Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Canada's Low Perception of International Work or Study

Canada's Low Perception of International Work or Study

I can give great examples of my perception of the negative risk associated with international work and study experiences abroad from a Canadian perspective. As for my job applications, continue hammering me with silence; I will not remain silent.

ABOMINABLE INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE: Canada graduates ten times fewer international business researchers than Australia does. As a result, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) sees fit to employ US based researchers to write its most significant policy papers on the topic of international education strategy. In such reports, the quality of Australian education is debased, while at the same time, Canada is encouraged to follow the Ozzie's forty year head start to financing under funded public institutions. What a paradox; trash Oz but treasure their strategy?

PITIFUL PERCEPTION: of the exponentially growing quality of foreign academic institutions ( even those in Korea or The UAE, two of Canada's largest sources of international students). Canada's social capital debate on increasing the percentage of international students and exchanges is being moderated by the AUCC or Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada. This organization has no independent or arms-length quality standards assessment agency of its own members. Only one province in Canada has a government mandated assessment service to ensure the quality of education for international students regardless of origin. The status quo regarding international education in Canada is mostly against exponential increases in international students growth or exchange programs. The result is a very small percentage of Canadian students who are ever given the opportunity to take a year of studies abroad even or to expand their international network of contacts as a result.

TOO FEW COLLABORATIVE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS: Canadian or western nation academics appear to have a very negative view of those few expatriates who do venture abroad for higher education studies and/or employment. The average foreign academic remains in Korean Higher Education employment for four months or proof of overwhelming inabilities to adapt to foreign working or teaching conditions. Those who do successfully collaborate or study or work abroad are often seen to reflect or endorse values which are not those of western nations and perceived to be of lower quality, unreliable, illegitimate or morally suspect. Reintegrating best practices and skills or abilities gained abroad are perceived of low social capital mostly because the status quo in home nations does not demand greater collaboration or exchange with the international world of its students and academic cadres.

I have sought a reasonable academic employer in Canada for the past year of my career sabbatical here. My opinions are experience based. Canada for example displays a mono-cultural practice of hiring, "in its own image." If I didn't love my country so much I would not be so critical of its opinions of the international expatriate trained worker or teacher.

Persistence and perseverance are essential to the expatriate returnee. As Trevor noted, one must find the positive even in a negative experience. I have not given up on my country yet. As its hiring managers and academics have such a low opinion of my training and experience abroad, I have no ego and no reputation to lose here. "Never rely on statistics." ( Deming Attribution) Until countries like Canada support a culture of critical change management its laggard status in international education will continue.

POSTSCRIPT: Do not rely on online forums to get your message out there. You might just run into a moderator who doesn't like what you have to say and who will block your constitutional right to say it especially if its supported by good research.

I appreciate the discussion generated on the Acadia Alumni website.

Here is what I have to say about the historical basis of Canada's laggard international trade and education strategies

Canada’s colonial past does impact upon its perpetually laggard approach to international trade and education. It is a track laid in historical underpinnings which might best be described in accounts of Imperial London during the Industrial Revolution. 

That was a period of exponential growth with reinforcement of three tiers of society. The world has not seen that type of growth until the rise of economic reforms during Bill Clinton’s era which ended in 2008. At the top of the pyramid, the aristocrats of heraldic England: Nova Scotia had/has its share as did/does Canada. People who never had to climb and have nowhere to go but down. These employed the designs of the world’s leading urban planners to "gentrify" (read "spin") the architectural landscape of a boom town. Canada is not anything like a boom-town now. The rafts of century homes lining nearly every urban centre of Canada’s economic boom during that time are evidence of its colonial role: taking only the best timber from its vast forests and leaving the scrub behind to reseed with an inferior growth. 

Does that define brain drain? Maybe it does. 

The second class: merchants and business owners who grew their entrepreneurial empires through the scratch and scrape of international trade. While their economic power quickly outstripped many of the wealthiest of the blue bloods, their societal and political power remained of low repute. Independent international traders were viewed with a jaundiced eye; it’s clear that eye remains in Canadian society otherwise, our economy would be overflowing with programs to induce new trading relationships abroad other than with a mostly over reliant large corporate alliance across the US border. 

The third class being the working poor: a class of labourers with few opportunities for advancement other than to collectivize their resources (at the threat of revolution a set of compromises businesses and powers were happy to make) and work to improve minimum standards in terms of quality of work and life. Their fortunes heavily relied on an increase in the latter at the cost of the power of the former. That in a nutshell, is the ramification of increasing small and medium business international trade beyond the traditional US-Canada sales to the lowest bidder. 

It is also the ramification of expanding Canada's educational income through greater international student draws. In terms of Canada's international education exchange effort, its third class. In terms of Canada's ability to absorb new knowledge and innovation from abroad, its third class. It is exactly the way the established systems in Canada seek it to be. It is under-grown, under-valued and under-marketed because to do so would upset the current balances of power. Canadian academics seem to employ the tactic of the dangers of a two tier system in education but what they really support by doing so are the three tiers of British Society Circa 1880-1920. That remains Canada's cultural quaintness and its failure to internationalize on a scale that would support its own quality of life. 


R King said...

As a dual Canadian/British citizen, I find your comments pithy (and I don't lisp!) and accurate. My experience as an ESL/EFL teacher was in Mexico and now in the UK. While in Mexico working with a state university, I tried to find out through the embassy what we could do to increase international exchanges between the university and Canadian universities. At that time, Canada was not interested in sponsoring students to take a term or so for their bachelor's degrees. They only had interest in post-graduate programmes for Masters degrees. I thought this a bit strange, but ... Then I arrived in the UK to work in the private EFL education sector. The government seems to be trying to prevent students from studying here and through the border patrol's efforts ends up making it more and more complicated for students to come here and study.
These governments appear to be out of touch with reality.

Daniel Costello said...

Dear R. King,

thanks for your comment, I'll take pithy (but not pity) I'm just trying not to blow fire in anyone's direction.

There are elements of quality management which espouse systems based reforms rather than blaming for bureaucratic mind sets just trying to stick to the facts.

The UK has been facing stiff opposition to increasing their immigrant population and the visa processes have become more stringent perhaps to provide evidence to voters that the politicians are listening to them. Similar increased barriers came about in Australia a few years back due to low quality institutions providing fraudulent educational visas.

Canada has had similar challenges in quality perception. What these governments share is in an increased need to supplement declining domestic tax payer funded earnings, increased scrutiny of their accounting methods and higher degree by research international students who make the best immigrant candidates.

The levels of complexity in legal documentation, regulation and assessment of foreign skills are far too fragmented, the backlogs and lead times will soon be determining who competes for the best gains on a regional and institutional level to engage new collaborations quickly enough to capture new market share; if one considers a home nation of students to be
a commoditized market (fairly inhumane) but that is what it is.

The new Canadian strategy is ambitious, does claim to engage in short semester based exchanges as one of its goals, however rate of implementation will be tricky. Nearly half a dozen federal departments need to be fully aligned as well as half a dozen institutional associations, ten provinces and a federal government that nobody wants to have federal powers. What a country!

Miracle that it is one!

Australia's plan wedded to Canada (which is largely what this strategy is) is three times larger, three times more imperative and perhaps three fold greater bureaucratic society; it is going to make for serious growing pains. Especially because it is imperative that Canadians be able to do in ten years what Australia did in twenty-five to maintain our current quality of life.

I'm not certain many of Canada's levels of bureaucracy realize that. That's what I'm trying to highlight. They've borrowed a plan but do they have the change management abilities to reduce the level of bureaucratic nonsense three-fold in under a decade to meet their own doubling targets?

In doing so will they face similar backlash from Canadian society for doing so as in the UK?