Importance of Intercultural Education for International Students in Australia. 
International students represent a large economic and international relations investment for Australia. Australian universities are increasingly relying upon overseas students for their revenue, but these institutions are not adequately addressing the special learning, linguistic, cultural and religious needs of these students. Despite their Australian education, international students experience various difficulties in finding work in their field of study after they graduate. Poor English-language, communication and problem-solving skills are the biggest obstacles to securing ongoing and satisfying jobs. Employer biases regarding international students are equally a problem. Below, I is a summary of a longer research paper republished on my website.
Demographic Background
International students contribute $15.9 billion to Australia’s economy through tuition fees and living expenses.  International education has increased by 94 percent since 2004. This sector now represents the third-largest export industry for Australia, generating profits that are 50 percent larger than tourism-related travel.
The number of people entering Australia on student visas increased by 108 percent since 2002. Around 56 percent of all international higher education students were studying at the undergraduate level and 44 percent were postgraduates.
While the overall net international student population is at an all-time high, the proportion of international students in universities has dropped by 10 percent since the mid-2000s. This is due to a change of Australia’s immigration program, which is currently granting twice as many vocational training visas and a slightly smaller proportion of tertiary student visas than five years ago.
While most international students go into the tertiary sector, Chinese students do so in larger proportions (64%), while Indian students are nowadays more likely to go into vocational training (55%). Thai international students tend to undertake English-language courses (77%), while a significant minority of Malaysian students (14%) and Indonesians (12.5%) come to Australia to do postgraduate research.
Historically, migrants with university qualifications were more likely to qualify for permanent residency under the skilled migration program. Yet since Australia changed its immigration policies, international students in vocational courses are not necessarily gaining permanent residency.
Employment Outcomes
My analysis shows that the majority of these students are going into low-status vocational training courses that do not lead to permanent employment. International students in Australia are increasingly unable to find work that is meaningful, and so they are engaged in precarious, underpaid and menial jobs that do not suit their Australian qualifications. 
Engineering students, IT specialists, accountants, business majors, technicians and trades people who come from non-English-speaking majority countries are especially likely to have trouble finding work in their profession. Indian students and to a lesser extent Chinese students with accounting degrees have the greatest trouble finding work. 
Part of the issue is that Australian employers do not see international graduates as viable candidates, even when they have been educated in Australia. To some extent, surveys show that the English qualifications of a portion of international students is inadequate. This is no wonder, when international students come here to do a vocational course hoping to later transfer into university, but then find they are unable to do so. They start off attending cooking, hairdressing and accounting courses, and they get stuck. Taking vocational training in an expensive but poorly ranked course is unlikely to improve these students’ English skills. But not all international students lack English proficiency. The problem is more systemic.
Intercultural Education
Various studies show that international students are having trouble being accepted in Australia. They come here thinking they will be able to mingle with Australian students and learn more about Australian culture. They report feeling disappointed that Australian students do not make them feel welcome. This is especially the case amongst students who don’t have a strong command of English. 
International students also report feeling as if they received poor career guidance. They end up with unrealistic expectations of what their job prospects will be and what is expected of them in an Australian workplace. 
The Australian Human Rights Commission has also identified that international students face racist harassment and abuse that is not adequately recorded by police. The Commission also reports that international students do not have ready access to reliable information about the support available to them regarding their rights in Australia. 
To compound the problems that international students face, research suggests that employers are guided by racist stereotypes that perceive international students as having poor cultural skills. 
Intercultural Responsibility

International students contribute more than financial revenue to the Australian economy They also represent an invaluable network of intercultural ambassadors with the potential to strengthen Australia’s multicultural learning and international relations. Education providers would stand to gain a great deal from the overseas links, knowledge and resources that international students bring into Australia. 
In my longer article, I argue that a stronger focus on the socialisation of international students is likely to increase their educational and career satisfaction.
Learn more:
Read this study in more detail and see the references on my website. 
This article was first published in April 2012 by Intercultural Education. High-res

Importance of Intercultural Education for International Students in Australia. 

International students represent a large economic and international relations investment for Australia. Australian universities are increasingly relying upon overseas students for their revenue, but these institutions are not adequately addressing the special learning, linguistic, cultural and religious needs of these students. Despite their Australian education, international students experience various difficulties in finding work in their field of study after they graduate. Poor English-language, communication and problem-solving skills are the biggest obstacles to securing ongoing and satisfying jobs. Employer biases regarding international students are equally a problem. Below, I is a summary of a longer research paper republished on my website.

Demographic Background

International students contribute $15.9 billion to Australia’s economy through tuition fees and living expenses.  International education has increased by 94 percent since 2004. This sector now represents the third-largest export industry for Australia, generating profits that are 50 percent larger than tourism-related travel.

The number of people entering Australia on student visas increased by 108 percent since 2002. Around 56 percent of all international higher education students were studying at the undergraduate level and 44 percent were postgraduates.

While the overall net international student population is at an all-time high, the proportion of international students in universities has dropped by 10 percent since the mid-2000s. This is due to a change of Australia’s immigration program, which is currently granting twice as many vocational training visas and a slightly smaller proportion of tertiary student visas than five years ago.

While most international students go into the tertiary sector, Chinese students do so in larger proportions (64%), while Indian students are nowadays more likely to go into vocational training (55%). Thai international students tend to undertake English-language courses (77%), while a significant minority of Malaysian students (14%) and Indonesians (12.5%) come to Australia to do postgraduate research.

Historically, migrants with university qualifications were more likely to qualify for permanent residency under the skilled migration program. Yet since Australia changed its immigration policies, international students in vocational courses are not necessarily gaining permanent residency.

Employment Outcomes

My analysis shows that the majority of these students are going into low-status vocational training courses that do not lead to permanent employment. International students in Australia are increasingly unable to find work that is meaningful, and so they are engaged in precarious, underpaid and menial jobs that do not suit their Australian qualifications. 

Engineering students, IT specialists, accountants, business majors, technicians and trades people who come from non-English-speaking majority countries are especially likely to have trouble finding work in their profession. Indian students and to a lesser extent Chinese students with accounting degrees have the greatest trouble finding work. 

Part of the issue is that Australian employers do not see international graduates as viable candidates, even when they have been educated in Australia. To some extent, surveys show that the English qualifications of a portion of international students is inadequate. This is no wonder, when international students come here to do a vocational course hoping to later transfer into university, but then find they are unable to do so. They start off attending cooking, hairdressing and accounting courses, and they get stuck. Taking vocational training in an expensive but poorly ranked course is unlikely to improve these students’ English skills. But not all international students lack English proficiency. The problem is more systemic.

Intercultural Education

Various studies show that international students are having trouble being accepted in Australia. They come here thinking they will be able to mingle with Australian students and learn more about Australian culture. They report feeling disappointed that Australian students do not make them feel welcome. This is especially the case amongst students who don’t have a strong command of English. 

International students also report feeling as if they received poor career guidance. They end up with unrealistic expectations of what their job prospects will be and what is expected of them in an Australian workplace. 

The Australian Human Rights Commission has also identified that international students face racist harassment and abuse that is not adequately recorded by police. The Commission also reports that international students do not have ready access to reliable information about the support available to them regarding their rights in Australia. 

To compound the problems that international students face, research suggests that employers are guided by racist stereotypes that perceive international students as having poor cultural skills. 

Intercultural Responsibility

International students contribute more than financial revenue to the Australian economy They also represent an invaluable network of intercultural ambassadors with the potential to strengthen Australia’s multicultural learning and international relations. Education providers would stand to gain a great deal from the overseas links, knowledge and resources that international students bring into Australia. 

In my longer article, I argue that a stronger focus on the socialisation of international students is likely to increase their educational and career satisfaction.

Learn more:

Read this study in more detail and see the references on my website

This article was first published in April 2012 by Intercultural Education.

Went to a meeting at my old alma mater @Swinburne #University earlier this week. Haven’t really walked through the main campus in 9 years and the new #architecture is #beautiful (well, new to me!). #Love this place as without it I would never have found my true #vocation: #sociology. The wonderful paper by Thomas Gieryn on the sociology of #place came to mind. He argues that beyond studying people’s physical location to a geographic space, we also need to take into account how people invest #meaning and personal #narrative into places. We remember physical structures in particular ways, but they are flexible in our imaginations. Meaning changes and is contested over #time. Being back at Swinburne I was not remembering anything about my years as an undergraduate #student. Even though I taught throughout the same time as I was a #postgraduate, it wasn’t #teaching that I remembered as I saw the old and new buildings side by side. Instead I was overwhelmed by memories of writing my #thesis. I looked up at my old office I shared with other postgrads and I saw the long nights typing and transcribing. I saw the mind-expanding chats with old  friends, debating and strengthening ideas. The many cups of tea. I remembered not specifically handing in my thesis but instead driving home exhausted and elated after submission. It was the exhilaration of seeing my # research take shape, the #excitement of words on paper that I felt and nothing else. People make places and we make sense of place. #melbourne #australia #socialscience #education #visualsociology High-res

Went to a meeting at my old alma mater @Swinburne #University earlier this week. Haven’t really walked through the main campus in 9 years and the new #architecture is #beautiful (well, new to me!). #Love this place as without it I would never have found my true #vocation: #sociology. The wonderful paper by Thomas Gieryn on the sociology of #place came to mind. He argues that beyond studying people’s physical location to a geographic space, we also need to take into account how people invest #meaning and personal #narrative into places. We remember physical structures in particular ways, but they are flexible in our imaginations. Meaning changes and is contested over #time. Being back at Swinburne I was not remembering anything about my years as an undergraduate #student. Even though I taught throughout the same time as I was a #postgraduate, it wasn’t #teaching that I remembered as I saw the old and new buildings side by side. Instead I was overwhelmed by memories of writing my #thesis. I looked up at my old office I shared with other postgrads and I saw the long nights typing and transcribing. I saw the mind-expanding chats with old friends, debating and strengthening ideas. The many cups of tea. I remembered not specifically handing in my thesis but instead driving home exhausted and elated after submission. It was the exhilaration of seeing my # research take shape, the #excitement of words on paper that I felt and nothing else. People make places and we make sense of place. #melbourne #australia #socialscience #education #visualsociology

We need to reorganize our schools to free the great teachers from tests and reports and busywork, and to expel the lousy teachers…Don’t blame the teachers. Blame the corporate system that is still training compliant workers who test well.

Seth Godin in Linchpin (via hesychast)

Q. R. Markham (real name Quentin Rowan), the author of Assassin of Secrets, talks to Lizzie Widdicombe from The New Yorker about his compulsion to plagiarise. The article is fascinating: it covers the idea that plagiarism was an addiction for Rowan. (Widdicombe notes plagiarism actually doesn’t meet the psychological definition of addiction; it is classified as a compulsion). Rowan talks of how his early success as a young writer led to his anxiousness to be excellent and to please people. Unable to put in the work required to develop his craft, he began his life as a serial plagiarist while he was still in high school. The article also touches on the fact that the publishing industry assumes that agents and publishers will know enough about writing to pick up on acts of plagiarism before they sign authors. Widdicombe points out that plagiarism is not a crime. Acts of plagiarism can be found to be in breach of copyright laws, but plagiarism itself is judged as an ethical transgression. I also loved this section that talks about the distinction between emulating stylistic conventions of other authors and genres and plagiarism.

Originality is a relative concept in literature. As writers from T. S. Eliot to Harold Bloom have pointed out, ideas are doomed to be rehashed. This wasn’t always regarded as a problem. Roman writers subscribed to the idea of imitatio: they viewed their role as emulating and reworking earlier masterpieces. It wasn’t until the Romantic era, which introduced the notion of the author as solitary genius, that originality came to be viewed as the paramount literary virtue. Plagiarism was and remains a murky offense, “best understood not as a sharply defined operation, like beheading, but as a whole range of activities, more like cooking,” the English professor James R. Kincaid wrote in this magazine in 1997. Imagine a scale on one end of which are authors who poach plot ideas (Shakespeare stealing from Plutarch) and on the other are those who copy passages word for word: Jacob Epstein, who cribbed parts of his novel “Wild Oats” from Martin Amis’s “The Rachel Papers”; the Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan, whose novel plagiarized chick lit.

I found this article to be equally intriguing as well as frustrating. Plagiarism interests me for three reasons: first, having had to deal with students plagiarising when I used to teach at university, I felt perturbed that policies in dealing with plagiarism are not uniform. Secondly, after I left academia and entered the public sphere I had to learn to deal with the devastation that there is little protection of my work. Writing reports that are not released publicly makes it difficult to argue against outside experts who appropriate my ideas. Thirdly, I see many problems that go along with blogging with respect to plagiarism. Writers have to actively try to catch people who steal or reproduce their work without attribution. The main option currently available to bloggers is to ‘name and shame’ blogs that plagiarise; but other than that there is little recourse.

Read more about the whole Markham/Rowan debacle here.

Image credit: Photograph by Molly Landreth via The New Yorker.

One of my favourite moments on The Simpsons:

Skinner: Oh, come on, Edna - we both know these children have no future!

…Prove me wrong, kids. Prove me wrong.

Sociologists Stephen Scanlan and Seth Feinberg argue that studying cartoons can help sociology students apply ‘their sociological imagination to the observation of everyday life’. Though they use The Simpsons as a case study, their observations have relevance to the broader study of animation as a ‘pedagogical practice’ (the theories, methods and principles of teaching and learning). Scanlan and Feinberg argue that the study of 'humour and satire can be effective techniques for challenging students to think critically…' (p. 137). They conducted a survey of sociology students about whether studying the humour on The Simpsons complemented or distracted their learning of broader sociological constructs. The results were positive. Two typical student comments were:

By showing you that concepts we discuss are everywhere in society - even places we wouldn’t think about, like cartoons - The Simpsons helps you think critically about course material.

It makes us look and question a TV show that most of us just watch and don’t think anything about (p. 136).


Scanlan and Feinberg argue that because watching animated series is part of students’ everyday social experience, studying cartoons can help to illustrate sociological themes, thus making critical discussion more accessible. Consequently, Scanlan and Feinberg conclude that animation demonstrates the utility of sociology in ‘the real world’:

The true indication of teaching is measured by students’ ability to grasp course material effectively, and then use that knowledge beyond the classroom. The Simpsons provides a wonderful way to accomplish this goal (p. 138)

Given that cartoons are part of popular culture, the study of animation might be easily dismissed as a frivolous activity. Scanlan and Seth’s research supports the idea for my Sociology of the Mundane series - cartoons represent a useful teaching tool that might help to make scientific concepts relatable to students. As I’ve previously argued in my previous posts on the sociology of animation, cartoons also reproduce cultural and spiritual discourses; they reflect historical and political biases of different societies at particular points in time; and they can also be used to resist mainstream ideologies.

Reference:
Stephen Scanlan and Seth Feinberg (2000) ‘The Cartoon Society: Using The Simpsons to Teach and Learn Sociology’, Teaching Sociology Vol. 28: 127-139.