Education is one of the central factors that determine how the world meets the challenges of globalization. The possibilities of benefiting from it, however, are unevenly distributed.
Franz Josef Radermacher is a professor for databases and artificial intelligence at the University of Ulm and the director of the Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing (FAW/n) in Germany. He is also a member of the Club of Rome. Deutsche Welle spoke with him in the run-up to this year's DW Global Media Forum in June.
The highly developed nations must rise to their responsibility for equal opportunity, according to Franz Josef Radermacher. He argues that "balanced educational opportunities" are key to the wellbeing of society. "A decent education is a cornerstone of social equilibrium. One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) stipulates that all children around the world, and girls in particular, should at the very least complete primary schooling. The wealthier nations must do much more to make this happen, for example by transferring funds."
The great potential for conflict that inevitably stems from economic, ecological and social inequality in its various facets is a matter of great urgency, says Radermacher. By that he means not only conflict between the developed and developing parts of the world, but also within the OECD alliance and among developing countries. "The last two decades have been characterized by little growth and stagnation for the majority of the population in rich parts of the world, and enormous escalation of wealth for a tiny top group of people around the globe. That is the central theme of the Occupy Movement."
Weighing up the potential impact of all the underlying forces, interests and market resources, Radermacher remains skeptical about future developments, especially if privatization efforts cement the status quo. He strongly advocates more equitable globalization. "It is difficult to progress from conflict to cooperation - both nationally and globally," he says. "The philosophy of market fundamentalism is particularly problematic. It relies primarily on competition and less on cooperation. It wants governments left out of all economically relevant processes. Success - and education and vocational training - are being privatized, leaving parents completely responsible to fund the schooling and career training of their children. That will inevitably produce a two-class structure of society, nationally and internationally."
Cooperation does take place in the context of globalization, says Radermacher, but usually benefits small groups, and not the larger majority of people. He strongly advocates clear regulations to promote equal opportunities. "This requires strong government structures and effective institutions, alongside consensus and implementation of adequate ecological and social standards and the corresponding cross-financing. But that isn't just a financial issue; it is also a matter of sound control of the work and services performed by officials at all levels, including the teachers in the schools."
Radermacher believes that the media can do more in this context. "They can and should contribute more than they have so far," he says. Quality has often suffered in the quest for higher ratings. "Of course it would be ideal to achieve good ratings through high-quality programming that motivates people. That requires markets for quality, or to put it conversely, the undoing of processes in which ratings are generated by programs with increasingly weaker content that appeal more to the "desire for bread and games", rather than sparking an interest in learning something new. But, says Radermacher, the media are not free to act. He advocates the introduction of appropriate parameters, especially in quality, and urges those who work with media to demand them, too. He sees the 2012 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum as part of efforts to progress "valuable and high-quality information in the age of globalization to ensure global governance for the sake of a better world."