Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Nags, the Snags and the Swags: Practice What You Preach!

As research organisations aim to become more 'international', how can we (researchers, research managers, employers) be sure that the relationships are more than just marriages of convenience?


When I first arrived in Korea in 1996 it was anything but convenient. Certain adjustments needed to be made and mostly by me. Yours truly represents the approximately fewer than 3-5% percent of "foreigners" as we are termed here who remain beyond a one to two year term. Sometimes called "lifers" or "veterans" the hardest generalizations to bear are:

  • couldn't get a job back in his own country ( true) never had a full-time or more than minimum wage job there in my life, left home at age 22 and left the country at 24.
  • couldn't get a girlfriend only wants to bed as many Korean women as possible ( false) had a fiancĂ©e before coming here told me I was too honest about the place and decided to break it off haven't met a woman I loved like that since.
  • only cares about money ( false) the highest paying job offer so far received was an unethical one and would have been about a quarter of a million dollars a year working for US Army Generals through BAE Systems as a social scientist in Iraq.
  • doesn't care about his family ( false) travel home about every 18 months.
At the time I could have taken an on-call fisheries inspector position from a privately contracted formerly government department position in Canada if I had paid for the training. Like I said Korea has never been convenient but it has grown comfortable and what keeps me enlivened is continued learning. It became a more globalized nation especially after returning here again after three years in the desert while living in Abu Dhabi. I really got bored there with all of the holidays and few real duties other than showing up for work on time, lying around the office and collecting a pay check. UOW was the only winner on the block there in Dubai at the time years before "The Knowledge Village" when I attended the education fair in 2003. I was hungry for learning and there were few real other local choices. That remains the case. Most are not international or global by choice as it is now a matter of survival.

It is in this spirit that some observers (e.g. Kivinen, 2002; Newman, 2000) caution that concern with global competitiveness could lead higher education to easily lose sight of its traditional academic values such as social criticism, preparation for civic life, and the pursuit of curiousity driven learning and scholarship. (Kreber: 2009)

These values are not always a reality among Korean students and I sometimes feel I am introducing them to such foreign concepts for the first time. UOW studies were not a marriage of convenience either. I was beginning to realize that my mind was capable of and wanted to learn new things and that I should follow my interests. It took me over two years to find the job I have here in Korea today and it has been nearly a complete realization of the strategy it took for me to get here where I want to be. In the fourth year here I had succeeded in breaking a record for staying in one job more than three years and every day I continue to break that record which is unbelievable to me. I am where I belong which appears to be in a foreign country as it is what my work experience and training made me good at and I do not agree with much of what academia tells me I should or must be:

  • couldn't do a research degree ( true) the one PhD who looked at my CV briefly for a research assistantship which would have paid the costs of remaining in Oz and studying further didn't even care to meet me face to face even on the recommendation of one of his peers
  • doesn't want to give up his job ( true) if you spent ten years working and studying looking for this job you wouldn't leave it either it's a sweet little spot I call, "Dan's Workshop."
  • doesn't have team spirit ( false) my team is over 160 members strong - I'm one of their leaders and I'm 99% happy.
  • is a second rate student ( false) the academics who haven't taken a similar path know nothing about internationalization or globalization but market and kiss it's ass extremely well.

You have to try working zero job security teaching contracts for seven years straight abroad to learn more about why international business studies may be the most appropriate field in terms of your run of the mill ESL teacher who has taken a look at the industrialization of global education. In fact has been one of its insignificant cogs. Curiosity does have a place at the table of learning and so does boredom. Business is interesting to me. I consider what I do to be my business. The world is my market place. My students are my customers. I must work, earn and save money to retire hopefully not "penniless or without a pot to piss in." Unless a doctoral program is generous enough to remember that then forget about it - I don't want any more part-time jobs. Ever. I'd rather work overseas anywhere and forever on contracts than submit to miserly doctoral research program funding that doesn't pay me enough to live and work on to be creative and innovate.

When I relocated to Campus East in 2004 for my final semesters I took the last two semesters overload to save a semester of living costs and graduated in the top 5% of my cadre with a letter of recommendation for doctoral studies in 2009. I only found out I was in the top of my class five years later when I asked for that letter to apply for a doctoral scholarship that included 40,000 USD in annual living expenses as well as accommodation benefits in Switzerland to study Chinese international investments which is about what it would take to get me to do a doctoral study. Apparently a few others agree and beat me to it. I remain at my current post. I did realize Australians are different from other international students too. At least they were globalized enough to the point that half of the dining hall was 99% Australian whites and the other half was 99% mixed international students ~ mostly Asians and everything else. This was a big difference over UOWD which had (perhaps "has") large Iranian and Indian cadres. Most of those Iranians wouldn't be there if they had their choice either. Prior to 1979 they were the largest numbers of foreign students in the USA. In my classroom and Department of Commerce a handful of Australians there were mostly kind and helpful. I had very little time to be "pro-social" anyway. I am trying to say Australia - while making strides still has a long way to go.

The Nags, the Snags and the Swags: Practice What You Preach!

In agreement with Bartel the structure of a university culture allows or inhibits the facilitation of strategies to enhance internationalization. Look at those single digit percentages of either Australian or Canadian students for that matter hovering around 2-3% who ever engage ANY offshore studies or work experiences. They are similar in Korea as well.

I couldn't access the additional readings I think because my computer crashes so frequently I have failed to install an institutional journal access feature to read them without paying for them out of pocket. In fact jstor operates sporadically. But I did pick up Leask's Internationalization of Curriculum: Key challenges and strategies from 1999 for free from her staff page. Hope that'l l do?

Leask's Three Stages

On the first stage of putting policies into practice: I would love to see UniSA publishing for free access all of its social sciences and applied sciences research organizations annual reports beyond a general accounts of the entire university but putting policy into practice online including those from Dr. Dawson's Sleep Research Centre and Dr Babcock's Social Quality of Work Centre. So far I am not convinced that a research management student (such as me?) is adequately provisioned with the required material examples to well complete the final task assignment of this current course without more transparent accounting practices. So far I find several research organizations in Australia do not provide easy access to such resources including those managed by my former quality management lecturer. So far I can only surmise that they might be spending their research funds on similar " magicians and rabbits in hats" to the tune of 70,000 AUD as at a CSIRO conference in 2005 and that educators who would mark me on my budgets, informed and researched opinions would not penalize me because I do share their perspectives on accountability and transparency. Let's account. Let's apply that.

Second stage - staff development: It's really hard to teach old dogs new tricks and Australia's research and university teaching crowd surely classifies as mostly "old dog" with fewer than 20% under the age of 35. I realize that "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." However the most demanding and most rewarding instructors I had at UOW were first generation non-white immigrants. With those instructors if I challenged their beliefs and opinions on the final exam with contrary but also researched opinions and beliefs I was rewarded. That should be the measure in Australian international education and research in my opinion but too often it is not. I can only surmise that not enough researchers and educators there have had to work or live abroad to grow or prosper as a minority not by choice but through necessity, to have to adapt one's perspectives to those which are at times radically different or to define tolerance as a willingness to amicably agree that inequalities and injustices exist and occur across all cultures due to the advantages or the disadvantages of being born a generation too early or a generation too late. That some really do have fewer opportunities than others or natural gifts at birth still striving to succeed excel and relate and that the barriers of distance, religion, social caste, nationality, cultural values, language and income should not be a barrier to learning. ,As Robyn Wilkes former coordinator of Campus East once mentioned to me, "twenty years ago we were a lot kinder to each other." I have the tendency to agree.

Third Stage - Changing Teaching Practice: Most classes at UOW were crammed full with 70 or more students, three hours lectures twice a day with upwards of 250 slides in each. The process was industrial and good teachers took more than a glance at well prepared work before they assigned grades. One of them would even re-read and note how many minutes he spent reading the paper marked upon the graded paper itself. That way he could dissect as many contentious areas as possible to justify his grade and provide the necessary feedback which must be constructive rather than destructive to be effective. Namely when teaching adults there is a need to provide the path to improvement. It must be apparent. Otherwise it may simply be the case of, "I didn't like your argument." And that is never enough.

Bartel M. (2003) " Internationalization of Universities: A University Culture-Based Framework," Higher Education, Volume 45, No. 1 (Jan., 2003), pp. 43-70.

Kreber, C (2009) " Different Perspectives on Internationalization in Higher Education," New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 118, Summer 2009.

Leask B. (1999) Internationalization of the Curriculum: Key challenges and strategies, UniSA/IDP.

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