Article published in:Literacies: Tertiary contexts
Compiled and edited by Zosia Golebiowski
[Australian Review of Applied Linguistics 25:2] 2002
► pp. 101–127
Identifying key dimensions of language and cultural disadvantage at University
One of the challenges for English language medium universities today is their increasingly globalised student population, as students from around the globe join the members of existing resident ethnic and linguistic groups who have been accessing tertiary education in increasing numbers. In this context it is of growing importance for university policy makers and program developers to be able to identify and assist students who may be experiencing educational disadvantage associated with language and/or cultural factors. In identifying such students and reporting on their educational outcomes a range of terms are used. In the Australian context the term NESB (Non English Speaking Background) has had wide currency. In North America and the UK terms such students have been referred to more commonly as ethnic minority or ESL/EFL students. These broad categorisations are characterised by either partial or indirect focus on the underlying factors that affect students’ success.In this paper we will argue that such students’ academic needs and potential difficulties are best understood by focusing on particular parameters of two key dimensions of their life experience: English language acquisition history and cultural experience. Using some contrasting case studies from among the current student population at one university in Australia, we will illustrate how these dimensions enable us to conceptualise the broad range of experiences of university of these NESB students. We will demonstrate that designing support which effectively targets disadvantage of very different kinds entails a more sophisticated analysis of the sources of student difficulty than categorisations based only on years of schooling or length of residence in the country concerned.
Published online: 01 January 2002
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