Factfulness and Future International Student Mobility
I recently read an article about Bill Gates making a gift of the book Factfulness to every graduating senior from U.S. colleges and universities in 2018. My curiosity was peeked. I bought and read the book.
Factfulness by Dr. Hans Rosling, founder of the Gapminder Foundation in Sweden, is based on 18 years of research. The book did indeed, as the jacket cover promised, change my mind about the way I perceive the world and how I will conduct research and write articles in the future. Dr. Rosling wrote the book to fight what he calls devastating global ignorance and to present data and statistics to challenge prevailing perceptions.
What relevance could such a book have for those of you reading this article who publish, conduct research or are responsible for creating international strategic plans and recruiting and enrolling international students? In the opening chapters of Factfulness the author states emphatically that the one thing we cannot do without is international collaborations. That certainly has relevance in your day-to-day work. The author further states that the most important thing we can do to avoid misjudging something’s importance is to avoid lonely numbers, or using a single statistic to make a point. That certainly has relevance when planning future internationalizing programs or future recruitment. He urges readers never to leave a statistic by itself. For example, there is abundant data to suggest that in addition to Asia, a significant opportunity to recruit international students in the future lies in Africa. One set if statistics may discourage international deans and recruiters from recruiting in Africa based on the perception that most people in Africa are living below the poverty line and wars and droughts have rendered many African countries unsuitable for recruitment. But another set of statistics reveal that in a continent of 54 countries and one billion people, half of all Africans are living middle class lives. Most have cell phones and statistics on the number of African students enrolled in online courses is staggering.
There is abundant data in this book to prove that most of the world’s population lives in Asia. The United Nations forecasts that 20 years from now Asia and Africa will be at the center of gravity and world markets will shift from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Many profitable investments will no longer be made in western capitals but in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa. That information surely has relevance to international recruiters and deans. Taking the long view means planning beyond next year’s incoming class of international students. It means challenging perceptions.
There will be, I believe, some nasty enrollment surprises in the fall term. There will also be some pleasant surprises. One thing for certain is that there will be changes in why and where international students enroll. Shifts have has already occurred.
Big change is always difficult to imagine. But instead of fearing change, international deans and recruiters should prudently use data to better understand the world’s globalized markets. As Dr. Rosling makes clear in his book globalization is not a one-off. It is a continuous process. He urges readers to develop a fact-based worldview and base future decisions on the facts.
After reading this book I thought that it should be given to all incoming first year students in September. As the book’s introduction states: if you are ready for critical thinking to replace instinctive reaction, if you are feeling humble, curious, and ready to be amazed, this is the book for you.