20 SES 14, The Role of Families in Intercultural Learning Contexts
International education is now a multi-national global business with an array of actors - students, their parents, universities, private providers, administrators, academics, in-country brokers, university-industry recruitment fairs, English language colleges; support industries working on graduate employment, internships etc; and local industries in housing. Less obvious are the growing numbers of international students in schools now constituting 3% of all international students in Australia. The ‘new’ middle class in China, Malaysia, India and South East Asia, the source countries for UK, USA ,German and Australian universities, are seeking a cosmopolitan educational experience for their children, to improve their English language skills and gain access to higher education institutions and thus gain competitive advantage in domestic and global labour markets.
The particular status of international school students due to their age requires government regulation and the capacity of schools to provide homestay for those students not accompanied by relatives. In some instances, parents, usually the mother, accompanies a student or they stay with relatives. Depending on their home country and particular familial arrangementarchetypical representations of strategic Asian families pursuing educational goals at all costs range from parents typified as astronaut ’ families, ‘parachute ’ or ‘satellite ’ kids who tend to live on their own or in groups, ‘third culture kids’ who travel with transnationally mobile parents, and ‘Wild geese’ (Kirogi) accompanied by their mother. The majority of students live in homestay arrangements.
In a three-year Australian Research Council funded study of international students in Victorian and Queensland schools investigating their sense of connectedness and belonging, the role of homestays is therefore significant with regard to the affective dimensions of processes of internationalisation (Campbell 2004, Benson 2008). Much of the research on international school students focuses on why parents choose to send students to specific countries or schools, whether for exchange programs ( as is the case for many European countries) and less so on students’ international educational experience or on students’ long term homestay experiences.
Homestay has become a major industry in Australia for both international short-term exchange and long-term students, predominantly in universities, such organisations set up to link students to homestay providers (Education State 2014). Again, the focus of these brokers is on exchange programs whereas the relationship between and process for pairing of school age international students in schools is usually dependent on individual schools. There is limited research on homestay experiences, how it is organized and how it impacts on the student experience. In particular, this paper considers the views of homestay hosts and why they have become involved in homestay, what that means for their relationships with the students in accordance with the expectations of both the host and international student (eg. Rodriguez et al 2014, Benson 2017). What types of support do these host families have and how does homestay accord with regard to theorizing notions of students’ sense belonging and connectedness?
The paper considers theoretical perspectives that have been drawn on when researching international students, in particular that of Bourdieu (1986) with regard to transnational student mobility as motivated by the economic and cultural capital of Asian middle class seeking to accumulate social capital valued in the 21stglobal workforce; theories of intercultural competence as a key aspect of 21stskills discourse; and the significance of belonging and connectedness in enabling full engagement in education (Halse et al 2014) and approaches to intercultural education (Ohi et al 2018). The paper explores what other theoretical approaches offer adequate explanations as to the motivation for homestay host involvement other than perhaps the economic benefits such as host familial desire for international connectedness and sense of community.
Case studies in 5 Victorian and 5 Queensland schools were undertaken in which students, teachers and the homestay families were interviewed. Interviews were also undertaken with key policymakers in the field of international education within state authorities because the focus is not only on international student relations with peers, teachers, parents and homestay providers but also on the systemwide and school structuring of international programs. Individual members of the international student cohorts are being tracked over the three years to gain a longitudinal sense of how their experiences impact on their sense of self, relationships, the choices they make with regard to their educational futures. Given the ubiquitous use of social media informing the social relations of young people, the team is also examining both face to face interactions and online connectedness and how these impact on a sense of place and belonging during the critical teenage and school years of Years 10-12. The Victorian sample from which this paper was drawn included interviews with 13 boys and 13 girls, 15 of whom were at public schools, 5 of the boys were at a co-ed private school and 6 of the girls were at a private girls’ school. 24 of the students were from China, 5 from Cambodia and 6 from Vietnam with the remaining individual students coming from Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Phillippines and Singapore. Focus groups and individual interviews were also undertaken with domestic students in each school to consider how they perceived and related to the international students. The interviews with the homestay or host families were undertaken at the homestay homes or in a public space such as a café or library. Discussions considered the expectations of the homestay, the nature of the rules that are established by the host family and how different students responded. Analysis of interviews was initially thematic and then drew on prior research which identified multiple complex rationale for homestay hosts involvement, ranging from the more altruistic in terms of improving cross cultural relationships as a good global citizen, a sense of obligation of care for young people from similar cultural background, to the financial benefits.
The study identified issues including the emotional, financial and educational benefits and costs of such intercultural arrangements (Zhou and Guiyun 2008). Student experiences ranged from being relatively isolated from the families as they would retreat to their rooms, others actively engaged in family everyday activities eg. eating together and a few actively were involved in family occasions. Equally important with regard to a sense of belonging or connectedness was the extent to which students felt included in the familial activities, often symbolised by a simple practice which bridged cultural difference such as the host ‘pealing a peach’ for a student. The primary issue mentioned by both students and host families was food, with students craving for food typical of their home country and homestay families seeing part of the intercultural learning was to adjust to Australian food. Another factor mediating host-student relations was the commercial nature of the homestay arrangement and in particular miscommunication due to cultural differences. The data indicates there is little recognition of the financial and emotional strain that homestays produce as student-homestay host relationships varied from ‘tough’ love to ‘real’ love. What was evident was the lack of support for homestay families suggesting the need for a network to work through how to develop an improved experience for all.
Benson, P. (2017) Sleeping with strangers: Dreams and nightmares in experiences of homestay. Study Abroad Research in Second Language Acquisition and International Education 2 (1):1-20. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York, NY: Greenwood. Campbell, N. 2004. Home (stay) is where the heart (ache) is: a study of Chinese international students living with local families in New Zealand. Australian Journal of Communication 31 (2):107. Halse, C. Cloonan, A.,Arber, R. Ohi, S. and Mahoney C. (2014) Doing Diversity: Intercultural Understanding in Primary and Secondary Schools Leask, B (2009), Using Formal and Informal Curricula to Improve Interactions Between Home and International Students, Journal of Studies in International Education, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 205–221. Ohi,S. O'Mara, J. Arber, R, Hartung, C, Shaw, G. and Halse, C. (2018) Interrogating the promise of a whole school approach to intercultural education: an Australian Investigation, European educational research journal, pp. 1-24. The Education State 2016, Internationalising schooling: A how-to guide for schools, Melbourne, Australia, Victoria Department of Education and Training, retrieved from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/principals/management/Internationalisingguide.pdf Rodriguez, Rollie,S. and Chornet-Roses, D 2014. How ‘Family’ is your host family?: An examination of student–host relationships during study abroad. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 39:164-174. Zhou, C, and Guiyun C. 2008. The Challenges of Cross-cultural Adjustment: A Study of Secondary Chinese Students in South Australia (Homestay Situation). ISANA Conference Proceedings
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