An interesting article in The New York Times titled The China Conundrum caught our eye last week because it highlighted important and sometimes difficult topics regarding international education. For years institutions have been developing their profile in part through expanded outreach and recruitment efforts both domestically and internationally. Institutions have long boasted these initiatives, but the realities “on the ground” have long been unclear. The New York Times article sheds some light onto a handful of cases, but this article begins a conversation about the necessary support services for international students, how prepared U.S. institutions are to analyze international applicants, and what American students actually mean when they seek diverse campuses.
The China Conundrum unfurls a variety of issues with international enrollment, many of which affect different institutions differently; but a common thread with the similar cases is the type of institution and scale at which these students are recruited. The stories of Chinese students isolated from American classmates were reported in the same schools that also reported new issues with plagiarism. These issues in particular strike BJBIE as important red flags more so about the ESL programs the students are enrolled in, and the availability of support mechanisms on campus. BJBIE has made a concerted effort to partner with smaller faith-based colleges and universities in hopes that the smaller student body will encourage international students to engage in more activities on campus and will translate into more academic guidance and student support by administrators.
BJBIE’s partner institutions have tailored their ESL curriculum for Pathway Program students, which include intensive English preparation and cultural study that builds students’ confidence in their ability to participate in classroom and casual discussions. In recent reports from Greenville College, BJBIE finds our students engaged in campus activities and finding avenues to meet American students, often through the Language Partnership Program, which pairs Pathway students with local classmates to practice conversations. The schools in The China Conundrum are no doubt equally dedicated to their international students, and are seeking creative ways to boost interaction among students; but the challenge will remain that with hundreds of international students, oversight and support will be difficult to ensure.
In the development of our Pathway Programs, BJBIE has weighed the concerns by parents, interests of students, and administrative demands of schools to develop ESL programs that keep students engaged in classes and on-campus programs. The environment at our partner schools is inclusive due to the support by administration and student groups, which makes inclusion easier to attain. The China Conundrum proposes a number of important issues that universities must consider as they continue to internationalize their campus; and while BJBIE may confront some of these issues as we develop more partners, our focus will remain on providing a supportive environment where students can successfully complete a rigorous ESL program and enroll in a strong institution.
Bartlett, T., Fischer, K. (2011, November 3). The China conundrum. The New York Times, pp. ED24.