In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the LEB Foundation, and in cooperation with Resource, a writing contest was organised on the topic ‘Export of knowledge: blessing or curse’. The contest was open to all students and staff of Wageningen UR. Six contributions of the prescribed maximum of 450 words were received. A jury evaluated them on their argumentation, originality and use of language. The winner of the contest is Zhu Xiaoxiao, and her article is published below. She will receive her prize of one thousand euros at the opening of the academic year in September.
Export of knowledge is probably one of the hottest topics being discussed in the academic field under the impact of globalisation. The development of new information and communication technologies has created more possibilities for knowledge export between different countries. However, with the dramatic growth of export of knowledge, a question has arisen: is the export of knowledge a blessing or curse?
New Zealand is a good example for analysing this question. As the fourth largest service export earner, the export of education makes a huge contribution to the New Zealand economy. In 2001, the value of the export education industry was about 1.5 billion dollars (1.4% of New Zealand GDP). Now it contributes almost 2 billion dollars annually to New Zealand’s foreign exchange reserves. We can therefore say that the export of knowledge is a blessing for New Zealand’s economy. However, this also brings a number of problems to local society, for instance the participation of international students in criminal leisure activities, gambling and road traffic accidents. This has led to a series of negative reports in both the national and international media, which has in turn increased conflict between international students and host communities. Does this mean that the export of knowledge has also brought a curse to New Zealand?
Maybe there is no unified answer to this question. However, by analysing the case of New Zealand, we discover that export of knowledge is not a one-way discourse, but is an interactive process. It is not only about export, but also about import. Import new knowledge, but also new problems. What kind of knowledge should be exported and to whom? How should it be exported? These questions should be discussed, not only by the institutions doing the exporting, but also by the people importing this knowledge. What knowledge do they want to learn? And how should they learn it?
When talking about export of knowledge, we have to consider international students, who are at the forefront of knowledge export. They directly acquire knowledge and may also be the ones who spread that knowledge in their home countries. They can play a key role in the sustainable development of the process of exporting knowledge. More attention should be paid to and research done, not only on their demand for education and the knowledge that they export, but also their quality of life in foreign countries. New Zealand is a good example that can lead us to rethink those international students’ needs and expectations. It is not only about money and knowledge, but also about life and relationships (students and host community). For export of knowledge to become more fruitful, international students’ demands ought to be considered more seriously by both export (knowledge) countries and import (knowledge) countries.