By Amanda Marino
The Master of Education International Student Program (MEd ISP) exists within the Administration and Leadership in Education specialization at Brock University. The ISP is designed to support individuals in a learning community, however it is available for full-time, course-based or MRP students only, and runs for 14 months in a cohort program (Brock University, 2013). International students are seldom permitted to enroll in courses outside of their cohort, and may be integrated in classrooms with Canadian students only during summer courses. The concerns that I will be exploring comprise of the exclusion and segregation of international students, the benefits and limitations of separating the programs, and how we can improve our institution by creating a more inclusive learning environment for all.
The Issue of Segregation
By isolating international students in cohorts, I strongly feel that there is a lost opportunity for all students to be engaged and integrated into one another’s culture. Why are we not providing international students with a choice to be integrated, separated, or a mixture of both? Have we even asked them what they want?
The Ontario government expresses the need for more international students in order to strengthen the economy, create jobs, and fuel new demands for accountability and quality in education (Stewart, 2010). However once admitted, are international students being treated fairly? Can we confirm that a quality education is being achieved for all?
Thus, not only are international students faced with paying double the tuition costs, as outlined in the Brock University graduate calendar (Brock, 2013), but they must also adapt to the learning and living styles of a new culture. In addition to this, we are not providing international students with the freedom to choose their learning path, and are therefore creating more barriers within our programs and between our cultures.
Drawbacks of the MEd ISP
Segregation can act as a barrier to the adaptation process, contribute to anxiety, and generate negative perceptions of the Canadian culture (Rose-Redwood & Rose-Redwood, 2013). International students face challenges integrating into Canadian academic environments, and experience isolation, alienation, marginalization, and low self-esteem (Chase & Guo, 2011). The effects of segregation may be experienced by both international and Canadian students because an understanding and appreciation of one another is not established. In my opinion, the strict restriction of course selection is discriminatory, and limits the abilities of international students to adapt and fully integrate into Canadian culture. In essence, we are missing an opportunity to promote cross-cultural understanding, respect for cultural diversity, and awareness of global issues (Chase & Guo, 2011).
Benefits of the MEd ISP
On the contrary, although there are many negative aspects in segregating international students, there are also many benefits. Restricting social relations to only international students may increase levels of confidence in cultural identity, and creates an essential support system (Rose-Redwood & Rose-Redwood, 2013). Furthermore, belonging to a community of learners that is going through the same emotions, challenges, and experiences creates a safe space for all (Brookfield, 1999). Therefore, it is important to recognize that some prefer to be separated as a coping mechanism, and others truly benefit from the integration.
Areas for Improvement
It is my firm belief that international students at Brock University should be given the opportunity to be integrated into all courses within the MEd program, if it is their desire. Choice and flexibility within the program creates an inclusive learning environment. Perhaps in the first semester of study, international students would remain in their cohort in order to build relationships and establish a sense of community. Then, students should be free to decide the courses in which to enroll. In addition, the institution and/or peers of the MEd program could provide extra help and guidance, or perhaps even design a series of workshops to assist international students with questions regarding academics, funding, work, language, and culture.
In conclusion, “Ontario must create teaching-oriented institutions that provide student-focused education, with more options for a diverse student population at a more affordable cost” (Clark, Trick, & Van Loon, 2011). We must address the issue of exclusion within our institution in order to provide and support an inclusive, diverse, and meaningful learning experience for all students
Brock University (2013). International Students. Retrieved from https://discover.brocku.ca/Graduate_Study/internationalstudents.ezc
Brookfield, S.D. (1999). What is college really like for adult students? About Campus, 13(6),10-15.
Chase, M., & Guo, S. (2011). Internationalisation of higher education: Integrating international students into Canadian academic environment. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(3), 305-318.
Clark, I.D., Trick, D., & Van Loon, R. (2011). Time to consider a new type of university. University Affairs, 24-27.
Rose-Redwood, C.R., & Rose-Redwood, R.S. (2013). Self-segregation or global mixing?: Social interactions and the international student experience. Journal of College Student Development, 54(4), 413-429.
Stewart, P. (2010). Academic values v commercial values. CAUT Bulletin, 57(3). Retrieved from http://www.cautbulletin.ca/en_article.asp?articleid=3026