Following on from part 1, this post covers the pre-departure section of my Tajik study abroad paper. This part looks at WHY respondents wanted to study abroad
Pre-departure motivations and perceptions
Respondents were asked to choose one or more reasons (from a pre-determined selection) to explain why they were motivated to study abroad, and the results are shown in figure 3. These are all either push or pull factors, i.e. something that stimulates a student to study away from Tajikistan or something that attracts them to study in another country. Chirkov et al (2008) summarise these factors through two goals:
- Preservation: motivated by the push factor of being forced to leave one’s home country to avoid adverse situations
- Self-determination: a pull factor of wishing to obtain a better education and further one’s career prospects
Push factors in figure 3 include the availability of subjects abroad that are not offered in Tajikistan and the desire to remain overseas temporarily or permanently. Although corruption in the Tajik higher education system was not given as a choice in this question, a number of respondents refer to it in other free text questions:
“The thing is Tajik education is very corrupted, therefore being a part of different type of education will boost my perspectives for [a] future career in international fields!” – male, age not stated
“…in Tajikistan the educational system is so corrupt that you would never ever be able to tell whether you are making progress or not. Even if you try to be a good student, you won’t be able to progress because of the unfair educational system and lack of good teachers.” – female, 26
Pull factors in figure 3 include, as with the Chirkov et al study, the desire to improve one’s academic knowledge and one’s career prospects. Richters and Teichler call this ‘vertical mobility’ (in De Wit et al, , 2008), whereby students move from countries or institutions of lower academic quality to those of higher quality. This is reflected in the following free text response:
“I chose to study abroad primarily thinking that better education allows getting [a] better job in the future internationally. Particularly, in the view of great scepticism that exists in regard to Tajik education overseas. Secondly, I was happy to study abroad because I could study what I want and the way I want it, not following the prescribed subjects that sometimes you are not interested [in].” – male, 32
The high number of responses to the two pull factors noted above – over three quarters of all respondents selecting both – demonstrate that for Tajik nationals, pull factors are substantially more compelling motivations for individual decision-making than push factors.
Perceived changes to self
The survey asked respondents to provide a free text response to a question about how they thought that studying abroad would change them, i.e. what their perceptions were prior to leaving the country. Using Schweisfurth and Gu’s analysis of international students in the UK (October 2009), the responses were coded into three categories with an added category of ‘other’ where respondents suggested they did not expect to change, hadn’t thought about the issue of change, or perceived it would be difficult.
- Cross-intercultural experiences (C)
- Human development (H)
- Intellectual development (I)
- Other (O)
These categories were often combined, as some of the quotes below show:
“I thought that coming back to my home country, I will have different approaches to many things. For instance to learning, making [a] career, building my future, family relationships, viewing my children’s future, academic career…” – male, age not stated
“I knew that studying abroad in university at age 18 is the first step to an adult life. I knew the life without my parents will make me more independent, responsible and simply make me grow up….” – female, 18
“My expectations were/are high and I always thought that I would be better with the education I would get abroad. It is better to study abroad and get [a] degree rather than wasting my time here in Tajikistan…” – male, 25
“I didn’t want to go – I had it good in Dushanbe [capital of Tajikistan]. But my parents thought that the society is decaying with a dreadful system of education” – male, 24
181 codings were recorded from 100 valid responses, an average of 1.8 per person. These are shown in figure 4, and correlate to the trend seen in figure 3 where the two most popular responses were also connected to better career prospects and improved education/academic knowledge.