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World Association of International Studies

Post Chinese Students in the US: The Good and the Bad
Created by John Eipper on 07/23/17 7:06 AM

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Chinese Students in the US: The Good and the Bad (Henry Levin, USA, 07/23/17 7:06 am)

Yes, in response to John E (22 July), the typical Chinese student has changed across the country. But we must be very careful. The best Chinese students are excellent, conscientious, and highly motivated. But, the story from university to university at the undergraduate level and in many masters programs is quite different. Many of these students lack adequate English, even though they have taken Internet courses for months (e.g. New Oriental School) and have memorized huge amounts of vocabulary. In some cases this will get them high enough on the TOEFL to meet the minimal entrance requirements for English. But, in other cases they use fake IDs to get someone else to take the tests for them. Thus, students arrive without basic skills to read demanding texts, they do not understand instruction in class, and they lack speaking skills. Even more telling is that their writing is almost non-existent, not only because of problems of grammar and vocabulary, but because they have had very little experience in independent writing in their previous education.

They have serious challenges in "borrowing" verbatim material from the Internet, and they are frequent purchasers of papers on the Internet which cannot be easily traced because the text is taken from the purchased paper rather than open on-line material.  Almost all universities now provide access to software to faculty (e.g. TurnitIn) to check on copying directly from the Internet.

There is a lucrative industry in China in which one can pay for someone with false documentation to take exams, for "tutors" to write statements of purpose and essays for admission, and to modify course transcripts.

The big reward for the students is to get a degree from an American university, and parents and relatives will do almost anything to make this happen. Sadly, that funding often goes to paying others (including Chinese students who are very good, but poor or lacking connections to the job markets) to write papers or to provide assistance to student in clandestine ways on examinations. Keep in mind that the honor codes in many American universities prohibit proctoring or faculty presence.

I enclose a few URLs, but these are only the visible part of an enormous iceberg. The best Chinese students are very good and committed. The deterioration has been in the average Chinese student. I should also add that few universities are doing much about this, given the dependence on the tuition of these "students" who are seeking credentials, not education. Faculty who discover dishonesty or incompetence or inappropriate admissions are rarely supported by institutional action. Even those students who are punished are a tiny portion of those for whom infractions are discovered. Further, universities are reluctant to report these problems for fear of losing enrollments of paying applicants. So much of the full story is clandestine, but easily obtainable from colleagues at most institutions who have stunning stories of the magnitude of this scandal.




JE comments:  These cheating "companies" are most alarming.  They also show raw Chinese entrepreneurship.  From the Chinese perspective, where is the line between large tuition fees and paying a little bit extra to lessen or eliminate the actual work?

Do university honor codes translate well into other cultures?  I assume the US academic model of "honor" comes from the Anglo-Saxon tradition of fair play, fields of Eton, orderly offensives on the Somme, and the like.  Might this be considered "dupe/chump" behavior, or outright foolishness, in China?

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  • Chinese Students in ESL/ELC Gateway Programs (Tamara Zuniga-Brown, USA 07/24/17 4:52 AM)
    Some of you may be aware that I was honored to present on the topic of the impact of international students in ESL gateway programs at American universities for WAIS at Stanford in October 2015. I focused predominantly on the KASP (Saudi Arabian scholarship students), but my presentation applies equally to our large numbers of Chinese students and our current discussion.

    After earning a MATESOL, I taught ESL (ELC) at two top universities in southern California for eight years, and I can assure you the struggles discussed are commensurate with the comments posted by my fellow WAISers. But, it must also be kept in mind that ESL programs are not created equal, are extremely decentralized, and therefore run quite differently.

    Most recently, I have been assisting Chaldean Archbishop Warda fight ISIS through education by helping set up the English preparatory year at Catholic University in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.  Please see my post from June 6, reposted from an NSF post June 1, 2017 in the links below to read my essay/article, as it is highly relevant to this discussion. You can easily apply the information and my argument to Chinese students. The complex dynamics involved are quite similar (with some obvious exceptions).

    U of Iowa is by no means the only university that needs to concentrate on giving these super-affluent Chinese students (or any affluent international student for that matter) better preparation to reduce their ambivalent experience, frustrations, and interactions with their local hosts in the West.

    Bottom line is, universities can, and should, do better. Until what I call "a seismic paradigmatic shift" takes place and the current business model is flipped on its head, immediate economic gains will continue to triumph over any long-term local or global community-building efforts whether related to public diplomacy, business or anything else.

    In a nutshell, the irony of placing a key group of ultra-rich globally connected international youth in exceptionally underfunded and decentralized classes and programs at universities might be the first and most basic fact that needs serious introspection.

    So for now in the field of higher education, these are equally missed opportunities for generations of US and Chinese students, their respective universities, and their local communities. I have spent many years questioning and writing about whether the current business model at many American universities--aggressively admit more students, charge higher tuitions, and reduce teaching costs by replacing full-time faculty with over-worked part-timers--has not strategically diminished the cost-benefit value of their education, and their degrees.

    Most importantly, we should be discussing the socio-cultural impact of their experience on their hearts and minds --and what this means to longer-term global sociocultural cohesion and economic stability.



    For further consideration:

    1) There are roughly 30,000 Chinese adolescents attending American high schools paying upwards of $45,000- $50,000 in tuition, each. http://www.voanews.com/content/as-chinese-students-flock-to-us-campuses- high-schools-see-rising-enrollments/2439534.html


    2) As a result of decidedly limited resource allocation and physical isolation of ESL/ECL programs on the majority of campuses, I have witnessed great friendships form between Saudi Arabian and Chinese students over the years. I am watching them continue to grow. I cannot help but wonder what future possibilities and partnerships they will bring once these students complete their educations, return home and take on positions of leadership in the next decade or two.

    JE comments:  Tamara Zúñiga-Brown for Education Secretary!  I mean it.  Tamara has put her finger on the central irony of how international students are treated in the US.  Although they are a major cash cow for our universities, ESL and sundry "acculturation" programs are pitifully underfunded.  To use a major buzzword of our times, this model is not sustainable.

    Another irony:  a Saudi-Chinese "axis" may be developing among students (and future leaders) right here in the United States.  This could have a major impact on geopolitics in the next decade or two.

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    • Chinese Students and Academic Honor Codes (Henry Levin, USA 07/25/17 4:33 AM)
      I share many of the concerns of Tamara Zúñiga-Brown (July 24th) and wish to endorse her perspective. But, it is important to point out that this is a different issue than the one that I raised with respect to those students who are indifferent to learning and see obtaining a credential from a prestigious US institution with the least effort as their only goal.

      In response to John's question about the honor code, this has little meaning to such students. Even the very concept of an honor code is culture-bound. What is the punishment for undermining the honor code when you are not attached to the culture of honor, only expediency, and you can pay others or rely on other devices to meet nominally the academic requirements?

      I always introduce myself to my students with my self-identification as their teacher, not their policeman. I suspect that this characterization elicits silent cheers from those who are concerned only about enforcement of standards and eschew efforts to deepen their understanding and intellectual development.

      JE comments: It would be instructive to explore the meaning of honor in comparative cultures. Much is said about some Middle Eastern cultures where honor involves killing a daughter who loses her virginity. By contrast, purchasing an essay from an online paper mill would seem quite trivial.

      A useful starting point might be the "in-group" or "out-group" distinction, in which the former involves people to whom you owe honesty, fair dealing, and the like.  With the out-group, expediency and opportunism are the predominant attitudes.

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      • Acronyms, Academics, and Chinese Students (Tamara Zuniga-Brown, USA 07/26/17 10:31 AM)
        A point well taken indeed by Rodolfo Neirotti (25 July). Thank you for bringing to my attention the need to explain one's acronyms. When one becomes immersed in a given profession, it is of particular importance to be mindful and not get caught up in the jargon.

        The interesting thing about the "alphabet soup" in the world of ESL (English as a Second Language) profession is that there is constant discussion about the many acronyms involved in the profession like EFL (English as a Foreign Language) or ESP (English for Specific Purposes) to name but two. And believe me, there are many professionals in the field that take these differences to heart, because language is indeed very political and the kind of teaching degree a teacher/instructor holds makes a difference.

        So, for the sake of clarity about the discussion of Chinese students at universities, it is important to note: 1) In the US, an "ESL instructor" is usually required to have a Master's in MATESOL (Masters in Teaching Speakers of Other Languages) or PhD to teach in these programs.

        2) The purpose of ESL academic gateway programs is to prepare students for admission to universities, as opposed to the wider variety of language schools or test prep centers. The overall goal is to score well on the almighty TOEFL (The Test Of English as a Foreign Language)--which is the equivalent of the SAT or ACT for US students. However, most students tend to go to the ESL program attached to their university of choice because they believe (or have been told) they will gain conditional admission. This is a huge bone of contention.

        3) ESL Programs vary widely from one university to another because they fall under Continuing Education or Extension and are therefore managed in a highly decentralized manner.

        Personally, I find the more widely used term "ESL" an impediment to raising awareness to the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) this unique profession encompasses. Bottom line: any use of the word "second" is not received favorably in the "We're # 1" socio-cultural mindset. I use the term ELC (English Language and Culture) because it is more indicative and reflective of the complexities beyond the four traditionally taught skills LSWR (Listening, Speaking, Writing, Reading).

        In a nutshell, a MATESOL program further encompasses the nuances of the psycholinguistic aspects of pedagogy in second-language acquisition (SLA) processes, not only how to teach LSWR. This course of study delves into a deeper awareness and understanding of the social, cultural, political and economic factors a student brings into the classroom as it can either further enhance or challenge the learning of an additional language.

        Hence my argument about the great need for a seismic paradigmatic shift at universities in order to strategically tap into, and purposefully support their respective ESL/ELC programs. Doing so will support a sustainable navigation of the socio-cultural challenges of the Chinese student phenomena that exist in local communities. This applies to affluent international students at American universities, and my argument about missed opportunities.

        The article in the NSF (National Security Forum) I referred to in my previous post explains this situation in greater depth and highlights the importance and power of English language educators as critical first lines of linguistic and acculturation processes--in essence, public diplomacy. The title is Optimizing Existing Resources in Education to Find Stability in the Middle East and exemplifies the herculean efforts of Chaldean Archbishop Warda fighting ISIS (extremist ideologies and culture clashes) in Iraq--by offering access to an education in English for all regardless of religion, gender, tribe, or financial status.

        Henry Levin is correct with respect to the indifference (or ambivalence) to learning a large majority of Chinese students have. With this said, I also must say I have had many dedicated, diligent and exceptionally hard-working students. In my humble opinion, the way a student refers to his/her parents has helped me notice the difference. In one way, it might be better explained as symptomatic for not having to bear the repercussions of failing or being expelled due to a highly financially secure situation.

        It may also be encouraging to know that in addition to earning a prestigious American degree, the next reason my students tell me their parents send them to the US is to learn our time-honored values of independence and responsibility. However, the concept of accountability seems to be one of the most difficult to transmit clearly to them; as are academic honor code and plagiarism--and attendance. My students (Chinese or Saudi) are actually intrigued and shocked when these are explained to them, or if they learn about one of their classmates suffering the consequences. This is indeed a challenging culture clash that takes time and energy to navigate; especially, when there are diametrically opposed social and cultural norms (and very young adults) involved: community-based vs independent-based. I learned to always relate it to what matters to them, but that is a whole other discussion and this one is quite lengthy already!

        Ric: Thanks for reaching out to the international students in your gym. Forging good relationships is the best way.

        BTW, your WTF was well-placed! Did the new ESL teacher have a MATESOL?

        JE (John Eipper) comments: KSA can be Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities, but also the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So if you need to identify what your Saudi students know and can do, how about KSAKSA..?

        Tamara:  I presume you have attendance requirements in your classes; it's the American Way.  Do you often face resistance from your international students?  "What?  I pay for these classes and I have to attend?"

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        • Acronyms in the Ancient World, Hebrew, Arabic (Edward Jajko, USA 07/26/17 4:40 PM)
          Acronyms are of ancient vintage. The Hebrew word for the Bible is an acronym, Tanakh. This word is made up of the first letters of Torah, teaching or law, N'viyim, prophets, and K'tuvim, writings, with two vowels. There is another word, Miqra', which means reading or recitation (both, actually), but the acronym Tanakh is what is generally used and is on the spines of my several Hebrew Bibles.

          Hebraic Acronyms and initialisms have been common for centuries, perhaps millennia. Rabbis and scholars are known by acronyms sometimes more than by their real names. No one speaks of Rav Shelomoh Yits'haki, the extraordinarily important French scholar of the 12th century. He is known as Rashi, i.e. Rav SHelomoh Itzhaki, and his name is even used for a kind of Hebrew font or script.

          The physician, philosopher, theologian, scholar, and Judaism's first codifier of a law code was Mosheh ben Maimon, aka Moses Maimonides. He is commonly known by the acronym Rambam, i.e., Rav Mosheh Ben Maimon. In the Ashkenazic pronunciation used by many American Jews, Rambam sounds like "rumbum," which in the patois of Philadelphia means a drunkard.

          Moses ben Nahman, aka Nahmanides, is known as Ramban.

          The great legist Moses Isserles is more commonly known as Rema, or The Rema. One has to know when those identified by acronyms are "The."

          Acronyms are used in modern Israel. The Israel Defense Force is Tsahal, i.e. Ts'va Haganah le-Yisra'el, or the grammatically more accurate Ts'va ha-Haganah le-Yisra'el.

          The general staff of Tsahal is Matkal, which is Mateh Kelalah, general staff. The chief of the general staff is Ravmatkal, the Rav of the Matkal.

          There are other initialisms and acronyms too numerous to mention besides these. I still have the dictionary that I used when I dealt with Hebrew-language materials and that is probably a couple of decades out of date.

          Modern Arabic uses some acronyms. But it does so in often clever ways that are part of the genius of the language. We all know the name of the Palestinian political movement Fatah. This word has two meanings. "Fatah" itself means conquest, literally opening. But the name of the organization is a backwards construction, from the words Harakat al-Tahrir al-Filastiniyah, The Palestine/ian Liberation Movement.

          Hamas is the same sort of construction. The word Hamas means Zeal. But the name of the organization is derived from Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyah, the Islamic Resistance Movement. The HMS comes from Harakat, Muqawamah, and the S of Islamiyah.

          And for me, KSA is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

          JE comments:  This is the best part of my favorite acronym, WAIS:  teaching moments born of confusion or disagreement.  Rodolfo Neirotti's protest has unlocked a wealth of information.  Thank you, Rodolfo, and thank you, Ed!

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          • Acronyms in the IT World (John Heelan, -UK 07/27/17 5:06 AM)
            I regret (and apologise) that my high-tech industry has been the source of many three-letter acronyms often derived from instructions in early programming languages--such as COBOL, FORTRAN, ALGOL, LISP, RPG BASIC, Assembler and so on.

            My favourite from Assembler was the fake BBO (Bit Bucket Overflow instruction) alleged to be a warning from the software that collected all the spare bits of files--long before bytes were invented. The growth of TLAs (Three-letter acronyms) became so voluminous that people needed to invent four-letter acronyms (Extended TLA or XTLA) leading to popular ones in social networks such as WTFC? WGAS? And IMHO, sometimes sometimes abbreviated to IMO. Or the one popular in the military, SNAFU.

            I have been in technical discussions with geeks when I did not under a word because of all the acronyms!

            JE comments:  TLA, since it has acronym in the actual acronym, might be called a meta-acronym.  Although to be pedantic (that's my job as editor), an acronym must be pronounceable as a word (NATO, SNAFU, WAIS).  Non-pronounceable series of letters (TLA, BBO, WTF) are initialisms or alphabetisms.

            Nor in this discussion should we overlook the backronym:  the oftentimes whimsical attribution of an etymology to an acronym or non-acronym, such as FORD = Found on Road Dead (Fix or Repair Daily), or MOAB:  Mother of All Bombs.

            WAIS:  Wonderfully Analytical and Insightful Scriptures.

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            • Naval Acronyms (Tamara Zuniga-Brown, USA 07/28/17 4:04 PM)

              In true WAIS style (Wonderfully Analytical and Insightful Scriptures), John Heelan (July 27th) adds to our education about acronyms. It reminds me of my 25 years as the spouse of a US Naval submarine officer. We were affectionately known as "bubble heads"--as opposed to "targets" or SWOs (Surface Warfare Officers). Nevertheless, all respected the COB (Chief of the Boat) for his wisdom, knowledge, and experience. A couple of years ago, my 23 year-old daughter recently graduated with a degree in psychology and worked with the Navy as "a FAP" (Family Advocate Program). Much as she loved her job helping Navy families, she swore she always heard people call her "fat"!

              Among the plethora of military acronyms (which becomes each service's respective jargon/language), here are some usually recognized Navy ones:

              1. BUDS: Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL

              2. SEAL: Sea-Air-Land (Team)

              3. JAG: Judge Advocate General Office

              4. BUPERS: Bureau of Navy Personnel

              But, here are two are my all-time favorites. Coming in second place is NASTYPAC, Naval Submarine Training Center Pacific, Naval Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor. Coming in first place is one I learned during our 2 years attached to the Royal Submarine Force at HMS Northwood in the late '80s: FOCEUR, Fleet Operations Center Europe. Not sure anyone could really say that with a straight face...

              JE comments:  Tamara, it must be stressed on the final syllable:  fuhQUEUR, like liqueur.  (!)  But with those British, you can never be sure...

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              • Shooting Down Fokkers: A Polish Joke (John Heelan, -UK 07/29/17 9:39 AM)
                Tamara Zúñiga-Brown's comment about FOCEUR (29 July) reminded me of the "Polish Airman joke," for which a Brit comedian was banned after relating it on prime-time TV.

                Those of a delicate disposition can find the joke at http://www.criticalmiss.com/issue9/polishfighterpilot1.html

                Read to the end because as in all jokes the last line is critical!

                JE comments: We don't tell Polish jokes in my house, but this one can be an exception. The pilot was fearless and clever, and as his story indicates, he clearly got the best of those Nazi Fokkers...

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                • Shooting Down Fokkers (Mike Calnan, USA 07/30/17 10:47 AM)
                  I heard the "Shooting down Fokkers" joke told by a US Air Force general at a formal dinner in in Korea 30 years ago. The crowd went wild!

                  JE comments: I suspect "Fokker" humor goes all the way back to WWII.  Or even the Great War:  when it was introduced in 1915, the Fokker Eindecker monoplane was the bane of Allied airmen.  Truly a daunting Fokker.

                  The Focker family movie franchise took up the same torch years later, with Meet the Parents (2000) and sequels (the latest, Little Fockers).

                  If you missed yesterday's Joke of the Day, submitted by John Heelan, here it goes again: 


                  Great to hear from Mike Calnan.

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    • Acronyms, Alas (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA 07/25/17 4:50 AM)
      Tamara Zúñiga-Brown's posting of 24 July has important information. Unfortunately, there many abbreviations such as ESL, MATESOL, ELC, NSF, interfering with the reading.

      Abbreviations are becoming more common, and even abused with articles that have abbreviations in the title and in the text that are not clarified. WAIS is a group with different background and professions, so it would useful to either avoid or clarify them.

      JE comments:  I was tempted to title this one "Acronyms:  WTF?"  (LOL...)

      But yes, Rodolfo Neirotti has a great point.  Acronyms often don't translate across languages and cultures.  In the education business, we bandy about ESL (English as a Second Language) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) as if they were household concepts, like NATO, RADAR, or (gulp) WAIS.  MATESOL is an academic degree:  Masters of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

      So please, fellow World Association of International Studies-ers:  when crafting a post, explain your acronyms.

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      • Fun with Acronyms; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 07/25/17 1:24 PM)

        Ric Mauricio responds to Rodolfo Neirotti (July 25th):

        With Twitter all the rage as well as texting, acronyms have pervaded our culture and language to the point where many do not only exhibit good spelling skills, but are missing grammar skills as well.

        My favorite is LOLROTF, along with its representative emoticon.  

        But yes, in the financial world, in order to elevate themselves to a level that supposedly separates the knowledgeable from the teeming masses, financial advisors use acronyms to show their superiority.

        So here are a few of the acronyms used:

        Investment acronyms:

        EAGLES are Emerging And Growth-Leading Economies which includes South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, Taiwan and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China).

        ROI: Return On Investment

        CFP: Certified Financial Planner

        ETF: Exchange-Traded Fund

        Tax-related acronyms:

        FATCA is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

        FBAR is the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Reporting

        EA: Enrolled Agent

        Accounting acronyms:

        CPA: Certified Public Accountant

        GAAP: Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

        Of course, stock symbols are shortened versions of a company name, but in one case, a famous company's stock symbol is an acronym for something quite different from the company. In fact, the news in San Francisco was that the Board of Supervisors have voted to limit the number of these to be opened in each district.

        MCD is the symbol for the Golden Arches, aka McDonald's. But now MCD also stands for Medicinal Cannabis Dispensaries. Imagine an investor like myself opening up the news and reading the headline.

        A PS (postscript) on Chinese students (or any other foreign student, for that matter). In our gym, we do have foreign Chinese students, and I actually go out of my way to make them feel very comfortable and to encourage inclusion with our other members. In fact, I have been told by these students that our gym is quite different from other gyms in that respect. I believe that fostering inclusion will smooth the way for better relationships amongst future world leadership, in government and business (I guess my hippieness hasn't gone away, although more cynicism has crept in).

        As far as ESL (English as a Second Language), my wife used to be an ESL teacher in the elementary school here. After a report by the District came out that it is better for students to not fall back on a teacher who knows their language (full immersion), my wife was replaced by a teacher who was bilingual in Japanese. WTF.

        JE comments:  Ric Mauricio's original e-mail came complete with an animated Rolling on the Floor emoticon, but I couldn't upload it to WAISworld.  Trust me, the hysterical little guy had me Laughing Out Loud, although I managed to hold on to my chair...

        As for California's pot dispensaries, I'm sure they're already known by the nickname "Micky D's."  Nothing better for those late-night cravings.

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