This morning I woke up to a Twitter thread titled: “Beliefs in academia that need to die… ”. One inspiring Canadian academic responded with the following: “That universities don’t need to teach careers skills because students inevitably acquire critical thinking, writing, teamwork, and/or numeracy over the course of their degree programs”. Her comment is the inspiration for this blog and it prompted some additional considerations that are at the heart of this blog post: how can we best teach the skills students need and what role do post-secondary institutions play in facilitating this learning?
In addition to those important skills mentioned above, students also need competencies to ensure they can work effectively in cross-cultural contexts and/or in teams comprised of diversity. Or, as stated in the Report of the Study Group on Global Education: “The current generation of young Canadians will need to be comfortable working with people from different backgrounds”.
In order for young Canadians to develop these cross-cultural skills and competencies they need exposure. There are many ways to facilitate learning with people from different backgrounds including ‘internationalization at home’ or locally based global learning through community service learning opportunities with newcomers and with other diverse groups (a topic for another blog so stay tuned). Here I address some core considerations for international experiential learning and outbound mobility.
In a 2016 study conducted by John Cameron (Dalhousie University) and myself involving survey responses from 1901 graduates of International Development Studies (IDS) in Canada, students highlighted the value of experiential learning for being competitive in the job market. Overwhelmingly, IDS graduates perceived experiential learning as beneficial for furthering their knowledge learned in the classroom, developing new skillsets, and networking with potential employers. The findings are discussed in greater detail in this paper.
International experiential learning and outbound mobility can be particularly valuable learning and skills-building opportunities. However, several barriers to student outbound mobility prevent Canadians from studying/working abroad including the cost of international travel (including the cost of giving up jobs or the expense of year-long leases), family or community obligations, and other concerns of perceived safety, accessibility, and implications for academic study progress.
Some of these barriers are being addressed through Canada’s recent initiative to increase student mobility opportunities. In 2019, the Government of Canada committed to $147.9 million over five years followed by $8 million per year of ongoing funding for its new International Education Strategy. The Strategy includes funding designated for Canadian students (particularly those students who face some of the biggest barriers to going abroad) to gain new skills through study and work abroad opportunities in key global markets around the world.
This is good news for Canada and for Canadians. The success of this initiative will depend, however, on a number of factors: