Factors affecting prospective international vietnamese students’ decisions of the study destination

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CAN THO UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH Factors Affecting Prospective International Vietnamese Students’ Decisions of the Study Destination Supervisor: Nguyen Thi Nguyen Tuyet, M.Ed Name: Vo Hoang Ca Student code: 7106914 Class: NN1054A1 Can Tho, May 2014 CAN THO UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH Factors Affecting Prospective International Vietnamese Students’ Decisions of the Study Destination Supervisor: Nguyen Thi Nguyen Tuyet, M.Ed Name: Vo Hoang Ca Student code: 7106914 Class: NN1054A1 Can Tho, May 2014 DECLARATION I hereby declare that this thesis titled “Factors Affecting Prospective International Vietnamese Students’ Decision of the Study Destination” is my own work and effort and that it has not been published or submitted anywhere for any award. Where other sources of information have been used, they have been acknowledged by complete references. Candidate’s signature: Vo Hoang Ca ACKNOWLEDGEMENT This thesis would not have been completed without generous support from a number of people to whom I owe to thank. First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my research supervisor, Ms. Nguyen Thi Nguyen Tuyet (Can Tho University), who has given me her constant guidance, inspirational advices, and insightful encouragement. She offered me motivation to stay on track and maintain my drive as well. In addition, I am honored to pay tribute to all of the teachers at English department who have provided English major students with more opportunities and supports to conduct the undergraduate research conveniently. I would also like to express my thankful gratitude to Mr. Tran Le Huu Nghia, who has helped me to open the door to entrance the world of scientific research field with his best guidance and supports. Words are unable to express my real feelings; however, I would also like to send many thanks to all of the participants in Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho City for their willing help by involving in the interviews that produces data for the study. Last but not least, I would like to offer my deepest regards and respects to my relatives and all of my friends who encouraged me to stand and keep going when I lacked energy and confidence to complete the thesis. ABSTRACT Studying abroad has been regarded as an academic luxury; however, it has become more popular as the consequence of higher education globalization and internationalization in many countries across the globe, including Vietnam. Researchers have realized a variety of factors that significantly influence international students’ decisions of study destinations in different countries, but there is still a lack of similar studies in Vietnam. This study was conducted to explore prospective international Vietnamese students’ perceptions of factors that they take into account when deciding a study destination. The study employed semi-structured interviews to draw qualitative data from 55 participants. The data were analyzed using the content analysis approach and double coding technique. The results indicated that the participants considered various factors - both in terms of pull and push factors - in making decisions of the study destination, which included both Western and Asian ones. In addition, the findings highlighted that the participants would like to study abroad because of extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivations and that they were not fully aware of challenges waiting them ahead in the study journey. Finally, the findings suggested a minor risk of brain drain among the participants. TÓM TẮT Du học được xem là một trải nghiệm học thuật quý báu. Trong bối cảnh toàn cầu hóa và quốc tế hóa giáo dục bậc đại học hiện nay, việc đi du học ngày càng trở nên phổ biến ở mỗi quốc gia trên thế giới, trong đó có Việt Nam. Ở nhiều quốc gia, các nhà nghiên cứu đã nhận thấy sự đa dạng của các yếu tố có ảnh hưởng lớn đối với sinh viên quốc tế trong quá trình quyết định đích đến du học; tuy nhiên, Việt Nam vẫn còn thiếu những nghiên cứu tương tự như vậy. Nghiên cứu này được thực hiện nhằm tìm hiểu xem du học sinh Việt Nam tương lai xem xét những vấn đề gì khi chọn đích đến du học. Dữ liệu định tính trong nghiên cứu này được thu từ 55 đối tượng bằng cách thực hiện các cuộc phỏng vấn bán cấu trúc. Dữ liệu được xử lý bằng phương pháp phân tích nội chung chính (content analysis) và thủ thuật mã hóa đôi (double coding). Kết quả nghiên cứu cho thấy du học sinh Việt Nam tương lai xem xét rất nhiều yếu tố - bao gồm cả những yếu tố đẩy trong nước và yếu tố thu hút từ quốc tế - khi quyết định chọn trường và nước đến học, bất kể đích đến là các nước phương Tây hay các nước châu Á. Ngoài ra, nghiên cứu cũng chỉ ra rằng các đối tượng nghiên cứu đi du học do động cơ bên ngoài nhiều hơn động cơ bên trong. Họ cũng chưa ý thức đầy đủ những khó khăn đang chờ họ trong việc đi du học. Cuối cùng, kết quả nghiên cứu cho thấy một nguy cơ nhỏ về việc chảy máu chất xám đối trong số các đối tượng được phỏng vấn. TABLE OF CONTENT DECLARATION………………………………………………………………………….……… i ACKNOWLEDGEMENT……………………………………………………………………….ii ABSTRACT………………………….…………………………………………………………….iii TABLE OF CONTENT………………………………………………….…………………..…. v LIST OF TABLES , FIGURES, AND DIAGRAMS……………………………………...vii CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………… 1 1.1. 1.2. 1.2.1. 1.2.2. 1.2.3. 1.3. 1.3.1. 1.3.2. 1.3.3. 1.4. Introduction………………………………………………………………………….. 1 Background......................................................................................................... 1 The role of higher education in the new economy…………………………………. 1 Socio-economic growth and the context of Vietnamese higher education……… 2 The increasing demand of international education in Vietnam…………………… 5 Research aim, research question and significance……………………………… 7 Formulation of the research problem………………………………………………… 7 Research aim and research question…………………………………………………. 7 Significance…………………………………………………………………………….. 8 Organization of the thesis…………………………………………………………… 8 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW………………………………………………… 10 2.1. Introduction………………………………………………………………………… 10 2.2. Positive and negative effects of overseas study………………………………… 10 2.2.1. Benefits for international students………………………………………………….. 10 2.2.2. Benefits for the home country, the host country and host institution………….. 12 2.2.3. Drawbacks of overseas study……………………………………………………… 13 2.3. International students’ decision making process……………………………… 15 2.4. Factors influencing international students’ choice of study destination... 17 2.4.1. Political factors……………………………………………………………………… 19 2.4.1.1. Political factors on national level…………………………………………………... 20 2.4.1.2. Political on university level…………………………………………………….…… 23 2.4.2. Cultural factors……………………………………………………………………….. 27 2.4.3. Socio-economic factors………………………………………………………………. 32 2.4.4. Summary of the factors………………………………………………………………. 37 2.5. Vietnamese students and overseas study……………………………………….. 37 2.6. Conclusion......................................................................................................... 39 CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY……………………… 41 3.1. Introduction……………………………………………………………….………….. 41 3.2. Research scope, purpose, and research question…….…….…….……………. 41 3.3. Research approach……………………………………..……….…………… 42 3.4. Research design……………………………………………………………… 43 3.5 Selection of participants……………………………..………….…………… 44 3.6. Data collection method……………………………..…………..……………. 44 3.7. Data analysis method………………………………..………………………. 46 3.8. Research ethics………………………………………..……………………… 47 3.9. Research trustworthiness…………………………..………..………………. 48 3.10. Conclusion…………………………………………..……….……………….. 48 CHAPTER 4: DATA COLLCTION AND ANALYSIS………………………………… 50 4.1. Introduction…………………………..………………………………….…………… 50 4.2. Data collection process………………..……………………………………………. 50 4.3. Data analysis process…………………..…………………………..………………. 52 4.4. Conclusion…………………………..………………………………….…………….. 52 CHAPTER 5: RESEARCH FINDINGS…………………………………………………… 54 5.1. Introduction…………………………………………..……………….……………… 54 5.2. Findings from data…………………………………..……………………………… 54 5.2.1. Political factors………………………………………..…………….………………… 54 5.2.1.1. Promoting and marketing strategies……………………..………………………… 54 5.2.1.2. Host country’s policies for international students………..……………………… 56 5.2.1.3. Other political factors………………………………………..………………………. 56 5.2.2. Cultural factors…………………………………………,….…………………. 57 5.2.2.1. International experience………………………………….…………….……………. 58 5.2.2.2. Students’ perception of high quality foreign education….………….…………… 60 5.2.2.3. The needs of improving a foreign language …………………………………..…. 61 5.2.2.4. Welcoming environment of the host country…………………………….….……... 62 5.2.2.5. Interesting culture/environment of the host institution……………….….………. 63 5.2.2.6. Cultural proximity between the home and the host country………..…………… 63 5.2.2.7. University’s reputation for quality………………………………………………… 64 5.2.2.8. Other cultural factors……………………………………………….….……………. 64 5.2.3. Socio-economic factors…………………………………….…….…………… 65 5.2.3.1. Career prospect upon graduation………………………….…….………………… 66 5.2.3.2. Tuition fee and related costs………………………………..……….………………. 67 5.2.3.3. Availability of family bonds or social network in the host country…...……..… 68 5.2.3.4. Other socio-economic factors………………………………………..……………… 69 5.3. Conclusion…………………………………………….………………….….……….. 69 CHAPTER 6: DISCUSSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS………..……………… 71 6.1. Introduction……………………………………………………….……………..…… 71 6.2. Discussions on the findings…………………………………….………………..… 71 6.2.1. Pull versus push factors and significant implications for the local education... 71 6.2.2. Studying abroad: Where do students go?.......................................................... 74 6.2.3. Studying abroad: Intrinsic or extrinsic motivation?.......................................... 77 6.2.4. Are we facing brain drain?................................................................................ 79 6.2.5. What to do to support prospective international Vietnamese students?............. 81 6.3. Weaknesses and suggestion for further research…………………..………… 82 6.3.1. Weaknesses of the study………………………………………………….………….. 82 6.3.2. Suggestions for further research………………………………………..…………... 83 6.4. Conclusion……………………………………………………..……………….…….. 84 CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSIONS………………………………….………………………..… 85 REFERENCES………………………………………………………………………………… 88 APPENDICES……………………………………………………………………….………….. 95 LIST OF TABLES, FIGURES, AND DIAGRAMS Table 1.1. Demand of trained workforce in eight career groups in Ho Chi Minh City for the period 2020-2025 Table 1.2. Vietnamese student population in the top three countries in the period 2006-2012 Table 2.1. Mobility of Erasmus students in the EU from 2008 to 2012 Table 2.2. Summary of factors affecting international students’ decisions of study destination Table 2.3. Preferred study destinations of prospective Vietnamese students Table 2.4. Reasons that Vietnamese students chose a study destination Table 4.1. Descriptive statistics of the interviewees Table 5.1. Political factors affecting the respondents’ decisions of study destination Table 5.2. Socio-economic factors affecting the respondents’ decisions of study destination Table 5.3. Cultural factors affecting the respondents’ decisions of study destination Figure 1.1. Vietnam’s GDP growth in the period 2003 -2012 Figure 1.2. International Vietnamese students in 49 countries in 2011 Figure 6.1. Respondents’ first choice study destinations Figure 6.2. Respondents’ attention of where to go upon the graduation Diagram 2.1. The process of making decision of international students Diagram 3.1. Research design of the study CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1. INTRODUCTION This chapter aims to provide a background and key aspects of the study. Following the introduction, the next section will review the contemporary context of Vietnam and the increasing needs of pursuing international education of Vietnamese students. The third section will clarify the aim, the significance, and the organization of the thesis chapters in order to facilitate the readers’ understanding of this study. 1.2. BACKGROUND 1.2.1. The roles of higher education in the new economy Education in general and higher education in particular play crucial roles in the existence and advancement of a country. Without education, our society would not develop and attain great achievements as what we have witnessed. In the past, general education has received a lot of attention because of it was realized to bring benefits in a variety of fields. Most importantly, education has positively contributed to the economic growth of a nation (Cooray, 2010). In cultural dimension, general education has functioned in transmitting, perpetuating, modifying, and elevating the culture (Day & Konvitz, 1952). In social aspect, it has preserved the culture and the structure of the society (Daggett, 2005). Politically, education could contribute to the justice practice and sustain the stability of a country (Meyer & Rubinson, 2006). In the last few decades, higher education has emerged as a manufacturer of skilled labor to supply for the knowledge economy. The benefits of higher education have been recognized to surpass those of the general education. Economic and social benefits are among the most highlighted benefits of higher education. Higher education has increased individuals’ awareness, knowledge, skills, and values that have helped them attain a sustainable future (Cortese, 2003). Higher education was also found to provide individuals with better careers, higher salaries, and a greater ability to consume and save (IIEP, 2007). In a broader sense, higher education has promoted technological catch-up and improved a nation’s ability to greatly increase its economic development (Bloom, Canning, & Chan, 2006). Many authors have argued that we are moving toward a so-called ‘knowledge economy’, one in which the productivity no longer relies on physical or machinery strength, and natural resources but would depend on the power of human brains. The university where most new knowledge and insights, and skilled labor were produced has become significant in that economy (Brennan, King, & Lebeau, 2004). The more skilled labor with higher education qualifications, the higher and more sustainable an economy would be. 1.2.2. Socio-economic growth and the context of Vietnamese higher education In Vietnam, the economy has changed dramatically since 1986. The 6th Party Congress with an economic renovation, known as Doi Moi, created more changes in agricultural and rural policies that lead to the market economy Vietnam has followed up to present (Pham, 2006). As a result, Vietnam has gradually overcome many severe obstacles and achieved more significant advancement, most obviously seen through GDP growth. From 1990 to 1995, the average rate growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Vietnam reached almost 8 percent per year, especially the rate continued rising up to peak 9.5 percent in 1995 (Hakkala, Kang & Kokko, 2001) in comparison with the period 1986-1990 of 3.9 percent per year in average (Tran & Chau, 1998). Although there was a sharp reduction in GDP growth rate from about 8 percent in 1997 to around 4 percent in 1999 because of the regional crisis, the country’s GDP growth rate has gradually went up since 2000 (Hakkala et al. 2001). Reported by the General Statistics Office of Vietnam, Vietnam GDP growth rate was 6.2 percent in average from 2000 to 2013. According to World Development Indicators database, Vietnamese Gross Domestic Product was at the fifty seventh position in the world with 155,820 million of U.S. dollar in 2012 (World Bank, 2014). Vietnamese GDP Growth in the period 20032012 is described in the following figure. 9 8.4 8 7 7.8 8.2 8.5 7.3 6.8 6.2 6 5.9 5.3 5 5 4 3 2 1 0 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Vietnam's GDP Growth Figure 1.1. Vietnam’s GDP growth in the period 2003 -2012 (Source: Embassy and Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Vietnam, 2012) As the consequence of economic growth, there have been changes in socioeconomic, cultural, and even political aspects of the country. The economic growth and such changes in turns place huge pressure on the educational system for skilled labor to maintain the growth. In the Vietnam Development Report 2014 (2013), it was stressed that a skilled workforce was extremely essential to succeed economic and social transitions in Vietnam. In order to satisfy the demand to develop economy, education in Vietnam has to provide Vietnamese workers with basic skills such as the ability to read and write at an adequate level to enhance the workforce. In addition, it is now important to provide workers with right skills involving cognitive skills, social and behavioral skills, and technical skills for modern jobs to accelerate as well as continue the economic growth and advance its economic transition. The demand of skilled labor can be illustrated by the case of Ho Chi Minh City, the most dynamic socio-economic center in Vietnam, in the following table. Generally, it indicates there has been a huge demand of skilled workers to supply for the growing economy. Order 1 Career field Technology Job vacancy 70,875 2 Natural science 14,175 3 Social science – Humanity - Tourism 16,200 4 Pedagogy– Educational administration 10,125 5 Agriculture-Forestry-Aquaculture 6,075 6 Economy-Finance-Banking-Law-Administrative work 66,825 7 Medicine-Pharmacy 10,125 8 Artistry-Physical education-Sport 8,100 Total workforce demand in average 202,500 Table 1.1. Demand of trained workforce in eight career groups in HCMC for the period 2020-2025 (Source: Tran Anh Tuan, 2013) Being considered as a “top national policy” towards political leaders, Vietnamese education system has been reformed rigorously in the past decades. One of the specific evidence that show the changes of Vietnam’s education is the increasing number of schools in Vietnam and amount of public expenditure on education and training. According to the statistics databases of the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET, 2012) there were 28,803 schools including primary schools, basic general schools, and secondary schools in the period 2011-2012 versus 23,960 in the period 1990-2000. Significantly for higher education, in the period 2011-2012 the total number of universities and colleges of both public and non-public was some 419 institutions against 153 in the period 1999-2000. For education expenditure, Vietnamese Government totally paid VND 15,609 billion in 2001 for educational investment. However, this number changed and went up to VND 151,200 billion in 2011, among which VND 297 billion were paid for national target program of higher education in 2007. Evidence that shows the changes in Vietnamese education concentration is the significant increasing in the number of teachers. The number of teachers at the universities and colleges increased up to 84,109 in 2012 in comparison with 30,309 in 1999. In brief, the Government in Vietnam has tried to better home education in order to provide human resources for country’s development. Unfortunately, although considered as a top national policy and received great investment, the education in Vietnam still has many limitations. Nguyen and Hoang (2010) pointed out that the education was unable to match the social needs of labor in terms of quantity and quality. Therefore, the employees are found incapable of conducting tasks given in the workplace. Many employers, both domestic and foreign, have complained about the poor quality of the workforce (Vallely & Wilkinson, 2008). 1.2.3. The increasing demand of international education in Vietnam In the circumstance that the home higher education is low in quality, the number of Vietnamese international students has been increasing in number. Such an increase is found due to the following reasons: increase in household income, increasing awareness of the benefits of international education, the encouraging policies of the government, and availability of financial aids from local and international organizations. It can be seen that Vietnamese student population studying abroad has been increasing constantly year after year. In 2010-2011, there were 98,536 international Vietnamese students while the number rose to 106,104 in the 2011-2012 academic years. As reported by the MOET, in 2010-2011 Vietnamese students were studying in 49 countries and territories, with the largest number in Australia, United States, China, Singapore, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and Japan. The figures are illustrated by Figure 1.2 as follow. Australia 19% 25% U. S China 4% Singapore 5% England France 6% 15% 6% Russia Japan 7% 13% Others Figure 1.2. International Vietnamese student population in 49 countries in 2011 (Source: Dan Tri online newspapers (15 January 2012) According to Australian Education International, Vietnam was ranked fourth among the top countries that sent students to Australia with a total number of 24,569 students (AEI, 2013). The number of international Vietnamese students in the US also augmented from 2,022 in 2000-2001 to 16,098 in 2012-2013 (IIE, 2013). The following Table 1.2 presents the increase of international Vietnamese students in the top three study destinations in the period between 2006-2012. Top three destination countries for overseas Vietnamese students Year Australia % increase USA % increase China % increase 2012 22,551 -4.4% 15,572 4.6% N/A N/A 2011 23,592 -8.5% 14,888 13.5% 13.549 4.1% 2010 25,788 8.6% 13,112 2.3% 13.018 6.3% 2009 23,755 49.1% 12,823 46.2% 12.247 17.8% 2008 15,931 53.4% 8,769 45.3% 10.396 7.2% 2007 10,387 N/A 6,036 31.3% 9.702 67.7% 2006 N/A N/A 4,597 25.3% 5.785 N/A *2005 Table 1.2. Vietnamese student population in the top three countries in the period 20062012 (Source: World Education News & Reviews, 2013) In general, although the number of Vietnamese students in Australia decreased by 4.4 percent in 2012 in comparison with the same period previous year, Australia remained as the top country with the highest percentage of Vietnamese students from 2006 to 2012 and was followed by the US with 4.6 percent of the increase and China. 1.3. RESEARCH AIM, RESEARCH QUESTION AND SIGNIFICANCE 1.3.1. Formulation of the research problem There have been many studies about international students, but there are just a few associated with Vietnamese students – among which virtually no study has focused on the motives and demands of Vietnamese international students to a host country and/ or institution. Thus, it is necessary to make an investigation to (prospective) Vietnamese international students to understand more about them so that higher education providers may assist them to achieve the best outcomes of their international study experience. More specifically, regardless of many causes to the increase of Vietnamese international students year by year, it is interesting to note that the distribution of the students in foreign countries varies: some of which is dense, and others are few. For many years, some countries such as Australia, the US, China for instance, have remained increasing figures of Vietnamese students while other countries have not yet. Why is there such unequal distribution? Or what are the factors affecting Vietnamese international students’ decision of host country? Among the factors, which is the most influential? If these questions are answered, new insights to predict the flow of Vietnamese students to foreign institutions will be gained. 1.3.2. Research aim and research question The research aims at investigating Vietnamese students’ opinions about their reasons for choosing a destination for their overseas study. From then on, the most influential factors would be highlighted. This research was carried out to seek answers for the following question: What factors do prospective international Vietnamese students take into account when making decisions of the study destination? 1.3.3. Significance First, the findings from this study may help the host countries, host institutions, and related services (such as marketing units) understand what prospective Vietnamese students concern so that they can provide assistance, making themselves more competitive to other rivals. Second, the study may benefit prospective Vietnamese students who have plans to study in the overseas countries. The findings may become a check-list for them on the process of decision making of the study destination. As such, they are likely to make a better preparation for their future study overseas. The findings from this study may also help Vietnamese government, foremost the MOET, to pass policies and necessary assistance to the prospective students so that they would not lose the potential brightest minds. Finally, the research may be useful for local institutions. The study elucidates reasons Vietnamese choose a certain institution in a foreign country to study abroad. The information is useful in that it helps local institutions to consider and renovate appropriately educational policies so as to improve and advance the local education. 1.4. ORGNAIZATION OF THE THESIS This thesis is organized into seven chapters: • Chapter 1 - Introduction: The current chapter provides the background as well as key aspects of the study. • Chapter 2 - Literature review: This chapter reviews reasons why students study abroad, the process of making decisions, and factors that students take into account when they select a host country for the study. The analytical framework is developed based on the review of the literature will be used for data analysis in the subsequent chapters. • Chapter 3 - Methodology and Research Design: This chapter sketches out the approach and method to collect as well as analyze the data. • Chapter 4 - Data Collection and Analysis: The fourth chapter reports the processes of data collection in the field work and data analysis . • Chapter 5 - Findings: Findings from the data will be presented in this chapter. The presentation will be organized correspondingly with the analytical framework. • Chapter 6 - Discussions and Recommendations: This chapter discusses the results and the limitation of the thesis, and provides some suggestions for further research. • Chapter 7 - Conclusions: This chapter notes key aspects as well as main findings of the study. CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1. INTRODUCTION Chapter 2 aims to review relevant studies about international students and overseas study to build a theoretical framework for this thesis. The chapter is organized into six sections. Following the introduction, the second section discusses positive and negative impacts of studying abroad. The third section presents the process of making decisions of international students. The fourth section reviews existing international studies about factors that international students take into account when choosing a host country to study. The fifth section closes up to focus on international Vietnamese students with factors impacting their decisions of study destination. Finally, the conclusion ends the chapter by giving a short summary on the main points discussed in the chapter. 2.2. POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF OVERSEAS STUDY Prior to discussing factors influencing international students’ decision of study destination, it is necessary to understand why students choose to study abroad rather than studying in their home countries. It is obvious that whether international students go abroad to pursue their study on self-funding or sponsorship, they have to take into consideration of many factors prior to their departure. The literature generally suggests that overseas study brings international students a variety of personal benefits. In addition, it benefits international students’ home country, the host countries, and the institutions where students study. However, few recent studies also indicate a number of negative effects of overseas studies. 2.2.1. Benefits for international students Many studies into international students indicate that they gain many benefits during and after their studies, namely (1) personal growth, (2) academic attainment, (3) second language improvement, (4) intercultural development, and (5) career prospect (Dwyer, 2004; Crhanová, 2007; Norris & Gillespie, 2009; Doyle, Gendall, Meyer, Hoek, Tait, McKenzie, & Loorparg, 2010).
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