In the last few years government awareness regarding the benefits of international education has been increasing in a number of English language learning destinations around the world. Encouraging mobility among students includes looking at both inbound student traffic, which engenders a number of cultural and financial benefits to the destination, as well as the outbound flow of nationals, who learn about another culture and language and thus enhance the country’s competitiveness and international integrity on a national level.
In the USA, the latest Open Doors report produced by the Institute for International Education (IIE) shows data not only relating to foreign students studying in the country (page 6), but also to the number of Americans studying overseas this figure was up by eight per cent in 2006 on the previous year. The IIE states this is a sign of US students “recognising international study as an essential part of preparing for a successful career in a globally interdependent world”.
In New Zealand, officials are delighted that Saudi students will now be able to apply for scholarships to study in the country because of the estimated US$27,000 each in foreign exchange that these foreign visitors will bring, not to mention intercultural opportunities (page 7).
And in the UK, a prestigious university is doing its bit to kickstart language learning among Britons by announcing that it will require a foreign language GCSE as a condition of acceptance onto an undergraduate degree course from 2012 (page 6). Meanwhile, in a bid to enhance the appeal of UK foundation courses for inbound students, a working party of English UK members has devised a national framework for minimum and transparent standards (page 7).
The benefits that international education can bring to a country are in many ways intangible, but IDP Education in Australia, the single largest student recruitment operation bringing students into that country, has estimated the value of international education to the state of Western Australia (page 11). The study also points out an interesting fact 24 per cent of parents visit their child while they are studying in the state. Such spin-off earnings from international education are likely to continue undocumented for many years, if my experience is anything to go by. Having spent a year in Bordeaux, France, I find myself amending travel plans to incorporate a return trip there fairly often, taking friends and family with me.