تجدید سرمایه اجتماعی و عملکرد تحصیلی دانش آموزان بین المللی در استرالیا
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|4106||2008||24 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||12253 کلمه|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : The Journal of Socio-Economics, Volume 37, Issue 4, August 2008, Pages 1515–1538
Many believe that social capital fosters the accumulation of human capital. Yet international university students arrive in their host country generally denuded of social capital and confronted by unfamiliar cultural and educational institutions. This study investigates how, and to what extent, international students renew their social networks, and whether such investments are positively associated with academic performance. We adopt a social capital framework and conduct a survey of international students at a typical Australian university in order to categorise and measure investments in social capital renewal, and test a multivariate model of academic performance that includes social capital variables, amongst others, as regressors. Our survey results reveal a high degree of variability in social capital investment across students and, amongst the more active, a tendency to build close networks in the main with students from their own country of origin. Our empirical results suggest that such investments are not associated with improved academic performance but are associated with increased well being.
As the above quote makes clear, the importance of social relationships has long been recognised, at least by philosophers and social observers. In more recent times, economists and sociologists have also recognised the importance of social relationships, which is one dimension of what is more commonly referred to as social capital. Related dimensions include trust (both general and particular), volunteering, and organisational and club involvement. Whilst not unanimous, much research suggests that social capital is positively associated with economic growth, international trade, macroeconomic stability, political and civic involvement, crime prevention, health and happiness. Of particular interest to us are suggestions in the literature that social capital impacts positively and significantly on the academic achievement of secondary school students.1 If social relationships are important for academic success then do international students, who leave their home country to study in a foreign educational and cultural setting, attempt to rebuild their social capital and, if so, are those more effective at doing so also academically more successful? In this paper, the first of its kind that we know of, we investigate this question by reporting on the nature and extent of the social capital renewal and academic performance for a sample of over 150 international students deriving from 27 countries of origin studying at a medium sized regional university in Australia. The growth in the number of international students and their share of total enrolments has been one of the key features of the Australian higher education landscape for at least a decade. It has provided financial windfalls for universities, an enriched and more diverse cultural experience on campuses, and a range of economic and social benefits for the local community. For the international students themselves, it has yielded the opportunity to study in a new country and obtain a degree from a highly regarded and mature university system. However, many newly arriving international students are distant from their support system of family, friends and networks, and so it is reasonable to assume that, on average, they land in Australia largely deprived of the close relationships and social networks that presumably contributed to their academic success back home. Hence, we are interested in international students because their behaviour in re-establishing social relationships in a foreign and unfamiliar cultural and academic environment may shed light on the nature and extent of their social capital renewal and whether such investments are positively associated with academic performance. The remainder of the paper is organised as follows. Section 2 examines the challenges facing international students within the context of the social capital literature. Section 3 presents background data on international students in Australia. Section 4 discusses our survey methodology and the resultant data on social capital renewal by a sample of international students studying in Australia. Section 5 reports our empirical findings on the relationship between social capital renewal and academic performance. Finally, Section 6 summarises the main findings of this study and offers some concluding comments, in particular on whether the findings have any broader policy implications.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This study has investigated the manner and degree to which international students renew their social networks denuded by the process of migration, and the impact of these investments on well being and academic performance. It reports and analyses the results of a 2005/2006 survey of 173 international students conducted at the University of Wollongong, a leading educator of international tertiary students in Australia and one of the principal national players in the market. Whilst not the first survey of international student behaviour, it adopts a social capital framework, which facilitates engagement with a broader conceptual and empirical literature and provides for measurement of these activities. Results from our survey are consistent with psychology theories of culture shock and suggest that many students experienced relative unhappiness and disorientation on arrival from overseas. However, most managed to build up a circle of friends and became happier over time although a small but notable minority failed even to engage with the university community. Many students also built social networks through membership of clubs and increased their financial footings by undertaking paid employment. Our expectation, consistent with some of the literature in this area, was that these investments in social capital renewal would also provide some returns in the form of improved academic performance. However, our regression results in Table 10 provide no support for this hypothesis. Our paper is pioneering work in this area and so only limited inferences should be drawn from our results. Apart from any methodological weaknesses, our sample size is small. Nevertheless, our results point quite consistently to the unexpected conclusion that social capital renewal, or at least our proxies for social capital renewal, are at best not associated with academic performance and, at worst, actually counter-productive. How may we explain this result? One possibility is to consider the important distinction between bonding and bridging social capital. Most social capital investments by international students occurred via on campus interactions with other international students, predominantly from the same country of origin. Only a minority of students forged relationships with domestic students or in the local community that might have provided them with insights into the broader culture of the host nation. This evidence must be set within the context of the prevailing high levels of social capital in Australia identified in our discussion of the broader empirical literature in Section 2. Student friendships with domestic students, who would better understand the institutional and behavioural characteristics of the local educational system, were rare. The study of Westwood and Barker (1990) of peer pairing programmes for international students indicated that, ‘contact with certain host national individuals is positively correlated with academic success and lowered probability of dropping out’. In the main then, our sample of international students appears to have formed ‘bonding’ rather than ‘bridging’ social capital. These shortcomings in the nature of the social capital investments are also manifested in Granovetter's (1973) classic statement of the importance of ‘weak ties’ amongst more distant acquaintances in providing a larger and more diverse network on which to draw, rather than ‘strong ties’ amongst close friends with similar backgrounds. Also, most student interaction was amongst peers from the same year of study suggesting little in the way of mentor style networking with senior students who might help new starters establish themselves. Thus, whilst the culturally close horizontal networks formed by international students in our sample may be supported by the social capital literature as optimal behaviour and are associated with increases in well being or happiness, there is reason to believe that broader and hierarchical ties may well serve them better in terms of improving their academic performance. In terms of policy, this aspect of our results points to the difficult but important task for university educators of finding effective programmes to foster closer ties between domestic and international students, and between junior and senior students. Educators need to think carefully about how such investments may be better encouraged and supported. One possibility could be a variant of the ‘buddy system’ commonly employed in primary schools, where individual international students could be allocated a volunteer domestic student who would perform a mentoring type role. Future empirical research might focus on this issue, that is, on whether only specific types of social capital are causally related to academic performance and on how educators might design policies to better encourage investment in bridging social capital. Of course whilst such a scheme might be a useful way of initiating the accumulation of bridging social capital in the medium term, as well as assisting international students to more quickly and efficiently acclimatise to the new environment on arrival, our results suggest that the magnitude of any social capital impact on academic performance is likely to be small. Other aspects of our results also deserve further investigation. For example, students from Western countries do better than those from non-Western countries. If this result is in large measure due to familiarity with Western educational practices and philosophies, as we suggest, then educators could give some thought to designing and implementing appropriate programs to better inculcate non-Western international students with the general practices and expectations of Western educational institutions. One possibility could be a short course on university expectations, practices and procedures, which could run in tandem with English language programs that many international students are required to successfully complete. Such programs may also have benefits in terms of the efficiency with which international students renew their social capital in the host country. A final aspect of our results that deserves further attention is the negative and statistically significant association, though again small in magnitude, between length of study in Australia and academic performance. We expected the set of networks that a student establishes both within and outside the university to be a positive function of the length of time she has been studying in Australia. In other words, ‘culture shock’ should diminish over time and so, other things equal, well being in general and academic performance in particular should improve. And yet our results suggest the opposite, at least in terms of academic performance. At this stage we have no plausible explanation of this result other than to surmise that the objectives of international students may be more complicated than we have assumed. For example, anecdotal evidence suggests that, at least for some international students, behaviour may be motivated more by extraneous factors such as a desire to increase disposable income or to maximise the probability of gaining residency than by our more obvious but perhaps more naïve assumption of maximising academic performance.21 If this turns out to be so, then unravelling the major determinants of the academic performance of international students will be a difficult task. Again we believe that more research needs to be undertaken into whether international students arrive in their host country with a portfolio of objectives rather than simply seeking to maximise academic performance.