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University Foundation Courses

 
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igorG



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 1473
Location: asia

PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 5:08 am    Post subject: University Foundation Courses Reply with quote

I am wondering if there are any teachers that have direct or indirect knowledge of such courses for foreign students in English speaking countries. I'd like to know what you have to cope with and what your success rate, especially with mainland Chinese students, is. It seems that there's a large number of Chinese students that finish their foundation in their homeland to enter another one abroad. Of course that with a "conditional offer" from the universities. Any info would be appreciated.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9630
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I taught on such a programme in Calgary, Canada (and also wrote some segments of it). What aspects are you interested in, particularly? I think most of the info is on the thread in the off-topic China forum:

So far as challenges, what I recall is that the students

* came to us with little functional English - speaking and listening in real time
was very weak
* had difficulties participating in classes (our classes in all faculties were highly
student-active and the Chinese students had a very strong preference for
listening to lectures and little else (this is something I wish they'd got more
practice doing before arrival - meaning active participation, not listening)
* were unable to write at paragraph level, much less to produce a successful
essay in English style (particularly frustrating as to pass the foundation
programme, they were required to write an academic paper complete with
paraphrases, quotes, citations, and references, so we had a very long leap
to make with them in writing skill)
* had great difficulty choosing sources for reading, research, and papers,
presumably due to a lack of practice in taking the initiative in their
own educational process

If I recall, ultimately about 75% of the students succeeded in passing the foundation programme and entering the regular university. Some percentage of those needed extra time to do so.

Those that passed tended to be female more than male (don't know why this is, but the girls seemed to work a bit harder and to be ore open to trying new things, like participating in class). The ones who lived with Canadian host families had better success than those who grouped together to rent a flat - who presumably spoke only Chinese at home. Basically, the ones who were willing to work hard made it. Some of the males I recall simply couldn't seem to muster the energy or initiative to succeed.

The programme offered successful role models in that we had some students who'd graduated and gone into Canadian workplaces who joined the current students for outings and school events and in some cases who made themselves available for extra help privately as well. The university employed one 'cultural counselor' who took the students around the city, helped them get oriented with shopping for food and cooking, and other logistical details.

Overall, the students who were willing to try to put in the energy to succeed were very rewarding from a teaching standpoint - the overwhelmed/irresponsible/(dare I say lazy) ones obviously much less so. In the end, if we could have opened up their heads and put the knowledge in, we would have - but it doesn't work like that. Maybe someone could tell them this before they make the journey abroad!
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igorG



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 1473
Location: asia

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 5:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems we share similar challenges. I put a lot of effort into it, although i don't know how long i can last. I'd like to say that i am barking the wrong trees, but then they really are put in front of my doorstep.

Quote:
If I recall, ultimately about 75% of the students succeeded in passing the foundation programme and entering the regular university. Some percentage of those needed extra time to do so.
That's not bad at all. I have one question though. Could you roughly explain what the student evaluation system is like there?

Now, I am assuming all of those students of the programme, while taking it, are on their students visas sponsored by the programme ownership and with their conditional offers from universities. Am i right? Also, i'd be interested to know how long such courses take there and what is the proportion of students that have already taken their foundation courses on mainland China before.

Quote:
The programme offered successful role models in that we had some students who'd graduated and gone into Canadian workplaces who joined the current students for outings and school events and in some cases who made themselves available for extra help privately as well. The university employed one 'cultural counselor' who took the students around the city, helped them get oriented with shopping for food and cooking, and other logistical details.
So, the foundation programme there was not only for students to the universities, was it? Or, was it to unis but the ones that didn't get high enough scores, perhaps the 25 %, got their chances of employment? I apologize in advance if i have misunderstood this. By the way, the cultural counselor sounds like a teacher's assistant, which foreign students may get at the unis.


One more aspect that i'd be interested in is the entrance requirements for to such programme as mentioned above.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9630
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I only worked on the programme for a year, and my information regarding its backgrond and outcomes is limited, but I'll tell you what I recall, for what that's worth. I think there are others around (artemesia, maybe) who are still working with foundation courses, but I'm not entirely sure. Anyway, someone may have more recent, accurate, and complete info than mine!!

I was chosen to work on the highest level of this foundation programme because at that time I'd just come from (and I ultimately returned to) another international university where we worked very commonly with first-year academic courses - the kinds of work the Chinese students would be faced with when they began their university work in Canada. So, basically, I had a good range of knowledge regarding what they would need to be able to do when they completed the foundation course.

The students on the course that I worked on were required to pass a Canadian Benchmark test with a score of 8, which is approx. equivalent to CEF B2 (this is the requirement for university students at international universities in Europe as well). Therefore, no IELTS, Cambridge, TOEFL, etc needed in this case, thank goodness.

You are correct about the student status and their visas. Some did ultimately lose their visas and went back, presumably in shame. The foundation course was maximum one year (though I seem to recall a few exceptional allowances for more time in cases of illness or something). The foundation programme began at what was termed level 1 (intended for students with Benchmark scores of 2-4, and moved up. So, some students began at, say, level 3 - though most started at rock bottom, to be honest.


Our programme was indeed only for the students planning to enter the university - we had a 'cultural counselor' because it became apparent that many foreign students - not only the Chinese ones - needed some assistance getting oriented to local logistics. No, I wouldn't call this 'cultural counselor' a teachers assistant - all of her functions were carried out outside the classrooms and outside of school time.

I also don't know the entrance requirements for the programme -sorry. The most I recall is that all students had an offer from a local university contingent upon their being able to get that CLB 8. One other bit of info I do recall - I don't know if it's useful - is that the student ages ranged all the way through their 20s and sometimes into low 30s: they were not all recent university grads from China, presumably.

I've no idea how many had already had a foundation course before coming to Canada - I agree that would be a very useful key piece of info.
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igorG



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 1473
Location: asia

PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2011 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thank you for your follow-up.

Quote:
I only worked on the programme for a year, and my information regarding its backgrond and outcomes is limited, but I'll tell you what I recall, for what that's worth. I think there are others around (artemesia, maybe) who are still working with foundation courses, but I'm not entirely sure. Anyway, someone may have more recent, accurate, and complete info than mine!!
Sounds like you did the programme quite a while ago. I think the users you are refering to aren't in the English speaking countries programmes, which i am more interested in. Artemesia, according to the user's posts, is in China, where i am too.

Quote:
The students on the course that I worked on were required to pass a Canadian Benchmark test with a score of 8, which is approx. equivalent to CEF B2 (this is the requirement for university students at international universities in Europe as well). Therefore, no IELTS, Cambridge, TOEFL, etc needed in this case, thank goodness.
Very interesting. I assumed before your students entered the foundation in Canada, they had taken the IELTS or TOEFL, which should have been the bottom line for their students visas into the foundation program there. In any case, it sure seems to be an easier and cheaper option than IELTS and i guess TOEFL. I wonder whether the Canadian authorities would accept such a test as basis for a student visa and whether it'd be possible to take the test outside Canada. But i don't think you can answer that, can you?

Quote:
You are correct about the student status and their visas. Some did ultimately lose their visas and went back, presumably in shame. The foundation course was maximum one year (though I seem to recall a few exceptional allowances for more time in cases of illness or something). The foundation programme began at what was termed level 1 (intended for students with Benchmark scores of 2-4, and moved up. So, some students began at, say, level 3 - though most started at rock bottom, to be honest.
The Benchmark 2-4 to enter the programme appears pretty low, and i don't suppose that corresponds with Band 5 of IELTS or 60 on TOEFL scale.

Now, would you be kind enough to demonstrate how you evaluated your foundation programme students there and whether the students' marks carried over to their uni applications? My foundation students' evaluation process seems to be quite a bit complex and incomprehensive. It comprises of Academic English, Maths, Science and Business and some of the subjects, especially English and Business have got some questionable evaluation system. Then, we don't have Social Science for some reason and kids here are pretty dumb in this area.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9630
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2011 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They may indeed have taken an IELTS or TOEFL before coming to Canada. They had to have the CLB score to enter Canadian universities - it's the national standard. I surmise that problems arose/arise: IELTS and TOEFL being a bit more on the 'knowledge of the language side of the scale,' and CLB being more towards the 'proficiency in use' end. I've never needed to consider whether a student with the ability to get a decent TOEFL score would possibly score quite a bit lower on a proficiency scale, but this may be the case.

Yes, there are CLB testers based internationally, but I don't know that it's a cheaper test. It requires pretty extensive face-to-face interaction with a trained assessor.

The programme I worked on consisted of academic speaking/listening and reading/writing. The students also took core subjects related to their majors, which could include computer sciences, maths, and etc. The language side testing was based on the CLB proficiency system, and I dont' know about the other subjects.
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