Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Foreign undergrads' English not up to par

This is rare but a HR manager pointed out the obvious in his letter to the papers.

Feb 21, 2007
Foreign undergrads' English not up to par

AS A human resource practitioner for more than 10 years, I have interviewed a number of foreign undergraduates from our local universities for part-time employment. Their command of our working language, which is English, is not up to my expectations of an undergraduate studying in an institution that teaches in English.

I have also had feedback from Singaporean graduates that they had trouble understanding what their foreign counterparts said during presentations at university.

Why is this so if these foreign students passed their English Language (EL) tests before admission to local universities? Are the minimum EL standards set by our universities too low for admission of international students?

At the National University of Singapore, if a foreign student applies for undergraduate admission, the minimum EL requirement is a C6 in O-level English or an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of six. However, for Singaporean students, a pass in General Paper (GP) at AO level is the minimum requirement.

Why do local students need a pass in GP if an O-level English standard is sufficient for admission to local universities?

Many foreign students are offered permanent residence in Singapore once they secure a permanent job within a certain period after completing their degree. What is worrying is whether they have a competent grasp of English to function professionally in a mostly English-speaking work environment, given the minimum EL standard set for university entry.

Australian universities are thinking of pushing their EL requirement higher. Should our tertiary institutions do the same?

Rick Lim Say Kiong

Where I am studying now, doing a private degree. More than half of my class are foreigners from China, India, Vietnam and so on. And it is true their English simply cannot make it. The Indians fare better but their accent are so thick and I can see even the lecturers have trouble understanding. Class participation becomes a joke.. The SGians naturally are the most vocal ones and contribute to class participation.

It is true the gahment wants to attract foreigners to study here, and are desperate to make money from education. But along the way standards are diluted. The foreigners also do not integrate. Not all are like that of course but majority keep to their own circles. Sometimes when I go for lessons I feel like a foreigner in a foreign country.

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