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The world is becoming rapidly connected and constraints of geography are things of the past. This has been necessitated by advances in information technology, a vast transport system and the creation of a global scene. As a result, persons have become global citizens who get services wherever and whenever they need them. One such service is higher education in which universities and colleges have become nuclei around which multi-racial relations are formed. Diversity has become part of the education system. Students seeking education have the responsibility to understand and appreciate other students' ways of life, cultural values, beliefs and practices. Through such an understanding, students are able to interact harmoniously thus facilitating learning.
This is an exploration of how an understanding of the values, beliefs and practices of different cultures benefit learners in Australian universities. Simply defined, culture is a peoples' way of life. Every way of life has different values and inherent beliefs which inform the observable practices. According to Aykin (2005), cultural values are things considered to be good and true. In addition, Hall (2008) stipulated that whenever people modified their cultural beliefs, they opened up new worlds to themselves thereby reaping resultant benefits. In this context, if students in Australian universities did the same, they would get new ideals, establish new priorities and probably enhance better possibilities.
In this essay, a general overview of the Australian university diversities in cultural values, beliefs and practices shall be outlined. Later, there shall be done a detailed investigation into the ways an Australian university learner would benefit from knowledge of others' cultural attributes. Some of the benefits include cross-cultural education, clearing of stereotypes, appreciation of others and harmonious co-existence. Other benefits transcend exclusively personal benefits and touches on Australian universities' global competitiveness and economic prowess in the education market. Since learning is not exclusively tied to students, their instructors would also learn why they (students) behaved the way they did. Finally, there shall be a recap of the whole discussion and a restatement of the main premise.
According to Sidhu (2006), cultural diversity is increasingly being considered by the Australian government as a fundamental project that would increase the country's market share in the market of education. This means that Australian universities should act like cosmopolitan institutions while the government itself is compelled to have national days and cultural awards for international students. In fact, for cultural attributes to be promulgated, Australian universities must internationalize their curriculum. Cultural diversity is a resource for students.
Once students learn about cultural values, beliefs and practices of other races, better skills at an international scene are born. Culturally informed persons exhibit 'boundarylessness' in their relationships. This would benefit Australian universities in that there would be an immense pool of human capital that thinks globally but acts locally. Learning other peoples' cultural orientations would greatly help universities in Australia in their research programs involving international respondents. As an institution of higher learning, research work forms the backbone of the academic and scholarly milestones which inform the country's policy formulation process. This venture is also beneficial to the extent that universities are able to appropriately link with the industry especially in the social science arena. This is well illustrated by fields of study that directly involve human subjects such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, counseling, social work and religious studies. Students who would emanate from Australian universities would not be ethnocentric: In course of their practice, they would not judge their clients from their (practitioners') own perspective. They would instead use what in social science is referred to as a balanced opinion between the 'etic' and 'emic' approaches.
According to Scott (2000), cultural diversity and diligence in universities will effectively meet the demands for global education and provide a tolerant and innovative high education that would enable student work in interactive environments. In this regard, higher education would be more rich, flexible and responsive to the pressures and realities of globalizations. Knowledge of cultural practices would help fresh students in Australian universities to deal with culture shock. The latter happens when a student finds others doing things differently from the way the student is used to. Through Australian education policies on diversity, such students would be helped to acclimatize fast and lead a normal life.
With reference to the health sciences, it is very important to put into perspective the people's beliefs about the etiology of diseases. This is crucial science the inherent belief of etiology affects the method of treatment or the process of cure. Instructors who work in Australian universities should be able to delineate how students from different cultural backgrounds perceive disease cause. This would help in the de-learning of those redundant beliefs such as 'bad eye' as causes for diseases. It is only when students are changed that they could change their future patients and helps them cure faster. In other words, cultural diligence would help in offering social perspectives in the epidemiology of diseases and management of treatments. Such a student is expected to be effective in the global market since they have a rough idea of what to expect in practice courtesy of the cultural wisdom obtained from the university.
Due to cultural factors, Australian universities were reported to face a few challenges. Some include offshore and onshore dissension. In his Intercultural and multi-cultural education: Enhancing global interconnectedness, Carl A. Grant stipulated how Australian universities are responding to the challenges of international education. This is so because as mentioned in the introduction part, the environment of world higher education is rapidly changing with diversity at the top of the agenda. It was also observable that Australian authorities welcomed multicultural students since they would act as agents of change and intellectual challenge (Grant 2010). This has been very beneficial because the Australian culture is now reported as dynamic and open to dialogue. If Australian universities acknowledged the positive cultural values of students from other cultures, there would be a richer environment of dialogue and international cooperation.
Wisdom on other cultural attributes leads to empowerment. This is only possible through global partnerships such as those in Australian universities. The eighth millennium development goal stipulates that for development to happen, parties should partner with each other. The United Nations, through experience and observation, was immensely convinced that partnerships would lead to exchange of better ideas which stimulated development both at local, national and international levels. Put in other words, incorporation of other good cultural practices are prerequisites for a developed world. Even at the university level, involvement of students from diverse backgrounds would lead to conception of ideas better than if decisions were done without consultation and involvement. This would have a net effect of Australian universities achieving high heights in global competition for high education, academic and scholarly research, and consultancy and policy interventions. In this regard, the term 'cultural' should not merely be viewed in terms of 'ethic' or 'community' perspective. Since culture is a way of life, cultural practices could encompass technological inventions of the West (Europe and North America) or strategic management principles of Toyota Automobiles Company.
Through learning other people's culture, one is able to act as an advocate for those people. Australian universities would have played a great role in the condemnation of the extermination of Tasmanians and other aboriginal minorities of Australia. Their practices in the forests were perceived as having been destructive yet they mingled well with nature without affecting the environment. The hunting and gathering of the Tasmanians, although may have had poaching excesses, would have been approached in a better way other that driving the aboriginal populations out of the forests without offering alternatives. Such a role would have been played by any Australian university's social science department such as cultural studies and sociology.
Leadership is an integral part of a society's progression. The underdeveloped world is so because among other things, political leadership abuses ethnic diversity for divisions as opposed to unity and nationalism. Upon conducting research on cultural values (beliefs and practices) for different ethnicities in the sub-continent, universities in Australia would offer a leading role in the promotion of democracy and a sense of national identity. This would create an ample environment for the Australian learner since it has been noticed that students are affected by political turmoil.
There are a variety of benefits for learner who learns other people's cultural values, practices and beliefs in Australia. Every ethnic community has a set of belief systems which are some components of religious studies for Australian universities. Some aspects of religious beliefs entail myths of origin, explanation for death and life thereafter, existence of good and evil among others. These aspects are part and passel of religious investigation for learners. The knowledge of these aspects also benefits students of philosophy and Anthropology. Since not everything about religious beliefs and practices has been published, learning such issues from another student who emanates from such a society is a great benefit. Although it may seem unimportant, learning other cultures is fulfilling for any curious learner in Australia and beyond.
Studying values, beliefs and practices of other cultures would lead to creation of a database that would help students pursuing studies in human subjects. This would be achieved in several angles: Learners would get a variety of theoretical dispensation applied by those who initially studied the particular attributes; they would also get the practical approaches in the study and research within communities; finally, they would synthesize the approaches used and come up with the best practices in such studies. Above all such group of students would learn how to analyze qualitative data that is gotten from socio-cultural research.
Efforts by the university academic staff to investigate other cultures are always beneficial to the learner. Due to the vital nature of social research, other international organizations such as the UNESCO fund academic programs for cultural investigation. It is therefore obvious that students in the relevant departments would be chosen to be research assistants. Through their assistance in the research, they get the practical skill. Additionally, their interests for the subject are fixated. If students did not have passion for the exercise, they are likely to supplement their course combinations before it is too late. If they have, then they nature the passion foundationally thus securing a career in social research. They also evaluate themselves appropriately with regard to interviewing techniques and administration of various research tools such as questionnaires and focus discussion guides.
Cultural knowledge of values, beliefs and practices would make Australian university students be cross-culturally educated. This would lead to a cross-cultural consciousness and a consequent appreciation of the phenomena. The process of cultural learning is beneficial in its own right. During the process, learners are able to make more contacts and create new networks. One such program was the exchange program between the Australian and the Indonesian youths. Learning other cultural practices helps the learner clear the stereotypes attached to the groups in question. Since the concept of learning is not exclusively tied to the students, even instructors get to know why students behave the way they do and design programs to assist them if at all the practices were retrogressive. In extreme cases, the instructors learn how to tolerate the extremist students. On the other hand, the students are able to learn how to deal with instructors who by virtue of their cultural orientation are act in weird manners; at least from the students' perspective.
One of the attributes of a culture is language. In a university setting, students are able to interact thus learning languages from other cultures. In this case, learners become multi-lingual thus increasing their mutual intelligibility and communication capacity. In a further analysis, students are able to do a better comparative study of languages. This has always been one of the concerns of comparative linguistics. From an information technology perspective, learners would be able to create online education networks which would economically benefit them. Put otherwise, there would be an online curriculum delivery which is cautious of the multi-linguistic arena for the benefit of students from other parts of the world. From a linguistic perspective, cultural practices are not only viewed from an ethnic perspective but also from a racial viewpoint.
According to Mclnerney (2005), learners who are multi-culturally competent are able to co-operate in learning, share knowledge more effectively, help others more easily, act communally and more friendly. These and other benefits would be at the disposal of the Australian learner in their respective universities or without the university precincts. In the opinion of Mclnerney, Australian students would be capacitated to incorporate indigenous educational concepts for Pacific Islanders into the formal curriculum. Learners are also capable of gaining cultural epistemological concepts which would later shape their identity as scholars. The cultural gap would be closed and new horizons spelled out. Due to this knowledge, learners have the propensity to construct cultural models which accommodates other pedagogies, academic industries and governments. Students hence become more exposed and less immersed in retrogressive attributes of their own culture- if at all they were. The ultimate effect would be a shift from a mere cultural competence to global competence.
Culturally competent Australian students, upon realization of diversities existent across cultures, would be even much able to select what to decode in a communication process. They would be conscious of others' inherent beliefs, practices and values. Australia would have the advantage of an immense pool of students with an expanded worldview, outlook or perspective. In contexts of learning institutions, the host Australian culture would not 'command' other nationalities' students but freely accommodate them. In addition to cultural accommodation, Australian learners would gain extra communication skills. This is because since different cultures use difference signs to communicate different messages, the same would be realized for the wider harmonious communication. Students would not at all confuse gestures for other meanings; an aspect of kinesics. Student learners would also be informed of the relative communication distances to be observed when speaking with different audiences.
It is critical to ask at this juncture whether learning about other cultural values, beliefs and practices is disadvantageous in any way. From the onset it should be noticed that cross-cultural learning is more advantageous than it is disadvantageous. Moreover, a few inadequacies have been noticed over time and across space. It has been realized that some 'bad' cultural values have been adopted by learners in Australian universities (McLeod, 1994). Although this is an ethical question, there is a general international consensus that some practices like drug abuse and human trafficking are not in line with the law. Student who gain such attributes from the university have their studies affected and possibly their future. Secondly, some learners in institutions of higher learning have been reported as having abandoned their cultural practices completely following claims that such practices and believes were retrogressive. In the final analysis, such student lost identity and got caught in mixed cultures. Although this is not exclusively redundant, ones identity is a crucial existential factor.
Globalization forces have led to a vast interaction of persons across the globe. A good example of loci for interaction is institutions of higher learning. In these institutions, students exchange many cultural values, ideas, practices, beliefs and worldviews. This essay was concerned with an investigation of the benefits of cultural learning of the said aspects in the context of Australian universities. It was found out that although there may be a few disadvantages of cross-cultural learning which go against the principles of university learning, the benefits are manifold. Such benefits include but not limited to the general cultural competence, clearing of stereotypes, improved communication skills, increases tolerance, understanding and accommodation, global connectedness, economic gains, career advances, personal fulfillment among other benefits. In retrospect, globalization is a reality and multi-cultural competence is the only way towards global effectiveness of Australian university learners.