Desiring TESOL and International Education: Market Abuse and Exploitation

Desiring TESOL and International Education: Market Abuse and Exploitation

by Raqib Chowdhury, Phan Le Ha


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781783091478
Publisher: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Publication date: 02/15/2014
Series: New Perspectives on Language and Education Series , #37
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Raqib Chowdhury works as an academic in the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia. His research interests include EAP and TESOL, English as an International Language, and Identity.

Phan Le Ha has recently been appointed Associate Professor of Education in the College of Education, The University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA, after nearly a decade lecturing in the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia. Her research interests include International Education, English as an International Language, Identity Studies, and Academic Writing.

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Desiring TESOL and International Education

Market Abuse and Exploitation

By Raqib Chowdhury, Phan Le Ha

Multilingual Matters

Copyright © 2014 Raqib Chowdhury and Phan Le Ha
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78309-150-8


Looking into the Problem

In this chapter, we set out the context, the rationale as well as the theoretical orientation adopted to understand the principles and aims of this book, by providing a detailed account of situating international education and international students within the context of globalisation, English and the increasingly dominant discourses of marketisation. We do so with a particular focus on the case of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), which has emerged as an important field of choice for international students symbiotically accelerated by the growing dominance of English. We review competing discourses of international education and the conditions that shape the emergence and consolidation of certain discourses in opposition to others about international education. We also document regimes of 'truth' about international students in academic scholarship and promotional discourses.

We also discuss the impact of these dominant discourses on individuals, in this case TESOL professionals and TESOL international students, and ask – how can they change the social condition in which they find themselves and imagine alternate forms of society when they themselves are the product of these conditions?

We document the paradoxical nature of 'international' and 'international education', and argue the ways in which these terms have been abused and exploited in favour of consolidating certain 'truths' and simultaneously taking away the desired status associated with being international students as promised in promotional discourses.

We will first discuss four major issues to situate the problem we are addressing in this book.

International Education: From Colonisation to Globalisation

The term 'international education' is fraught with so much meaning that in itself, decontextualised, it means nothing at all. What is 'thinkable' and 'sayable' about international education is ultimately shaped by a complex of power relations. At its most obvious, international education is associated with the recruitment of international students (Bennell & Pearce, 1998). It may also refer to transnational education, the broad range of educational activities that cross national borders (Clyne et al., 2001: 111; Ziguras, 2007; Dolby & Rahman, 2008). However, international education is most commonly perceived as a global business consisting of spatially dispersed networks of institutions, academics (both teachers and students) and administrators. A university's 'international' status is determined by its ability to generate income from international sources such as international student fees, franchises, overseas and domestic branch campuses and aid and donations from overseas alumni. An international university's marketing staff traverse potential hotspots all over the world to engage with prospective students and offer on-the-spot placements offering international education in the politically neutral language of the 'market'. As well as selling on-campus full-fee programmes, it also provides '' online 'virtual' courses. Although international universities claim to recognise students as rational, intelligent and choice-exercising individuals, they are still given strong pointers with regard to the latter's choice of universities by giving them the illusion that they are free to exercise their choice. Such an operation on behalf of the university is strongly related to the themes of creating and sustaining desire, which we will discuss later.

One classic reference to international education is the revenue that it generates and the market it refers to and operates within (Altbach, 2004; Dolby & Rahma, 2011; Frolich, 2006; Harman, 2005; Phan Le Ha, 2013). For example, in the case of Australia today, media releases, policy documents and institutional reports celebrate international education as the second largest service industry, in which full-fee paying international students contribute $7.5 billion a year to the Australian economy (Fullerton, 2005) and around $15.5 billion over 2008 (Gillard, 2009). Even in the face of the global financial crisis (GFC) of 2008–2009, Australia boasted a strong economy, thanks to international education. Indeed, even the subsequent increase in the strength of the Australian dollar did little to discourage students from coming to Australia as a destination of choice for international students. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimated that about 3.7 million students worldwide were undertaking tertiary studies outside their home countries in 2009, with Australia being the top country of choice. The latest Australian Education International (AEI) monthly summaries of international student enrolment data shows a total of 338,916 enrolments by full-fee paying international students in Australia (March 2013), with 117,101 commencements representing a 3.2% increase over the same period in the previous year, with China (40.0%) and Malaysia (7.2%) being the two largest markets for enrolments. In this report, a concurrent 12% increase in English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) courses was attributed to 'Government reforms introduced in response to the Knight Review of Australia's student visa system, notably the introduction of streamlined visa processing and new arrangements for post-study work visas' (AEI, 2013).

In Australia, this growth of international students is widely considered as a success story and is associated with the economic contributions of full-fee paying international students bringing in billions of dollars. As such, international education is vital to Australia's economic security and foreign policy engagement. According to the advice report from the International Education Advisory Council, entitled 'Australia – Educating Globally' (February 2013), international education is the fourth largest export industry, earning $15.7 billion during 2011. The report explains that 'this is largely driven by the higher education sector, representing 65.6 per cent of total revenue during this period' (p. 12). Open Doors, an international education online journal in the USA, reported in its issue of 2011 that 764,495 international students studied in the USA in 2010/2011 (3.7% of all enrolments) contributing nearly $22.7 billion to the US economy with a 6% increase from the previous year.

Why do so many students choose international education? As Sidhu (2005: 23) notes, a number of both 'push' and 'pull' factors are responsible for current consumption trends. While the reduced capacity of local universities in the 'sending countries' works as a 'push' factor, the marketing and promotional activities of universities in producer countries work as 'pull' factors, producing the desire in an affluent middle class to consume a 'Western' commodity (Davies, 1997, in Sidhu, 2003: 23; Phan Le Ha, 2013). In the politically neutral language of the market, agency is seen to reside firmly in the 'sending' countries and autonomous choosing consumers. No distinction is drawn between 'push' and 'pull' factors within consumption sites, where they are simply and conveniently constituted as 'demand'. The increasingly upward trend of international education can also be attributed to other factors influencing students' choices of study destinations, such as 'the absorptive capacities of higher education systems of receiving countries' (Cummings, 1991: 118) and the flexibility of admissions policies and immigration regulations (Cummings, 1991: 117–119).

The literature on international students has been nominalised into four categories: the 'deficit', the 'surplus', the 'cosmopolitan, global' and the 'self-determined'. At the same time, the past several decades has also basketed the international student into three distinct subjectivities: a passive 'other' who is made to believe that he or she needs to be tutored into the ways of the West; an elite 'other' whose allegiances are to be cultivated; and a competitive 'economic subject' who holds a pragmatic orientation to education. Placing the discursive practices of global English-medium universities under the light of examination, we argue that the academic welfare, teaching and learning processes of the university show little awareness of the fluidity of race, culture and language or hybridity of its international students, whose diversity is ignored and homogenised in popular rhetoric. A consequence of this myopic vision of the university is that students are subjected to constricting, divisive and exclusionary discursive practices that fail to properly acknowledge their complex histories, subjectivities and professional aspirations.

Within this discursive view, international students are assigned all different flat roles, including student/customer/consumer/actor, which are also exploited to consolidate and normalise the commercial interests of institutions. In the process of the universities' marketing, international students are not only institutionally and discursively patronised but they also paradoxically play a part in the consolidation of a vicious circle. In the context of TESOL, the lure of an international degree in today's world is the anticipated product of a vast network of advertisements in academia, both in the media and in English language teaching discourses. However, it is also a by-product of the power relations projected by the recipient members of this education system. On the one hand, English is commodified as a product in a market where demand for it is always on the rise, and on the other, consumers, acting as secondary agents, further legitimise and normalise this demand through an unconscious, spontaneous adoption of its discursive maxims.

This can be partly explained by Althusser's (1970) point about the nature of interpellation, where international students actively play a role in the perpetuation of international TESOL education, as well as globalisation and internationalisation. From the data we draw on, it appears that as much as the ranking and popularity of certain Western universities play an important role, students themselves are prominent in the creation of an artificial preference order and a ranking hierarchy of academic institutes. During (1993: 23) argued that the culture industry uses its own 'sophisticated ethnographic techniques' to mediate the concept of the 'popular' between producers and consumers. But it also simultaneously generates public desire by marketing its products 'as if they were already popular' (During, 1993: 23). In this system, it is convenient for individuals (international students, in this case) to desire polysemic assimilation by entering the 'symbolic order' of dominant ideologies, ascribing power to themselves and giving themselves a sense of the world. Although, on the one hand, an institution's marketing and promotion activities project certain desirable images associated with TESOL international students; they, on the other hand, coincidently make it possible for university stakeholders to exercise their power over the desirable yet vulnerable status of international students. Thus, despite the feeling of being victimised, many international students are well aware of the power that their international student status gives them.

International Education's Discursive Links with Colonisation

Looking back, several theorists have discussed education's involvement with the enterprise of empire (de Wit & Knight, 1999; Loombia, 1998; Nandy, 1983; Pennycook, 1998; Willinsky, 1998). In the past when educational exchanges took place against the shadow of European colonisation and imperialism, education was exported by colonial centres to their colonies and was normatively seen as an investment to consolidate colonial power and to impose the European education model on their colonial natives (de Wit & Knight, 1999; Willinsky, 1998: 89). The celebrated Macaulay's Minute declared its rationale for education in the colonies with an imperial certitude – 'to create a class of persons Indian in looks and colour but English in tastes and opinions, in morals and intellects' (Macaulay, in Loombia, 1998: 85). Education was thus meant to be a key discursive site for social engineering, a goal which would retain its legitimacy post-independence, as the former colonies plunged headlong into 'development' and modernisation (Sidhu, 2003). Discursively packaged as a gift to be transmitted from the educated, civilised coloniser to the culturally and educationally 'deficient' colonised subject, colonial education's professed function was to serve as a political investment. The consequences for both giver and receiver were unanticipated and ambiguous, resulting in political independence and, at same time, the continuation of a colonised imagination. However, some of the advocates of such internalisation can be driven by other, more 'humane' motives than simply economic ones. These developments can be read as examples of a continuing colonisation of the mind and imagination of international students, which the neocoloniser would fail to see as a kind of symbolic violence that extends the colonial project.

Nandy (1983) identifies two distinct phases of colonisation. The first wave, associated with unfettered economic and human exploitation, is the era of 'bandit kings'. In the 19th century, this was replaced by the second wave – the era of 'philosopher kings' which saw the 'colonisation of the educated mind' (Nandy, 1983: x–xi). Nandy argues that it is this second wave of colonisation which survived the demise of empires and the inauguration of independent political states. Both Nandy (1983) and Hall (1996) discuss the prevalence of multiplicity, contradiction and disjuncture within transcultural encounters in education. They caution against the use of simple, reductionist binaries, arguing that doing so will involve falling back into the discursive logic of the colonial project, with its ritualised binaries and its essentialisation of difference, an issue contemporary postcolonial theorists such as Bhabha (1985, 1987) and Spivak (1988) have further problematised. It is therefore necessary to consider international students' identity formation processes, keeping in mind that 'truths' are discursive constructions that are often taken for granted.

International Education and Globalisation

Despite the large claims in favour of the 'importance' of globalisation, some critics have seen in such initiatives an extension of many of the practices and assumptions of European colonialism and imperialism in disguise. In academic scholarship, globalisation has long been considered to be one of the raisons d'etre of international education. Although there is no consensus on what these new realities are, still less on ways of tackling them, in response to the 'new realities' of globalisation almost every Australian university claims to be 'international' (Sidhu, 2003: 15). One position is to steer the international university towards meeting the needs of the new economy for which the international university is being exhorted to be 'internationally competitive' (Sidhu, 2003: 43). Post-9/11, the term 'international education' connotatively expanded its possibilities with the vice chancellor of one Australian university declaring:

I can think of no better antidote to international terrorism as international education. It helps us to develop the international perspective and cross cultural sensitivity that are essential attributes of the effective citizen of the 21st century, and which gives us the skills and personal capacity to respond positively to globalization. (Cited in Sidhu, 2005: 1)

Rizvi (2005) also discusses democracy and the changing landscape of higher education and the flow of international students from the Middle East to other parts of the world after 9/11, in which globalisation played an essential role. For Rizvi (2005) as well as Popkewitz and Rizvi (2010) and Lingard and Rizvi (2010), globalisation is never straightforward, it is a site of struggle and is loaded with equity, equality, social justice, knowledge, power and identity issues that are at the heart of global higher education. As discussed in Chapter 2, the power/knowledge that intertwines the dominance of English as a global language (Appleby, 2009; Crystal, 1997; Pennycook, 1994, 1998; Philipson, 2009; Singh, 2010; Widin, 2010) also interweaves globalisation and subjectivity and involves multiple domains such as the economic and the social. In turn, this dominance affects both local and national understandings of international education. As a result, international education is now commonly seen as part of the complex phenomenon known as globalisation.

The English language and the internationalisation of higher education

The tension between a utilitarian perspective of English and the cultural politics of English in the context of international education, as we will articulate throughout this book, is perennial and far more complex than we often take it for.


Excerpted from Desiring TESOL and International Education by Raqib Chowdhury, Phan Le Ha. Copyright © 2014 Raqib Chowdhury and Phan Le Ha. Excerpted by permission of Multilingual Matters.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements xi

Preface xiii

1 Looking into the Problem 1

International Education: From Colonisation to Globalisation 1

International Education's Discursive Links with Colonisation 5

International Education and Globalisation 6

The Myth of the International Student 9

Problematising 'International' 11

Theoretical Orientation: Multiplicity of Discourses and the Apotheosis of Markets 14

2 Power, Discourse, Desire and International Education 19

Foucault and the Production of Knowledge 23

Linguistic Production and the Discourses of Identity 35

Orientalism and the Construction of Identity 38

Interpellation: The Generation and Sustenance of Desire 39

Agency and Autonomy: Appropriation, Negotiation and Resistance 44

Hybridity and the Construction of Identity 45

The Three Foucauldian Spaces of Resistance 49

3 Globalisation, International Education and Questions of Identity 52

The Globalisation Debates 54

Globalisation and International Education: Hyperglobalising Opportunities 57

International Education in Globalisation Discourses: Legitimising the Market Mode of Operation 59

Globalisation and the Commodification of Education 65

Commodification and the TESOL Industry 67

Popularity and Fetishism 69

The Merchantilisation of Knowledge 71

Globalisation and Identity 72

Globalising Identity 74

Hyperglobalist Alliances: Partners-in-Trade in a Globalising World 76

Concluding Comments 80

4 Constructing the 'Truths' of International Student Subjectivities 82

Established 'Truths' about International Students 85

The Ballard and Clanchy 'Empire of Truths' about Asian Students 88

5 From Global to Local -Learning Supermarkets in the National Interest: Internatioal Education and the Australian Government 95

International Education in Australia: From Aid to Trade to Internationalisation 97

Ministerial Statements about International Education in Australia 103

'Bigger than wool and close to wheat': Ministerial Statements as Discourse 110

Specific Institutes: Tantalising with the 'Real Australia' 111

Australia in the Asian Century and the New Colombo Plan 120

Concluding Comments 121

6 The Fabric of Relations: Desire and the Formation of Choices 124

Interpellation Into the Role of an 'Elite' Student Through Exposure to English 124

Choosing with Care: Desiring Australia and University X 137

Choosing with Care: Desiring TESOL 151

Other Factors in Choosing 158

Concluding Comments 164

7 Brokering Identity 167

English and Identity as a Work in Progress 168

The Ownership of English - Whose English Do You Speak? 173

Marketing and International Education: Identities as Open Sites 179

Education Brokers: 'Just the signature and it is done!' 179

8 Rika: 'The Spotlight of Difference' 189

Foundations of Identity: 'I chose to accept my difference' 191

First Contact: 'I spoke English as nearly my first language' 192

Final Year at Junior High School: 'Being cool' 193

Identity in Crisis: Choosing to be Different 195

The Spotlight of Difference: Constructing the Self as Other 196

Forming Choices: Chasing a Naive Dream 198

Current Impressions: 'You really don't have a choice' 201

TESOL Studies: 'Relevant but not practically applicable' 202

Dynamics in the TESOL Classroom: Us and Them 203

Universities and Marketing: 'Use university to get the most of it' 204

Using TESOL in Japan: 'It is not wasted at all' 206

Looking Towards the Future: 'I can speak what I think' 208

Concluding Comments 209

9 Purchasing the 'Good' 211

Current Status and the Future: Expectations, Disillusionments and Disappointments 211

Concluding Comments 232

10 Reconstructing the Discourses of International Education 234

Revisiting Old Questions, Seeking New Answers 237

Constructing the Plurality of Vices 238

Moving Beyond the Market Discourse 239

Looking Towards the Future: The Need for Change in Dominant Discourses 241

Closing Comments 244

References 246

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