International Education in Global Times

Engaging the Pedagogic

by Paul Tarc (Author)
©2013 Textbook XXIII, 132 Pages
Series: Global Studies in Education, Volume 10


This book illuminates the changing landscape and expediency of international education in global times. Within this larger picture, the book focuses on the educational effects of international encounters, experiences and lessons – the complex processes of learning and subject formation in play during and after one's international/intercultural experience. These complex processes, hinged on past and present self-other relations, are illustrated by employing the parable of «The Elephant and the Blind Men.» In contrast to more narrow, developmentalist conceptions of intercultural learning, Paul Tarc attends to each of the linguistic, existential, structural, and psychical dimensions of difficulty constituting learning across difference. Becoming aware of, and reflexive to, these dimensions of difficulty and their implications for one’s own learning and resistance to learning, represents the domain of cosmopolitan literacy. The key intervention of this book is to re-conceive pedagogical processes and aims of international education as fostering such cosmopolitan literacy. Graduate courses on international education, study abroad, global citizenship education, and preservice education courses focusing on international education and teaching internationally could be primary candidates for this text.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword: by Lynn Mario Menezes de Souza
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface: Approach of This Text
  • Chapter One: The Rise of International Education: Expanded Opportunities, New Complications
  • Opportunities and Complications
  • Globalization, Neoliberalism, Performativity
  • The Expediency of International Education under Globalization
  • Chapter Two: The Challenge of Learning across Difference: Employing The Elephant and the Blind Men
  • Extending the story
  • The problem of representation
  • Past textual engagements shape future ways of viewing
  • The ground upon which we stand to engage others is not level
  • The elephant’s parts and the blind men have (past) relations
  • Even the (coherent) self and self-awareness is elusive
  • Acknowledging the obstacles: Towards robust approaches
  • Chapter Three: It Changed My Life! Lessons from Study Abroad
  • The ‘Transformative’ International Experience
  • Schooling the Transformative Experience
  • Examining the Case of Zemach-Bersin’s Study Abroad
  • Lessons learned from study abroad
  • Correcting Zemach-Bersin’s unruly account
  • Correcting the program: On having ‘not been prepared’
  • Problematic Assumptions of Intercultural Learning
  • Research in Intercultural Education
  • Chapter Four: Lessons from Overseas Teaching: International Schools in the Global South
  • The Rise of International Schools
  • Past Reflection on My International School Teaching Experience
  • Canadian Teachers’ Experiences in Chin’s A Foreigner in My Classroom
  • Study of Five Canadian International School Teachers
  • Common Shocks and Difficulties
  • Close-ups of participants and their transformations
  • Summary comments
  • Chapter Five: Fostering Cosmopolitan Literacies: Toward Educating International Education
  • Defining ‘cosmopolitan literacies’
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Cosmopolitan learning
  • Cosmopolitan literacies
  • Implications: “Best Practices?”
  • Literacy as ongoing, enhancing capacities to narrate experience
  • Knowledge approaches
  • Researching the every day
  • Re-considering study abroad and the case of Zemach-Bersin
  • Bibliography


In a period widely proclaimed as promoting global interconnectedness through widespread flows of peoples, finances, goods and knowledges, critical analyses of the educational implications of such a mentality and set of conditions are urgent and welcome. Paul Tarc’s work represents a significant contribution.

From my own perspective, located within an educational institution in Latin America and more specifically, in Brazil, one of the major issues in critical considerations of trans-/inter-cultural/global citizenship education is being able to locate and identify, in a trans-/intercultural/global encounter, where one (and one’s interlocutor) is speaking from and to use this awareness as a basis for understanding the ensuing interchanges and the possible misunderstandings which may probably arise. Given the unpredictable nature of such encounters, educating for such a context can present immense difficulties (many of which Tarc engages in this book). However, once again calling attention to where I myself am speaking from–the so-called global South, the ‘unpredictability’ of such global encounters is already an issue; in contrast, dominant conceptions seem to presuppose the possibility of predictability, control and the guarantee of understanding in communicative and knowledge exchanges in such encounters.

As innumerable post-colonial and Latin American thinkers have recently shown, these global encounters are usually marked by histories of inequality; though they may not be consciously present in the minds of the actual participants in the exchange or encounter, they are there epistemologically in the inherited paradigms of unequal language and meaning-making which constitute the interlocutors on both sides of the encounter. ← vii | viii →

Latin American thinkers such as Anibal Quijano, Walter Mignolo and Arturo Escobar have elaborated extensively on what they call the coloniality of knowledge; this refers to the fact that in the context of the Latin American history of colonization and its consequences—visible in the capitalist paradigm which still predominates and generates the social, cultural and economic inequalities and injustices which characterize much of Latin America—there have been enormous inequalities establishing differences in value between: who speaks and who is spoken to; which language is recognized as language and which is heard (if at all) as mere white noise and by whom; and which knowledges are valued as knowledge.

In short, the coloniality of knowledge establishes who is recognized as a full citizen and who is not. For someone located in such a context, in the shadow of what the West sees as ‘modernity,’ the possibility of not being understood, seen or heard is what is held as predictable. In contrast, the interlocutor who sees himself as a full citizen in undeniable possession of a language, culture and knowledges of undeniable value sees as predictable the fact that in the encounter he will be understood. Even though such a speaker may foresee difficulties in understanding his interlocutor, this will probably be seen as also predictable, given the presupposition that his interlocutor is in possession of an unequal language and knowledges.

The Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, took on the task, in the 1960s, of thinking through a process of education that would undo the certainties of social exclusion and injustice present in the suppositions of ‘predictability’ as discussed above. Freire famously focused on the role of literacy in education and the fact that the word and the world are interconnected through language, knowledge and culture. Given the multiple and varying range of language use, knowledges and culture, and the unequal values attributed to each of these in a given society, one’s own specific use of language, knowledge and culture tended to locate oneself in a specific location—dominant or non-dominant—of the social continuum. For Freire, a change (not necessarily an abandonment of previous possessions) in one’s access to and use of language, knowledge and culture, through altered literacy practices, could emancipate one from the previous inequalities and the social exclusion that resulted from these. ← viii | ix →

From a contemporary, Western, perspective such an educational proposal would be anachronistic today given the fact that the present context of globalization is more recently imagined. The Latin American thinkers—Quijano, Mignolo and Escobar—would disagree; for them, we are still living within the paradigm of Euro-centric modernity introduced by the cycle of colonization of the sixteenth century and which still marks as unequal languages, cultures and knowledges originating in the ‘non-west’ or ‘global south.’

In the West itself, there has also been much recent thinking on the inequalities and injustices of the contemporary world context, seen from the ‘northern’ or ‘eurocentric’ perspective as ‘globalization.’ Some of this thinking has resulted in the resurgence of the historic notions of cosmopolitanism, world-citizenship and world-belonging which, like Freire, emphasize the notion of interconnectedness.

Given that much of this thinking has originated in the euro-centric global north (seen from the global south as still implicated in a dominant position of the history of colonization), the tendency is to emphasize normativity, participative democracy and universality and to guarantee certain predictability in global intercultural encounters. However, given that such concepts presuppose the eradication of difference, and given that the value attributed to different differences is never equal—some may be more audible, visible and comprehensible than others—the issue at stake is who decides who can and should participate in the discussion and in the creation of the norms. Here it is important to remember that a norm arises from, and is a selection made from a plurality of phenomena which are non-norms.

The tendency for normativity may thus ironically be seen from the perspective of the global south as one more attempt at exclusion. The work of Akira Kurosawa, calling for a cosmopolitanism from below points in this direction, as does the work of Boaventura de Sousa Santos who calls for an ecology of knowledges and an end to the lazy reasoning and epistemicide that permeates proposals of normativity. Kwame Anthony Appiah, while emphasizing that cosmopolitanism seeks interconnectedness, mutual respect and responsibility, says that one should also be able to disagree and express discontent at behaviours or values of one’s co-world citizens. How this would avoid stronger world citizens from normatively imposing their values ← ix | x → in such moments of dissensus is unfortunately, but significantly (given Appiah’s location and audience in the global north), not clear.

In this complex international scenario of coloniality and cosmopolitanisms, the role of international education and the educator will necessarily also be complex. Such a complexity is the object of analysis of Paul Tarc’s important book, in which expectations for an uncritical, ready-made, educational package are substituted for a mapping of the complexities and aporias of the scenario with their attendant pedagogical implications. Tarc’s option for the use of cosmopolitan is self-critical and self-conscious and is a wise pragmatic choice given that the book seeks to speak to an international educational audience, who may be already familiar with the term, but not necessarily familiar with its complexities and possible educational pitfalls.

Especially refreshing is Tarc’s insistence on the use of the term literacy in the critical sense that Freire had conceived of, relating the word and the world; if Freire spent much of his energy on the education for what he called cultural liberty, this book is an important contribution towards the cultural liberty of those educators both in the global north or global south. It is a call to disentangle ourselves from the categories we have inherited and to open our eyes to the world of difference that makes a world a world.

Lynn Mario Menezes de Souza

Universidade de São Paulo ← x | xi →


Works cited

Appiah, K. A. (2008). In A. Taylor, The Examined Life, National Film Board of Canada, Zeitgeist films.

de Souza, L. M. M. (2011). Engaging the global by resituating the local: (Dis)locating the literate global subject and his view from nowhere. In V. Andreotti & L. M. M. de Souza (Eds.), Postcolonial perspectives on global citizenship education (pp. 68–83). London: Routledge.


XXIII, 132
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2011 (August)
subject formation experience intercultural learning cosmopolitan literacy Learning Subject formation Intercultural experience Cosmopolitan literacy
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2013. 132 pp., ill.

Biographical notes

Paul Tarc (Author)

Paul Tarc received his PhD in culture, language, and teaching at York University, Toronto. He is Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Education at Western University in London, Ontario. His publications include Global Dreams, Enduring Tensions: International Baccalaureate in a Changing World (Peter Lang, 2009) and a chapter in Postcolonial Perspectives on Global Citizenship Education (2011).


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160 pages