BC college faculty feel pressure to ‘pass’ students with poor English | Vancouver Sun

Conflict between universities and colleges as a business versus maintaining standards?

Veteran college English instructors are routinely receiving passionate, imploring pleas for passing grades from the international students who increasingly fill their classes.

The foreign students’ emotion-filled emails and in-office appeals, often issued in jumbled English, invariably aim to cajole faculty at Langara College and other institutions into giving them a break, so they will be able to move on from their mandatory courses in English literature.

The foreign students often maintain their entire future depends on passing the English course.

Langara College has experienced a five-fold rise in foreign students since 2014, but two English literature and composition instructors say the college’s over-reliance on international fees is not working for many high-stressed foreign students, their anxious offshore parents or for shortchanged domestic students.

Langara College English instructors Peter Babiak and Anne Moriarty are among a small number of Canadian higher education officials who are ending their silence to raise concerns about the expanding business of international education, which now brings 130,000 foreign students to B.C., mostly Metro Vancouver.

“I do feel sorry for the (international) students, of course, but that’s not really the point. When I assign grades, presumably I need to be objective and not let emotions get in the way,” says Babiak, who has been teaching at Langara since 2002.

Like many faculty at universities and colleges, Babiak and Moriarty feel pressure to wave through the full-fee-paying foreign students, especially in mandatory first-year English literature courses, even if they lack fluency in English.

“There is a booming industry dedicated to helping students jump through English-language hoops, which teachers like me everywhere work hard to defend. Being part of this is weighing heavily on my conscience,” said Moriarty.

Langara Provost Ian Humphreys, however, said Tuesday “there is no pressure on faculty to pass students who are not yet achieving learning outcomes.”

Humphreys said he is proud that Langara “is an open access institution that serves a diverse student population – both domestic and international – that has a high proportion of English language learners.” He says the college’s grads have a strong success rate when they transfer to other institutions or the job market.

Moriarty, however, said that even though many of the foreign students work hard in their technical, business and computer courses, many also leave their mandatory English literature course to the end of their multi-year programs, knowing their English is weak.

Both Babiak and Moriarty also agonize over how classroom discussions in English literature courses are often severely restricted because of language barriers. It means, he said, students who seriously want to study novels, linguistics and composition don’t get as much high-level interaction as they could.

Source: BC college faculty feel pressure to ‘pass’ students with poor English | Vancouver Sun

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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