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Re‐imagining and rescripting the future of education: global knowledge economy discourses and the challenge to education systems

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Using critical discourse analysis as a methodology for analysis, this paper sets out the nature and form of the challenges directed to the compulsory schooling sector by the knowledge economy that is contained in key policy and related documents put out by the OECD, the World Bank and the UK government. The OECD and the World Bank's policy agendas are increasingly important in setting policy and programme agendas for the developed and developing countries respectively; however there are important differences between the two institutions regarding how education should be redesigned. The World Bank's redesign of education favours the market and individualism as the means for developing knowledge and skills for the knowledge economy. The OECD, however, while concerned with human capital formation, rejects the market model in favour of an institutionally embedded liberalism to overcome the problems posed by tacit knowledge. The UK, on the other hand, has promoted the idea of personalized learning. The paper suggests that this idea is particularly problematic for developing a system of innovation for the economy that is dependent on high levels of social interaction. The first half of the twenty-first century will, I believe, be far more difficult, more unsettling, and yet more open than anything we have known in the twentieth century. I say this on three premises; none of which I have time to argue here. The first is that historical systems, like all systems, have finite lives. They have beginnings, a long development and finally, as they move far from equilibrium and reach points of bifurcation, a demise. The second premise is that two things are true at these points of bifurcation; small inputs have large outputs (as opposed to times of the normal development of the system, when large inputs have small outputs); and the outcome of such bifurcation is inherently indeterminate. The third premise is that the modern world system as a historical system has entered into a terminal crisis and is unlikely to exist in 50 years. However, since its outcome is so uncertain, we do not know whether the resulting system (or systems) will be better or worse than the one in which we are living, but we do know that the period of transition will be a terrible time of troubles, since the stakes of the transition are so high, the outcome so uncertain, and the ability of small impacts to affect the outcome so great. (Wallerstein, 1999, p. 1)
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bristol University, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2005

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