The export of education refers to when educational content, expertise, data, methodologies, curriculum are produced and sold to overseas markets.
It also refers to when workers in education ply their trade globally or when the edupreneurs open campuses worldwide and university administrators selling their curriculum overseas.
Yes, that’s right, if you get the curriculum right, you can export it! Welcome to the age of intellectual property as the new oil. Education is now a traded commodity.
In my previous article, I have highlighted how Malaysia uses the education hub as a revenue generator. Now, let’s take a look at it from a global perspective.
After Malaysia ‘gained a new power’ in the form of Tun Dr Mahathir, Joseph Stiglitz was invited to speak at a conference. Because of his educational content (read: knowledge, research, his views are sought after. This means that he can make a living as a consultant.
Joseph Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize winner. He is a Chief Economist at the World Bank and he is also part of Britain’s Labour Party Economic Advisory CommitteeAn American advising the British! This definitely brings us to another level of thinking altogether.
The new form of colonisation (to create and extract wealth) is in the form of education as a commodity in the 21st century. Those that produce and export their education system, values, methodologies do not only increase their incomes (and everyone in their local supply chain) but also have the chance to influence ways of thinking at a global level. Consider this – the framework of the mind is at the mercy of educational exports.
But this article is not about colonisation, it is about how education exports bring benefits to individuals in the international education ecosystem and more. According to ICEF, for Australia – “The economic impact of international education increased by 22% in 2017 to reach AUS$32.2 billion” and it is up there with iron ore and coal in the top 3 export materials.
Notice that education is a service export and not goods.
This brings us to our first point.
International education business expands in this age of globalization.
In my previous article, we focused on locals who open colleges and welcome the world to their establishment. Now, college owners who operate profitably in their home country can expand overseas.
For example, Nottingham University opened a branch in Selangor, Malaysia. Nottingham University Malaysia campus is a symptom of a larger phenomenon which is not just physical campuses are “exported” but the content is also exported. This is because the degree content is comparable or same as what the students learn in Nottingham University UK campus.
This paradigm extends into K-12 education. For example, take A-levels and the International Baccalaureate® program. In Malaysia, there are many international schools such as Alice Smith, Garden International School, Mont Kiara International School, Nexus International School Putrajaya which offers A-levels, American High School Diploma or International Baccalaureate® Diploma.
The cost runs into thousands of Malaysian Ringgit per year for one student which brings revenue to local education groups. More importantly, locals and children of expats will have no problem getting globally recognized qualifications to further their studies or start a career.
So, in the long term, economic growth is more sustainable and dynamic. Did you know the alumni events that these international schools host bring together many successful professionals and entrepreneurs from all over the world?
It is not just about business, it is also about a lifelong global friendship.
When I said “sustainable economic growth”, what I meant is a set of skills as a foundation to create value such as the ability to write a 4,000-word extended essay on a thoroughly researched topic as well the tenacity nurtured by the rigorous examination of the A-levels.
I am also referring to the skill of project-based work encultured by the American high school curriculum which focuses on assignments and only 20% final exams in some cases. In American math class, students are required to provide proof of mathematical concepts – ie; Q.E.D (quod erat demonstrandum). In some countries’ math curriculum, this level of inquiry-based learning is not explored.
The ability to write, undertake project management, as well as intense learning or cramming for exams are important life skills and transferable to the workplace.
It seems that, after all, not everything we learn in school is useless.
If not the knowledge, those skills mentioned come in handy.
Anyway, let’s go into a different angle of exports. I would like to highlight the concept of exporting education methodologies.
Exporting education methodologies 
The Americans export their education curriculum partly through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) whereby international schools operating in foreign countries seek accreditation from this association. This means schools with WASC accreditation can get into prestigious colleges worldwide more easily.

In the International School of Myanmar that adopts the American curriculum, a computer class at high school level grades 9-12, Adobe Photoshop is taught using a mixture of theory and practical. Held in a computer lab, the class teaches students to create business cards, flyers of events. 
This teaching methodology of letting students explore the software on their own initiative guided by assessment criteria that measure originality and proficiency means students can learn to be independent all the while exploring their creative sides.
Twinning programmes: an economic enabler for the individual
Twinning programmes at degree level are good opportunities for students from developing countries like Malaysia to experience the world throughout the course of their studies. Students from ASEAN get to study world-class courses at the Asia School of Business (ASB, in collaboration with MIT Sloan and the Central Bank of Malaysia)

The Bank Negara Malaysia or BNM had Zeti Aziz as its Governor who was one of the best central bankers in the world. Significantly, the MIT Sloan has excellent supply chain programs. In their website, MIT stated that – “The scope and impact of MIT’s entrepreneurial ecosystem are enormous. A 2015 study underscores the substantial economic impact of the Institute’s alumni entrepreneurs, whose companies have created millions of jobs and generate annual revenues of nearly $2 trillion…

The bright of ASEAN can study alongside the best faculty members money can get (at a fraction of the cost studying in the US, due to at least the foreign exchange). More importantly, the individual who graduates from ASB has access to MIT’s alumni network. The methodology used will train the skills of ASB graduates to be on par or as good as MIT’s alumni from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Harvard is famous for using case studies whereas MIT is famous for its many alumni becoming founders of successful startups. For example, have you heard of DuckDuckGo, a search engine that is growing and aiming to rival Google? Founder, Weinberg was from MIT. One billion searches and counting!
Did you know, positioning MIT and in consequence ASB apart is Action Learning method to teaching in which the school leverages on their corporate sector links to put theory and learning into action? Theories are tested into the real corporate world with real-world business impacts.
So watch out Harvard, case studies are out! Action learning? In.
All these good education sounds expensive and I am not going to waste time debating between public education and private education.
But, what do I mean when I say:
Good education is private
Private education is good in certain sectors. Certain segments of societies benefit and in fact, need private education. The contents are more unique, more experimental.
In Yangon, there is the International School of Yangon where film and theatre class is offered. Imagine young ASEAN leaders are taught basic skills of filmmaking which they can pursue seriously at the university level or use general video making skills to create a video presentation for either personal use or corporate use.
In government schools, due to the lack of power delegation at the local level, such classes cannot simply be offered. Use of public funds means deliberation is thorough and can be slow which is good for accountability but not necessarily good for innovative offerings. The economy of the future is the digital economy.
In fact, digital is now. Look at Netflix in the United States or iFlix in Malaysia, video streaming subscription service is all online. These platforms require content. The supply of talent flows from private schools to colleges and finally to the industry.
A much more clear picture of where the private sector plays a role in providing unique course offerings is Management and Science University (MSU) in Malaysia. This college offers computer forensics course. It is specialized and niche. To expect public colleges to offer a course for such a specific market is asking too much, perhaps. It is much more efficient to outsource this public need to the private sector. Smart College in Malaysia has digital forensics courses. Useful for cybersecurity, a relatively new industry.
From a local university point of view, import is a good thing…
This may seem counter-intuitive but it is not! Let’s take a look at Malaysia University of Science & Technology (MUST). Just like UiTM works with ACCA to deliver good accounting qualification, MUST delivers good supply chain courses in Malaysia. It forges a niche in Logistics Management with the help of The Kühne Foundation which was founded in Switzerland in 1976.
Local university, world-class standards.
When we think of exports, we used to think of oil or cars being exported overseas. This is because if we live in the US, we can see Toyota cars on the road. If we live in Malaysia, we can see Ford cars on the road.
However, what we miss to see is human capital going global. In these halls and classrooms, international professors reign; expertise is being commoditized. In online courses in Coursera, content is consumed, worldwide. We also have Youtube (for learning, teaching).
Furthermore, we believe that while public education is great for access and nation-building purpose, private education has its place to provide unique solutions to niche needs of society and acts as a wealth creation engine both in short-term and long-term.


References1. Malaysia University of Science & Technology (MUST)

2. “Australia’s international education exports grew by 22% in 2017”

3. “HM Government. Industrial Strategy: government and industry in partnership”

4. “Exporting Education”

5. “The importance of exporting education to other countries”