In the context of technology education, forms of rationalism could be explicated in a number of ways. During colonial times in colonized countries, the modernist approach could be characterized by the representation of technology education as modern woodwork and metalwork, regardless of significant indigenous technologies related to construction (thatch and mud brick), hunting, food preservation, or appropriate agricultural technologies. This type of rationalist approach was clearly related to notions of progress and the determination of a single path toward what was clearly a Western conception of progress, which had resulted in the superiority of the “north” (Ullrich, 1993). To this end, the imposed technologies represented antidemocratic forces and were utilized to embed power with the colonizers; the form of technological literacy was entirely inappropriate and had the effect of inhibiting democratic development rather than promoting it.
The emergence of rationalist knowledge as an aspect of globalization (Castells, 1998) clashes with the developing postmodern notion of cultural respect and regional independence. As a counterpoint to this force, Van Wyk
(2002) proposes indigenous (technological) knowledge systems (IKS) as a framework within which diverse learners may construct knowledge from multiple perspectives that are meaningful to them. Van Wyk presents IKS as a critical framework, rather than a term with definitive meaning, that seeks to be inclusive and transformative. It is significant that this way of thinking about knowledge frameworks emanates from a South Africa that is struggling to develop relevant and democratic forms of knowledge in response to many years in which technologies (and technology education) were weapons in the armory of totalitarian apartheid. This focus is supported by Keirl (2003) in his call for technology education to adopt a critical and creational approach to knowledge development, placing students at the center of learning and so providing the opportunity to refute what is perceived to be the undesirable aspects of globalization.
A continuing phenomenon that may seem inconsistent in a postmodern international education environment is the existence of international curriculum organizations, which, by their very role, imply that there is a universal curriculum applicable to all regardless of national or regional culture or history. International curricula are in some ways the educational equivalent of multinational globalization through their ignorance of the local and the homogenization of cultural values.
As Schostak (2000, p. 48) argued, “there can be no grand narrative concerning what is good for all. Standardization to create the curriculum is patently absurd in a context of change that is so fast, so diverse, and so technologically and culturally creative.” A global curriculum would seem to align more with a colonial than a postmodern environment through the promotion of totalizing forms of Western knowledge. Even worse (author’s bias) is that the recipients pay a significant amount of money for the curriculum, often from a national or school budget, which is invariably stretched. Those who can afford the significant costs of adopting an internationally recognized curriculum are often those who least need it as a tool of development and an entree into international educational equivalence.
However, the adoption of an international curriculum is rapidly increasing around the globe. The International Baccalaureate is expanding at the rate of about 14 percent annually. The main reasons for this are directly related to globalization. The forces of globalization encourage the acquisition of educational qualifications that are internationally acceptable. Allied with this is a developing mistrust of locally developed educational curricula, particularly in the United States. These forces conspire against both a postmodern critique of global developments and a valuing of local culture.