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Political Science in Europe

Are We Doing Them a Dis-Service? Preparing Students to Study Overseas: a Case Study of Chinese Students and British Culture

Higher Education
Alistair Jones
De Montfort University
Alistair Jones
De Montfort University

This paper explores the issue of teaching students in their home countries, as preparation for them to be able to study overseas. It will do this through a case study of teaching a module in English language to Chinese students (although other experiences will also be noted). The module is on ‘British Culture’. The aim is to give students an awareness of life in the UK so they will experience less culture shock when they come to the UK, and be able to integrate better into UK student life. At the same time, the experience of different approaches to the delivery of education is built into the delivery of the module.

There are a number of issues around this approach. Firstly there is the issue of content. What content should be taught to these students? There are a range of topics that could be covered, but these may be constrained by time pressures. Secondly, there is the way in which the students are taught. In the UK, there are a range of innovative methods to teach students, including flipped classrooms and co-creative learning. The problem is the vast majority of Chinese students have only experience of a lecturer standing at the front of the class, with no interaction between lecturer and students beyond a monologue. Noting that a number of these students will come to the UK to study, there is an issue over the way in which they are taught. The innovations in the UK (and elsewhere) leave many overseas students like a fish out of water. There is a clear concern over inclusivity. This is before the third issue is even encountered: language skills. In the case study, there is the situation of a European lecturer conducting classes in English, on the subject of British Culture. There is a language in which there is varied proficiency in class on a subject about which the vast majority of students know absolutely nothing. To be able to study in the UK, there are minimum standards of English proficiency. There may be a question as to whether these standards are sufficient for students to be able to study effectively in the UK.

To make things more complicated, the whole teaching structure in the case study is devised in the standard Chinese format. It is very intensive. There are three one-hour lectures every morning (Monday to Friday). Each student will have two one-hour seminars during the week. On top of this there is also assessment. There are very obvious time pressures.

This paper will explore the different pressures placed on both staff and students in such a scenario. Underpinning the whole paper is the question of: what could be done better? To what extent, if at all, are we doing these students a dis-service? Or, alternatively, what needs to be done better to enable these students to study more effectively?
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