Monday, December 11, 2017

U.S. admissions staff need to talk with Chinese recruits

Which Chinese students study in U.S. universities and which institutions they attend is a potentially life-changing decision for them. However, many lack a substantive understanding of the process.  Xiaofeng Wan indicates that many Chinese students and their families have misconceptions that need to be corrected about how admissions works and where to place their priorities, a result of reliance on admission agents who have previously served large numbers of Chinese applicants.

The role of high school counselor is new to many Chinese schools and countering the bias toward private agents is difficult to challenge. These counselors urge U.S. college admissions staff to "visit China and meet with students and parents in person" (73%) as well as establish more effective Chinese social media for parents who do not understand English (62%). These are simple steps are probably only the beginning if U.S. institutions want to help Chinese students/families make decisions that are in their best interest.

Friday, December 8, 2017

New strategy for internationalization in Brazil

Brazil is trading its previous efforts to advance internationalization by sending STEM students to study abroad for a new, and less expensive approach. The Capes-Print program redirects a portion of almost US$2 billion spent on "Science Without Borders" to an application process that will allow institutions to identify their own internationalization strategy and pursue it with governmental funding.

The Capes-Print program comes with a more modest pricetag - US$90 million. The goal is to "transform colleges and universities into internationally-oriented institutions. By developing research networks, international cooperation, and the mobility of faculty and graduate students, it will promote change that should benefit more cohorts of students." The move by Brazil represents the challenge faced in other Latin American countries - "to invest in internationalization in order to stay relevant." There is growing realization that higher education institutions should internationalize in order to engage in research and prepare graduates for the dynamics they will face in work and private life.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

How Chinese students engage U.S. higher education

With Chinese student numbers increasing so dramatically in the U.S. over the last decade, many educators have struggled to understand how to address their needs. Elizabeth Reddens' review of Inventing the World Grant University: Chinese International Students' Mobilities, Literacies and Indentities (Fraiburg & Wang) suggests that this new book may be a helpful resource.

Redden indicates that Fraiburg & Wang's theoretical grounding is particularly useful. The research for the book was undertaken at Michigan State University, which increased from 600 in 2006 to 4,527 Chinese students in 2016. The influx of Chinese students during this time resulted in some professors teaching courses where domestic U.S. students were in the minority, a dynamic unusual for both professors and students. As a personal anecdote, I frequently travel by train from Chicago to East Lansing (location of MSU) and have enjoyed seeing the dynamic of Chinese students traveling to Chicago for the weekend. The dynamic I've observed that is most disconcerting is that other passengers on the train seem either disinterested or disoriented by Chinese students' presence.

One of the apparent strengths of Fraiburg & Wang's book is that it identifies how Chinese students find supports that allow them to be successful. This is something that is so important for educators to understand; Chinese students have strengths that they bring to their learning. Focusing on these, rather than their deficits, has a much higher likelihood of resulting in both individual student and institutional success.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Future of Undergraduate Education

A new report, The Future of Undergraduate Education, raises concerns about the condition of higher education in the U.S. While the focus is only U.S. institutions, there are likely implications for higher education around the world.

Particular issues addressed in the report include; improving graduation rates, the need to garner public funding, and improving quality. Particularly related to quality and graduation rates, the report advocates improving the quality and relevance of teaching for the "17 million diverse students in many types of programs" that should be helping them learn and develop the "skills and dispositions that will help them succeed in the 21st century U.S." The recommendations are directed primarily at the curriculum and teaching although there is recognition that learning takes place in extra and cocurricular settings.

In addition, the report "asserts that the long-standing debate over the value of a liberal arts education versus a more 'applied' program is a 'false choice.'" In the ideal learning environment, in and out of class experiences would be valued and classroom content would include strong liberal arts and discipline-based mastery of knowledge. The result - students would see that the "ability to work and learn with others, and to disagree and debate respectfully, as a skill essential for a high quality of life and a future of economic success and effective democratic citizenship."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Liberal Arts in the global era

Liberal arts institutions in the U.S. have experienced considerable criticism over the years for their lack of practical outcomes - particularly related to workplace preparation. Global trends indicate that 36% of the non-U.S. liberal arts programs can now be found in Asia with the explicit purpose of preparing students for rapid global change that requires graduates to have skills and character traits of "creativity, innovation, adaptability, collaboration, and communication." These attributes are perceived to be essential to individual success and they are the bread and butter of liberal education. in the U.S.

The challenge of liberal education in the U.S. has been that it has most often been confined to elite and smaller institutions. Criticism has also been asserted by current U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, who believes there should be more focus on job training and internships as a way to expand educational access; these kinds of programs would most likely be offered through 2-year institutions or through certificate training programs. With the U.S. apparently on the verge of backing off the importance of a broad (liberal) education, and with the growing advocacy for liberal arts in China, China may soon be an international leader as it experiments with liberal arts innovations that are scalable to larger numbers of students.

As we advocated in Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education (Roberts & Komives, eds., 2016), utilizing educational practices may not be directly applicable, or even appropriately adapted, from one cultural context to another. Liberal arts approaches in the U.S. were most prominent in colonial colleges, which were based on British elite institutions. The intent of these institutions was to educate elite, white men for professions such as ministry and law and to prepare them as public servants in government. The liberal arts approach is still very much a part of elite institutions in the U.S. and those who attend these institutions are offered select networks and educational opportunities that other U.S. citizens do not have. The later education policy changes exemplified in the Land Grant movement of the late 19th century or the G.I. Bill of the 1950s were the first concerted efforts to increase access to higher learning; broadening access did not take place at elite institutions but in public institutions that were much more focused on preparing students for workplaces that would drive national prosperity.

The point here is to question the transferability of the liberal arts model to other cultures and to encourage careful consideration about the assumptions of the model and how it could/should be adapted by institutions outside of a Western context. Liberal arts approaches cultivated talent and intellect among the elite for both work and public service. Is this what it now represents and is this purpose understood by those embracing it as exemplary educational practice? If China knew that liberal arts originated out of a commitment to education elite citizens for democratic participation, would they still want to adopt its philosophy? If they know, then what about liberal arts practices might be different especially if the attempt is to expand the number of graduates with this type of education?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sexual education for international students

A topic that I've not seen raised very often is how to educate students about sexual mores and expectations in the environment where they study. A recent essay by Sharla Reid and Jill Dunlap encourages educators to consider what should be modified in the approach with international students in order to be effective.

Although Reid and Dunlap write in ways that reflect a U.S. context, the issue of sexual education is relevant regardless of the cultural/national context. They advise that the "lack of understanding of what domestic students consider to be social norms and sexual cues - like "no means no" - can lead to confusing or awkward situations. Or worse, those misunderstandings can make international students vulnerable to victimization."

Having worked in an environment (Middle East) where physical contact of any type was forbidden, students of other cultures sometimes struggled mightily to figure out what they could or should do in relation to any show of affection. In this situation, missteps of any kind could lead not only to confusing or awkward situations but to disciplinary or legal action. I am also sadly aware of international students from the Middle East who were sexually assaulted while studying in the U.S.; naiveté was a significant contributor to their vulnerability. In both of these examples, sexual education and candor could have prevented the very negative experiences that arose primarily from a lack of awareness. Beyond awareness, international students need guidance on protective measures to keep them from exploitation and abuse.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Internationalization in India

A call for education zones that highlight India's higher education sector may be a way to retain more young people in India's institutions as well as attract students from other countries. The number of Indian students studying around the world has been increasing as its youth population swells. Predictions were that Indian student numbers would eclipse those of Chinese students, however, if India is successful in improving quality and gaining greater visibility, more students may stay at home.

A follow up article noted that India has a long way to go in order to be attractive to international students. Citing the state of Kerala as an example, international students have come there to escape conflict in their own countries or to take advantage of the low cost of living and fees. Two secondary effects of increasing the number of international students are: "foreign students from different backgrounds interact and influence each other in the host country; foreign students and members of the local community have a mutual impact on one another." These are not break-through outcomes but they do reflect a growing awareness of the value of universities courting students from other countries.