International education as a process of inculcation: A case study of Japanese students studying in Australian universities

Year: 2018

Author: Matsunaga, Kaoru

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

International students undertaking higher education in Anglophone countries, such as Australia, are often perceived as incompetent or deficit, needing to attain ‘local’ attributes, skills and knowledge in order to meet institutional academic requirements (Marginson, 2014). Such perspectives reflect the condition of international education as an imposition of the principles of the dominant legitimate culture (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1990). Current literature shows that the demands of international education entail not only knowing and applying the rules of genre and academic registers but also following and behaving in socially and academically acceptable standards. International students’ experiences, thus, can be said to reflect a process of ideological inculcation and internalisation of the principles of the dominant culture. This qualitative case study draws on the academic experiences of 6 Japanese undergraduate students studying at Australian universities. It examines the ways in which Japanese students negotiate with institutional norms and conventions, navigate through academic challenges and utilise institutional resources to maximise their potential, and the ways in which these experiences construct their identities. The study critically considers how these students claim legitimacy in being accepted as members of their academic communities. In doing so, the study explores how the students’ views contest those of the universities’ with regard to deficiencies in their social, linguistic, and cognitive abilities. It also constructs frameworks of understanding, which allow viewing them as active agents who demonstrate greater responsibility in their learning. The findings show that these students, while trying to ‘fit in’, also find unique and idiosyncratic ways of exercising power by making use of the affordances at their disposal, including using value-added services provided by their universities, resources provided by discipline specific courses, informal conversations with peers, lecturers’ instructions and feedback on marked assignments. Additionally, the distance between the true self and the imagined-self is seen to engender confusion and paradoxes in their experiences of learning. The findings also identify changes in the ways of students’ habitual practices and attitudes towards interpersonal relationships.
Keywords: international education; inculcation; dominant culture; agency; identity; affordances