Faculty of Education - Theses

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    Internationalization and students' development of intercultural competence in Malaysian universities
    Abdul Aziz, Norazah ( 2017)
    Internationalization of higher education and its potential to enhance a nation's capacity both economically and socially has driven Malaysia to invest and intensify its efforts into becoming the education hub for the Southeast Asian region. To increase the flow of international students from 120,000 in 2016 to 250,000 by 2025, the Ministry of Higher Education has developed policy initiatives to enhance the student experience with a focus on improving social integration and development of intercultural competence through students' engagement in university activities. The measurable outcomes for most if not all the action steps under this initiative are the number of programs carried out by universities and student participation in these programs. However, little is known about the factors that influence students' voluntary participation in these programs and their experiences in activities aimed at developing intercultural competence. Using a mixed methods approach, this study examined the enablers and barriers to students' engagement in cross-cultural activities and the extent to which their engagement was perceived to facilitate the development of intercultural competence. The study found that despite students' efforts to engage in these activities, factors such as poor English language proficiency and engrained inter-ethnic tensions persist as key challenges to social integration and the development of intercultural competence. The findings affirm the influence of the historical, political and social context of societies in shaping an individual's understanding and development of intercultural competence. Given these challenges, this study argues that apart from activities that promote students' engagement with diversity, there is also a need for more strategic fundamental programs to enhance intercultural understanding and communicative abilities among diverse ethnic groups in Malaysia, as well as programs designed specifically to enhance the experience of international students. The findings of this study have implications for institutions and policymakers in enhancing students' overall university experience and realizing the broader vision of creating more socially integrated and interculturally competent graduates.