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Special issue: international education in the Asia-Pacific region introduction by the guest editors.

This special issue of the AJE is focused on international education, globalisation and identities in schooling and higher education in the nations of the Asia-Pacific. Two of the papers concern international education in Australia and the others discuss aspects of education in Malaysia, Singapore, China and Korea. A common theme of all the papers is the transformative character of global shifts as they are played out at the levels of nation, locality and individual. It becomes increasingly obvious to us that not only are individual identities changeable, we live in a world of 'plural affiliations' (Sen, 1999) in which the nation is only one claim on identity, and national identity too is contested and is open to change. The nation is an imagined community fostered by human practice, rather than a timeless truth, the inheritance of ancestry and geography, as once we thought. The openness of identities in education becomes more obvious when we consider cross-border aspects such as what happens to students who enroll in a foreign country, and what happens to the institutions that educate them; and what happens to research in a country where scholars used to work mainly in the national language but now work in English as part of the global research system. But intensified changes are happening within national education systems as well as in the growing volume of traffic between them. Globalisation is not just something coming into nations and into classrooms from outside. It is inside as well.

Globalisation and education

Following Held, McGrew, Goldblatt, & Perraton (1999, p. 2) we can define 'globalisation' simply as the widening, deepening and speeding up of all forms of worldwide interconnectedness. However there is no single de-territorialised process of globalisation that affects all nations, all institutions and every student in the same way (Sidhu, 2004). 'Educational changes in response to globalisation share certain defining parameters but still vary greatly across regions, nations and localities' (Carnoy & Rhoten, 2002, p. 6). Here it is important to emphasise, against notions of globalisation as a pre-given structural force originating in the economy or elsewhere that is somehow independent of human agency, that there are no global transformations, no global flows of effect, that are independent of human subjects. Globalisation in education involves not just transformations of economic and cultural circumstances but transformations in people themselves. Global convergence and encounters with difference bring transformations in people's living practices, their imaginations (Appadurai, 1996) and the discourses and languages within which their sociability is practised. This is true of all walks of life, but particularly true of education, a sector marked by extensive and intensive global networking (especially at the post-school stage), and global influences in government educational policy and institution-level notions of good practice. This transformative capacity means that globalisation has an immense, continuing and open-ended educational potential: both the potential to educate and self-educate, and the potential to transform our longstanding educational institutions and habits inherited from the past.

We find that, in education, globalisation becomes manifest in changing classroom practices in schools, vocational education and training (VET) institutions and universities; changing administrative perspectives; the international marketing of programs, which can introduce tensions between educational and business goals; and especially in the complex processes of people themselves living in more than one cultural/educational zone. Further, people are active agents not only in changing in response to the shifting global environment ('other-determined' transformation) but changing in ways they choose for themselves ('inner-determined' transformation) and these outer and inner elements have an almost infinite potential for permutation. Facing local and cross-border inputs with an unprecedented range and variety, educators and students move in creative, unexpected and sometimes startling ways. It is not always easy to devise policies and codes of practice that both engage and respond effectively to the wide-ranging possibilities that globalisation brings to education. Tudball in her article draws attention to the challenge of this potential for transformation for the professional practices of teachers in Australia.

All this suggests that to understand the potential of globalisation in education, we need:

* to look closely at what is happening to students, teachers and others in education through research work, especially qualitative studies, that draw out changing imaginations, languages, lives and professional practices in education, as in the articles by Kim (foreign academics in Korea) and Koehne (international students in Australia). Of course, globalisation is not the only 'kid on the block' here. In contemporary educational settings, changes in personal identities and daily practices are manifest not just in international relationships per se but in intra-cultural and inter-cultural--and intra/inter class and gender--encounters, as in the Malaysian classrooms discussed by Joseph. Here we see that the identities of the different Malaysian schoolgirls are composed by those schoolgirls themselves, drawing on the cultural resources they are given, including both local histories and global cultural influences;

* to develop situated case studies (Deem, 2001) that can investigate and compare cross-border global flows (Marginson & Sawir, in press) and educational engagement in those global flows in particular nations and locations, synthesising phenomena that hitherto have mostly been separately understood as cultural, social, economic and policy-related. Sidhu investigates the case of global educational policy in Singapore. Singapore is responding to the global environment with a proactive policy strategy designed to connect to global flows of students and ideas, positioning its education system within the global environment and reshaping that environment on its own terms, though also drawing heavily on Anglo-American notions of good government and education;

* to take account of relations of power within the larger global environment, in which all nations (and the individual educational institutions within each nation) exercise a degree of practical autonomy, but specific cultures and economies are stronger than others, and flows of influence are not always balanced or two-way. The English-language nations, especially the United States, exercise an immense influence in global communications, standardisation and codification, and this threatens to marginalise rich cultures. Yang discusses the interplay in research in China between, on one hand, national identity and, on the other hand, global research practices with their transformative implications. As in Singapore, so in China and everywhere else: national identity in education is open to change, but global influence does not have to translate into a loss of self-determination and global Americanisation is not inevitable. These are open questions, and different nations and educational institutions devise different strategic answers;

* to work with a larger intellectual framework capable of considering, at the same time, phenomena in and flows between the global, national and local dimensions in education.

On the last point, Marginson and Rhoades (2002) have theorised a conceptual method entitled the 'glonacal agency heuristic'. This enables the global, national and local dimensions to be considered without exaggerating the role of one in relation to the others, or otherwise prejudging relations between them. The word 'glonacal' is derived from the titles of the three dimensions:

glonacal = global + national + local.

Diagrammatically the glonacal agency heuristic looks like this:


The new influence of the global dimension does not mean that the nation has become unimportant. The relationship between national practices and global practices in education is not necessarily zero sum. The nation-state retains a potential for self-determination and, if capable of larger initiative, it can exercise global influence, as both Singapore and Australia want to do in education. But the bottom line is that the educational tasks facing all nations and all institutions have changed in this more global era. The conditions and potentials of the nation are both diminished and enhanced. In a world where almost every site is globally networked via communications and finance, the role of the nation is not to block international pressures but to mediate them. This leaves governments, even in middling developing nations, with many alternative moves at their disposal, from interpreter, broker, relay station and retarder, to amplifier of global pressures. Globalisation 'has encouraged a spectrum of adjustment strategies and a more activist state' (Held et al., 1999, pp. 9, 13) where the power of governments is not so much reduced, as relativised and reconstructed.

'International education' as a field

We agree with the point made by Teichler (1996) that comparative perspectives 'are indispensable for understanding a reality shaped by common international trends, reforms based on comparative observation, growing trans-national activities and partial supra-national integration' in education. The traditional means of making cross-national comparisons are those of comparative education studies. Nevertheless there are problems inherent in the traditional methods. Orthodox comparative education assumes that we can analyse and compare higher education systems that are relatively closed--that the nation state is the basic horizon. As suggested, this assumption has been undermined by the growing interdependency of nations and higher education institutions; powered by the worldwide flows of students, staff, finance, ideas and knowledge, especially the instant transmission of data and ideas in real time. Some individual educational institutions, especially universities and international schools, find themselves as global actors, extending themselves beyond the territorial limits of their own governments.

For this reason, we work in what we define as a new field of studies, 'international education'. This is education that is understood to be inflected by global flows and more fluid, changing identities. In moving beyond orthodox comparative education to international education, we do not invent this fluidity and changeability ourselves, so much as respond to the rapid changes in educational practices which have moved more quickly than research and scholarship.

This field of scholarship has a particular relevance in Australia, with 303 324 international students in higher education, VET, schools and English language colleges in 2003, the great majority of whom are from Southeast Asia, East Asia and South Asia (Australian Educational International (AEI), 2004) and earnings generated by international students of approximately $5 billion per annum. Potentially it is part of education studies everywhere and might in future be seen as central to the discipline. We want to encourage more colleagues in schools, VET and higher education to take up studies in this emerging field. We offer an incentive: it is stimulating to work on educational problems in cross-border contexts. Globalisation-related studies cross the orthodox disciplines and take in many of the big issues, such as the impact of technologies, the growing weight of global financial flows and trade, temporary and permanent migration, cultural mixing, the rise of China and other Asian nations, regionalism and cross-border law and governance, and the future of the nation-state. The days of completely nation-framed syllabuses, teaching methods and teacher preparation are numbered; and all of these global agendas have implications for pedagogies and research in education. It is sometimes unnerving and very exciting to work in a cross-cultural manner, in which all cultures can engender our respect, where we accept the constructed character of educational identities and practices, whereby issues of self-determination become essential and we genuinely open ourselves to learn and to change.

This issue of AJE

Libby Tudball focuses on the internationalisation of curricula at the secondary school level, drawing on research interviews and group discussions in government, Catholic and independent schools in Victoria, Australia. She argues that 'our main goal as educators is to develop curriculum that engages young people in issues of critical importance in understanding their world and their future', and 'an internationalised curriculum is a vital element in that process'. Cynthia Joseph takes us to girls' secondary classrooms in Malaysia and explores the intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic dynamics between Malay, Chinese and Indian communities respectively. Schooling in Malaysia is 'ethnicised'. The three groups experience it in terms of different social potentials. In a more global era, in an emerging economy such as Malaysia, the tensions inherent in ethnic hierarchies are more transparent. What gives these tensions a particular poignancy in Malaysian education is that the hierarchy of educational achievement, where Chinese students are relatively strong, is out of alignment with the hierarchy of national policy preference, which conducts positive discrimination in favour of ethnic Malays and other bumiputra.

Ravinder Sidhu takes us to Singapore and to the Singapore government's global education strategy which is now well advanced. Singapore wants to become a hub nation in the global knowledge economy networks. She emphasises that, far from education in Singapore being determined by abstract global forces from outside, the nation-state is very much a player, with policies situated in Singapore's particular colonial history; but it now sees its policy mission as not just national but global. Rui Yang discusses the equally profound transformations taking place in China. Social researchers working in China are impelled, on one hand, to globalise and internationalise their work, absorbing western knowledge and conducting an increasing part of the conversation in English and, on the other hand, to indigenise their work and agendas. However this is the period of competition as catch-up, and the tendency to global standardisation and self-marginalisation of China's rich cultural heritage is dominant. There is potential for this to change, in education studies and in other fields.

Terri Kim's focus is on academics working in South Korea and particularly how two marginal groups--foreign scholars and women--fare in what remains a traditional hierarchical and monocultural university system despite the fecundity of cross-border influences. Even where government policies support internationalisation and facilitate foreign entry, those academics find themselves positioned as outsiders from the beginning and remain excluded even after many years. Finally Norma Koehne returns us to Australia and uses discourse analysis to explore the ways in which international students understand their experiences. Again the focus is on changing identity in both its other-determined and self-determined moments. The interpretations of the interview material are rich, pointing not only to the transformative character of offshore study but the power that discourse analysis can achieve. The way we construct the world through language shapes our imaginations and sets boundaries on our actions in education.

We wish AJE readers good reading and call for more and different contributions in and about international education, extending beyond the discourse and identity analyses, cultural studies, sociological and policy studies papers included here, to include other disciplines active in education such as economics/ political economy and psychology.


Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalisation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Australian Education International (AEI). (2004). [statistical data on international students]. Retrieved December 2l, 2004, from StudentEnrolmentAndVisaStatistics/Recent.htm

Carnoy, M. & Rhoten, D. (2002). What does globalisation mean for educational change? A comparative approach. Comparative Educational Review, 46(1), 1-9.

Deem, R. (200l). Globalisation, new managerialism, academic capitalism and entrepreneunalism in universities: Is the local dimension still important?. Comparative Education, 3 7(1), 7-20.

Held, D., McGrew, A., Goldblatt, D., & Perraton, J. (1999). Global transformations. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Marginson, S. & Rhoades, G. (2002). Beyond national states, markets, and systems of higher education: A glonacal agency heuristic. Higher Education, 43, 281-309.

Marginson, S. & Sawir, E. (in press). Interrogating global flows in higher education [draft manuscript]. Clayton, Vic.: Monash Centre for Research in International Education.

Sen, A. (1999). Global justice: Beyond international equity. In I. Kaul, I. Grunberg, & M. Stern (Eds.), Global public goods: International cooperation in the 21st century (pp. 116-125). New York: Oxford University Press.

Sidhu, R. (2004). Governing international education in Australia. Globalisation,, Societies and Education, 2(1), 47-66.

Teichler, U. (1996). Comparative higher education: Potentials and limits. Higher Education, 32(4), 431-465.

Cynthia Joseph is a Lecturer, Simon Marginson is a Professor, and Rui Yang is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800

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Author:Yang, Rui
Publication:Australian Journal of Education
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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