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South African Journal of Education

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Neo-liberalism and the human rights creed: Conflicting forces vying for control of the global education agenda

Charl Wolhuter, J.L. (Hannes) van der Walt

Abstract


The aim of this article is to explicate and critically assess the roles and impact of the two major societal forces currently driving the global education expansion project, namely the neoliberal economic revolution and the creed of human rights. The article provides a framework for the collection of articles following in this special issue in that it focuses on aspects of education (both as praxis and as field of scholarly pursuit) as it is being impacted by the neoliberal economic revolution. It discusses the societal antecedents and the main tenets of this revolution and then does the same with respect to the impact of the creed of human rights. Special attention is devoted to how these two forces have been affecting the global education expansion project. The examination reveals that these two forces tend to be in opposition to each other in that they pursue quite different and occasionally conflicting agendas. A number of caveats need to be kept in mind if the global education project is to succeed in combining the advantages of both. It is also suggested that policymakers harness these two forces in tandem in countering the rising spectre of post-truth. The rest of the contributions to this special issue should be read against the backdrop of this critical interrogation of the two major forces that have been shaping twenty-first-century education.

Keywords: education; human rights; information and technology revolution; neoliberal economic revolution; post-truth; twenty-first century




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