Magazine article New Zealand Management

Learning, Language & Culture: Why Is It That Migrants and Foreign Students Who Obtain Business and Management Qualifications in New Zealand Often Know the Theory but Have Difficulty Applying It When They Hit the Workplace? the New Zealand Institute of Management Is Tackling the Problem

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Learning, Language & Culture: Why Is It That Migrants and Foreign Students Who Obtain Business and Management Qualifications in New Zealand Often Know the Theory but Have Difficulty Applying It When They Hit the Workplace? the New Zealand Institute of Management Is Tackling the Problem

Article excerpt

A few years back New Zealand's reputation in the international learning marketplace took a serious tumble, particularly among Asian nations, when it became obvious our education providers were more focused on gathering fees than on turning out well taught students.

And, on a parallel but different tack, New Zealand is having trouble turning the migrants it invites to join the workforce quickly and efficiently into both qualified and competent members of the business community.

The problem, says NZIM's policy manager Batch Hales, centres on how we teach foreign students and how we misunderstand the importance of the cultural component of learning.

International and migrant students are an increasingly large component of New Zealand's education pool and workforce. They come to New Zealand to learn at secondary, polytechnic and tertiary level. And while international students in particular provide a strong economic boost to the economy and to the economy of some of our education providers, the teaching process frequently fails both the students and the employers who want to recruit them.

Students come with high expectations about the qualifications they want to gain in New Zealand, says Hales. But their expectations are rarely matched by their English language skills. Unfortunately, the teachers delivering the business and management programmes are often not equipped to teach English as a second language.

But the problem doesn't stop there. Learning English sufficiently to comprehend theory is only part of the problem when it comes to tackling business and management courses. "Consequently, the student may come out with a written understanding of the subject but be unable to put it into practice," says Hales.

As part of a solution NZIM has developed a Certificate in Language, Culture and Management which it is now trialling. The objective is to reduce the barrier for 'English as a second language' (ESOL) learners, by providing a programme which integrates language, culture and management learning.

"Learning a language is integrally connected with learning about the culture in which that language is used, since language is embedded in culture," says Hales. "People who are able to enrich their own experiences and understandings with an appreciation of the different cultural expectations of the New Zealand workplace, and who communicate in ways that reflect this, will increase their chances of success at work."

Hales wants learners on the NZIM programme to develop their technical language competencies, build their understanding of New Zealand workplace culture in particular, and increase their confidence and competence in asking questions and making suggestions that lead to improvements for them, their team and their organisation.

The newly launched certificate is really about helping teachers who offer management and business programmes, to teach ESOL students more competently and comprehensively. Education providers have, in Hales' opinion, an "ethical responsibility" not to accept students onto programmes such as the Diploma in Business if the students are unable to cope with the programme. Providers should only teach these programmes in ways that meet the needs and aspirations of the students.

This means teaching programmes in ways appropriate to ESOL students, rather than expecting ESOL students to cope with teaching and learning processes appropriate for New Zealand English-speaking students.

"After all, we are happy to accept their very considerable fees," he adds.

Migrants and international students face many barriers when they try to settle into New Zealand and adjust to the country's way of life. The barriers include lack of fluency in the language, cultural differences, a lack of recognition of qualifications, and discrimination. Consequently, international students have trouble completing their studies and migrants with high level qualifications and experience end up taking entry level jobs. …

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