Academic English a problem for Chinese students

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 January, 2005, 12:00am

Mainlanders who enrol in Australian universities also face difficulties at work

Many mainland students as well as other East Asians face considerable difficulties with academic English when they enrol in Australian universities.

Mainland students also confront problems when they undertake paid work, as most do in order to survive, according to a study by researchers at Monash University.

At the same time, however, Chinese students experience fewer instances of discrimination and bad treatment than Indonesians and Malaysians. But they also have a slightly above average rate of financial difficulties, the researchers say.

The problems facing overseas students in Australia are being investigated through a series of 200 semi-structured interviews with international students enrolled in nine Australian universities.

The research is being funded by the Monash Institute for the Study of Global Movements which is headed by Professor Simon Marginson. The students taking part are from 34 nationalities and are broadly representative of the overseas student population.

Questions of security are important in prospective student decisions about the country where they plan to continue their education, more so after September 11, the researchers say.

But they argue that the social and economic security of cross-border students is under-recognised as a policy issue by national governments and global agencies. Their study is part of an attempt to tackle the issue.

They note that in Australia government and universities have adopted a commercial approach to the delivery of foreign education based on expanding market share, full cost recovery and maximum surplus.

In the interviews, Indonesians and Malaysian told of frequent instances of discrimination. Problems of loneliness and isolation were rife, but they had fewer problems with English than the Chinese.

Curiously, many more female students than males reported problems with academic English, although there were major variations by national origin.

Few students from South Asia had problems with academic English. But two-thirds of the mainland students reported difficulties.

There were also higher than average rates of problems among the students from other East Asian nations, including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

Students said that among the difficulties they had at work were low rates of pay, excessive hours or other unreasonable demands by employers, and instances of sexual or other forms of harassment.

Women had more problems at work than men and, in terms of national origin, more than one in three Chinese students had experienced difficulties.