International education is a great opportunity for students to broaden their educational horizons. Furthermore, in a world which is globalised, the international education industry can be a lucrative sector for many countries. However, Simon Marginson stated, “International education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be”(Marginson, 2012). This statement may address the personal problems international students face abroad and also a lack of cultural competence from the host national.
The term ‘cultural competence’ dates back to 1989 defined by Terry Cross as a “set of congruent behaviours, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or amongst professionals and enables that system, agency, or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations”(Cross,1989). In summary, its refers to how effectively does a system(such as a university) accommodate and educate foreign culture. In terms of Australia cultural competence, research suggests that there are some areas that need review.
Peter Kell and Gillian Vogl from the Macquarie University conducted a series of focus groups involving international students in Australian universities. Moreover, some of their conclusions reflect upon our cultural competence. One includes, a number of international students struggled cultivating relationships with Australians due to Australia’s club and pub culture. Most universities encourage students to interact socially, but when your religious beliefs inhibit you from doing so, it is hard to find your footing. Another example includes, Australia is a sporting national and many international student cited Australians being busy with a sport. Regardless if it is a sport for competition, sport is a great social weapon and should be harnessed to create more social cohesion. Kell and Vogl conclude that international students meet the best results when socially connected to their Australian peers. So, increased energy should be placed in facilitating social events that can be attended by international students.(Kell & Vogl, 2006)
An ideal inter-cultural experience should enhance your own cultural values not overwrite them. However, in recent years most international education providers have not achieved that. Instead, it is quite the opposition , Marginson states that current providers generally look to “empty out’ prior habits and values and, ironically, install a Western autonomous learner”(Marginson, 2012). This attitude is also held by Yolanda Palmer who stated that international students are “forced to fit a prescribed mould by colleges and universities”(Palmer, 2016). Marginson puts forth the theory of self-formation which looks at “international students managing their own lives and continuously fashioning their own changing identities.”. As this growing industry continues to grow it is imperative that a sense of identity is maintained with the international student.
In the grand scheme of things international education does have the potential to increase intercultural sensitivity, develop students international employment chances and create personal growth within the student. However, it is the matter of establishing a collaborative environment in which international students can thrive.