Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Reflections on teaching practice - loving international students

A quick blog post because I'm feeling the HE luvvin at the moment. I've previously blogged on my experiences of the internationalisation of teaching through my PGCap assignments - the negative bit about the neo-liberal multiversity here, and a constructive reflection on teaching and learning here. In doing this project it amused me how a lot of the eulogistic writing about international students, particularly from days when they were still a novelty on campuses, was so different from the actual experience of teaching a class with almost a majority of international students. I highlighted how the growing number of international students was actually presented as a problem by my colleagues, particularly students from a Confucian Heritage Culture (CHC). This was very different from the wonderful world of intercultural discovery portrayed by some authors. In particular the following stereotypes were very strongly in play (some of them based on reality):
  • that CHC students lacked critical thinking skills and were compliant
  • that CHC students looked to the teacher as leader and all-knowing demi-God.
  • that CHC students have poor English language skills.
My PGCap project found that the latter was likely to be the main barrier to educational success. However, on the former two points I know I can be a little bit racist in presuming that these are true assumptions - that these students have swallowed the Communist Party line and struggle to criticise what is happening back in China.

I'm pleasantly finding out how wrong I have been. Last year I had a little window into this - a student was discussing how she wanted to do a dissertation on the accessibility of public transport to disabled people in China. I mentioned how the Chinese government might not allow the sort of campaigning organisations around disability that we have in the UK - the response was a wry, very knowing, smile.

In yesterday's environmental planning course I was discussing types of pollutants and got onto discussing air pollution in Beijing. I raised the issue of the disparity between the Government's air quality measures and those of the US Embassy. The response from one student from Chinese was to burst out laughing. Given all my students fall asleep in this class, I was not expecting this at all! One of his friends pointed out he was from Beijing, so I asked why he was laughing - it was because the fact that the authorities diddled the figures did not come as a surprise to him at all. And he knew everything that had happened during the Olympics to try and clear the air. In the same class, another student from another town in China also discovered that there was an aluminium smelter in his town that had basically been killing people with its pollution. 

It's moments like these that definitely make you #lovehe.

No comments:

Post a Comment