Not As Advertised – Issues with International Education in Australia

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International Education, and the issues that plague International Students who immigrate to Australia is foreign to me. As a freshman who transitioned seamlessly from a local High School to a local University, I’ve yet to personally understand the hardships students who travel from overseas face.

International Students without an English-speaking background have to deal firstly with language barriers,followed by interaction on a daily basis with new people in a new country with a vastly different way of life, coupled with local slang and an agitating accent.

Australians tend to hold an ethnocentric, parochial view of the world, where our view of the world is significantly limited to events and situations which occur locally. This attitude directly translates to the intercultural relationship between International Students and local Australian students within universities, the idea of being more superior and ‘knowing what’s best’ permeates through these interactions, which could present misunderstanding and alienation within the local community.

“A number of studies suggest that many international students prior to coming to Australia have spent many years learning to speak English and thus enter the country unaware of the extent to which local accents, fast speech and Australian colloquialisms are going to reduce their ability to speak and understand English in Australia.” (Kell & Vogl Pg. 3)

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The language barrier is first and foremost a significant issue which alienates International Students from interaction with people within Australian universities, and the local community as a whole. The miscommunication involved is due to lack of experience specifically with speaking and listening skills. Many International Students from varying countries have been studying English since junior High School, however the issue lies with this education emphasizing an importance with reading and writing , with a lack of attention to enunciation and spoken English.

“In my country most people learn to read and write in English but spoken English is not important (China).” (Kell & Vogl Pg.4)

There is a relationship between social interaction and proficiency in speaking the English language. Through being comfortable understanding local Australians and the Australian accent, and by being competent with listening and speaking English allows an International Student to move forward with social and further, cultural adaption through interaction.

However, alienation and separation from the local community can lead to barriers in personal growth – many International Students come to Australia lacking people close to them, the absence of immediate family and close friends of whom there are close affective ties. This further influences a student’s conceptual understanding of identity, whereby they cannot attain a strong sense of belonging and present dynamic cultural and social change.

“International Education is…an experience which could enrich lives, where 80% of our students are from Asia – which is becoming the gravitational center of the world.” (Marginson Pg. 1)

Marginson emphasizes the importance for International Students to develop social and cultural ties with fellow peers within the University, as local students are unlikely to encourage social interaction  between foreign students. It is possible that these interactions could reinforce language proficiency – and further develop communicative competence.

References:

Kell, P & Vogl, G, 2007, ‘ International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes, Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, Pp 1-10.

Marginson, S, 2012, International education as self -formation, University of Wollongong, Pp 1 – 11.

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