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International Education, Its Benefits and Issues Essay

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Updated: Jan 9th, 2020

Education scholars argue that international education helps in creating awareness of other people’s cultures, world regions, and further makes students familiar with global and international issues. It also helps in fostering the spirit of multiculturalism as a key driver of globalization, enabling students to communicate in foreign languages amongst other benefits.

However, the extent of international education to achieve these goals precisely is dependent on the existence of homogeneity of its approaches deployed by global education institutions.

To determine whether this homogeneity exists, it is rather pertinent that a comparison methodology exists for all international education institutions to adopt. However, this paper argues that various problems exist in making international comparisons.

The first problem in making international comparison stems from the existence of differences in the definition of the term itself. The term international education attracts valid and often highly debated definitions.

Some scholars have considered the meaning of the term from two general perspectives, which are dependent on levels of student’s involvement. One perspective lies on the perception that international education prepares students from differing nations to take an active part as participants in social, economic and political matters of an interconnected world (Cambridge & Thompson 2004, p.162).

To achieve this, it is necessary that students learn foreign languages. Spellings (2007) supports this argument and further argues that learning foreign languages would enable the U.S people to communicate effectively the American ideas and also values while in return America would come to a better understanding of various global issues (Spellings 2007, p.5).

Realization of this dream is apparently impossible due to the existence of varying emphasis on specific areas in international education. Making comparison is then also a problem. As a way of example, Spellings (2007) argues that, in China, Thailand, and the European Union, it is compulsory for the student to study foreign languages.

Compared to America, only 44 percent of high school students studied a foreign language in 2002 with less than 1% studying Korean, Urdu, Japanese and Russian combined (Spellings 2007, p.6).

The second approach in defining international education is looking at it as an education that helps in transcending various national borders through promotion of exchanges of various people of different nationalities.

In this context, international education entails students traveling to do their studies in various higher learning institutions branches established in foreign nations as a part of exchange programs (Cambridge & Thompson 2004, p.167).

This is the position also held by Ignacio and Morentin (2003), who argue that international education is education for international understanding and helps in fostering democracy, peace and human rights among the global society (pp.5 -8). However, Cambridge and Thompson (2004) contest this view.

They argue that “the majority of international schools operate in a variety of local contexts and usually students do not travel terribly far to attend an international school because they reside with their parents, who are expatriates working in a country that is not their home, and attend an international school in their locality or a nearby city” (p.166).

In this context, the decision to attend an international school is not by virtue of the need to foster international understanding but because of circumstance.

In making a comparison of international education, data relating to various educational systems coupled with their interrelationships in different nations is necessary. Such data include data on the conditions in which various education systems function in respect to demographics coupled with social-economic traits of the population, including public support, special groups of student and financial resources (Schleicher 1999, p.216).

Though this data may be available in different nations, variation in structure and governance in international education systems makes educational comparisons a nightmare.

This implies that despite such data being widely accurate and sufficient to meet the demand of national requesters, the data may cease being of any significance in relation to international education comparisons due to the existence of differences emanating from differing classifications and definitions.

Apparently, education systems may not be possible to hold constant to facilitate validity of various comparisons, especially in situations where education frameworks systems and various policy priorities keep on changing with time. Arguably, one can achieve precise comparisons through narrowing down objects of international education comparison to a given common denominator, for instance age.

However, Spellings (2007) informs that “while about 34 percent of white adults had obtained a bachelor’s degrees by age 29…the same was true for just 18 percent of African American and 10 percent of Hispanic adults in the age cohort” (pp.4-5). This shows that differences in term of object under comparison exist and hence uplifting the difficulties of making valid comparisons.

Different perspectives of viewing functions of education introduce challenges in making comparisons of international education. As a way of example, some nations see education as serving public interests.

Others see education as a “commodity” subject to action of various theories of improvement, such as accountability theories, and new public management approaches (NPM). Indeed, Schellenberg (2004) reckons that “the privatization of education today introduces industry to the provision of education in a new way and changes the notion of education as a public institution to education as a marketable product” (p.80).

Lack of harmonized view of function of education makes its international comparisons difficult. This holds true based on the sense that, upon its commoditization, it is a product bought by those who can afford it (OECD 2005). Seeking positions in the international schools consequently ceases from being a way of ensuring harmonization of valid people’s cultures to an opulence living style.

Arguably consistent with Schellenberg (2004), “as the state’s role in providing education changes, its citizens lose the opportunities in the educational systems to develop all the capacities required for full citizen participation (p. 94)”.

On the other hand, where people perceive education as serving public interests, promoting international understanding being one of them, seeking international education evidently serves as a means of breaking down national borders, and exposing students to job opportunities internationally.

Different emphasis of certain areas of education also poses problems to making comparisons of international education. Spellings (2007) contend that while the U.S higher education focuses more on creativity and a critical thinking, other nations such as Japan emphasize more on mathematics and technical subjects often making them more competitive both economically and educationally (p.4).

Ideally, this implies that attempting to make international comparisons of these two national educations, a common object for analysis is not evident. Consequently, in an endeavor to make students competitive internationally, the U.S needs to focus more on the areas where other nations are emphasizing.

From this argument, it is perhaps evident that the focus of international education is valid. While some nations have economic gain associated with it, others seek fostering harmonization of people’s beliefs and values across the globe and hence common platforms for comparison fail to exist.

In my own opinion, and in the light of the above problems in making comparisons of international education, I do not believe that it is possible to make international comparisons. From one dimension, it is apparent that differing nations have different emphasis of their education systems.

Where students study in foreign nations emphasizing on technical subjects like math and engineering like in Japan (Spellings 2007, p.4), it is likely that they would follow the same emphasis in selecting their area of specialization as opposed to the emphasis subjects in their native nations.

Consequently, making comparison of international education in the two nations is problematic by the fact there lacks common objects of comparison. Additionally, differing demographic characteristics of varying groups under comparison in different nation also makes the whole idea of comparing international problematic.

For instance, in cases of differences of average ages at which people acquire bachelor degrees introduces problems in making comparison since people of different ages are anticipated to have differing cognitive abilities.

Conclusively, a shift on the way people and states see the functions of education, nonexistent of differing common objects for comparison, and differing areas of educational emphasis make comparisons of international education impossible.

Additionally, as argued by Schellenberg (2004), “as the state’s role in providing education changes, its citizens lose the opportunities in the educational systems to develop all the capacities required for full citizen participation” (p. 94).

Appreciation of one’s citizenship in the international schools indeed goes far in forming the basis of examination of differences between ones national affiliations and affiliations of other people belonging to different nations in an endeavor to foster international understanding.


Cambridge, J & Thompson, J 2004, ‘Internationalism and Globalization as Contexts for International Education’, Journal of Comparative and International Education, vol. 34 no.2, pp.161-175.

Ignacio, J & Morentin, D 2003, What is International Education? UNESCO Answers, UNESCO Centre, San Sebastian.

OECD. 2005, ‘Education Trends in Perspective Analysis of the World Education Indicators 2005 Edition: Trend in Education Participation and Outputs’, Source OECD Education, vol. 1 no.8, pp. 7-51.

Schellenberg, M 2004, ‘Globalization and Citizenship Education: Implications for the Nation State’, Canadian and International Education, vol. 33 no. 1, pp. 75-98.

Schleicher, A 1999, Comparability Issues in International Education Comparisons. OECD, Paris.

Spellings, M 2007, ‘Fostering Global Understanding through International Education’ International Educator, vol.16 no. 2, pp. 4-6.

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IvyPanda. "International Education, Its Benefits and Issues." January 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/international-education-3/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "International Education, Its Benefits and Issues." January 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/international-education-3/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'International Education, Its Benefits and Issues'. 9 January.

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