ISANA NZ is actively seeking to support teachers, tutors and lecturers in relation to international student issues. An encouraging finding from Education New Zealand’s Understanding the international student experience in New Zealand (2018) report showed that the quality of teaching – particularly the individual respect and attention given to students – emerged as a positive driver for the international students surveyed.
At the same time, a range of studies suggest that the learning experience is not plain sailing for many international students. See Annotated Bibliography And there are different sets of challenges for different students. A long-stay student, for instance, raised in a high Power Distance society with limited English proficiency faces a different set of challenges than an exchange student proficient in English whose home country shares a similar cultural heritage.
ISANA NZ believes the International Education Strategy 2018-2030 which highlights excellent education and student experience, sustainability and global citizenship provides a fresh mandate to explore ways to tap international students’ funds of knowledge to enrich classroom learning. NCEA subjects such as Social Studies, English, Geography and Religious Studies provide opportunities for recognising and drawing on international students’ cultural capital. Similarly, international students studying at the tertiary level can bring rich intercultural insights to subjects such as international relations, tourism, social work, nursing, international business, development studies, public policy, etc.
One educational issue that is common across the sector are the English language needs of ESOL students. The Ministry of Education’s ESOL Online site provides a wealth of resources and strategies for teachers. Yet the place of ESOL in the curriculum appears uncertain and in the tertiary sector the challenges for students with entry-level English proficiency are becoming more evident in research findings. See Annotated Bibliography
In addition to target language proficiency, international students bring different cultural instincts and academic backgrounds. The prevailing social constructivist approach in New Zealand’s education system reflects a low Power Distance orientation which rewards the individual student for their inquiry and initiative. This is counter-cultural for students from high Power distance societies used to ‘sitting at the feed of the guru’.
Teachers who become familiar with international students’ cultural, linguistic and transitional challenges are well positioned to develop effective pedagogy for diverse classrooms. See Annotated Bibliography and the resources below for pedagogic strategies that support international student learning.
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