Foreign Affairs

Chinese universities have taken a global perspective, but students say their own language, culture and history have been ignored in the shift to the West, Shibao Guo writes in part three of a series on the brain drain in global education

At universities across China, international conferences are often held in English, even when most of the attendees are from China. This is just one of many higher education problems reported by Chinese students in a new survey.

Many major Chinese universities have attempted to internationalize, recruiting foreign professors, setting up study abroad programs, adopting original English textbooks and using English as the language of instruction. teaching in classes.

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Since China’s economic reform and opening up in 1978, the internationalization of Chinese higher education has accelerated. The assumption is that these practices will enhance the reputation of the institutions as world-class international universities.

The Chinese students who took part in the study are not against internationalization, but they do question its execution, suggesting that what is practiced is more aptly called “Westernization.”

They challenged the narrow perception of internationalized higher education: students were learning in and from a limited number of developed western economies – the US, UK, Australia and Canada.

Participating students criticized that Western sources of scholarship and knowledge were promoted as superior, while Chinese heritage and knowledge were seen as devalued.

From the perspective of students, English has become a gatekeeper for internationalization. As part of the informal programme, international lectures in English were seen as proof of the tunnel vision of what it means to be international.

In the formal program where ‘English as the language of instruction’ courses are delivered as part of curricula, students reported considerable difficulty in using English to understand content due to low proficiency of the language.

As one of the selection criteria to study abroad, students had to achieve high scores in the exams of the International English Language Testing System or the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which are international measures and standardization of English proficiency. It costs them time, effort and money.

Students feared that not everyone would have access to internationalization. Only economic and academic elites are likely to be selected for study abroad programs. Rural students, without the financial resources and cultural capital of their more affluent peers, perceive study abroad as impossible.

While the narrow interpretation of the “internationalization” of education concerns the content and form of student experiences, concerns about inequality indicate how internationalization is perceived in contemporary Chinese society.

The experiences of the students highlight the tensions between internationalization and localization. Their stories challenge Eurocentric tendencies and underlying colonial assumptions that influence the current ideological basis of internationalization policies and practices.

In light of the perspectives and experiences of Chinese students, there is a need to de-Westernize the ideological foundations of higher education. As part of the process of de-Westernization, it is time for a rigorous examination of how Eurocentric assumptions embedded in internationalization increase, rather than decrease, inequality in China.

Shibao Guo is a professor at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary and past president of the Comparative and International Education Society of Canada. He can be reached at [email protected] Professor Guo has declared no conflict of interest in relation to this article.

Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.