Towards a functional definition of German studies: New Zealand and the international context
McGuiness-King, K. L. (2001). Towards a functional definition of German studies: New Zealand and the international context (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14384
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14384
Particularly during the past two decades education systems have been confronted by globalisation and internationalisation, resulting diversification and integration of foreign and trading relations, increasingly multicultural societies, rapidly advancing economic and technological developments and the dominance of the English language internationally as the language of international trade, and political and cultural communication. These changes have led to a process of ongoing restructuring in education internationally. The determination of academic programmes according to the principle of consumer demand, and the vocational focus associated with the ‘marketisation’ of the education system have led many to question the ‘usefulness’ of foreign languages, particularly the European languages, especially in view of the fact that historically foreign languages disciplines have been largely literature-based. During the past two decades, however, the question of ‘general or cultural education’ versus career-oriented education has become more pointed. Foreign languages disciplines, including German Studies, have been forced to adapt the programmes offered to reflect the diversification of career options and the trend towards the study of vocational or professional subjects. This thesis explores the diverse, interrelated and changing regional and international parameters that have impacted on the situation of foreign languages in the Asia-Pacific. In order to provide international reference points for recommendations for the future development of German Studies in New Zealand, I investigate the framework, context and national parameters (historical, political, economic, educational and social) that have impacted on the context and concept of German Studies in selected Asian-Pacific countries: China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. This evaluation ascertains what innovations have occurred within the discipline in these countries in response to the changing parameters. The discipline of German Studies in the Asia-Pacific has responded to these challenges in various ways. These include the incorporation of the German departments into larger administrative and curricular units, the diversification of the ‘German’ courses and programmes offered to include practical applications of German and contemporary German and European issues, the development of vocationally-oriented programmes and of interdisciplinary and integrated programmes, such as European Studies, the introduction of DaF or Interkulturelle Germanistik programmes and the development of cooperative ventures and programmes with German companies, organisations and institutions. It is evident from the responses of the discipline that irrespective of national differences the pressures of globalisation and internationalisation exerted on the discipline in these five countries are very similar. The discipline of German Studies in New Zealand cannot isolate itself from the developments occurring internationally and the necessity to respond. The discipline must take cognisance of these developments and respond to the pressures it is faced with by clearly defining its function and role within the environment of interrelated political, economic and educational parameters that it operates in. It does not suffice to point to the cultural value of individual languages. In other words, while the discipline of German Studies in New Zealand, consistent with international trends, should retain a strong cultural component, it cannot define its role solely on an understanding of its cultural importance, but must respond to the challenge to become relevant to demands of the employment market. In order to maximise the effectiveness, attractiveness and potential of the discipline in New Zealand, it is desirable that the discipline develops two clear foci, which would do justice to both its cultural/literary mission and its functional role in the labour market. One would continue to focus on Germanistik proper, that is, the study of language and literature, while the other would specialise in the applied dimensions of German Studies, including specifically targeted language courses and integrated programmes in Intercultural Studies and European Studies. This model reflects the recent changes in the political, economic and linguistic environment as well as those in education both nationally and internationally. Such a functional approach, with increased emphasis on the recognition of the vocational potential of the discipline, would ensure the productive development of the discipline and greatly enhance the value of the subject from a national perspective.
The University of Waikato
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