Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ On the Ground Support - In Peru

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Aug 19, 1999

Posted to DEOS-L 19 Aug 1999

What are the implications of trans-national education, that is, education where the instructor is in one nation, and the student in another?

Mauri wrote:

You appear to be saying that English Language teachers in foreign countries are going to be acting as if they are a fifth column of North American Educational Imperialists!!! So to accomodate the North American students, faculty at foreign universities are all going to have to learn English? I wonder how THEY feel about that.

Language will not be a major issue. I already routinely read web pages published in French, German, and Spanish, though my grasp of those languages is minimal.

Except for audio and video components, instant and automatic translation is already feasible (see and elsewhere) and will very shortly be quite cheap. And though automatic translation can be a bit rocky at present, smooth and polished translation capacity will be developed over time.

More significant than language issues, I think, will be economic and cultural issues.

Economic Issues: teaching faculty living in the less developed world (ie., outside Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Japan, and Australia / New Zealand) will command much lower salaries than those living in the more developed world.

As salaries remain the major expense for even online delivery, course fees for courses from (say) Brazil, Russia or India will be significantly lower than fees for courses taught from the more developed nations.

One wonders how the more developed nations will react? Historically, similar competition from overseas has been met with tariffs to artificially raise prices, and through non-economic blockades, such as barriers to accreditation or non-recognition of staff credentials.

Cultural Issues: especially in the non-science disciplines, instructors will come equipped with a very different world view. Several issues are raised:

Acceptance: will students from more developed countries accept the wit and wisdom of instructors from other nations? Can, say, Canadian students accept instructors from Peru as their academic equals or superiors? I would really hope they would, and they should, but the situation on the ground may be different from the preferred scenario.

Assumptions: in my many communications with Americans over the years I have come to understand - and even accept, a little - that Americans have very different assumptions about the nature of economics, democracy, geography, history and myriad other subjects. Similar cultural gaps will exist in any case of trans-national education.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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