We need to open up!

It’s no secret that substandard treatment and recognition of international persons who come to Australian shores today is a prevalent issue, and this has had detrimental effects on perceptions of Australian morals and values across the border. The issue of internationalising education and cultural competence within Australia is one that must be improved if we are to repair this image, and with its amelioration comes a more enjoyable and enriched experience for our overseas population.

“Education is more than a profit making business, it is an educational and social experience with immense potential to enrich lives… if international education is to continue to succeed as a business in this country, the student experience must keep improving as an intercultural encounter” (Marginson, 2012).

To me, this is a serious matter of equity and student wellbeing, and here I agree with Marginson that the route to rectification lies with strengthening the relationships between Australian and international students to create a sense of social security and produce educational value for both parties. It has interestingly also become apparent that the majority of international students strive to achieve better relations with local students in schools and universities, however recent studies have revealed that this desire is generally not mutually shared (Vogl and Kell, 2011).

But why is this the case? Why is intercultural mingling and ethnic division a choice?

The answer is not entirely clear, however it may have something to do with the strong element of pride and patriotism that has uninvitedly overwhelmed the Australian population. Ethnocentrism is based on the attitude that one particular social group is superior to another; a concept that has been strongly associated with Aussie citizens who are supposedly “trapped within an Australian-centred view of a diverse and complex world” (Marginson, 2012: 2).

I do believe that this attitude is sculpted by our cultural background which creates an element of parochialism – a lack of media exposure and access to communication channels resulting in a limited knowledge about other cultures. I can’t help but wonder if the media channels that we do receive our information from accurately educate and inform us about happenings in the world. Nonetheless, this less than openminded attitude may play a role in hindering the process of internationalising education and cultural competence, as being a college student myself, I am constantly bombarded with pessimistic chit-chat regarding clashes in personality, lifestyle and interests from my fellow local Aussies about their international flatmates.

“All he talks about is his expensive cars! You’re not in Dubai anymore mate.”

“Can’t believe she doesn’t like the food here… I can’t see how the U.S. could do any better…”

Ethnocentrism and parochialism, even in mild forms such as this, results in a deprivation of educational opportunity.

We need to open up.

Broadening our awareness of these differentiations across nations is the key to an improved cultural competence. In return for an enriched Australian experience for our international students, the increased interaction we offer will develop our communication skills and widen the scope of our knowledge that we may not have access to in the global media.

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References:

  • Kell, P & Vogl, G. International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes, Centre for Research on Social Inclusion (2007).
  • Marginson, S. International education as self -formation (2012). University of Wollongong, Pp 1 – 11.
  • Mounsey, S. Ethnocentrism and Attitudes to Cultural Diversity and Immigration: A Review ; Ethnocentrism and Attitudes to Cultural Diversity and Immigration in Western Australia (2007). [online]. Available at: http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses_hons/1145 (Accessed 12 August 2017).

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