International students are quite fortunate in that their education experiences both at home and abroad can give them a wider understanding and appreciation for what works and what doesn’t in the classroom.
For many internationals, most of their education experience up until they move overseas for tertiary education is dominated by the teacher-centric education system; a system characterised by the teacher positioning themselves as being a figure of authority and creating a clear divide between teacher and students.
Western education practices also see the teacher as an authoritative figure in the classroom yet student experiences in Australia and similar countries contrast wildly, as students are invited to take more initiative. Teachers are more approachable and encouraging of students to participate, engage in discussion and voice their opinions.
This friendlier quality in teachers, international students say, makes more for a more involved experience.
Vietnamese students, Vivenne and Alice, both 17, agreed that the teaching style they had in Vietnam was stress-inducing but what they experienced in Melbourne was more useful.
“I prefer Australian education because it’s more useful for me later in life,” Vivienne said.
Alice echoed Vivienne’s statement but added that she also liked being able to have the best of both worlds, enjoying the friendly approach in Australia and appreciating the rigorous study regime from Vietnam.
Indonesian student Imelda, 18, also preferred her education experience in Australia, calling it “fair”, “easier” and “friendly”.
When asked to describe her experience back in Indonesia however, Imelda was more critical saying it was “slow”, “unfair” and “difficult” for her and other students.
And what about the international students who’ve had more than two experiences? The ones who’ve had studying experience across a range of schools? How are their learning experiences shaped?
José, 19, is a student who comes from Mozambique. He has studied in a Zimbabwean school with a predominantly teacher-centred education and is now in Melbourne pursuing a tertiary education.
He says that students in Australia learn to become more independent, saying that “you have to do it all by yourself, you have to figure things out”.
When asked about his thoughts on Australian education, José said he preferred the teachers here but also added that the experience here “leave[s] more room [and] more ground for you to expand your ideas and become more creative”.
Meanwhile, Malaysian student Saint has been taught in several schools. He has had a typical Malaysian schooling experience, attended a Canadian high school in Malaysia and, finally, a student experience in Australia at Trinity College Foundation Studies.
From what he experienced at the Canadian high school, Saint felt that they were much more relaxed than Malaysia and Australia.
“Canadians are much more friendlier,” he said, providing further proof that Canadians are perhaps the most friendly group of people in the world.
His Canadian high school strongly encouraged students to join clubs and participate in ‘community hours’.
“It focuses more on outdoor, hands-on learning,” Saint added.
By comparison, his Malaysian experience was “more of a knowledge […] thing”
“You’re considered smart, if you know a lot of something”.
When asked which of the three he preferred, Saint chose the Canadian educational system. However, he also said that “it [didn’t] really push [him] to know more” and he would have liked for it to be more challenging.
Regardless of the country they originally came from, the most important thing to take away is that international students can have a huge advantage over their local counterparts simply because of their multiple education experiences. Different experiences lead to wider perspectives and a deeper understanding or appreciation of ideas and, for the most part, that’s what international education should be offering students.
What have your past educational experiences been like? How do they differ from the one(s) you are experiencing now? Share them in the comments below.
This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.