Education as Self-Formation – Questioning our cultural competence

Australia has a responsibility to protect the human rights of everyone in the country, which includes international students. This responsibility comes from a number of international human rights treaties that Australia has agreed to uphold.

A 2012 publication by the Australian Human Rights Commission reveals that under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1966, Australia has an obligation to safeguard the human rights of all people in the country, without discrimination on the basis of a person’s race or ethnic or national origin.

So why, then, is it widely reported that prospective and current international students often feel a sense of disconnection and discrimination?

This video, demonstrates that this lack of connection to the Australian culture does exist and IS detrimental. Although I can appreciate the message within this video, I struggle with its narrow focus only offering support services for those affected however not recognising that the problem does not exist on its own and is more likely perpetuated by the attitudes of some Australians.

The reading by Kell & Vogl suggests that while academic success can have a huge bearing on a students confidence in their choice of country however social and cultural adjustment can be important factors that lead to this academic success. The reading offers up many examples from international students personal experiences; “I recognised one lady, myself I come from Indonesia and I asked her do you know about Indonesia and she said “I don’t know Indonesia. And I asked her again about Bali and she said “I have been there six times”. But she did not know about Indonesia.”

While it’s important to recognise that these experiences aren’t reflective of all, there are a number of explanations offered up as to why international students might get a negative impression or feel like Australian’s “don’t want to know” them. I found the most salient point to emerge from this research suggests that “there is an interconnection between English language proficiency and social interaction.”

The reading ‘Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience; International education as self-formation’ by Marginson parallels these ideas but notes that Australian’s are often close minded on the issue, he states that we are “trapped within an Australia-centred view of a diverse and complex world”. He suggests that while it is international education in Australia is widely accessible certain patterns of behaviour are an impasse we are unable to completely breakthrough. Marginson explores on the idea of a superiority complex among local students. He goes on to suggest that these behaviours could ultimately be linked to an assumption is that the particular international student has chosen this institution over one in their home country because this country is better. To believe that this is exclusively the case, only contributes to the disconnection of international students on a cross-cultural level.

He summarises this by stating that international students choose “They choose who they become. And they have chosen to have this choice. Interviews suggest that many international students cross borders to become different. They want to change themselves in the country of education.”

A prominent case study of international student experiences is the series of attacks on Indian students in Australia, spanning from 2009 with the latest attack being late last year. An article by the New Indian Express demonstrates that even today, there exists still an outrage in both communities over the attacks. An ABC article reporting an update on the attack that occurred last year includes a statement from Darebin councillor Tim Singh Laurence who says there isn’t a system of support for international students when these events occur.

“I know from my work as a counsellor that there isn’t enough support for victims of crime,” he said.

“But when you are an international student, you don’t have access to the welfare system, you’re doubly disadvantaged.”

“There needs to be some proper case management put in place in the international student sector and experienced social workers working there.”

Click to access international_students_principles.pdf


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