The Perils of Parochialism

International education is Australia’s fourth largest export industry. Despite its success, it is more than just a profitable business. International education gives individuals, who otherwise would not have had the chance to learn on a global scale, the opportunity to gain a higher education through a global network, consisting of a number of academic institutions, from various countries worldwide.

International education also provides travel opportunities for those students engaging with such programs, in order to gain deeper knowledge, together with the often-anticipated intercultural experience, that is expected when participating in international education.

Often times, it is the social experience that comes along with travelling for the purpose of education that international students most look forward to. But, as the potential for international education is severely under-realised and underrated, this intercultural experience is habitually overlooked.

In order for the business of international education to continue to flourish within Australia in particular, we as a nation must work collaboratively in order to improve the experience of international students and focus upon creating an international encounter, inclusive of socialising activities. This can be achieved through avoiding Parochialism with Australia being labelled as parochial in relation to international education.

 Parochialism is the confined or restricted view, whereby an individual, or in the case of Australia, in relation to international education, a nation, retains a narrow minded and somewhat self-centred, self-interested view of what is, in reality, a diverse and complex world. The term “parochial” can be applied in both culture and politics and is extremely evident when considering the experience of international students who visit Australia.

In Tim Deane- Freeman’s “The Lucky Country… If You’re White” Parochialism, is linked closely to racism. Issues inclusive of Pauline Hanson’s policies regarding immigration, and refugee detention centres are explored within the article. Australia can also be considered racist, in conjunction with that of being parochial, when considering the coverage of the Olympic games. “While the Olympics are ostensibly an event that brings the world together, the racism that runs through much of the coverage serves to underscore the differences between ‘us’ and ‘them.” Australian Olympic coverage is frequently one-sided, epitomising the parochial views that Australia is said to retain.

In ‘International education as self-formation: Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’, Simon Marginson argues that Australians are too parochial, “trapped within an Australian, culturally isolated view of the world.” “Most international students want closer interaction with local students, and are prepared to take risks to achieve this… most local students are not interested” (Marginson). He argues that local Parochialism is a missed opportunity for intercultural interactions and relations. He says in order to improve the intercultural experience of international students we must encourage ‘Self-formation’ and ‘Self-definition’.

While perhaps the reason behind Australia’s labelled parochialism is our geographical isolation, in a modern technological age, this is no excuse. In order to promote a positive experience of international education and exchange within Australia, we must first improve our cultural acceptance, nationwide.