Uneven playing field or falling standards? Chinese students' competence in English.
Edwards, V., An, R. and Daguo, L. (2007) Uneven playing field or falling standards? Chinese students' competence in English. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 10 (4). pp. 387-400. ISSN 1361-3324 (paper) 1470-109X (elec)
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/13613320701658431
This paper explores student and teacher perspectives of challenges relating to the levels of competence in English of Chinese students studying overseas from the perspective of critical pedagogy. It draws on two complementary studies undertaken by colleagues at the University of Reading. The first—a research seminar attended by representatives from a wide range of UK universities—presents the views of teachers and administrators; the second draws on four case studies of the language learning of Chinese postgraduate students during their first year of study in the UK, and offers the student voice. Interview and focus group data highlight the limitations of current tests of English used as part of the requirements for university admission. In particular, university teachers expressed uncertainty about whether the acceptance of levels of written English which fall far short of native-speaker competence is an ill-advised lowering of standards or a necessary and pragmatic response to the realities of an otherwise uneven playing field. In spite of this ambivalence, there is evidence of a growing willingness on the part of university teachers and support staff to find solutions to the language issues facing Chinese students, some of which require a more strategic institutional approach, while others rely on greater flexibility on the part of individuals. Although the studies reported in this paper were based on British universities, the findings will also be of interest to those involved in tertiary education in other English-speaking countries which are currently attracting large numbers of Chinese students.