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‘I am really expecting people to judge me by my skills’: ethnicity and identity of international students
journal contributionposted on 2017-01-01, 00:00 authored by Ly TranLy Tran
There is an increasing volume of international students enrolled in the vocational education and training sector in many countries. However, questions of ethnicity and identity in VET have not been explicitly examined in relation to this group. This paper offers some valuable insights into the complex and varying ways in which ethnicity is interrelated to the issues of identity of international students who have non-citizen status in the host country. It draws on a four-year qualitative study funded by the Australian Research Council that includes 105 interviews with international students and fieldwork in VET institutes across three states of Australia: New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. The research highlights forms of injustice including non-recognition of skills due to skin colour, disadvantage with regard to employment opportunities, being positioned as deficient in the classroom and workplace, unjust stereotypes and violation of rights. The research also reports international students’ specific strategies in exercising both individual and collective agency to seek a ‘space’ for comfort, mutual support and communal strength and to confront injustices. The paper concludes with some practical recommendations for institutions to support international students’ agency and build an inclusive environment for international students in VET.