Rethinking international education through the concept of capabilities
A bridge to development in Asia’s emergent knowledge societies
This paper calls for rethinking international education towards a transformative agenda to engender international students’ self-determination, self-reflection, agency and citizenship that would enable them to make valuable personal and social change for them and their communities when they return to their homeland. It argues for a reconceptualisation of the vision of international education to include both the instrumental objectives of skills development and jobs procurement, as well as the intrinsic value of creating substantive opportunities for people to live the lives they value. It further argues that there is a need to move research from institutional perspectives of international education providers to those of international students and graduates focussing on their personal and civic commitment within their home communities.
In the context of this paper, the terms “West” and “Western” generally refer to countries in the geographical regions of Europe including the United Kingdom, North America, and Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific region. The terms “Anglo-West” and “Euro-America” are also used interchangeably with the same meaning. The terms “Asia” and “Asian” generally refer to countries in the geographical regions of East and South East Asia, and South Asia.
This paper has four parts. The first part sketches the current discourses on international education in the emerging knowledge societies of Asia. It critiques the parochial Anglo-Western values in international education discourses and calls for contending viewpoints that consider diversity of students’ cultural and social values. The second part presents Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach (CA) as an alternative framework for viewing and evaluating international education. The third part discusses the operationalising aspects of the CA in the practical contexts of its philosophical status and considers the potential of its epistemological benefits. The last part concludes the paper by summarising the discussion about the merits of the CA as a conceptualising and evaluating tool for international education.
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