Identity work, the international student and schooling

Year: 2018

Author: Blackmore, Jill, Beavis, Catherine, Tran, Ly, Rowan, Leonie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper we question the category of ‘international student’ by examining how students are positioned within specific school contexts as ‘international’ and how that impacts on their sense of inclusion in everyday social and pedagogical relations of schools (Davies and Harré 1990, Halse 2018). Multiple factors in each school and system context inform how international students, individually and as a group, are positioned: the multicultural mix of both the international student cohort and school population, the structuring of the IS program with regard to space, pedagogical and curriculum organisation, level of resourcing, staff expertise and homestay arrangements. These factors also impact on how domestic students relate to both international students and internationalisation. How do the processes of ‘internationalisation’ and ‘being international’ produce inclusions/exclusions occurring through structural, cultural, discursive, temporal and spatial dimensions of schooling.  Explored in this paper are numerous tensions around the meanings of belonging, a notion often assumed in the internationalisation literature (see Bash 2012; Gregoriou 2013; Halse 20018).
We consider what theoretical framing can provide more nuanced understanding of international and domestic students’ experience of internationalisation, drawing on relational race (Vass et al 2018), intercultural theories (Dervin 2016, Mahoney 2017), youth mobility studies (Robertson et al 2017) and youth and social media studies (Cuervo and Wyn 2014). As this is about identity and belonging, we also consider feminist poststructuralism which informed positioning theory (Harre 2010) that is frequently used in mobility and globalisation studies (e.g Tran 2011). Youth studies raise issues around the digital world in which they relate to others (family, peers and strangers) and how that creates connectedness and raises ethical and social implications regarding inclusions/exclusions important for a sense of belonging (Taylor and Rooney 2017). Theorising of the self in relation to others (Lin 2007, Holland et al 1998) is also central to notions of intersectionality (Collins & Bilge2016) that relates to multiple forms of difference: race, ethnicity, sexuality.
Finally, we consider what this means to critically theorise wider issues of systemic and institutional racism in education and the largely unspoken matter of whiteness addressed by relational theories of race (Vass et al 2018). We are arguing for a more ‘case sensitive’ approach to international students which takes into account the array of aspects impacting on their school and home life experience such as source country, the social mix of the school and how the programs are structured.