Educating for Export: Producing Filipino Migrant Workers for the Global Market

Date of Award

June 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Prema A. Kurien


globalization, higher education, migration, neoliberalism, Philippines, work

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Largely ignored within the education literature is how a growing number of developing nations actively educate workers for overseas markets in order to maximize their future monetary remittances. By using emigration as a development strategy, these nations enforce a paradoxical application of human capital logic, where local institutions educate students to become productive workers for other countries. This project then investigates what happens when colleges and universities produce human capital for “export,” and global labor demands shape academic priorities in local classrooms. Locating my study in the Philippines, one of the largest labor-exporting nations in the world, this project examines how colleges and universities are embedded within a commodity chain of migrant labor, where developing nations fill the human capital needs of wealthier nations higher up the chain. I also demonstrate how human capital discourse reinforces this production process, creating an assumed relationship among academic credentials, overseas opportunity, and future migrant remittances. This project is based on participant observation in two Philippine universities, and interviews with Filipino educators, students, and school administrators. Findings indicate that attempts to produce migrant workers undermine the job security of college instructors, skew local curriculum towards foreign requirements, and challenge efforts to develop academic programs in line with local needs.


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