The Foundation for civilizational Transformation and Conscious Evolution undertakes the analysis of problems and recommendation of responses thereto.
The following is a model case study based on an institutional issue.
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CASE STUDY: The Importance of Language Skills to the Succes of Foreign Students.
Abstract
This case study highlights the situation faced by an international student who’s career plans, psychological health and parental expectations are threatened by a failure on the part of the university he entered to ensure that he acquired the level of skill in the medium of instruction required to successfully complete his course of studies, before allowing him to follow the course.
Introduction
Jun, is an international student from China who is studying in Australia. He successfully settled into his new environment, found accommodation and a part time job, followed a preparatory course in English as required by the university and eagerly joined his main course of studies for a bachelor’s degree in international trade.

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This case study shows how Jun changed within a short time from a confident young student, to an emotionally disturbed person contemplating the abandonment of his studies even at the cost of disappointing his parents.

Our study of Jun’s situation enables us to unearth the underlying causes of his difficulties andto recommend steps that will ensure that other foreign students do not have to go through them as well.
Case description
"Jun is a student from China who is studying as an international student in Australia. He has been in Australia for about six months and is studying for a bachelor’s degree in international trade. Before commencing his studies he was required to do some preparatory English study at the university’s English Language Centre. The first few weeks were very busy and involved not only enrolling and beginning the English course, but finding accommodation and becoming accustomed to his new environment..

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The teachers and students at the language centre were generally helpful and friendly, although the teaching style seemed a lot more informal than what he had been used to. He found accommodation with some other Chinese speaking friends in a share house situation. He had to catch a train to school everyday which was sometimes frustrating for him as the public transport in China was generally much more frequent and efficient. Nevertheless, he soon felt comfortable in his new environment and was happy to be here. Most particularly, he was looking forward to starting his main course.

After twenty weeks of language study, Jun began his main course. Despite his extra time in English study, he found it very difficult to understand many of the lecturers, who spoke very fast and used a lot of both technical jargon and colloquial Australian expressions. He found it difficult to talk in tutorials because he still did not have full confidence in his speaking skills. He had good ideas, but didn’t have the language ability or confidence to share his ideas. And when he did try, the local students had difficulty understanding his pronunciation. In addition, he was given a lot of assignments, for many of which he was required to do a lot of reading and some independent research. Soon, he could feel himself falling behind in his reading, and finding it hard to keep up with the timeline of his assignments. His energy levels began to fall and he found it more and more difficult to get out of bed to make it to his classes.

Most of his friends had part time work, and he had found work sometime before his course had started at a Chinese restaurant in the city. The pay was very low, and the hours were long, but his friends said that the opportunity to work in Australia was valuable experience, and the extra money did come in useful. He often had to work late however, and this made it more difficult to get out of bed in the mornings to attend his lectures. In China, his mother had done all of the cooking for the family, but here he and his friends had to learn how to do their cooking by themselves. He began to miss his mother’s cooking, and the lively environment of his home city in China.In China shops and businesses were always open late and on weekends, while in Australia most businesses and shops closed early and did not open on weekends. He found this increasingly annoying, but was not sure exactly why. He knew that his lifestyle, the new things he had to learn, and the change in food, were taking up a lot of his energy, but he did not know what he could do about it.

In his first round of assignments, he failed two of his assignments, and became very disheartened. The lecturer had made many comments on his paper, but he found the comments difficult to understand and felt too shy to go and bother the lecturer directly about it. He was not sure whether the main difficulty was his grammar and writing structure, or whether he was misunderstanding the purpose or language of the assignments. He was beginning to doubt whether he could successfully complete his degree, and whether it was worth staying. He sought advice from a university councilor, but the councilor did not seem to understand the situation of international students. At the end of the first semester he managed to pass three subjects, but failed his fourth subject. He does not want to stay and continue, but also does not want to disappoint his parents who had encouraged him to pursue an international degree.”

Statement of the problem
Definition:
The university that Jun had entered failed to ensure that he had acquired the level of functional skill in the usage of English – the medium of instruction in that university - that he would require to complete his degree successfully, before allowing him to start his main course.

Analysis:
We see that initially Jun functioned with energy and enthusiasm. He had taken on the challenge of going to a foreign country in order to secure an international degree. He had followed the preparatory course in English language while attending to his enrollment process and the tasks of finding accommodation and adjusting to his environment. He had successfully accomplished these tasks and felt comfortable in his new environment and happy to be there. In particular he had looked forward to starting his main course.

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There were no signs of depression at this point and he appeared to have successfully adjusted to his environment within the three to four months that it usually takes to do so.

Jun’s difficulties began to arise when after 20 weeks of language study, he began his main course. He then found that he could not understand many of the lecturers who spoke fast and used jargon and colloquialisms. He found that he did not have confidence in his speaking skills and hence could not talk during tutorials despite having many good ideas. He also found that when he did speak the local students had difficulty in understanding his pronunciation. He was also required to do a lot of reading and research. He soon fell behind in his reading and found it hard to keep up with the timeline of his assignments.He found that his energy levels began to fall and that it became more and more difficult to get out of bed to make it to his classes.

Here we see how a key cultural element - Language - emerged as a problematic area. The initial confidence he had gained, the comfort he had found in his new environment, his happiness at being there and the eagerness with which he looked forward to his course were disrupted by his lack of language skills. Since this lack of language skills slowed him down and disturbed his peace of mind, he is also found it difficult to meet the demands of his part time job.

It becomes clear that the sequence of developments arising from this lack of language skills leads to a drop in his energy level to the point where he has difficulty getting out of bed - clearly he is now in depression.

Although Jun was aware that the demands made on him were taking up his energy, he was unable to see anything that he could do about it.

We then see how a longing to go back to a simpler and more comfortable past - known to psychology as a regression - begins to set in and express itself as a longing for his mothers cooking and all that comes with it as well as for the familiarity of his home city. He finds that differences between his new environment and the environment of his home city begin to annoy him although he cannot not explain why they should do so.

This is an indication that he had reached the limits of his functional capacity and that his personality was beginning to come apart and that he was in a situation that required professional intervention.

He then failed two of his assignments and began to doubt whether he could successfully complete his course. At this point he sought advice from a university councilor who did not seem to understand the situation of foreign students. It is unlikely that this councilor was a counselor or he would have recognized the seriousness of Jun’s situation and referred him to a professional counselor for counseling.

Jun then failed one of his subjects at the end of his first semester and at that point he did not want to continue. At the same time he did not want to disappoint his parents who had encouraged him to pursue an international degree.
Possible solutions
The following solutions are suggested:

1. Jun can drop out and go back home.

2. He can stop working at the Chinese restaurant and use the time to follow an intensive course in English language. This process can be strengthened by a conscious effort to associate with English speaking students in order to increase English language usage skills. He can also obtain the services of a psychological counselor if the university provides such services for its students.

3. Jun can negotiate with the university to transfer his registration and allow him torejoin the course from the beginning of the next academic year so that he can utilize the current year to develop the required level of skill in the medium of instruction.
Evaluation of solutions
1. The first solution would entail losing the time, money and effort expended so far and will cause disappointment to his parents and hence is not a good solution.

2. The second solution is the best as it will build on what has been achieved by dropping something that is not essential.

3. The third solution is a variation of the second and is acceptable though not as good because it will lead to the loss of a years time and cost a years expenses while also causing some anxiety to his parents.
Choice of solution
It would be best if Jun were to choose the second solution because this would address the core of the problem and would leave him free to achieve all his academic goals as well as to meet the expectations of his parents. He may also find another part time job once he has acquired the required level of English language skills and begun to manage his coursework without difficulty.
Conclusion
Universities require that that foreign students follow preparatory courses in the language of instruction of the university concerned. However, many of these preparatory courses are inadequate as this case clearly demonstrates. In this case there has also been inadequate supervision of the students in order to ensure that they have acquired the required level of skill in the relevant language.

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The failure to ensure that students acquire sufficient skill in the usage of the language of instruction before being admitted to their respective courses of studies, may subject them to avoidable psychological trauma, financial loss, loss of time and possibly lead to the disruption of their career plans.

It is possible that the acceptance of foreign students who do not have the required skills may leave the university liable for the consequent losses incurred and psychological trauma suffered by such students who are allowed to begin their main courses without having acquired the required level of skill in the medium of instruction.
Recommendations
Universities must take note of these conclusions and act immediately to ensure that all foreign students acquirethe necessary skill in the medium of instruction before they are allowed to begin their main course of studies.