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Keynotes: CIT 1998

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Global Education in the 21st Century:
Competition and Being Future Compatible

Diana Oblinger, Academic Program Manager, IBM Corporation
[The following is an abstract of the keynote address given by Diana Oblinger at the Closing General Session of the 1998 Conference on Information Technology in Miami Beach, November 4,1998]

The points I hope you will remember when you leave here to return home are that:
Technology has changed the way we live, work, and educate. It has created a networked world and a global community. As a result, people need lifelong skills but many providers will compete for that market;
Our ability to learn 21st century skills—as individuals and as institutions—will determine how competitive we are in the future; and
Only by returning again and again to the philosophies of a Learning College will we be able to provide what our communities need.

Having spent time with different institutions and working with educators in other parts of the world, I’m constantly reminded that our perceptions often reflect a particular outlook on the world. That outlook does not necessarily represent reality. In fact, we know that nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.

How close are our perceptions to what is happening in the world? The truth is that most of us grew up with a very "U.S.-centric" view of the world. We put a man on the moon. The U.S. is the most affluent and most productive country on the face of the earth. Certainly we have much to be proud of. However, the global landscape has changed.

Since World War II the U.S. dominance of the world economy has been shifting:
Since WW II the U.S. economy has fallen from 40% of the world's output to 22%.
One in 5 of the largest companies are quartered outside the U.S., Japan, Germany, France and the U.K.
95% of the world's consumers live outside the U.S.
Economic growth is more rapid outside the U.S.

It is significant that 95% of the world’s consumers live someplace other than the U.S. One-third of U.S. economic growth depends on exports. That means that even if our economy is healthy, if things are not going well elsewhere in the world it can affect us. A case in point is the recent Asian economic crisis and its spread to Russia and Latin America.

There are many ways to measure dominance in the global economy. We can look at the location of leading companies in any number of industries and discover an interesting trend:
In 1970, 55% of the largest companies were in the U.S.; today it is 31%.
Of the 18 largest chemical companies, only 3 call the U.S. home.
Of the 64 largest commercial banks, only 9 are U.S. based.
Of the 11 largest food companies, only 5 are in the U.S.
Of the 26 largest motor vehicle & parts manufacturers, only 6 are in the U.S.

The point is that by any number of measures, U.S. dominance in the world market has eroded.

And what does the future hold? Part of the answer depends on demographics. We are witnessing the "graying" of America. The same is true of Western Europe. We are getting older. And, with each passing year, we represent a smaller and smaller proportion of the world’s population.

So, even though we have been enjoying a booming U.S. economy and we should be proud of many, many things, it is not time to become complacent. As Kay McClenney reminds us,

"The millennium is upon us.
We have the opportunity to use it not for summing up, but as a summons."

If we look around ourselves, we may receive that summons. In the world of global education, for example, we see a number of powerful trends:
Some institutions are expanding rapidly;
There is strong growth in proprietary and for-profit education;
Learners are becoming more selective;
Economic development is linked to government and business interest in education; and
The development of skill standards is underway.

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