International education and the production of global imagination
For a country so proud of its postcolonial aspirations and so keen to parade its nationalism, Malaysia’s approach to the contemporary processes of globalization is highly ambivalent. Nowhere is this ambivalence more evident than in the educational policies that the Malaysian government has recently pursued and in the desire of a large number of Malaysians to get an international education. The Malaysian government insists on the teaching of Malay culture and language in its own universities as a necessary force with which to bind the nation together; and yet it remains committed to an ideology of national development based on the principles of secular capitalism. Almost half of Malaysia’s tertiary students attend a Western university abroad where they are exposed in a sustained way to cultural ideas that often conflict with “the Asian values” promoted so proudly by the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir. According to Marshallsay, more than sixty thousand Malaysian tertiary students are currently studying abroad. 2 True, some of these students go overseas because of the limited number of places available at home, but a larger proportion has a strong preference for an international education. How should their preference be interpreted? How do the students experience education in a different cultural site? And how does this experience affect the ways they think about their identity and imagine their future?