Introduction: the world and the teacher - prospects and challenges for teacher education in the age of globalization from a cosmopolitan perspective

Klas Roth, Marianna Papastephanou
Introduction: the world and the teacher—prospects and challenges for teacher education in the age of globalization from a cosmopolitan perspective

Introduction: the world and the teacher—prospects and challenges for teacher education in the age of globalization from a cosmopolitan perspective

Klas Roth1* and Marianna Papastephanou2

1Department of Education, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; 2Department of Education, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus

Published: 16 January 2013

*Correspondence to: Klas Roth, Department of Education, Stockholm University, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden. Email:

© 2012 K. Roth and M. Papastephanou. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License (, permitting all non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Citation: Ethics & Global Politics, Vol. 5, No. 4, 2012, pp. 187–192.


In the age of globalization, policy texts in, inter alia, the European Union emphasize the value and importance of enabling human beings to render themselves not merely flexible, movable, employable, and competitive as citizens on the market in knowledge-based societies, but also loyal and morally committed to European Union citizenship through education.1 It has also become common to stress—for example, in policy texts issued by the United Nation and OECD—the importance of enabling human beings to cultivate their creative capacity through education in order to promote economic growth in the world.2 However, these policy texts do not necessarily emphasize the need and value of enabling students to become cosmopolitan citizens in, inter alia, moral educational terms. On the contrary, there is a lack of focus on responding responsibly to the challenges we face in terms of globalization from a cosmopolitan perspective. The response to globalization in policy texts is, or at least seems to be, to educate people chiefly for the job market, promoting economic growth and creating the conditions for education, including teacher education, so that students render themselves efficacious, flexible, movable and creative on the job market within policy defined territories. However, how students should be educated as cosmopolitan beings on earth in imaginative, reflective, critical and moral terms in societies at large is not clear.

Moreover, standardization, testing, and evaluation as ‘a new global educational orthodoxy’3 seem to reinforce the ideas and values expressed in policy texts, and to underpin competition not only between nation-states, but also among students within nation-states. Examples of such normalizing tendencies include PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), which operate in addition to the standardization, testing and evaluations of education that take place within nation-states. The idea seems to be that competition itself ‘will improve the quality of education, as it has vitalized corporations in market economies.’4 However, even though it is important to continuously attune the relationship between education and the job market (for reasons mentioned below), it is equally important to acknowledge that the suggested connection between competition and improved quality of education is not necessarily true or correct. There is, for instance, no necessary causal relationship between competition and quality—empirical relationships are always contingent. Instead, the suggested connection is more likely an expression of an ideal or a political vision, one that emphasizes the need and value of making the relationship between education and the job market stronger.

Also, we think that the relationship between education and changes in the job market needs to be acknowledged and adjusted accordingly and continuously. When the character of the work, for example, changes from agriculture to industry production and to the knowledge-based society, then education has to be attuned to such changes. In other words: changes in the job market and education have to be negotiated mutually and consistently. However, the lack of focus on cosmopolitan ideas and values in policy texts can have serious effects on students in education. For example, students may not be enabled to cultivate their moral character so that they come to respect each other as ends in themselves, but rather will come to see each other as means to some further end such as becoming loyal and morally committed to members of, inter alia, nation-states or specific groups within them. Here, it is important to point out that education is, as Immanuel Kant once remarked, perhaps one of our greatest challenges, not merely because it can enable students to cultivate their abilities to use objects and each other for the fulfilment of specific ends, which can be perfectly acceptable, but also because it should enable students to cultivate themselves as moral beings, that is, as beings who ‘use humanity, whether in [their] own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means.’5 This point is important for two reasons. First, it suggests that important values connected to education not only have to be acknowledged in relation to the job market, but also in relation to human beings and societies in general. Second, it also suggests that as human beings, we should not merely cultivate our capacities to use objects or others as means to some further end, for example, as means for promoting merely economic growth, but always also as ends-in-themselves, that is, as rational beings with the capacity to set their own ends, to acknowledge them, reflect upon them together with others, and possibly change them, whenever needed, in education, the job market and society in general.

At this juncture, we may have to tackle the challenge that Ulrich Beck's perspective on cosmopolitanism raises for educational theory. Beck argues that our societies have become cosmopolitanized, and that ‘the conditio humana cannot [merely] be understood nationally or locally’6 but also globally. That is, the social and political conditions nowadays of human beings in many places throughout the world undergo changes. These changes in life-forms transform ‘everyday consciousness and identities significantly.’7 Beck continues: ‘Issues of global concern are becoming part of the everyday local experiences and the ‘moral life-worlds’ of the people’8 around the world. Social, economic and political changes and challenges do not merely create opportunities for us to think differently about others, about our loyalties and moral commitments, but also about the future possibilities for human beings to cultivate not merely their technical, pragmatic and social skills, but also their moral capacity on our planet with limited resources. In this sense, the authors of this special issue9 are inclined to agree with Beck, who powerfully demonstrates the limitations of the national perspective. The latter ‘excludes [according to Beck] the otherness of the other’;10 against it, Beck sets the pursuit of a cosmopolitan perspective as an ‘alternative imagination, an imagination of alternative ways of life and rationalities, which include the otherness of the other.’11 He continues: ‘It puts the negotiation of contradictory cultural experiences into the centre of activities: in the political, the economic, the scientific, and the social’,12 and, as we would like to add—the moral life of human beings.

However, the relationship of cosmopolitanism to teacher education in educational theory has not been mined adequately yet. We hope that the present special issue remedies this absence (for some notable exceptions, see however, Anthony Appiah,13 David Hansen,14 Nel Noddings,15 Marianna Papastephanou,16 Fazal Rizvi,17 Klas Roth and Nicholas C. Burbules,18 Torill Strand,19 Sharon Todd;20 they have discussed the issue of cosmopolitanism and from a philosophical—educational perspective, but not directly in relation to teacher education). In it, the contributors discuss and develop theoretical approaches to the value and importance of enabling students in teacher education, to aspire to become cosmopolitan beings; in other words, to be willing, and able, to respond responsibly to the challenges of globalization. Such a response also requires the reformulation of policy texts and due attention to the necessity and value of cosmopolitanism in moral terms. Hence, beyond merely rendering people efficacious, we must also assist people to consider the possibility of becoming autonomous cosmopolitan beings in, inter alia, imaginative, critical, reflective and moral terms, or so it is argued throughout the papers in this issue. Such re-direction also requires that institutions are reconstructed, and that education enable students to think for themselves and from the viewpoint of the other, and that students themselves take responsibility to engage in such activities continuously. Moreover, it requires that teacher education focuses not merely on the interests within the nation-state, but also on the challenges we face in the age of globalization.

We have argued here that education and in particular teacher education faces dramatic challenges and that we need to think differently about not merely our social and political conditions but also about our moral life and use of, inter alia, our imaginative capacity. However, there are social, cultural, political, moral and communicative conditions within nation-states that interfere with or support such an endeavour. We think that the papers in this special issue provide insightful, critical and constructive analyses of the above. The papers advance the value and importance of education and in particular teacher education in the age of globalization from a cosmopolitan perspective, and explore the conditions on which teacher education responds adequately to the challenges we face with regard to both.

Niclas Rönnström begins with apposite diagnoses of the present (a present fraught with conflicting and confounding new realities) to develop a critical account of teacher education reforms as responses to globalization. Teacher work is then viewed through Ulrich Beck's socio-theoretical methodological tool of reflexive modernization. Presupposing the tension between the globalized and the cosmopolitan, Rönnström promotes the critical turn from the mainly economic view on learning that privileges competitiveness to the kind of non-parochial and multi-dimensional notion of learning that can support a more cosmopolitan teacher education. For Rönnström, a cosmopolitan teacher education should cultivate moral sensitivity, dialogical capability and active citizenship—away from exclusive, regressive and reductive commitments to the economic sphere.

Claudia Schumann sets out from a highly critical outlook on the reifying effects of an elitist conception of cosmopolitanism to elaborate on the possibility of a third-generation Frankfurt School Critical Theory of cosmopolitan education. In her elegant approach, the notion of reification is put centre stage as a valuable tool for detecting those global pathologies that invite a new kind of cosmopolitan teacher education, one that redeems the critical core of cosmopolitan vision. Schumann proposes a cluster, or constellation, of pertinent notions whose non-reifying import may revitalize cosmopolitan discourse beyond established priorities. Such notions include forms of boundedness, relatedness and commitment, and are expected to enhance new forms of freedom within new modalities of world citizenship to be cultivated through a reformulated teacher education in cosmopolitan terms.

Matthew Hayden takes a different route to philosophical cosmopolitanism. Although he also identifies pernicious phenomena such as standardisation in education, rather than setting out from a critique of received views or of consolidated practices, he singles out a core of cosmopolitan ideality that consists of two constants, the idea of a common humanity and the kind of life that can be based on such an idea. A possible remedy to standardised global education and to the theoretical shortcomings that underpin it may come from an Arendtian account of the human condition and related concepts such as natality, the unexpected and creativity. Hayden's thoughtful employment of Arendtian philosophy strengthens the reception of the idea of shared humanity in teacher education and enlarges educational thought by introducing sensibilities capable of combating the devastating effects of a contemporary education that neglects plurality, action, growth and discovery.

Finally, Klas Roth's paper explores the possibility of a cosmopolitan teacher education along Kantian lines. Through rigorous and solid argumentation it is shown that the Kantian account of cosmopolitan citizenship is of utmost relevance to a more thoughtful and morally sensitive teacher education. Onto-anthropological parameters such as human inclination are also taken into consideration as possible obstacles to cosmopolitan progression and thus as challenges to be dealt with in an educationally consistent and responsible way. Roth's lucid and thorough response to such challenges is the cultivation of the students’ capacity to employ their reason in order to pursue the highest good as a moral end. Hence, if the aim of teacher education is to promote an ideal of a global community willing to pursue the highest good, what characteristics should this community have? In answering this question, Roth couples the educational task of preparing the cosmopolitan citizen with that of cultivating autonomous, free and critically thinking subjects.


1. Klas Roth, ‘Education for the Market and Democracy – An Indissoluble Tension? in The Possibility/Impossibility of a New Critical Language in Education, ed. Ilan Gur-Zeév (Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 2010), 333–49, and Klas, Roth K. ‘Freedom and Autonomy in Knowledge-based societies’, in Kant and Education – Interpretations and Commentary, ed. Klas Roth and Chris W. Surprenant. (New York: Routledge, 2012), 214–25.

2. See the Creative Economy Report, 2008 and 2010 published by the United Nations (the report from 2008 is retrieved from and the report from 2010 is retrieved from and The Creative Society of the 21st Century published by OECD (the report from OECD is retrieved from; see also M. A. Peters, S. Marginson and P. Murphy, eds., Creativity and the Global Knowledge Economy (New York: Peter Lang, 2009), and D. Araya and M. A. Peters, eds., Education in the Creative Economy (New York: Peter Lang, 2010) for discussions on this and similar topics.

3. Pasi Sahlberg, ‘Teaching and Globalization’, Managing Global Transitions 2, no. 1 (2004): 79.

4. Ibid., 67.

5. Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 4: 429.

6. Ulrich Beck, ‘The Cosmopolitan Society and its Enemies’, Theory, Culture & Society 19, no. 1–2, (2002): 17.

7. Ibid., 17.

8. Ibid., 17.

9. This special issue in Ethics & Global Politics is an outcome of the research project – ‘Teaching Students to Become Cosmopolitan Citizens?’ – founded by the Swedish Research Council. We have presented our results both at an international symposium held in van der Nootska Palace in Stockholm in collaboration with Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden, February 6, 2012 and at an international conference – ISSEI (the International Society for the Study of European Ideas) – held at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia, Cyprus, July 5, 2012. The papers were presented and discussed at both the symposium and the conference, and they were developed both in between the symposium and the workshop at the conference, and also after the conference in Cyprus. The title of the symposium in Stockholm and the workshop in Nicosia was: ‘The World and the Teacher – Prospects and Challenges for Teacher Education in an Age of Cosmopolitanization’. Professor Klas Roth organized the symposium in Stockholm, and he and Associate Professor Marianna Papastephanou organized the workshop in Nicosia. The conference in Nicosia was organized by ISSEI and it was their 13th international conference. The two co-chairs who organized the whole ISSEI conference in Nicosia were Marianna Papastephanou and Professor Ezra Talmor. The title of the ISSEI conference was: ‘The Ethical Challenge of Multidisciplinarity: Reconciling ‘The Three Narratives’ Art, Science, and Philosophy’, and it was held in between July 2–6, 2012. We are pleased to have been able to work together with the scholars participating in this special issue, and it was with great pleasure that we organized the two meetings mentioned above in which the participants could present and discuss their work and develop it in between and after. We thank the authors for their valuable contributions.

10. Ulrich Beck, ‘The Cosmopolitan Society and its Enemies’, 18.

11. Ibid., 18.

12. Ibid., 18.

13. Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (London: W. W. Norton, 2007).

14. David T. Hansen, The Teacher and The World: A Study of Cosmopolitanism as Education (New York, Routledge); the title of this special issue is inspired by Hansen's book. See also, David T. Hansen, ‘Cosmopolitanism and Education: A View From the Ground’, Teachers College Record 112, no. 1, (2010): 1–30; David T. Hansen, Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd, Christina Cammarano, Gonzalo Obelleiro, ‘Education, Values, and Valuing in Cosmopolitan Perspective’, Curriculum Inquiry 39, no. 5, (2009): 587–612, and David T. Hansen, ‘Curriculum and the Idea of a Cosmopolitan Inheritance’, Journal of Curriculum Studies 49, no. 3, (2008): 289–312.

15. Nel Noddings, Educating the Global Citizen (New York: Teachers College Press, 2005).

16. Marianna Papastephanou, Thinking Differently About Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Eccentricity, and a Globalized World (Boulder: Paradigm Press, 2012). Also: Marianna Papastephanou, ‘Globalization, Globalism and Cosmopolitanism as an Educational Ideal’, Educational Philosophy and Theory 37, no. 4, (2005): 533–51 and Marianna Papastephanou, ‘Hesiod the Cosmopolitan: Utopian and Dystopian Discourse and Ethico-Political Education’, Ethics and Education 3, no. 2, (2008): 89–105.

17. Fazal Rizvi, ‘Towards Cosmopolitan Learning’, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 30, no. 3, (2009): 253–68, and Fazal Rizvi, ‘Epistemic Virtues and Cosmopolitan Learning’, The Australian Educational Researcher 35, no. 1, (2008): 17–35.

18. Klas Roth and Nicholas C. Burbules, ‘Philosophical Perspectives on Cosmopolitanism and Education’, Educational Philosophy and Theory 43, no. 3, (2011), special issue; see also Klas Roth, ‘Education and a Progressive Orientation Towards a Cosmopolitan Society’, Ethics and Education 7, no. 1, (2012): 59–73.

19. Torill Strand, ‘Cosmopolitanism in the Making’, Studies in Philosophy and Education 29, no. 2, (2010), special issue.

20. Sharon Todd, Toward an Imperfect Education: Facing Humanity, rethinking cosmopolitanism (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2009); see also, Sharon Todd, ‘Living in a Dissonant World: Toward an Agonistic Cosmopolitics for Education’, Studies in Philosophy and Education 29, no. 2, (2010): 213–28.

About The Authors

Klas Roth


Marianna Papastephanou