Some English instructors feel pressure to pass international students

Two English instructors at Langara College in Vancouver have gone public with their concern that they are being pressured to pass international students who deserve to fail their classes. While the College provost denies there is any such pressure, the instructors are just two lending their voice to the growing number of post-secondary educators pointing to the problems created by the exploding number of international students at Canadian colleges and universitites.

As well as institutional pressure, there is also the pressure from students who sometimes try to move their instructors to improve their grades through tears or begging… or complaining to the department head. Instructors are also concerned about the effect of failing students on “rate your preofessor websites” and their ability to fill classes going forward.

These instructors have also voiced the concern that the quality of education for domestic students is going down because of the international students’ common inability to properly participate in the class because of linguistic deficiency.

Read the article in the Vancouver Sun.

Ontario universities increasingly dependent on international student tuition

A recent story by the CBC reveals how heavily schools in Ontario are now relying on international students for the funding they need to operate. From 2010 to 2016, the number of international students studying in Ontario increased by 88.5% while the number of domestic students only increased by 7% in the same period. Total revenue from international students’ tuition more than doubled, going from $620 million to $1.28 billion. At the same time, there has been reduced government funding to universities.

Fun fact: international students provide more than half of the University of Toronto’s $1.3 billion in tuition revenue.

Read the report.

When the communicative approach doesn’t fly

Apparently there was a bit of a stir at this year’s IATEFL conference when Jocelyn Wang, the head of teacher development at China’s largest private English language teaching organization, “defeated” Jim Scrivener’s defense of the Communicative Approach.

Ms Wang’s argument was essentially that Chinese students expect to come to class and for the teacher to impart knowledge (lexical items, etc) that they can then go home and memorize. Spending time “communicating” in class is seen as time wasted; because of this attitude, students will not engage and thus ensure that time is indeed wasted. For a more thorough retelling of her argument, please read the summary of her argument in the GL Gazette.

Forgive us for drawing a line between this and one of our products. At one point, Ms. Wang says that Chinese students’ fear of mistakes keeps them from speaking. We do not think that Chinese students are alone in this and we have argued before that the Communicative Approach does ask students to start producing language quite quickly with not  much prior exposure to the language/structure. We really do think that this is one of the great benefits of for students. As it is used primarily as self-access (many IEPs use it as homework for their students), students have the opportunity to see and listen to language models as many times as they want. They can then, on their own schedule and without anyone witnessing them, practice speaking. And of course, they can stay motivated by choosing what interests them from thousands of authentic videos available.

Find out more about using with your students! Email Calin –

Canada and Mexico get friendly

While the relationship between Mexico and the US has grown frosty, Canada and Mexico seem to be getting cosy these days. The education industry in Canada is benefiting from this. Partly because of Trump and partly because of visa restrictions being removed for Mexican students in Canada, enrolment is definitely rising.

Earlier in the summer, Languages Canada also signed a cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Education of Mexican State of Guanajuato “to formalize and expand collaboration in English and French language education.” It would seem that the initial stages of this collaboration will involve exchange programs and Canadians running professional development for Mexican teachers.

Read the Languages Canada press release.

What a trip: go to Germany to Learn Klingon!

Klingons are one of the alien races in the Star Trek universe and in 1984, American linguist Marc Okrand invented a language for them. The language consists of 3000 words and it is estimated that between 30 and 200 nerds from around the world are fluent in the language.

One such nerd is Andre Muller, who also happens to speak a dozen real languages. He is 32 years old and is studying towards his PhD in linguistics (go figure) at Zurich University. He also teaches Klingon at the Migros Club School, which is the largest adult education institution in Germany.

Apparently, interest in the course exploded after the school had a booth at Switzerlandès comic convention. That is some smart advertizing!

Read more in USA today

Watch the ad promoting the class

Mexican government makes lemonade out of deportees

Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto has the ambitious plan of making all Mexican students billingual within 20 years. The plan is ambitious for obvious reasons, but also because the country already is lacking enough English language teachers.

So a very clever plan has been hatched. At least three flights of deportees fdrom the United States arrive in Mexico every week; this number is expected to increase soon as Trump’s orders are more fully executed. The sitation is tragic in many ways, but the Mexico City Citizens’ Council has hatched a fairly clever plan to make the most of this situation: they will encourage and support many of these deportees to become English teachers! ‘We send one or two generations of people to the US and now we are receiving them back with education, two languages, international experience and a high immigrant work ethic’, Council president Luis Wertman explained.

Read more in the EL Gazette.

Random anti-technology mini-rant, Part I: Laptops lower grades

We here at English Central are not anti-technology by any stretch of the imagination. We like to think that we take a mindful approach: use the best technology (be it an online study module or a pen and paper) to suit the situation and the aims. We do believe that there are a lot of educators and administrators who have lost their minds in that they seem to think that absolutely everything must be in the most digitized form possible in today’s education system. We will probably attack this from different angles in the coming months because this is a real pet peeve for us.

In the meantime, we thought we would point you to a new study coming out of the US that shows that students who use laptops to take notes typically score a half letter grade lower than their peers who favour the old pen and paper. Laptops are particularly draining on the brains of male and poorer performing students. There are no definite reasons offered for the negative influence of laptops, but “cyber-slacking” (a wonderful and self-descriptive term) is suggested as the most likely problem.

Read more in the Times Higher Education.

The “Trump Effect”: more international students for Canada

This is not news so much (we have blogged on this before), but there is more reporting out there that since Trump became POTUS, international student applications to US post-secondary institutions while applications to Canadian schools has increased over 20%. Interestingly, the largest increases are from the U.S. (up 80%), Turkey (68%), Mexico (63%) and India (59%).

39% of surveyed U.S. colleges have reported a decline in international applications for the fall, but we will have to wait a bit longer to know how low actual enrollment numbers will end up being. Furthermore, there are other factors that probably have something to do with Canada’s swelling numbers, such as immigration policy changes that make citizenship easier to acquire after completing a degree from a Canadian institution. However, it would seem that there is undoubtedly a “Trump Effect” when it comes to international students and this effect is negative for America and positive for Canada. Sad! (For the U.S. at least!)

Read more in IHE.

Diversity in international student base a smart move for schools

We have all heard of ghost towns and know the lesson they teach: it is never a good idea to put all of your eggs in one basket. And so the University of Alberta has decided that they are on unstable ground seeing as nearly 75% of their international students are Chinese. Student tuition (30% being from international students) is the second largest contributor to the university’s coffers, and so they would clearly be, as my mother would say, in hot mucky poo if suddenly the relationship with China soured for one reason or another.

Perhaps even more interesting than the story in the Edmonton Journal is the comments on the article. English Language Teaching Professionals such as ourselves know full well that international students are used as cash cows to help keep post-secondary schools in the black. The general population is clearly not aware of the realities and so happily engage in commentary and outrage of Trumpian ignorance. It is not just our students we need to educate!

Read the story and comments in the Edmonton Journal.

If you entice students, will you find a place for them to live?

Real estate has gone insane in mamny parts of North America over the past 8 years or so because of low interest rates. Some cities consequently have extremely low vacancy rates. As provincial governments in Canada are quite preoccupied with coming up with plans to entice more international students to their educational institutions, it would make sense that they would consider all of the variables. Not just how to get students, but where to put them once they arrive.

Some claim thatas far as rental vacancy rates go, Vancouver is not just the worst city in Canada, but in the whole world! And so some bristled when the BC government boasted on Monday that BC had enticed more international students per capita (interesting claim anyway) than anywhere else in Canada. The ones bristling were irate that the government was ignoring the fact that the vacancy rate is 0.7% and that rental prices are soaring as a consequence.

Read more in The Vancouver Sun