South-east Asian students at Australian universities: A reappraisal of their tutorial participation and approaches to study
Renshaw, P.D. and Volet, S.E. (1995) South-east Asian students at Australian universities: A reappraisal of their tutorial participation and approaches to study. The Australian Educational Researcher, 22 (2). pp. 85-106.
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This study is a beginning—it begins to question the established literature, and hopefully to provoke university staff into reassessing their perceptions of Southeast Asian students and their assumptions that all students from South-east Asia fit a particular mould. On the other hand we acknowledge that adjustments need to be made by South-east Asian students studying at Australian universities, and depending on their English language proficiency and background these adjustments may be substantial and challenging. However, many of the adjustments South-east Asian students face in Australia will be similar in kind to those that confront all students moving from the more structured environment of the school to a university setting where greater self-reliance and self-management of study is required. Some of the adjustments will be unique to the particular circumstances of each individual student. Some of the adjustments will be related to reconciling the competing demands of university study, securing financial resources, maintaining personal relationships, and setting aside time for recreation. Within these overlapping sets of adjustments will be socially and culturally constituted strategies and resources that students will draw on as they move forward through their programs of study. We need to learn to recognise the resourcefulness of students in this process rather than presume that their differences are a deficiency.
The term ‘South-east Asian’ has been used in the title of the paper because we seek to address the current usage of the term in the literature, and challenge existing stereotypes of students from South-east Asia. By using the term ‘South-east Asian’, however, we contribute in some measure to the existing problem by implying that the diverse cultures and traditions of South-east Asia can be meaningfully grouped together. On balance we decided that it was better to engage the current literature by employing the term South-east Asian even though it obscures the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of students from the region. One reviewer of the paper suggested that we restrict our paper and title to Singapore students, since they comprise the overwhelming proportion of overseas students in the sample. To account for this concern, we have emphasised the characteristics of the sample in the introduction, and considered in the discussion and conclusion to the paper the ‘special case argument’ that is made regarding students from Singapore.
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