Globalization has increased economic competition within and between countries and the world’s regions. Economic competitiveness is commonly seen as a valid index for judging a country’s level of economic prosperity. Many recent large-scale education reforms have been justified by the urgent need to increase labor productivity and promote economic development and growth through expanded and improved education. It is generally assumed that to increase economic competitiveness, citizens must acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for civic success and the knowledge-based economy. This article argues that what schools are expected to do in order to promote economic competitiveness often contradicts commonly accepted global education reform thinking. Experience in many countries indicates that increased standardization of teaching and learning, for example, may be counterproductive to the expectations of enhanced economic competitiveness. The conclusion is that rather than competition between education systems, schools and students, what is needed is networking, deeper co-operation and open sharing of ideas at all levels if the role of education in economic competitiveness is to be strengthened. The key features of education reform policies that are com- patible with competitiveness are those that encourage flexibility in education systems, creativity in schools and risk-taking without fear on the part of individuals.
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