October 04, 2007

Japanese Customer: Interview with the director of "Gaman- A Student's Journey in Australia", a new international education documentary




Gaman - A Japanese Student's Four Year Journey - Australia

Life in Japan, Study in Australia, Return to Japan with a foreign qualification

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JapaneseCustomer.com



Q: Why did you make the documentary?

A: I made this documentary for three reasons 1. To discover the students side of the international education experience. We get a lot of hype about student numbers, how big the industry is, how international education is growing from the media. So I wanted to find out for myself. 2. Having been involved in international education for over twenty years I wanted to discover what happens when a student takes their new qualification home, how do they use it, how is it accepted. I wanted to see the whole process of international education from start to finish. For example: what do students do before study in their home country, how they prepare. What makes them want to study in a foreign country. What do they leave behind. How do they adjust to a new culture? What do they do when they get home? How does study impact their life, career, etc. and thirdly to highlight that international education is now a global industry with many competitors. Those who manage it well will win share. It is not just an extension of local education but a whole new profession that involves a wide range of professional skills and expertise.

International education management is a profession that draws on a wide range of professional skills including: native language and second language skills, market research, teaching, curriculum knowledge, cross cultural marketing, student management, understanding of trends, pop culture, technology, retention strategies, CRM and long term planning skills across the whole organization

Q: The documentary is silent, why?

A: "The reason was to show the impact of language and culture. This documenary shows a Japanese students experience in Australia. That experience is primarily based on language, English language. That is the students skill, knowledge and language ability. Without language ability the student is silent and all they can do is observe, watch and learn. Silence is also an important part of Japanese culture".


Q: What made you focus on a Japanese student?

A: I focused on a Japanese student for a number of reasons. In the 90's I undertook study abroad in Japan as an international student and I wanted to see what it was like from the Japanese student perspective. Secondly, having worked with international students in the United States, England, New Zealand, Australia and Japan over the past twenty years, Japanese students were so unique. When I say unique, I mean they have distinct learning needs compared to other cultures, for example: they have a different learning style, look at skills first and the piece of paper second. From a teachers perspective they bring a new point of view to a class, mix well with other cultures and are hard workers which is refreshing.


Q: What do you think draws Japanese students to Australian education institutions?

A: The environment, Australia is a relatively safe destination, the quality of our education and is an English speaking country close to Japan.


Q: How will this documentary contribute to international education?

A: It can contribute to our understanding of all the steps a student undertakes during international study, show the complexities of culture (before, during and after study) and increase our understanding and management of the Japanese student experience. From a marketing viewpoint we show a holistic profile of the international study experience that allows understanding of the the most important phases of the experience,


Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned making this documentary?

A: The most interesting thing I learned was that Japanese people rarely have their name incorrectly spelt in Japan because people take great care to get it 100% correct. Yet in Australia a student can get a whole range of variations and interpretations.


Q: Who is the documentary aimed at?

A: The documentary is primarily aimed at key decision makers in international education namely, government, education institutions and private companies who are the key stakeholders in the industry. A secondary market is the support staff who manage the day to day life of an international student, for example: student recruiters, career staff, ESL teachers, homestay providers, teaching unions, human resource departments who train staff who work with international students and front line admission staff.


Q:What would you like the documentary to achieve?

A: To increase awareness about the international student experience from the students perspective. Warts and all! To develop awareness in the management of international education and show Australia's education skills to the world. Japanese students are hard workers and bring a lot of prestige to education institutions through their work. Japan has been recognized as the most innovative nation in the world based on the number of patents they lodge. Education institutions in order to maximize student success must learn more about their customers, for example: their culture, needs and dreams.


Q: How do Japanese employers perceive Australian qualifications?

A: That's a good question. You will have to watch the movie to answer that one. Personally, I think they react favourably to Australian qualifications.


Q: What has the reaction been from Japanese students?

A: We have had really positive feedback, more than we expected. Many students were surprised why we took the time to understand them. A lot of people who have seen the film cried during the film or at the end. I take that as the film really connected with them and brought back their own experiences.


Q: Australian international education is now a 10 billion dollar industry are education institutions set up for this growth and competition?

A: Yes, I think Australia has a great opportunity to take the lead in international education and Australian education provides such a wide array of skills that would be of great benefit to international students from around the world particularly those in Asia.


Q: What is your next project?

A: We have a project that will help organizations to attract, manage and retain Japanese customers.


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