Thursday, November 03, 2011

Chinese students in the U.S.

The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a series of stories about the increasing number of Chinese students attending U.S. universities.

No, if you are anticipating some political angle to these stories, forget it. Instead, it is a sober (and that's a positive term in this case) discussion of how these institutions are dealing with the influx of students.

One story notes that the economic power of the Chinese makes them especially attractive to U.S. universities.
The students, mostly from China's rapidly expanding middle class, can afford to pay full tuition, a godsend for colleges that have faced sharp budget cuts in recent years. But what seems at first glance a boon for colleges and students alike is, on closer inspection, a tricky fit for both.
Colleges, eager to bolster their diversity and expand their international appeal, have rushed to recruit in China, where fierce competition for seats at Chinese universities and an aggressive admissions-agent industry feed a frenzy to land spots on American campuses.
College officials and consultants say they are seeing widespread fabrication on applications, whether that means a personal essay written by an agent or an English-proficiency score that doesn't jibe with a student's speaking ability. American colleges, new to the Chinese market, struggle to distinguish between good applicants and those who are too good to be true.
Once in the classroom, students with limited English labor to keep up with discussions. And though those students are excelling, struggling, and failing at the same rate as their American counterparts, some professors say they have had to alter how they teach.
Another story suggests anticipating that Chinese students will succeed in the U.S. is often made, and often false.
To be fair, American college recruiters in China feel overwhelmed by the proliferation of cheating, lying, and fraud: Study abroad is big business in China, and young Ivy League graduates write essays for Chinese applicants while many a Chinese public school fakes transcripts and recommendation letters. Amid such chaos, it's understandable why American colleges fall back on standardized tests. But these tests tell only half the story. To really judge a Chinese student's potential to thrive on campus, American colleges and universities could add depth to the admissions process by including an oral interview, one designed to challenge Chinese students with focused questions that test their empathy, imagination, and resilience. Those American colleges that choose to do so will discover that their new Chinese recruits, even though their test scores may suggest limited English, will quickly adapt to a culture of critical thinking and intellectual inquiry in a way they failed to adapt to the Chinese education system of obedience and conformity.
Finally, an audio report takes a look at how U.S. universities can advance their interests in Chinese students and better ensure their success.

The reports are well worth your time.

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