Judging Ethnocentrism

Issues that have risen from tensions within cultural diversity bring into question the extent to which ethnocentrism exists in Australia, and most specifically, in its educational environment. It is an urging fact that multiculturalism in Australia is not the picturesque reality for international students who engage within our educational system to only be challenged by cross-cultural interaction. As Kell and Vogl note, a crucial feature in achieving success for international students is not solely academic based, “but also their adjustment to the social and cultural environment (p. 2, 2007).Thus, it is imperative that ethnocentric tendencies are removed from preconceptions made about students from divergent cultural backgrounds.

Simon Marginson’s description of the human identity as being “open, fluid and in motion (p. 3, 2012)provides the proper outlook for establishing a positive education experience for international students. As he outlines, the strategy of hybridity allows the international student to become a “transformed self (p. 8, 2012),” by integrating cultural and relational elements to contribute to their sustainment of a “changing sense of self (p. 8, 2012).” Marginson further defines this as the ‘centering self’ as the student is actively engaged in “social encounters with diverse others (p. 9, 2012),” while being mindful that self-formation is upheld in order to develop a self-assured sense of identity.

Through this grounding of the ‘transformed-self,’ an international student’s “strong agency (p. 9, 2012)will allow them to improve “both language proficiency and cross-cultural relations (p. 9, 2012).” So, ultimately it is the extent of a student’s engagement within the Australian lifestyle that sees them learn from intercultural interactions and eventually, as Marginson puts it, “define themselves (p. 3, 2012).”

However, there are hindrances that impose upon an international student’s ability to prosper in their intercultural experience. A consequence of cultural hostility brought on by ethnocentricism, are incidences where the international student is marginalised. In International Students Negotiating Higher Education, interviews executed on international students revealed that “just under 50 per cent (p. 21, 2013)of the students had been affected by prejudice or offensive behaviour. Furthermore, Nasrin’s report on interviews with students from non-European countries states that they felt people “lacked knowledge about other countries and cultures (p. 400, 2010).” Through this lack of familiarity, stereotyping, discrimination and segregation can ultimately determine the “cross-cultural landscape (p.402, 2010).”

As Church says, “ethnocentric attitudes and stereotypes inhibit positive social interactions (p. 402, 2010),” as individuals will consciously evade cultural encounters. However, in more drastic circumstances, discrimination made in public situations can severe one’s perception of cultural acceptance. A personal experience from one Zimbabwe woman saw her be verbally abused by a woman at a Melbourne train station who ordered her to “go back where you came from.” Consequentially, she claims that this experience made her more aware of her nationality and of “being different (p. 392, 2010).”

In order to see the globalisation of education become an effective experience for international students, the barriers of communication need to be broken down. A 2006 survey concluded that more than half of students agreed with the statement ‘I don’t really feel I belong at the university (p. 21, 2013).’ Ergo, it is crucial that ethnocentrism in the Australian educational landscape is addressed by proper intercultural experiences that benefit the international (and local) student through non-presumptuous interaction. So ultimately, this ethnic enrichment will thus inaugurate Marginson’s concept of students becoming a ‘transformed self’ (p. 8, 2012) in a thriving, culturally diverse environment.

Blythman M, Sovic S, 2013, International Students Negotiating Higher Education: Critical perspectives, Routledge, New York, USA p 21

Forbes-Mewett H, Marginson S, Nyland C, Sawir E, 2010, International Student Security, Cambridge University Press, New York, USA p. 392, 402

Kell P, Vogl G, 2007, International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes, Macquarie University, Australia, p. 2

Marginson S, 2012, Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience: International education as self-formation, University of Melbourne, Australia, pp. 3, 8-9


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