Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Understanding VET Teachers' Challenges in Providing Quality Education to International Students

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Understanding VET Teachers' Challenges in Providing Quality Education to International Students

Article excerpt


Arecent study (Smith, 2010) highlighted that international education is at the centre of political controversy in Australia. In such an environment, it could be easy to lose sight of the teaching and learning processes that are at the heart of Vocational Education and Training for international students. While specialised teachers of international students would seem essential to ensuring the educational satisfaction of these students in VET, their experiences have received limited attention to date.

This paper addresses the currently limited knowledge on VET educators' experiences by examining the challenges experienced by 15 teachers of international students in Brisbane. The findings are intended to enhance understanding as a basis for providing greater support to VET teachers in Australia to ensure that they can best educate their international students. Thus, the findings highlighted in this paper further the interests of international education in Australia.


VET in Australia and the changes over the last two decades

Vocational education and training (VET) occupies a significant place in Australian education. Since the early 1970s VET has become specifically linked to economic development and the production of skills for the Australian workforce (Harris & Guthrie, 1995; Marginson, 1997). VET primarily focuses on the development of workplace skills to enable or improve the employment options for individuals (McLean, 2010; Choy, 2010).

Since 1997, the number of international students studying in VET in Australia has soared (Gillard, 2009). International education is the third largest industry, and the second largest services export sector behind Tourism, having achieved a 15% average growth per annum (Austrade Education Overview, 2010; Butler & Shore, 2010). International VET is commercially important in Australia. By the end of 2009, there were more than half a million international students studying in Australia. Just over one third of these, 232,475 (Australian Education International, 2010), were enrolled in a VET course. Most of these students study at a private registered training organisation (RTO), with a small percentage (14%) studying in TAFE institutes. International education was worth $15.5 billion to Australia and more than $2 billion to Queensland. The Queensland Vocational Education and Training Export Office sector has more than 20,000 international students and is one of the most expansive in Australia, growing 67% in the past 12 months (Dennehy, 2009).

In Australia and internationally, provision of quality education for international students has become a common goal for policy makers. Educational quality is the focus of an extensive array of literature and academic discourse. In addition to the increasing emphasis on quality assurance, myriad social, economic, technological and political changes are being felt across the VET sector. However, Knight (2006), in a study prepared for the International Association of Universities, reported on the importance of adapting academic practices to keep pace with the competitiveness and commercialisation in international education. Marginson and Eijkman (2007) called for more internationalised curricula and effective pedagogical practices that would acknowledge the great diversity of cultures that international students bring to Australian classrooms. This call was reinforced at a recent Australian International Education Conference, where a common concern was for the provision of more learning-oriented services that will genuinely augment international students' learning experiences (Arenas, 2009).

VET institutions, to varying degrees, are putting large amounts of effort, money and stafftime into internationalising their campuses, without solid evidence of the effectiveness of the various aspects of internationalisation (Bennett & Kane, 2009). Some of this is taking place but it materialises at a very slow pace. …

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