Bil­let­ing a cheap and in­ad­e­quate sub­sti­tute for proper lan­guage in­struc­tion

Cape Breton Post - - COMMENT - M.P. McCril­lis Loch Lomond

While a se­nior lec­turer in the English depart­ment at Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity, I re­peat­edly voiced con­cerns about the need for an English as a Sec­ond Lan­guage pro­gram to help for­eign stu­dents ad­mit­ted to CBU with sub­stan­dard English lan­guage skills.

I made th­ese con­cerns known to the then aca­demic vice-pres­i­dent, Le­an­dre Des­jardins, to Dean of Arts Rod Ni­chols, and to the chair of the English depart­ment, Todd Pet­ti­grew. Time and again word came down from the top that there would be no ESL pro­gram at CBU.

Now I see that CBU has held open­ing cer­e­monies for the lofty-sound­ing In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre for English Aca­demic Prepa­ra­tion (Lan­guage Cen­tre for For­eign Stu­dents Looking for Host Fam­i­lies, Feb. 4). I also see that this pro­gram is looking to place for­eign stu­dents in lo­cal homes for the pur­pose of de­vel­op­ing their English.

What CBU ap­pears to be do­ing here is farm­ing out its obli­ga­tion to en­sure that for­eign stu­dents ac­quire a rea­son­able level of com­pe­tency in English. Stu­dents ought to al­ready pos­sess this level of com­pe­tency be­fore be­ing ad­mit­ted but it ap­pears that CBU re­lies to a large ex­tent on tu­ition money it gen­er­ates through stand­ing ar­range­ments with for­eign in­sti­tu­tions that wish to send large num­bers of stu­dents here to earn de­grees, pri­mar­ily in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion.

If a sub­stan­tial num­ber of th­ese stu­dents fail their cour­ses be­cause of poor English skills, the uni­ver­sity’s stand­ing ar­range­ment with those in­sti­tu­tions could be jeop­ar­dized and CBU would lose a lot of money.

Sound far-fetched? In at least one in­stance, the uni­ver­sity’s stand­ing ar­range­ment with a for­eign uni­ver­sity ap­pears to have been im­por­tant enough for a 100-level writ­ing course, which con­sisted of mostly for­eign stu­dents ma­jor­ing in busi­ness, to be can­celled mid-term and for a tu­ition re­im­burse­ment to be granted be­cause more than half the class was fac­ing the prospect of fail­ing. Has your child ever been of­fered a tu­ition re­im­burse­ment at the prospect of fail­ing a course?

A lot of peo­ple think that uni­ver­si­ties are provin­cially owned and op­er­ated in­sti­tu­tions. They’re not. They’re cor­po­ra­tions. As an in­de­pen­dent cor­po­rate en­tity, if CBU ac­cepts tu­ition money from stu­dents with sub­stan­dard English skills, it has an obli­ga­tion to ac­com­mo­date them by of­fer­ing a le­git­i­mate ESL pro­gram, not a home bil­let­ing scheme.

If CBU can­not meet its obli­ga­tions to those whom it has ac­cepted into its pro­grams, it is un­rea­son­able for it to con­tinue re­ceiv­ing tax­payer sup­port in the form of op­er­at­ing grants from the prov­ince – grants which time and again ap­pear to go into main­tain­ing the enor­mous salaries of small men in big po­si­tions.

The eru­dite-sound­ing ICEAP is not there for the pur­pose of help­ing for­eign na­tion­als to see Cana­dian or Cape Bre­ton cul­ture; it is about re­fund­ing a por­tion of your tax dol­lars in the form of a base com­pen­sa­tion rate for bil­let­ing stu­dents so that you can of­fer im­mer­sive English lan­guage in­struc­tion without com­pen­sa­tion.

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