AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 517

[ Interarea/Border-Crossing Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

Session 517: Educational migrants and returnees in and from East and Southeast Asia (1)Session 1 on primary and secondary students

Organizer and Chair: Yoonhee Kang, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Discussant: Nancy Abelmann, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA

As a “cross-border” panel that involves scholars from anthropology, sociology, geography, psychology and educational studies, as well as cases of migrant flows within, across and from East and Southeast Asia, this panel aims to develop critical accounts of educational migration in these regions. In doing so, the proposed panel will pay closer attention to the multifaceted trajectories and migrant experiences of students and their families, which intersect with diverse dimensions of social life, such as the family, gender, social class and ethnicity, as embedded in the more macro-level economic and political conditions of the region and globalization. In particular, the panel will explore diverse aspects of educational migration at different school levels and the life stages of primary, secondary and tertiary students, including returnees who have experienced educational migration, while presenting various case studies from China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. More specifically, this panel aims to address the following questions: how can we understand these new flows of migrants who migrate for education in Asian contexts? What are the motivations and meanings behind their choice of Asian countries over other ‘conventional’ Western destination countries? What kinds of strategies do the families adopt in order to facilitate their children’s educational success? What do educational migrants aspire to achieve through their educational migration? What are the lived experiences of these young sojourners and their accompanying families? What do they experience when they return home after their overseas education? This panel (two sessions) is co-organized and co-chaired by Yoonhee Kang (Division of Sociology, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and Jeehun Kim (Institute for East Asian Studies, Sogang University, Korea).

Accumulating ‘Cosmopolitan Capital’: PRC Children Studying in Singapore
Shirlena Huang, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Research in recent years has established that the transnational educational mobility decision in today’s globalizing world is intertwined with children’s education for many families in East Asia not simply for the sake of acquiring an overseas education but more crucially for the accumulation of cultural capital (especially language skills, exposure to foreign experiences and the establishment of networks) to ensure the intergenerational social reproduction of the family. Building on this notion, this paper proposes to extend the idea to argue that for families from the Peoples’ Republic of China with children studying in Singapore, the goal is for their children to acquire a particular form of cultural capital – what may be termed ‘cosmopolitan capital’. In so doing, it is hoped that the children will grow up to become truly global citizens able to move seamlessly between East and West, anchored as they are in Chinese/Asian culture and ready to embrace the potential rise of China in the coming decades, yet empowered by the acquisition of a mind- and skills-set that will allow them to operate comfortably in the Western world. The analysis will draw upon in-depth interviews with Chinese parents and their children from the Peoples’ Republic of China living in Singapore, itself often perceived as a cosmopolitan city set between East and West.

A First-Step to Going Global: Emotional Capital and Embodied Readiness among South Korean Early Study Abroad Students in Singapore
Yoonhee Kang, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

In this paper, I explore how South Korean early study abroad students in Singapore conceptualize and imagine their pursuit of ‘going global’ as a series of stair-step movements, in which their migration to Singapore is often conceived of as a preparatory process in long-term efforts to become global citizens. According to Korean educational migrants in Singapore, however, an individual’s ability to navigate the larger world is not simply a matter of accreting intellectual resources or academic credentials. Rather, this ability requires the acquisition of various personal resources, including emotional assets like confidence and self-esteem, and the ‘transnational body,’ which in turn indicate their embodied readiness for going global. Against this backdrop, their choice of Singapore itself seems to be an attempt to choose a ‘less challenging’ and ‘friendlier’ society within Asia in the hope of mitigating any difficulties and hardships their children might face one day. By adopting the concept of emotional capital, this study illustrates Korean educational migrants’ much broader concerns and motivations for their educational migration, which include not only their children’s acquisition of linguistic and cultural capital, but also their attainment of emotional and behavioral attributes. The empirical data analyzed in this paper are taken from my ongoing ethnographic research among primary and secondary Korean students and their families in Singapore since August 2008. The analysis is based particularly on in-depth and focus group interviews with both students and parents (a total of 121 participants) recruited by snowball sampling.

Welcome back? Experiences of primary and secondary school Korean ‘returnee students’ who have had Early Study Abroad (ESA) in Southeast Asia
Jeehun Kim, Inha University, South Korea

This study examines the lived experiences of returning to schooling in Korea by Korean primary and secondary school students who have had some years of schooling in Southeast Asian countries for their early study abroad (ESA). In recent years, annually over 25,000 Korean primary and secondary students have left Korea for ESA and over 20,000 have returned to Korea after spending some years abroad. Southeast Asia has become the second most popular destination for ESA, following the USA, among both upper-middle class and lower-middle class Korean families. Previous studies of the transnational schooling experiences of ESA among Koreans have suggested that there are contrasting educational experiences among them. Whereas upper-middle class students maintained a high level of satisfaction in the elite international schools abroad, many lower-middle class Korean students in public schools were getting stuck or their educational aspirations were suffering institutional debacles. Educational migration for young children is usually planned and organized as a family strategy, sacrificing family co-presence, with a parental desire and aspiration for the long-term upward social mobility for their children. By examining the lived experiences of Korean students at the school and family levels, using in-depth interviews with adolescent students, their parents and teachers, this study will reveal how these Korean families cope with the challenges of returning to a society which is often said to have an “educational fever” and how they develop ways of accumulating and maintaining their social and linguistic capital. By focusing on the class differences and school levels and types, this study will also study the meanings and implications of transnational schooling for the different participants in educational migration.

Chinese and Southeast Asian students in a Korea’s regional university: narratives on their migration motivation and their interpretations about migration experiences in Korea
Min-Kyung Lee, Independent Scholar, South Korea

For the last several decades, Korea has been one of the major sending countries for university-level educational migration. In recent years, Korea also receives many university students, particularly from other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries. This change has been accelerated by the Korean educational policy to attract foreign students. In particular, there has been rapid growth of students, among others, from mainland China and Vietnam. Unlike foreign students coming to Korea’s top universities in Seoul, some of which are also ranked as top universities in Asia, foreign students in Korea’s regional universities seems to differ not only in their background such as social class and academic ability but also in their migration motivation for migration and migration experience. This paper will explore Chinese and Southeast Asian student mobility enrolling in a regional university in Korea, focusing on their individual experiences. Adopting qualitative research method of phenomenological perspective, I have collected narrative data of 13 university students. I will examine characteristics of these students, meanings of their choice, strategies of adaptation and their interpretations about migration experiences in Korea. I will also show a crucial feature of intra-Asian student mobility enrolling in a Korean regional university intersecting Korean social and cultural context and discourse on this growing number of foreign students.