Author: Stephen

The Pearl River Mega City: A future arrived

For a British baby-boomer such as I, someone nurtured, educated and cultured into the notion of British Empire and associated global status, these are sobering times. I still vividly recall the moment when my primary school teacher raised a world map to the classroom wall and, with some swagger, pointed his cane to all the red bits proudly informing us that "these belong to us". Only much later, as the 'red bits' got fewer and fewer and I got wiser and wiser, did I take stock both of what we British had lost in Empire and what we had gained in divesting ourselves of such. Now in my late 60s and a longish-term resident of the one South East Asian country never to have been colonised by the Western powers, I'm most grateful the days of empire are over. Today, the Western empires of yesteryear are an embarrassment, not to be discussed...

The Future of Education in an Automated World

Since the 18th Century and the start of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, education for the masses has been designed and operated as a conveyor belt of supply and demand. Supply being the workers, demand being the employers. Educationalists such as myself have been the enablers, the managers, the validators of what is, in essence, a human assembly line. During the 20th century this assembly line educational system went global to the extent that it is now firmly established in every country, albeit to differing levels of quality and effectiveness. It not only feeds the needs of industry and commerce, at its best it also feeds intellect, creativity, identity and upward social mobility. In short, it underpins the very essence of who we are and what we can become. The educational assembly line has proved fundamental to global aspirations for prosperity. It has fuelled the tremendous growth in the global middle class....

What is a ‘Global Citizen’ and are you one?

In the past two decades a new and highly profitable industry has emerged. It is expanding so fast few if any are able to accurately quantify it. We do know it operates in most every country, turns over billions of dollars, services many millions of clients, makes vast sums of profit for owners and investors, is staffed by hundreds of thousands of professionals, and yet is barely understood by most people, even those working in it. And just what is this industry? Learning how to be a global citizen. The global growth in international schooling is one of the business/educational phenomenon of the past two decades. In 1999 there were approximately 2500 schools teaching 1 million students. Today, it is estimated there are over 8000 schools teaching over 4 million students. Research by the International School Consultancy Group reveals a 41.5% increase in the past five years alone. These schools (English-medium, K-12) are...

Farewell to Professor Zygmund Bauman, and thank you.

Even sociologists have their heroes, and Zygmund was one of mine. My respect for him began in February 1990, when myself and some of my fellow MA Sociology students from Leeds Metropolitan University (down the road in leafy Roundhay) were invited to attend a Leeds University sociology seminar led by the distinguished Emeritus Professor Bauman. I was only a few months into my Masters and both excited and nervous about what I'd embarked on. Even attending Leeds Met. University was a massive leap into the unknown for me.  I was 40 years old with very limited academic background and the more prestigious, 'red brick' Leeds University felt a world away. But there I was, that memorable cold, wet Wednesday afternoon, sitting in the same lecture room as Professor B and listening. And wow, did I listen. I was a sponge. My brain went into overdrive and just absorbed it all. The most wonderful experience,...

Welcome to 2017! Happy New Year to all – except Neanderthals

Politically, 2016 was crap. Personally, it was superb. Last year witnessed Neanderthal men slouching out of their cave to promote an anti-liberal backlash, (Trump, Farage, Duterte and Putin being the cheer-leaders); though that in itself didn't surprise me as for some time now I've been predicting the same in my books, blogs and lectures. However, as a welcome counter-balance to these male retrogrades, 2016 saw the continuation of a much more politicised and vocal feminist, pro-liberal voice, not just in the West but now globally - and coming from both women and men. This global polarisation of political/personal identity around gender/sexuality will not only continue through the coming year, but heighten and intensify. So if you haven't done so already, then its time to decide which side of the fence you are on. If you are reading this then the chances are very high that you're one of the enlightened. That is, one...

The Sound of Sleigh Bells – or the Sound of Sirens?

Here I am in my Chiang Mai home, waiting to see in the New Year, fortunate indeed to be living in one of the most blessed countries on earth - Thailand. Last weekend's sound of Christmas sleigh bells, carol singing, and general Yuletide fun (well, at least in the shopping malls) has receded into the distance to be replaced by a new sound - sirens. Yes, coming into my home from not that far off is a very different sound this morning; the sound of fear, panic, danger, injury and death - the sirens on Thailand roads. The ambulances are now screaming their urgency on an almost constant basis, day and night, and I exaggerate not one iota. For this is the New Year holiday season in Thailand and for thousands of Thais, and tourists, it will bring only death and pain. How many will die during this holiday season? Hard to estimate. Certainly it...

AI has no heart – which is why you’ll be redundant

Throughout history, every powerful movement of change has produced similar responses to those we've seen this year; when Brexit and Trump hijacked the political status-quo and gave a good kicking to globalisation and its attendants. And yet no matter how much you might scream and shout, change happens. Regardless. If the disenchanted, dysfunctional, disgusted and generally disregarded consider that it all ends with Brexit and the election of Trump, then how wrong can they be. It is only just starting...

Writing On the Wall for the West – Written in English by Chinese

I have a lot of sympathy for those who feel 'left behind' by globalisation. This social phenomenon can indeed seem harsh and brutal if you are a member of the Western disadvantaged 'underclasses'. Lacking in education, basic work skills and cultural capital, or just feeling confused and insecure by all this rapid change, it is no fun being stuck on the outside, watching the rest of the world getting wealthier and wealthier - especially those peoples and countries once controlled and colonised by white Western empires. 2016 surely gave us a response to all this existential anxiety. It gave us Brexit and Trump, the rise of neo-Fascism across Europe - and maybe the EU itself disappearing by the end of the decade - but even with all this shouting and protesting, globalisation is not going away. If you want a clear indication as to where the future lies, look no further than...

Professional Development for International School Teachers – Bangkok, March 2017

Advance notice of two PD programmes I am delivering in Bangkok in March, 2017. Both held at Singapore International School, and organised by PEDAGOGUE. Designed for teachers in any school, but especially those schools with an international curriculum and student body. Hope to see some of you there. Pass the word!                   Dr Stephen Whitehead: PD with PEDAGOGUE Stephen ...

Would you like some culture shock sauce with your turkey?

Many of you reading this blog will be looking forward to your upcoming Christmas Holidays. Perhaps you are a Western expat, teaching in a school in Bangkok, Hanoi, Hong Kong or Tokyo and are counting down the final days of this first semester. You've worked hard. You've earned this break. Maybe for most of the year you live the life in Phuket, Bali, Penang or a similar 'tourist paradise' and have already booked your flight back home for two weeks of bracing wind, rain, snow and ice. How nice to be returning to our roots. Catching up with mum and dad, grandparents, siblings, cousins, fondly remembering those of our kin who passed away during 2016, and warmly welcoming those who've just arrived. This is your annual routine, no doubt. 'Back home for Christmas with the family' is written into your calendar almost 12 months ahead. It is familiar, safe, secure and as...