the Global South, where there are large labour forces and wage costs are less (Raffer and Singer, 2001).

These questions the exploitation of staff and can it continue?

The impact of globalisation can also affect cultures, in positive and negative ways. Trends are transferred and accepted, especially by the younger generation and sometimes at the expense of their own culture, but exchange is not always negative. It can develop different perspectives, increase knowledge and education is now becoming more accessible (Unesco,2012). The idea and importance of education is making an impact in many countries and the realisation that education can improve lives throughout the world is becoming more recognised (Lynch and Baker, 2005).

The fact that education can lead to job prospects, improved economic status, opportunities for better lifestyles and the ability to make informed choices must improve quality of life. The need for accessibility to education globally, was discussed at the recent global partnership for learning financing conference and many countries have pledged money to develop and improve educational opportunities for all (Rueckert, P. (2018).

Globalisation is here to stay and the opportunities it provides must be utilised. One in five children, adolescents and youths are not in school globally and this has not changed in the last five years (UNESCO, date). Worldwide, there has been very little progress in the last decade with nine percent of primary aged pupils not in education today (Rueckert, 2018). There has been an improvement but in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa they are still far behind. On the contrary, East Asia, the pacific and the South Asia have made substantial improvements and furthermore, Latin America and the Caribbean have made the uppermost development (Ferranti, 2013). Disabilities, gender, language, conflict or disaster all affect early childhood care and education. (Super and Harkness, 1986).

North and south divide

The North-South or Rich-Poor Divide is the socio-economic and governmental separation that happens between the wealthy countries which are the North and the least developed countries being the South (Keeley, 2010). Should we use the distinctive terms Global North and Global South? There are certainly differences, but also similarities. The differences are not clear cut and the boundaries are blurred, some areas overlap, some countries included in the Global South are now flourishing and the economies growing for example in India, China, but also extreme poverty in both (The University of Sheffield Department of sociological studies, date). Although the world has altered significantly since the time when the North-South connection was initially voiced, the terms continue to be used today as they were then (Raffer & Singer, 2002).

Early childhood in the Global North

Today, in the Global North, the child is seen as different from the adult and is therefore seen as being incomplete or unfinished (Ellis, 2011). Childhood is viewed as the duration in which a child is a child and being prepared to become an adult. During this time the child needs to be protected, looked after, cared for and nurtured (Lewis 1999). Childhood is seen as a very special time, where children are no longer mini adults but completely separate to adults. They are loved, cared for, guided, protected and educated (Santer et al. 2007). Education is compulsory and the law states that children are not allowed to work (LawGov, 2017). Children are seen as incomplete, unfinished and waiting to become an adult (Lee, N. 2001). A child is a being in its own right, who grows and develops over a period of time with the support and assistance of those around them (Unicef, 2011). In 1944 the education act made education free for all and increased the age at which children had to be in school to fifteen which extended the time for children to be children (Gillard, 2014). Furthermore, in 1972 the school leaving age became sixteen (Butler, R.A. Parliament.uk).

Childhood today is a precious time in which children should live free from fear, safe from violence and be protected from abuse and corruption (Cleaver et al, 2011). It is therefore more than just the time between birth and adulthood. It depends on the types of opportunities during a child’s life and the quality offered throughout those years. Childhood depends on Laws regarding children’s rights, length of time in education, communication skills, behaviour of children and adults and an adult’s participation in a child’s life (Unicef, 2018).

Today the law protects children through their safeguarding procedures and child protection policies which are enforced to ensure that all children are kept safe (NSPCC, 2015). Pilcher suggests that the most important feature of the modern idea of childhood is separateness and that childhood and adulthood are very separate stages of life (1996). It is also apparent that childhoods for girls and boys are very different (Oakley, 1927).

Girls are encouraged to be neat and tidy, to play with dolls and to help with house work, whereas boys are directed to play with cars, get dirty playing sport and given more freedom to explore (Woodhead and Oates, 2013). Furthermore, very often in the classroom boys will choose to play with cars and building blocks and girls will choose to go to the writing corner or playhouse, even though they are all given free choice (Swift, 2017). Recent sociologists of childhood celebrate the development of children as social actors and individual beings in their own right (James et al, 1998).

Early childhood in the Global South

In Global South or low income countries, two hundred million children under the age of five are at risk of not reaching their full academic potential because of poverty (Grantham-McGregor et al, 2007). In Africa alone, one third of children are stunted or have low height for their age due to poverty, and in low income countries, only one in five children has access to preschool (Onis & Branca, 2016). In Sub-Saharan Africa just two percent of the education budget goes to preschool education, while in Latin America government spending on children under five is a third of that for children between the ages of six and eleven (Unesco, 2016).

Investing cleverly in the physical, emotional and intellectual development of early years children are crucial to ensure that they prosper and to help countries participate more successfully in a rapidly growing global economy (page 2). It is evident that a good diet, prompt encouragement and timely interventions early in childhood improve learning outcomes and eventually increase adult wages (Slater, 2015). A study of children in Jamaica by Heckman and Gertler showed that early motivation interventions for babies and tots increased their future earnings by twenty five percent which is comparable to adults who grew up in better-off families (2014).

Furthermore, a scrutiny of the long-term benefits of early childhood education by a World Bank Group in twelve countries found that children who attend preschool are more likely to be employed in skilful jobs (Park,2014).

It is also believed that children who are not underdeveloped are more likely to earn incomes up to fifty percent higher than those who are stunted as children (Gordan et al,2004). Many children in the Global South do not have the chance of having an education due to the far-flung whereabouts of some villages, language difficulties, disability, gender, natural disasters and lack of teachers (Ljaxah, 2013). The importance of early childhood education however, is acknowledged and the global partnership for learning has dedicated 110 billion dollars for 2018 to 2020 to improve admission for all children (Guterres, 2017).

A few eras ago, the South was associated with starvation, malnutrition, poverty, low educational levels, political and autocracy. Today, although hunger and poverty continue to exist in many South countries, the numbers of rich people are increasing quickly (??). Well educated, capable and knowledgeable experts to the global workforce come from many South countries, especially in Latin America and Asia (OECD, 2011).

The separation between the global North and Global South is the biggest encounter to global governance. The difference in economic welfare, political constancy, and culture between areas causes lots of predicaments globally (Penna et al, 2010). The financial differences between highly developed countries and the rest of the world prevents collaboration and social dissimilarities between North and South create cultural clashes which cause violence (Stewart, 2009).

Additionally, where there is political weakness of some areas in the global South there are security problems which prevent success of global governance initiatives (Kaul, 2013). Furthermore, the distribution of power and authority among the political actors is tilted in favour of the global North (Scott,2006). However, international leaders can solve these problems by encouraging global justice. To this end, for global governance to achieve its full potential, the world must initially consider the disparity of the countries (United Nation, 2014).

Approaches to early childhood education

There are education systems of some sort in all parts of the world, however, these vary depending on the resources and money that support those systems in different countries. Thus, countries in the Global South are less able to have robust education systems or even any formal schooling at all (GOV, 2018). The educational disparity across the world is a worry for many countries. Global differences in education however, are not only due to finances, the importance of education and the amount of time given to it, within a country also play a role in those differences (Raffer and Singer, 2001). Pupils in China for example, spend two hundred and sixty days in school every year and those in Germany spend two hundred and forty compared to most other European countries who have only one hundred and eighty-five days per year (OCED, 2017).

Furthermore, in the high-ranking countries, limited resources or pupils who should expect to not achieve as well due to their social background did not necessarily underperform (Ferguson, 2017). For example, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam have the highest number of resilient pupils compared to Europe (OCED, 2015). The burdens in the Global North are to strive to make sure that more and more pupils are gaining higher order learning skills as expressed in international tests like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) (OECD, 2015). The results showed however, that pupils in the European Union had fallen behind Asian countries for science and maths and pupils at the top of the rankings were from countries like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan (OCED, 2015). Finland appears to have an excellent education as over the last thirty years the country has moved from the lowest rankings in the PISA to first in 2012 and remains in the top five today even though they differ to the strict curriculum and long hours expected of the pupils in South Korea and Singapore (Oecd, 2010).

In Finland for example, the pupils do not begin school until they are seven years old and even then, are in school for less hours than many other countries. There are almost no private schools, and no national standardised tests, yet there is a big focus on giving resources for those who need them most (Darling-Hammond, 2010). The Finish government offers a free quality education to all, and universities are free which gives the chance of higher education for everyone (Gross-Loh, 2014). It is clear that the countries at the top of the rankings had many factors in common. For example, they have clear goals for all pupils and recruit teachers from the top five to ten percent of graduates which differs to most other countries (GOV,2010).

There are significant differences in the types of opportunities and challenges faced by education systems in the Global North and Global South. All these systems are looking for ways to improve teaching and learning. On the contrary however, low income countries in the Global Southstruggle to teach children to read and write, as shown in the recent UNESCO report that indicated that two hundred and fifty millionyoung learners are not achieving to learn the basics (Malone et al, 2018). Globalisation therefore, is a chance to learn from each other by looking at the state of the art learning approaches across the world and connecting the North-South divide(Brooks et al, ).

It is evident that structured intervention programmes should focus on literacy as they impact positively on learning outcomes (Nason,2015). The emphasis of a child centred education influenced by Euro-American ideas is also being encouraged globally (Pearson & Degotarl 2009). It is not however considered relevant in all cultures, for example, in Asian countries, young children are encouraged to interact, but Asian parents also have very specific expectations for their children with an emphasis on literacy skills rather than play (Sanagararapn, 2010). Global agendas to have worldwide education and improve the quality of school provision in developing countries have recognised the need to improve teaching and pedagogy. Since the 1990s, child-centred ideas have been developed in teacher-training courses across many parts of Africa and Asia where more child-friendly learning environments are used (Unicef,2006).


This report has looked at the subject of globalisation, various authors’ opinions of its meaning and it implications for early childhood education. Although the emphasis has been on education, many other aspects have arisen, such as financial implications, communication, technology and culture. All of these have an impact on education and although early childhood would seem far removed from such subjects, the basic skills developed in early childhood, provide the stepping stores to the future where the goal is to obtain work and earn money (??). Investing in the early year’s education system is one of the best things a country can do to remove life threatening poverty, increase wealth, and create intellectual individuals for economies to grow (Pascal and Bertram, 2013).

Globalisation in its entirely has been discussed, but the North/South divide and the differences and similarities have also been investigated. Previously the emphasis was on the rich and the poor, the latter being referred to as the Third World, where there is a great deal of deprivation and many areas where access to education has been limited (??). In remote areas education is still not available which impacts on their lives, living conditions and their futures. In the discussion of childhood in the Global North and Global South, differences and similarities were evident. Certainly the financial aspect was apparent, where the Global South was much poorer and access to education limited (??).

The question of gender has also arisen, but the attitudes between North and South have not had the same emphasis. In the North there is a difference in expectations of boys and girls but both have access to education, whereas in the South the value of girls was seen as negligible and often the education of girls was discouraged (??). There is a need to respect culture, but this is sometimes problematic, especially with the younger generation who want to follow new trends. The development of better transport systems, the fast growing technological equipment which has improved communication and the financial support which is being injected into the Global South are all invaluable for future developments (??).

There is a great deal to learn from the different educational approaches between North and South. There is disparity between countries and the time spent in school, there is no correlation however between achievement and hours of education. Obviously there are other variables which need consideration and these should be investigated in more depth, in order to arrive at the best educational approaches. The fact that many millions of children in the Global South do not achieve the basic skills is another concern, which needs more in-depth investigation (??). There may be many reasons the difficulty of access which prevents attendance, lack of food causing hunger and lack of motivation or the quality of teaching (??).

The question of culture is another issue. Child centred education is now being encouraged globally but this is not pertinent to all cultures (Pearson &Degotarchli, 2006). In Asian countries, young children are encouraged to interact with others in the community and eye contact with the care giver is not expected (Schieffelin and Ochs cited in Heer 2006). Asian parents also have a specific expectation for their children with the emphasis on literacy skills rather than play and they have clear expectations for the acquisition of the English language (Sbuibnvfno ?? 2010). Finally, in this day of rapidly improving communication systems, even the most remote areas should become accessible. Money is obviously a big issue in order to research and deliver a better education, but hopefully the money from the global partnership for learning, that has been pledged in the future, should offer a turning point for global education (??).


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