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Globalising education

Fazal Rizvi

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Matt de Neef:

Hello and welcome to the La Trobe University podcast series. My name is Matt de Neef, and today I'm speaking with Professor Fazal Rizvi. He's a professor of Global Studies in Education at the University of Melbourne and he was the keynote speaker at a recent Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Colloquium here at La Trobe University. Fazal, thanks so much for your time today.

Fazal Rizvi:

My pleasure.

Matt de Neef:

In the past few decades, you've written extensively about the idea of globalisation and the way that it affects education policy. I guess the first obvious question would be, how do you define globalisation as it applies to global education policy?

Fazal Rizvi:

Well, to me, globalisation is largely about mobility: movement of people, movement of ideas, movement of technologies, movement of cultures, and all other kinds of mobilities. And through that mobility, we are becoming closer and closer to each other, enabling cultures to rub against each other. As we are mobile, we get to know others and find ourselves defined through our interconnectivity. So basically, to me, globalisation is largely about mobility of various kinds.

Of course, this mobility and this interconnectivity that results from that mobility produces all kinds of contradictory results--some good, some positive, some negative. And the study of globalisation, to me, is largely a study of how that interconnectivity affects every aspect of our lives, our identities, our communities, our institutions, our social relations and, of course, teaching and learning, most importantly, because we need to prepare our students for a generation where interconnectivity, through mobility, is only going to become more extensive and more intensive.

Matt de Neef:

So what are the specific effects that globalisation has on education--not just on our lives in general, but on education?

Fazal Rizvi:

Well, to start off: the mobility of international students, let's look at that. About 20% of Australian students attending universities now are from overseas. And if you add to that people who are recent migrants, you are looking at almost 35%.

That means one-third or more than one-third of people were born outside Australia, and that has created new demography on our campuses, a new clientele, if you like, but that has led basically for us to consider issues of diversity and how we respond to cultural diversity that is not, in fact, the kind of cultural diversity that we used to experience in the old days when interconnectivity was not great or that extensive.

But now, on an everyday basis, we are able to remain connected to each other. Our students are on Skype all the time to people outside Australia. And that actually affects the way that they learn, affects the way that they think about themselves, and affects their identities, and that, of course, affects education.

So diversity is perhaps the most important outcome of globalisation, diversity of a different kind--what I call 'transnational diversity', as opposed to 'nationally specific diversity'.

Matt de Neef:

Now, of course, we're talking about education in a global context here. Are the challenges presented by globalisation uniform across nations or are there different challenges that arise in different nations--because I know a lot of your recent research has been about the higher education system in India, in particular. What are some of the challenges that arise there?

Fazal Rizvi:

Different countries experience interconnectivity differently. Of course, there are some countries which are developing countries, and as a result of history of colonialism are at a different stage of development, and they have to negotiate this interconnectivity differently. They have opportunities, but they also have problems that they need to actually address. And India is actually going through lots of exciting possibilities on the one hand and challenges on the other, and that is actually leading to a very interesting mix of positive and negative effects of globalisation.

And my interest, really, is in trying to find out how Indian universities are interpreting, negotiating and responding to these challenges that have been brought about by globalisation, both in positive terms and negative terms, how do they mitigate the negative effects and capitalize on the positive effects. So it's really the question of negotiating these global process and global connections.

Matt de Neef:

As a general rule, have the Indian higher education institutions been able to harness the force of globalisation effectively, because I know traditionally the Indian higher education sector isn't maybe as strong as some other countries?

Fazal Rizvi:

Well, my own view is that they have only been able to harness the opportunity on the margins. In other words, there are few institutions, perhaps even less than 10%, who have been able to work with globalisation productively versus the universities that remain resistant to change at every level. They are still characterized by a great deal of corruption in their governance, they are still characterized by poor quality, they are still characterized by ineffective teaching methods and limited resources, and I think that makes it very difficult for them to capitalize on the opportunity.

But that they are anxious about doing something about changing themselves and to take advantage of global forces is beyond doubt in such that lack of resources and traditions and difficulties that have been inherited make it very difficult for them to do it.

So the score card in Indian higher education is largely negative, although there are some major, major exceptions like the well-known and globally-recognized institutes of technology and institutes of management and science. These are exceptional institutions that produce really good graduates. But the rest of the system, something like 400 universities out of 450, are still having a tough time trying to even find enough resources to keep themselves going, let alone be able to experiment with a whole range of interesting possibilities.

Matt de Neef:

Are they generally heading in the right direction, do you believe?

Fazal Rizvi:

Well, resources are only part of the problem. There are problems with governance and there are problems with the way Indian organizations are organized and the ways in which there is an inherent inertia in some universities. So resources are certainly important.

And in recent years, the government has actually poured in a huge amount of money: salaries have improved of staff, academic and general, and students are being supported in all kinds of ways, and the huge amount of capital work for laboratories and so on.

But at the same time, there are other problems as well. It's the combination of problems that make it very difficult for India to turn around its higher education system, except in those exceptional cases where people are producing very good graduates. Some of them, of course, come to Australia.

Matt de Neef:

So, the majority of Indian universities are generally resistant to change when it comes to globalisation. How do Australian universities go overall?

Fazal Rizvi:

Well, Australian universities have embraced globalisation, certainly in terms of recruiting international students. They've seen it as a wonderful opportunity to do something about the declining revenues that they have received from the government, and that has helped them a great deal. They have become greatly entrepreneurial. But, you know, there are other aspects of internationalisation that we have been much slower in proceeding: internationalisation of the curriculum, better response to issues of diversity, and better response to looking after and supporting the international students, better response to integration of local and international students. So there are lots and lots of challenges. But I think one of the things that Australian universities are finding is that they have no other choice having actually enrolled such a large proportion of their students from overseas.

They are finding now that they have become dependent on that source of revenue, and as the international students become much more vocal, much more confident in asserting their rights, then Australian universities really will inevitably have to respond.

And I think that's why seminars like the one that was held last week is really useful because that gives staff and some students an opportunity to discuss these issues about what we have done so far and what has been limited and what needs to be still done.

Matt de Neef:

I'm glad you mentioned the universities' dependence on international numbers, because in the last few years, we've seen a bit of a reduction in the number of international students, particularly from India. From what I understand, that's been resolved for a number of factors, not the least of all, the strength of the Australian dollar and the time it takes to get study visas approved.

How do you see the situation padding out in the next five years? And are there implications for the internationalisation of higher education?

Fazal Rizvi:

Well, there shouldn't be implications for internationalization of higher education in curriculum, in teaching and learning sense, because we'll still have some universities, although their numbers might be reduced, we still have the context in which we work, which is increasingly global context in which interconnectivity and mobility is not going to go away. So, I mean, we shouldn't sort of pull back from internationalization of our work. But the issue in relation to international students, that's an interesting one because there are a whole range of complicated factors that have led to a decline in numbers. But, you know, the decline has been much more significant at the vocational and TAFE end than it has been at the university end, although there has been some in the university end, too.

I mean, higher systems develop their own higher education systems as the quality of those institutions improve like India, then more and more people would, of course, stay on, and as immigration regimes become a little more difficult so that the possibility of permanent residence is a little more complicated and visa requirements a little more tough, then you will obviously see some reduction.

But on the other side, you will see demand also growing very quickly as India becomes more wealthy. And as people have disposable income, then they would look to international education as a status marker. So you will have many more people prepared to invest in education even if there are opportunities at home and even if there are some additional difficulties.

The other thing that I want to say is, one of the indicators of international demand of students in Australian universities is the rise and rise of international schools. There are a large number of international schools that are cropping up in most major cities in India and elsewhere.

Just to give you an example, in Shanghai, when I first went there about 20 years ago, there might have been 10 international students. Now, there are more than 200. So the numbers have increased quite significantly.

And many of these students who go to international schools are bound for international education. And some of them, of course, would come to Australia.

So, again, there are two. The picture is quite mixed. There are all kinds of factors that suggest that numbers will continue to decline, and there are other factors that suggest that the demand is so great that even with certain impediments, students are still going to continue to come, especially at the higher education level as opposed to TAFE and private vocational level.

Matt de Neef:

Now you're obviously quite qualified to talk about the globalisation of education because, from what I understand, you did your undergraduate studies here in Australia, you did your masters and Ph.D. in the U.K., you've had academic appointments in the U.S. among other places. How much has this moving between countries helped to shape your understanding of education in the global context?

Fazal Rizvi:

Well, it has made me much more conscious of mobility, which is the defining characteristic of globalisation as I indicated earlier on, and much of my work is about mobility. It has alerted me to the differences and similarities across systems, and it has alerted me to an understanding of how ideas, especially educational ideas, travel from one country to another country.

So, for example, the kind of practices in international education that Australians have developed are now being looked at very keenly by universities in the United States as they, too, find it difficult to make ends meet and they are looking at how they can learn from Australia.

So I'm interested in ideas of policy-borrowing, policy transfer, policy adaptation, policy translation, and all those sorts of things. And that is a direct outcome of my mobility, not the fact that I have worked in a number of countries and the fact that I work still as a consultant and as an adviser in a number of other places as well.

Matt de Neef:

As we've been talking about, you were the keynote speaker at the Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Colloquium here at La Trobe just recently, and in your presentation you spoke about how universities can and should react to the globalisation of the student experience, and in particular about, quote, "steering learning in various ethically and culturally productive directions". What do you mean by "ethically and culturally productive directions?"

Fazal Rizvi:

Basically, what I mean by that is we have to be careful that we do not institutionalize a set of very exploited liberalisationship with our students because of marketisation of education, treating them as consumers in ways that simply sees them as a source of income.

By emphasizing 'culturally and ethically productive', I really mean that we actually need to look at them as students, as internal and local students, who need to be looked after in all kinds of ethically sound ways so that they don't feel like second-class citizens and they are given what is promised.

I mean, as you probably know, we employ a large number of international recruiters around the world who recruit students for our universities. It is absolutely essential that these people behave ethically and do not tell students stories that are unrealizable, that they don't set up expectations that are not realistic. And that is actually ethical governance, ethical recruiting.

But then there is ethical teaching as well. Instead of seeing education simply as a business, we need to actually look at other dimensions of education as well. At the keynote, I emphasized the importance of those ethical and culturally productive ways of thinking about learning and teaching.

Matt de Neef:

And one final question for you, Professor Rizvi. You've been involved in just about every Victorian university at one time or another: Pro Vice-Chancellor (International), RMIT, adjunct positions at Deakin and Melbourne, Founding Director of Monash Graduate School of Education. Any chance of seeing you in La Trobe colours in the coming years?

Fazal Rizvi:

Oh, very, very funny. I have some very good friends at La Trobe I've got long-standing relation with a large number of people in the faculty of education and at the level of administration, both John Rosenberg and Belinda Probert, so I'm sure, now that I'm back in Australia after being away for 10 years in the United States, my relationship with those people would continue to thrive, and I am looking forward to working with La Trobe any way I can.

Matt de Neef:

Professor Fazal Rizvi, thanks so much for your time today.

Fazal Rizvi:

My pleasure, Matt.

Matt de Neef:

If you'd like to leave some feedback about this or any other podcast in the series, or suggest a possible podcast topic, you can get in touch with us at podcast@latrobe.edu.au.

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