Cultural exploration main factor for teenage study abroad interest

Culture bigger draw than academic advancement while most students have safety fears, survey finds

February 18, 2017
backpacker explores
Source: Alamy

Three-fifths of teenagers have considered studying abroad but the majority have concerns about safety and security, according to research that reveals the attitudes towards international education among school pupils.

A survey of 5,255 13- to 18-year-olds from 27 countries shows that 60 per cent of respondents had considered a study exchange, and the primary motivation for the majority of participants (57 to 75 per cent, depending on geographic region of origin) was the opportunity to seek new cultural experiences, as distinct from academic advancement.

Respondents from Europe and North America were most likely to cite cultural exploration as the reason, while those in Latin America and Southeast Asia were least likely to give this as a reason.

The study, “Mapping Generation Z: Attitudes toward International Education Programs”, conducted by AFS Intercultural Programs, which provides study abroad and volunteering opportunities, also revealed the perceived hindrances to global study.

Just over half of respondents (52 per cent) said they had concerns about safety and security. This superseded all other perceived roadblocks to pursuing international study, including fear of isolation (50 per cent), homesickness (48 per cent) and discrimination (34 per cent).

The proportion of students citing concerns for safety and security increased by 16 per cent during the survey’s data collection period, which took place between March and December 2016.

Surveys completed before May 2016 indicated a personal safety concern rate of 36 per cent, but this rose to 52 per cent in the following months “when acts of terrorism became frequent”, according to the report.

Affordability is also a significant hurdle to international mobility and study abroad, especially as programmes expand to more countries throughout the developing world, according to the study.

One-third of respondents (33 per cent) in developing countries said that they would need scholarships and grants to pursue international education, compared with just 15 per cent of those in advanced economies.

The research also segmented the respondents on the basis of their primary motivations and their financial resources into four categories: Resumé Packers (high finances, education focus), Academic Achievers (low finances, education focus), Cultural Floaters (high finances, cultural focus) and Cultural Hitchhikers (low finances, cultural focus).

The results indicate that Generation Z are “significantly inclined” towards intercultural learning and exploration, with 67 per cent of all respondents falling into the Cultural Floaters or Hitchhikers categories.

English-speaking countries including the US, UK and Australia are the most sought-after destinations, favoured by 77 per cent of participants.

ellie.bothwell@tesglobal.com

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Interesting snapshot findings of higher education contemporary issues.

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